When teaching with technology, Markus and I always promote having a Game Plan B and sometimes even a Game Plan C. This same mindset can apply to having a contingency plan for taking lecture courses online. This plan might be the result of weather or as we are seeing right now the Coronavirus (COVID-19). If you are in the process of shifting your lecture courses online or facing this prospect in the future, here are some tips and technology resources that may help.
- First and foremost, it is important for you to remain calm. Making this transition can be stressful for instructors and students. How you present yourself with students will set the stage for a successful transition. Strive for a smooth transition, not perfection. Remember you aren’t perfect in your lecture classes, and you don’t need to be perfect in the online classroom.
- As part of the planning process, try to mirror your online course as closely as possible to your existing lecture class. This will help your students adapt and provide everyone the best transition and learning experience. Check out your publisher’s materials first. They are already prepared for online delivery, including content being accessibility approved. When you have the time, create your own lecture videos. Being able to see the instructor in the course, keeps students engaged. For online learning, be sure to keep videos short. Five minutes or less is ideal. Having more short videos is better than one long video for both the students and the instructor.
- Make yourself “present” in the course through Discussion Boards, collaborative tools, etc. It is important for students to feel connected. Remember, many students believe they learn best in a lecture environment. It is essential to make them feel comfortable in the online course too.
- Set expectations immediately. Communicate what has changed in your course format and be clear about your expectations. Also, make sure to highlight the differences in online learning. In addition, revise your syllabus to reflect any remote learning expectations.
- Include frequent feedback mechanisms or knowledge checks. Utilize your learning management system, homework management system or other assessment technology tools listed below.
Let’s look at some technology tools that can help you make a quick and easy transition from the classroom to online. Don’t try to use too many tools at once. Pick the best tool(s) to supplement the learning experience you are trying to achieve at the time.
Immediate Transition Tools
- Communicate: Post an announcement in your learning management system about course changes. Remind students to check the course and their school email regularly. It might be helpful to have your students sign up with Remind (November 2015) as a way to stay connected. Both Markus and I use Remind to redirect students back to our learning management systems. This tool can be especially helpful for working with lecture students who may not regularly check their school email or learning management system course.
- Updating Your Course: To quickly insert supplemental material into your course, look at all available publisher material. Publisher homework managers often have various study tools and supplemental teaching tools, including adaptive learning plans, videos, etc. that can be easily inserted to help with the initial transition.
- Campus Resources: Use any campus resources available that are supported by your IT staff first. This will ensure that you have professional assistance available if needed.
- Stage the Transition in Steps: Look at the activities you can easily transition to online learning first. Then look at how you can enhance or add to your course.
- Be inclusive: Remember that some students will not have computer access to your course. Will the activities in your course be accessible to students on smartphones or smart devices? Be sure to consider how you will accommodate a student who might not have access to any technology.
Video Creation Tools
- Doceri: Markus and I have used Doceri (October 2019) for several years as a lecture capture tool as well as a method to provide students with short tutorials. Doceri has a free version if you don’t mind the watermark or you can pay a one-time fee of $30 for the desktop license and training support.
- TechSmith (Snagit): The TeachingAndLearningToolBox featured Snagit (August 2017). Snagit is a screen capture, screen recorder that can be used to create tutorials and lectures. TechSmith is now offering this technology for free through June 30, 2020. Click here for details.
- Video Hosting: There are several video hosting sites including Vimeo and YouTube. Markus and I use YouTube because of the closed-captioning feature. Click here for how to upload videos to YouTube. Note: If you use the public setting, anyone can find your video. Markus and I prefer to use the unlisted setting where we share a link with our students. We would recommend you avoid using the private setting as that requires you to input/approve your student email accounts before they will have access. Accessibility is a concern when shifting to online learning. Click here for how to add closed captioning to your videos on YouTube.
Virtual Collaboration Connections
Many learning management systems have a collaboration feature (Blackboard Collaborate, Canvas, etc.), or your school may have technology such as Adobe Connect or WebEx. Check with your school resources first to see what type of collaboration tools may be available.
- Zoom: Zoom is a virtual collaboration tool that is available for most devices. Its free version hosts up to 100 participants and allows unlimited meetings. Zoom’s free version also allows unlimited 1 on 1 meetings; however, group meetings are limited to 40 minutes. Zoom is an easy tool to learn and set up. All meetings include features like a conference call-in number, private and group chat, screen sharing, group collaboration, and an electronic whiteboard to name a few. To learn more about Zoom, click here.
