More tips from the L&T team at the Faculty of Science and Engineering on teaching – and learning – online. For the first post, see here.

Be present. Create and maintain your online presence, not just as teacher and convenor, but also as a fellow learner. Keep communicating with students, and keep up students’ communication with each other. Your teaching team, co-convenors, and tutors can help with this, particularly with answering and monitoring student questions and comments.

Be selective in how you communicate. Limit use of emails so students’ (and your) inboxes aren’t overwhelmed. Use the channels provided through iLearn for teaching and unit matters and keep email channels clear for Faculty and University-wide communication. 

Be organised. Ensure your iLearn unit is organised logically, in terms of structure and format, as well as content. Get as much feedback on newly redesigned content as you can, and before release.

Be conservative in using new tools – keep technology as simple as you can. If you need to use something new, give students (and yourself) time, space – not to mention, clear instructions – on how to use, and get used to, the technology.

Be honest. Give students full information on why you are making changes to activities, the order of topics etc – be honest and explain the reasoning behind changes where ever possible. Link new learning activities to the existing learning goals and outcomes and explain how they connect so that students can switch focus to the new tasks.

Be clear. Establish expectations for online interactions and time periods for replies to questions or posts, i.e. ‘within 12 hours on weekdays’. For one-to-one online consultations, consider using a free online tool for students to book time with you, for example, https://calendly.com/

Be aware. Not all students will have reliable, regular, or even sufficient access to the Internet or to a later-model or even working computer. Consider the accessibility of your contentnot all formats will work for all students.

Be aware too: not all students with accessibility needs will be officially registered with the institution so it is up to individual teachers to investigate – with discretion – for particular accessibility requirements. From AimiHamraie on Twitter:  some questions to ask students regarding supporting their specific needs for learning online:

  1. Do you have reliable internet and a computer at home? Does your computer have a camera in case we need to use Zoom video conference?
  2. Do you have any accessibility requests for me regarding online teaching (for example, readings available in a different format, transcription of conversations, specific approaches to discussion boards, or a preference of video discussion vs. discussion boards)?
  3. Please let me know if you need help accessing any resources, including basic needs (food, shelter, medical care), psychological care and counselling, a ride, or access to technology.”

Some further tips:

  • Conduct an online survey using some or all of the questions above – and follow up with adjustments and alternatives to activities that rely on regular access to the Internet and/or a computer.
  • Note that synchronous activities such as video meetings may not work for all – and may be difficult for people, for example, with caring responsibilities and/or dependants at home. Consider low-or no- bandwidth alternatives to videos.

(above all) Be human. Don’t be afraid to be upfront with students about all you and colleagues are doing to ensure that their learning is impacted as little as possible – or even enhanced – by any moves online. If you need a starting point, Humanizing Online Teaching by M. Raygoza and A. Norris provides some practical advice for synchronous and asynchronous online teaching for genuine personal connection and engagement.

More resources:

Teche on what to consider when moving Face-to-Face to online: https://teche.mq.edu.au/2018/06/considerations-for-transferring-face-to-face-activities-online/

Teaching online in the present crisis: what you need to know now (external link) by Michael Sankey, Griffith University

Videoconferencing alternatives; how low-bandwidth teaching will save us all (external link) by Daniel Stanford at DePaul University

Keep Teaching: Strategies Indiana University (external link) – a good guide with practical suggestions, including for labs

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