The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning held a Hybrid/Online Teaching Workshop last month. Below, you’ll find six tips that I found particularly useful.
1. Determine function before selecting a tool. First articulate the function of your course and of the individual activity you want to deliver in a hybrid or online format, and then find a tool to match that function.
For example, if you want to foster dialogue and community in the classroom, you might use Piazza. If you want your students to collaborate and share ideas, you might try Google Docs or a class wiki. If you want students to share original ideas with each other, you might try a blog or a discussion forum.
2. Be prepared for tool failure. If you teach in an online or hybrid environment, at some point your tools will fail. Your job is to remain flexible enough to carry on when things don’t go perfectly. And remember, it’s the teaching you are relying on, not the tool. If and when a tool fails, find another way to accomplish the teaching.
For example, if the wiki isn’t working, you could open a Google Doc or ether pad or some other collaborative writing space. If a video isn’t playing, you can summarize the important information verbally or via text. And don’t be afraid to ask your students! They may have smart solutions.
It’s also a good idea to have an email list that is distinct from your Learning Management System (LMS) so you can contact the students if the LMS goes down.
3. Prepare in advance. Online teaching doesn’t take less time; it takes different time. In face-to-face teaching, instructors often plan their lessons the day before class. In online teaching, you should get everything prepared before the course starts, and then log into your class website at least once a day, six times a week.
4. Think about time when you select your tools. The way you set up the tools dictates how you spend your time. For example, if you ask your students to write, you have to read the result, so you may want to include word limits.
Also keep in mind student time. A lot of students take online courses because they want flexibility with their time. Requiring synchronous activities may be a problem, especially if your students are working adults or are in multiple time zones.
5. Set aside time to teach. When you teach online, you do not have three or four hours a week blocked off to physically be in the classroom, but you need some uninterrupted time to attend to your course. When you schedule time to teach, don’t answer your phone, don’t open your office door, and don’t take visitors.
In an interesting example of time management and community building, one instructor told students that she would check the course site from 9-11pm on Thursday, and while she was checking, she would watch Seinfeld. In an unusual turn, the students started watching Seinfeld, so they were all online there together chatting about the show and talking about the course.
6. You don’t have to tell your students when you travel. While online education allows you to teach from anywhere in the world, this does not mean you need to tell the students every time you leave the country. Students who hear you are traveling may think that you aren’t paying attention to the course.
- . This helpful book includes a four-phase model for managing an online course that relies on the assumption that students gain more autonomy as they progress through the course.
- has excellent resources for teaching online, including short videos, case studies, and a technical glossary.