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Faculty Resources for Online Teaching

Reflection and Tips for Online Teaching

  • Remember that online courses are different from traditional classrooms.

When teaching an online course, you must view the course as something completely different from a physical classroom. This new teaching environment uses different methods and ideas. You must use computer screens and webcams instead of chalkboards or whiteboards. You will multi-task in new ways by teaching the class while following the text chat and watching for students to "raise their hand." You have to find new ways to get a feel for how your students are doing, other than looking at their blank faces. Most of all, you must be comfortable using computers and able to work on technical problems as you go. 

  • Get some training with the software and hardware.

Get several hours of training with the software you will use. Then before the class starts, take some time to run through a couple of practice sessions with someone else who will be using the same software. Finally, find a mentor who has been through this before. This will likely involve going outside of your department to the fields of education or business, which have a longer history of using distance education technologies.

  • Get to know your technical support

You will have problems. If you have already developed a relationship with your technical support team, then it will be easier and faster to get help when the problems occur.

  • Use text chat during the class.

This is one area where there is disagreement. Some people have had difficulty paying attention to both the text chat and what they are teaching. However, since many of my students were more comfortable asking questions in the text chat than orally. As an extra bonus, other students were sometimes able to answer those questions without my having to stop class. The text chat also enabled me to get to know my students better, as they were more open and expressive with typing their comments than saying them.

  • Have students turn in all homework electronically.

This will be a pain for your students, but it helps immensely with speeding up the turn around time on grading. This helps to limit the number of formats for homework submission. For example, Word and PDF. Students can copy and paste from other programs into those formats.

  • Provide quick feedback.

When teaching a distance education course, it is easier to be not as prompt returning homework and answering students' questions as when they stop by your office. Therefore, you need to make a point of promptly returning e-mail messages to answer students' homework questions, so they can finish their assignment, and of grading their homework quickly, so they can use the feedback to make adjustments for future assignments.

  • Build in collaborative work.

When designing an online course, there must be collaborative opportunities built into the course. Some possibilities are

  • Have students work in groups during class time. You can consider using Breakout Rooms on Zoom.

  • Maintain a discussion board for students to ask questions. 

  • Have separate class times for discussions with the students.

  • Make sure that each student has the e-mail addresses of the other students.

  • Make yourself available.

Most of their homework is done during the evenings or on the weekends when they are not at work or attending other classes. You need to keep this in mind when setting up office hours and due dates.

  • Set up an opportunity to meet the students in person.

Towards the end of the semester I had a chance to meet several of my students at a conference. In the following weeks, I found it much easier to interact with these students and to know how to help them better. It would have been much better if I had been able to meet the students earlier. There are many ways to do this, including having an on-campus class meeting, meeting the students when they begin their program, or traveling and giving the class from the different students' locations.

 

References:

Gleason, J. (2006) Teaching Mathematics Online: A Virtual Classroom - Reflections, Convergence. https://www.maa.org/press/periodicals/loci/joma/teaching-mathematics-online-a-virtual-classroom-reflections

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