Ten Things To Do When Teaching Online

These notes are from a 90-minute video given during a Transforming Post Secondary Education (TPSE) conference. The presenters are Dr. Abbe Herzig, Director of the American Mathematical Society, and Dr. David Kung, Professor of Math at St. Mary’s College in Maryland and the Director of the MAA Project NExT.

  1. Keep compassion and flexibility in the forefront.
    • Remain flexible with deadlines, incompletes, extensions, and grades. 
    • Keep your and your students’ mental health as a high priority.
    • Provide students with individualized support and feedback.
    • Be willing to be vulnerable -- this is a trying time for everyone. Give students opportunities to discuss the challenges and barriers they are encountering.
  2. Communicate expectations clearly, often, and in multiple ways.
    • Communicate through multiple modalities, including email, announcements, texts, small peer-support groups, and other means.
    • Establish specific deadlines for all work (for example, by Sunday at 11:59pm) and follow a consistent weekly routine.
    • Be available for questions and respond promptly.
    • Set expectations for participation (how, when, how much), including “netiquette”. Include student input in creating norms for the class and to figure out what works in these extraordinary circumstances.
  3. Balance synchronous and asynchronous instruction.
    • Record lectures or other activities so that students who cannot attend in real time can watch the recordings.
    • Provide alternate assignments for students who cannot participate synchronously.
  4. Encourage student collaboration and discourse.
    • Ask open-ended questions to facilitate thoughtful, sustained discussion.
      “Why…” “Explain…” “What is the importance of…”
      “What would happen if …”
      “What is meant by …” “What is the difference between …”
      “What is the connection between…”
    • Keep students engaged with small, frequent assignments, at least some of which require them to work together.
    • Develop ways that all students are held accountable to their groups.
  5. Embrace the range of student needs, including disability and other equity concerns.
    • Recognize that some students may have childcare or other family responsibilities or unreliable internet access, or inadequate computers or resources. Make your course ADA compliant by using captions, narration, or transcripts.
    • Present material with multiple representations (visual, oral, text, graphs).
  6. Rethink assessment.
    • Incorporate more formative assessment to support student learning. 
    • Consider alternatives to high-stakes exams, i.e. comprehensive projects that synthesize concepts and small frequent quizzes.
    • Beware of privacy concerns with video-monitoring software and other proctoring solutions. Consider open-book/open-internet exams and structure exams so that proctoring is less relevant.
    • Remind students of what they need to know for next semester’s courses. If they do the work honestly, they will be better prepared.
    • Check out self-grading quizzes feature available in Google Forms.
  7. Help students access help, and help them learn to learn online.
    • Become familiar with how students can access extra help, tutoring, library services, advising, crisis services, counseling, and financial aid resources. 
    • Clearly communicate how and when you will be available to students for questions and concerns.
    • Be clear about how students should engage with the course material, and be flexible as you all figure out what works.
  8. Have backup plans for technological glitches.
    • Greet glitches with humor and compassion. 
    • Be open to a variety of options to communicate with students and to receive their work.
    • Keep videos short to avoid bandwidth limitations (both technological and mental).
  9. Collaborate with colleagues.
    • Share resources with colleagues teaching the same course or different courses. 
    • Create communication channels among faculty across the institutions or within your discipline to share effective practices and to brainstorm solutions.
    • Remember that your local IT staff (including instructional designers), librarians, student support services, Office of Faculty Development, and Accessibility Services offices are available to help you.
  10. Use this disruption as an opportunity to integrate new practices and resources.
    • Think outside of the box and try new approaches. 
    • Learn more about active learning and implement some new strategies and/or technologies.
    • Consider whether all course activities and assignments are aligned with the learning goals you have for students.
    • Develop tools for authentic assessment.
    • Keep equity at the forefront of your design and instructional practices, and integrate it across all aspects of your teaching.