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Welcome to Your Brave New (Online) Classroom

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Every day it is becoming increasingly clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to have much wider- and longer-reaching impacts on how we deliver and teach our courses. To date, faculty around the world and across universities, disciplines, and departments have been scrambling, with varying levels of success, to maintain the continuity of their classes at a distance while also keeping students engaged and connected to their coursework and each other in the least disruptive way possible.

With spring semesters wrapping up and many universities moving online for summer (if not also fall) semesters, the question facing many faculty members is what needs to change as we move from a quick-fix approach to finishing a semester by delivering in-person classes remotely to developing fully online courses? Over the next several blog posts, we will address and examine this question by highlighting several key considerations and questions related to designing and developing effective and engaging online courses.

Today, we’ll start at the beginning and explore one of the most fundamental steps you’ll take as you enter into this brave new classroom that many of you – including students – didn’t sign up for:

Recognize and accept that online is different. This semester many of you quickly realized that teaching online is different. If you haven’t already, you will quickly find out that designing, developing, and delivering a fully online class is also different. Trying to merely replicate what we were doing in our in-person classes tends to fall flat and generally leaves both teachers and learners dissatisfied. Good online teaching and course development requires different skills and approaches if we hope to create a rigorous, engaging, and effective learning experience for our students.

Moving to a new and possibly unfamiliar teaching modality asks us to imagine new ways to think about the purpose, structure, and delivery of our courses. The questions we ask at this point tend to range from complying to exploring to embracing this challenge. Hopefully we evolve along the spectrum from:

What do we have to do differently? -> How can we do things differently? -> What is unique about the online/digital environment that we can take advantage of?

Luckily, you are not on your own here. Teachers, scholars, practitioners, and educational technology professionals have been working out these issues for decades and there is a wide range of research and resources at your disposal. For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education has a series of helpful articles that examine concrete ways to increase online teaching effectiveness and student engagement and why it matters. Here’s a good overview and starting point:

In blog posts to follow, we will examine the idea of intentional course design and development and how that differs from traditional new course preps. We will also explore innovative strategies and effective practices for facilitating connection and engagement, increasing responsiveness and transparency, and encouraging skill-building and collaboration. Welcome to the world of online education- we’re glad you’re here and we’re happy to help!