First off, we’re all stressed out, and this Tik Tok of Gloria Gaynor washing her hands for 19 seconds while singing I Will Survive is EVERYTHING.

Don’t say I never give you anything nice.

[Tik Tok is generally bad but every once in a while, there’s a stroke of genius.]

Obviously, we all have a lot of work to do and I would like the amplify all the sessions and training that Learning Tech is going to be offering to help us while we transition to remote instruction and learning. Please check your mailbox for the emails we already got about that. Also check this blog post that has a lot of information as well as this general page.

Let me toot my own horn here: I’ll be facilitating sessions on Tips for Web Presentations, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, at 10am. I will also facilitate a session on Course Structure on Tuesday afternoon.

I know things are going to be bumpy this first week of closure but I would like to urge us not to throw away pedagogy in the name of urgency. Death by powerpoint can happen just as much online as it can in a face-to-face setting.

It seems clear by now that a whole bunch of us are ready to jump into Collaborate, dump a bunch of powerpoints, and start lecturing from there at their usual class time. I would like to urge people to stop and think.

First off, consider the fact that our students’ schedules may have changed. Work schedules may have shifted. Some of our students may now be in charge of caring for their children or relatives’ children while their parents have to keep working. They may also have to care for other relatives. In other words, don’t assume that since your students were available for class time in regular times, they still are now.

Second, as I mentioned in a previous post, some of our students may not have great computers at home to handle Collaborate for extensive periods of time. What you think is a great lecture may be a frustrating experience at the other end.

Third, yes, students can log in or call in from their cell. Personally, I do not want my students to spend their data plan on my class.

So, please, ask yourselves whether synchronism (it’s a word, I checked) is really necessary in your course. Maybe it is. And if it is, please take the design of your materials into consideration (maybe see my post on this). Apply good practice in slide design. Don’t pack a ton of text, with font size 10. Don’t use images whose resolution will not survive the streaming process and will look unreadable at the other end.

If you are going synchronous, do you want your students to take notes? We know note-taking is important and beneficial. Just giving out copies of slides is not as much. So, before your synchronous session, consider posting a note-taking outline of your presentation (no, not those printed slides in small sizes), with some pointers as to what is important, the key concepts, etc.

Also try to include some interactivity. The free version of Socrative is more than enough to include quizzing that your students can do on their phone while in Blackboard. For the record, I do that when I use video content in class and it works well. Socrative is light on phone memory and data.

Consider chunking your content. Who wants to listen / watch a lecture for hours? Not me. We know attention will dwindle very quickly. I try to keep my taped lectures under 10 minutes, and my tutorials / demos (where students have to follow along) under 15 minutes. Research shows that is the max attention you can squeeze out of people. How about doing the same synchronously? Take breaks. Give people breaks. At regular intervals, let them either leave the room or log out entirely, for a few minutes. They can go get a drink, check on a child or a pet, reset their brains. And then, you can resume.

If synchronism is not necessary, then, I would urge you to go asynchronous and reserve a few Collaborate sessions for office hours or group meetings (if you have group work for which the groups have to meet with you at different points in the term).

Tape your lectures in video or audio. Chunk them. Keep the length under 10 minutes. Focus on a few concepts or ideas at a time. If needed, create multiple parts for complex topics and consider a “putting it all together” lecture at the end of a series that does just that. And again, consider design.

If you feel comfortable, use Yuja (the link goes to my Yuja demo post) to include in-video quizzing. Otherwise, create a separate assignment. If you provided a note-taking outline, you can ask students to post their completed version.

I know it feels like there is no time to do or learn, really, anything new because we have to do things this week. But remember, we have at least a month to go before the college re-opens. There is time to plan, get training, and apply best practices in remote instruction. After all, we are still responsible for our learning outcomes.

Last but not least: ask your students for patience as you work out how this whole closure thing is going to work for your class. Be patient with them in return. They did not sign up for an online class, maybe you didn’t either. But then, none of us signed up for a pandemic and yet, here we are.

Anyhoo, come to my training sessions ( 🙂 ) and those of the Learning Tech folks (unlike me, they’re nice). Or make an appointment with the designers and technologists in the office. There is help. Use it.

For a concise set of suggestions on how to implement remote instructions, here is a short and handy guide:

Thanks for reading.