In the midst of public health concerns, the majority of higher education institutions have been forced to shift to remote course delivery. Remote teaching can be unfamiliar territory for many professors—we want to ensure that both you and your students are supported throughout this transition.
Here’s our roundup of the best tips and tricks for remote teaching—many from academics online—currently floating around social media. Follow these steps to prioritize empathy, a work-life balance and ensure students’ voices are still heard and seen online.
Always Remain in Contact With Your Students
Amid uncertain times, it’s important to remain calm and collected. Taking a page from the book of Hunter College, CUNY professor of sociology Jesse Daniels, don’t forget to add “breathe” to your to-do list. Ensure you keep in touch with your students, guiding them throughout the process.
Ok, having just read a bunch of stuff about moving to distance learning + learning that #CUNY + #SUNY are being affected by #COVID19 #CovidCampus – here's a short thread with some of my thoughts on this:
— @JessieNYC (@JessieNYC) March 11, 2020
The abrupt shift to remote-only teaching solutions may be daunting for both you and your students. Jennifer Rafferty, Director of the Institute for the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), outlines best practices for navigating online teaching, such as being present and agile.
Be human. Be present. Be adaptable. Be open and vulnerable in our relationships and with students. Words of wisdom in @DRbouchey in the @olctoday webinar. #academiccontinuity #instructionalcontinuity #onlinelearning
— Jennifer “Paloma” Rafferty (@palomitica29) March 20, 2020
The transition period that academics are navigating through is surely a stressful one. At the same time, your students may experience some of this same anxiety and uncertainty. As Alec Couros, professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina recognizes, be sure to incorporate a healthy dose of humanity along with technology and pedagogy.
I've been using this slide for over 10 years, but it feels especially relevant right now as many transition toward #RemoteTeaching #RemoteLearning #edtech
Find that sweet spot, remembering that your students and colleagues are sure to be under a lot of stress. pic.twitter.com/4xNo562AsK
— Dr. Alec Couros (@courosa) March 13, 2020
Don’t Forget to Include Empathy in the Mix
It’s important to be mindful of whether your remote teaching solutions consider teaching with empathy. As SUNY Plattsburgh professor of pop culture Jessamyn Neuhaus recognizes, some students may not be comfortable on camera or with unfamiliar technology. Instead, ensure you support your students by showing care and concern for their mental and academic wellbeing.
❌ Mandatory discussion forums
❌ Awkward videos of me talking like a hostage giving proof of life
✅ Convey care for student safety
✅ Maximize ways for them to complete 2-3 key assignments
✅ Help them finish assignments#TriageTeaching2020
— Jessamyn Neuhaus (@GeekyPedagogy) March 20, 2020
An email checking up on your students can go a long way. Communication, even outside of class hours, helps reassure them that everything is under control. Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, a professor of information literacy and instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers her best tip: don’t wait until Monday’s class to connect with your students—start a conversation with them today.
Professors – email your students. You might be thinking that you don't teach until Tues, or Wed, or whenever … but they would love to hear from you even if you don't have a plan. Tell them you will. Assure them. They want to hear from you. #CovidCampus
— Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (@lisalibrarian) March 20, 2020
Lastly, remember to keep your students’ needs at the forefront of your teaching practices. It’s best to adopt a flexible mindset while considering accommodations around individual needs.
As classes move online due to #COVID19, expect #accommodations to change. In-person and online needs vary so faculty and instructors should be flexible and work with #DeafStudents to find the best access possible. Read more: https://t.co/T0jXAwOlqb#InstructionalContinuity pic.twitter.com/p83PRcIkRx
— National Deaf Center (@NationalDeafCtr) March 19, 2020
Maintain a Work-Life Balance
Remote learning demands that more of your time is spent online, but that doesn’t mean it has to take over your day. As Michael Berta, Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, notes, ensure you give yourself adequate time away from your screen to focus on yourself.
— Mike Berta (@mikeberta) March 19, 2020
With working from home becoming the new normal, ensure you develop a healthy routine for yourself. Elizabeth Crowley Webber, Senior Production Editor at Georgetown University, suggests scheduling walks and stepping away from your laptop during lunch.
For those of you new to #workingfromhome, here's the routine I've come up with over the years. (I think it's especially helpful if you're striving for the nirvana known as "work–life balance.") pic.twitter.com/UXBCEW3s0N
— liz crowley webber (@TheLizCW) March 13, 2020
Ensure Students’ Voices are Heard
Discussion forums or text-based feedback loops can be beneficial to understand where your students stand academically, as Joshua Eyler, Director of Faculty Development at the University of Mississippi recognizes. By losing the face-to-face component of course delivery, clear grading criteria and thoughtful discussion questions in a remote environment are more important than ever before.
Discussion-based pedagogy in remote learning environments:
1. Well-designed, meaningful questions
2. Clear evaluation criteria
3. Air-tight logistics: how many responses to prompts by what deadlines?
4. Consider video/audio responses in addition to text.
— Joshua Eyler (@joshua_r_eyler) March 18, 2020
Your course may revolve around students’ best interests. Forums dedicated to checking in on students’ well-being can provide a platform for them to voice any concerns. Likewise, as Angela Gibson, a faculty member of the OLC, states, a clear action plan can reassure students that remote learning is just as practical as courses administered in person.
New(ish) to online teaching? Start strong & w/ the student in mind 1) Make a welcome video 2) Create a navigation video of the classroom 3) Set expectations 4 communication 4) Have an open forum & make a thread just for how they are doing #remoteteaching #instructionalcontinuity
— Angela Gibson (@AgilistaAG) March 20, 2020
Also, ensure students have regular opportunities to visit your virtual water cooler. Digital forums can help students keep in touch with classmates, professors or teaching assistants.
Set up a general chat, channel, or forum for online students.
— Evolyn (@Evolyn_) March 20, 2020
Spotlight: Academia on Twitter
On his timeline, Bill Harder, Qualitative and Survey Research Methodologist at American University, outlines what it was like transitioning to digital classes without any notice. Some of his takeaways: Avoid talking for an hour straight and employ breakout rooms to help students learn from one another. Check out Harder’s profile which has tips for moving a class online and ensuring student outcomes are optimized through the process.
For some students, colleges and universities are more than just learning spaces. These institutions may be students’ prime location for comfort, security and counselling. Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, Surveys and Research Manager at Ithaka S+R, reiterates some of the best practices for universities to follow when pivoting to remote teaching. She recommends providing online counselling services, having a food pantry for students to access and providing child care services on campus as some of the ways that universities can work to support all students during this transition period.
How can you maximize your productivity when working from home? Aisha Ahmad, international security professor at the University of Toronto, offers her best tips for ensuring you have a productive day without feeling burnt out. Ahmad urges academics to recognize accomplishments, no matter how small they might be, and stresses the need to check up on your neighbors, as “papers can wait.”
Students need to be at the forefront of the transition to digital courses, urges Jenae Cohn, an Academic Technology Specialist at Stanford University. Cohn outlines how it’s okay—and even beneficial—to blend synchronous and asynchronous work in your course delivery. It can also be beneficial for students to adopt one new technology rather than every remote platform available, as to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
How much discussion is too much? Julia Largent, professor of communication at McPherson College in Kansas, curates best practices for virtual discussion boards. Everything from assigning students participation points to the type of questions professors should ask to stimulate thoughtful discussion is outlined.
With major platform upgrades—and a new free virtual classroom offering—Top Hat is showing educators just how much better online and blended learning can be. Reimagining just how much better online and blended courses can be—is at the heart of a major set of upgrades to the Top Hat platform: the launch of Top Hat Pro and our free Top Hat Basic offering.