Quick and Dirty Online Migration Tips

Several of my friends, in the last 48 hours, have shared with me their concerns about having to turn traditional residential courses into online courses in a matter of days. Since they know I do all of my teaching online, I mainly get questions that are really best answered at the course design/development stage; changing a course to “online delivery” in the middle of a term is an entirely different animal. So I thought I’d share some thoughts about that migration…

Avoid “Video” Lectures

Recording hour-long videos where you lecture to a camera on your computer is probably the worst possible approach. If you need to lecture, I’d recommend that you do it synchronously, rather than as a recorded lecture. If you are going to record a lecture, especially if it’s for an hour, consider making it audio in format; that way your students can wash their hands or disinfect their room while listening to your voice.

Scaffold Large Assignments

If students have a large term paper to turn in at the end of the semester, they are not going to be able to talk to you in the hallway after class or drop by your office to think out loud with you. I recommend that you retool those major projects so that students are required to submit iterations, or even stages in the process (topic, outline, draft). You may not be able to change the assignment grading, per se, but you could count each of the scaffolded elements as a “participation” or “attendance” grade without changing your grading scheme. The frequent checks along the way help fill in the missing reminders you yell at everyone as they walk out of your lecture each day.

Adjust Feedback for the Medium

Many, but clearly not all, traditional courses have already started to require that papers be turned in on the LMS. The difference is that students are not seeing you frequently and aren’t hearing your tone of voice on the feedback. One very easy (and free) way to provide general feedback on an assignment is to use a screen-capture program (Screencast-o-matic.com is a great option, if your LMS doesn’t provide one). You can create a short video where you point to the paper and talk about it with your student. They will appreciate hearing your voice, rather than merely reading your notes to the side.

Avoid the Asynchronous Assumption

Most of the courses I teach that were designed for online delivery were designed to be asynchronous. In fact, this is the attraction for many students who choose online formats for class. Your students did not; they agreed to a synchronous form of delivery by signing up for MWF at 10:00a.m. Take advantage of this time. Consider requiring that your students gather together in an online chatroom for lecture or for discussion.

Tech Tips

Video Conferencing: Zoom (the free version) is great for one-on-one meetings, or for groups that last 40 minutes or less. Great screen-sharing function. I prefer to use this method, and the 40-minute limit helps me make the most of the time in an online meeting. I have also hosted classes in Google Hangouts; if your campus uses Google, this can be a great free option as well.

Screencasting: I mentioned screencast-o-matic.com above. It’s intuitive, helpful, and free. Don’t try to be fancy; be brief and direct. Users of the Canvas LMS may have “Studio” as an option – it is actually the full version of Screencast-o-matic.

Video Captioning: Youtube will automatically caption your videos, but the automation will often miss proper names or technical jargon. You can easily edit the automatic caption; navigate HERE for instructions.

Audio Recording: If you’re going to create more than one audio file for a course, consider using a free podcasting app. They are VERY easy to use; some have apps that will let you record an “episode” directly from your phone. You can simply direct your students to your podcast link. Anchor.fm, Podcasts.com, and Zencast.fm are some options to consider.

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