- WebEx: WebEx has just extended its free plan to 90 Days. WebEx allows you to record meetings, share files and it also has a whiteboard feature. It also accommodates up to 100 attendees and can be accessed through both computer and mobile devices. To learn more about WebEx’s extended free plan special, click here.
- Logme.in: Logme.in is part of the GoToMeeting family. It provides similar features to Zoom and WebEx. To learn more about Logme.in’s free plan special, click here.
- Microsoft Sway: Microsoft Sway (December 2017) is a virtual collaboration tool that is referred to by Microsoft as a “digital storytelling app”. This tool is an alternative to PowerPoint that lets you share video, text, images, and any other media to “tell the story” to your students.
- Evernote: Evernote (March 2016) is a great tool for remote group work collaboration. It allows students to easily share with their classmates and instructor. Evernote is also a great tool for student portfolios.
- TechSmith Video Review: This is a collaborative feedback tool that records presentations as well as allows students to interact with the videos and provide comments. This tool lets you keep a meaningful conversation going in an asynchronous environment. TechSmith is now offering this technology for free through June 30, 2020. To learn more about TechSmith Video Review, click here.
- Microsoft Teams: If your school has Office 365, Microsoft Teams (March 2018) is another great collaborative tool you can use to create classroom teams.
- Slack: If you want to bring classroom collaboration and teamwork together online, check out Slack (January 2018).
- GoogleHangouts Advanced (Gsuite): Normally, Markus and I talk about GoogleHangouts for virtual office hours; however, Google has just announced free access to their Advanced GoogleHangouts/Gsuite as a response to the needs of organizations affected by the Coronavirus. Gsuite will allow users to hold meetings up to 250 participants, live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within a domain and record meetings that can be posted to Google Drive. To learn more about GoogleHangouts, click here. To learn more about free access to Gsuites, click here.
Virtual Office Hours
In addition to some of the virtual collaboration tools listed above, below are some technology tools that can help you streamline your virtual office hours.
- Calendly: Calendly (November 2016) is a simple way for students to sign up for virtual office hours. This is a tool I use regularly and couldn’t live without. Simply set up your office hour schedule in the application and provide students the link. They can pick the best time to connect with you based on your availability.
- Google Voice: Many schools are asking faculty to provide some type of phone number to their students. To avoid giving out your personal phone number, Google Voice offers a free number that you can link to your home or cell phone. Markus and I both use Google Voice with our students. This allows you to separate your personal and work life calls. To learn more about Google Voice, click here.
- Skype: While Markus and I have talked about using Skype for virtual field trips, it is also a great tool to connect with students during virtual office hours. To learn more about Skype options, click here.
- Peergrade: If you do individual and group evaluations, Peergrade (August 2018) is a great online tool to use with your students. While there is typically a charge, Peergrade just announced that they will provide this application for free for the next four months. Use the code COVID19 when prompted. Click here for details. What a great time to give this assessment tool a try!
- Quizlet: Quizlet (January 2017) is a great tool to reinforce basic learning outside of the classroom. The free version allows for the creation of study tools, including flashcards, learning activities, practice tests, and games.
- Kahoot Challenge: Bring the gamification of Kahoot from the classroom to online with Kahoot Challenge (November 2017).
- Poll Everywhere Competition: If you are using clickers or other polling devices in your classroom, try Poll Everywhere Competition (September 2018) with your online learners.
- Flipgrid: Create a vibrant learning environment by bringing your discussion boards to life with Flipgrid (February 2018). Students create short videos for discussion posts from their cell phones. Flipgrid gives every student a voice!
- Office Lens: You may have students who don’t have access to a computer while off-campus. While most students can access class materials with their smartphones, they may not be able to electronically complete or submit work. If you have students who need to submit manual assignments, suggest that they download the Office Lens app by Microsoft (May 2018). Office Lens lets students take a picture with their smartphone, then convert it to a PDF. This app provides more clarity than a regular smartphone picture and the PDF file is easy for the instructor to grade.
Markus and I know we have given you a lot of information. You may feel a bit overwhelmed. We recommend that you only pick one or two items to start. Remember to use technology that serves a pedagogical purpose. That may help you narrow down your selection.
Markus and I are closely monitoring free or low-cost technology options that may help you provide a better learning experience for your students. As new information is available, we will post it to the blog.
Best of luck! Remember this transition will be an evolving process. You and your students will be adjusting together. You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to stay positive. You’ve got this!
If you have questions during your journey, feel free to reach out to Markus or myself at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also sign up for automatic notifications for future posts by clicking on the link on the bottom right corner of the Tip of the Month home page.