The Bright Side of Emergency Online Teaching
Teaching an online course during the COVID-19 pandemic was very different from a traditionally prepared online course. In other words, An Emergency Online Course is Not Normal. However, there were also some positive aspects of traditional online education that our emergency transition embraced.
An emergency online course, also known as "crisis teaching" is what classrooms experienced starting in 2020 when lockdown began and we all went under quarantine. Educators were forced to become online instructors, whether they had training or not.
Like many people during lockdown, I tried to remain positive about all the changes that happened within a short amount of time. After all, the students were counting on us!
I particularly loved seeing the support staff come to life. As an instructional designer at a Tier 1 research institution myself, I teamed up with other IDs, tech support staff, and Canvas support staff to ensure faculty had as many resources as possible to get their classes online.
Unfortunately, best teaching practices in online education went by the wayside as faculty scrambled to get their in-person coursework digitized.
But crisis teaching was not all bad! Some instructors got a taste of the perks associated with online education.
If teaching during quarantine was your first experience with online instruction, it is just as important to recognize the best parts of online education, as it is to adjust the things that went awry.
Let's look at the bright side, shall we?
1. Over Communication
Communication was the key to success during our crisis teaching. Constant communication between the students and the instructor is how we made it through. But over communicating, in what may have felt like a daily basis, is actually an excellent online teaching practice.
There are a couple of reasons why consistent, reliable communication helps our online students. In my experience, online students are less likely to reach out if I haven't emailed them first. Sending messages to students on a regular basis opens up the line of communication and helps students feel more comfortable sending messages back to me.
Perhaps more importantly, students aren't able to catch you after class to ask a question when the course is fully online. They can't arrive early to talk to their peers, or hear those important reminders like "Don't forget exam 2 is next Tuesday." Consistent communication our students can rely on is a great online teaching strategy.
There are all types of learners in this world. Not all students thrive in an online course, just as there are students that cannot succeed in an in-person course. Many instructors expressed to me some surprising outcomes of crisis teaching, which included their delight in drawing out conversations with their most introverted students.
If you have taught for any length of time, you'll recognize the scenario: A handful of students answer all of your questions and lead discussions, while the rest sit back and say nothing.
Online discussion boards can level the playing field. Most instructors require participation in discussion boards or synchronous online discussions in small groups. It is a place where quiet, introverted students can finally find their voices.
Along with discussion boards, videos contribute to a more accessible classroom. Students can rewatch difficult topics, or slow down instructors speech if necessary. And quick tip... all of those videos will come in handy next time you attend a conference. ;)
Accessible education is a passion for Arise Education Consultants. The emergency online transition did not suddenly make all higher education coursework more accessible. There are too many facets that weren't addressed in crisis mode. But my hope is that this experience raised an awareness, on a global scale, that students can still learn and be successful in an online classroom. That there are just as many students who thrive online as there are who thrive in person. This awareness would be a huge first step toward real change in higher education.
Flexibility was my official term for 2020. I know I'm not alone in that regard. But for those students who were all of a sudden taking care of family members or working extra hours, the flexibility of moving online was most likely what helped keep them enrolled in school.
The flexible nature of watching lectures and doing assignments on your own time is one of online’s most appealing features.
4. Learning New Technologies
Never taught online before the pandemic? Time to dust off that learning management system!
Technology can be the lifesaver or downfall of a new online instructor. There's no getting around it... there’s often a learning curve when it comes to discovering and learning new technologies.
It may or may not be a positive to you, but as an instructional designer, I’m glad faculty had a chance to see some of the cool tech we use in online.
Our students live and thrive in an electronic world and it's important we speak the same technical language. The good news is that constant video conferencing helped many faculty overcome the fear of being on camera!
More and more students are using learning management systems and competency-based learning systems in elementary school. K-12 education recognizes the value in these educational technologies and embraces them to make a student-centered learning experience for all. Being exposed to new education technologies during our emergency transition was a very good thing for higher education. The next step is not to turn away from these platforms as quickly as we learned them, but to remember their usefulness and integrate them when possible.
5. Sheer Determination
I witnessed first hand the compassion and understanding between both instructors and students during lockdown. No, not everything went well. Nope, not every transition was successful. But just like other catastrophes that have occurred, you only have to look up for a moment to find the helpers.
The majority of faculty showed an unwavering dedication to student success, by continuously changing the course to meet the needs of the students enrolled in their classes. Students remained patient, and community among online classes started to grow.
Online faculty spend a lot of time learning the systems, building a course that students will enjoy. There is great pride in that. Online learning is very rewarding, when done well, and It was the determination of our faculty to make the best out of the situation that got us through the emergency transition.
I hope these 5 similarities leave you with some food for thought as we continue facing COVID-19. Online classrooms are not going away, just as the number of students who prefer this modality continue to rise. My grandmother used to tell me you can either laugh or cry about the situation, and laughing is much more fun. I choose to see the positives connected to our emergency transition into online. What will you choose?