Many campus disruptions come due to crises, but if you have time to prepare for a course that you will teach online, here are some things that can help make the learning experience better for you and your students.
Canvas allows you to set a content page as the Home page. Take advantage of this by making a course home page that introduces the course and directs students where to go and what to do, to begin the course. For example:
“Continue to the Modules link in the course menu to see each week’s video lecture and activities. Read the syllabus and take the syllabus quiz before you move on to anything else!”
“Course sessions will be held by videoconference using [Bluejeans/Conferences/Zoom]. Links to each class session will be posted in ______.”
“This course will involve a lot of group work. Click here to take the brief survey that will be used to sort students into groups, and watch the Announcements for updates by the end of the week.”
Consider including a small introductory video of yourself, especially if you have students in this course that may not have met you before.
Fully online courses require a lot of instructor time be devoted to keeping in touch with the students and coordinating class activities and interactions. It will help free up your time if you record as many lectures or demonstrations as possible ahead of time. Some options for this include:
Add narration to your existing slides in Powerpoint or Google Slides, and export the presentation as a video when you’re done.
Use Kaltura Capture to record your screen, webcam, and audio all at once, and upload directly to your Canvas My Media space when you’re done.
Use your phone or tablet as a document camera to record hand-written segments. You can do this ad hoc with a bunch of books or get a phone/tablet holder that clamps to your table or desk.
Always remember: you don’t need to record everything all as one video! Indeed, having several shorter videos will help students process and retain the information better, especially if you give them small reflection or application activities to go with each segment.
No one can be constantly available, online, without burning out. Decide ahead of time when you intend to answer course email, during the week, how long you will probably take to reply to questions, etc. State these guidelines clearly in your syllabus and your course policies document (if this is separate from your syllabus). For example:
“I will reply to most email within 48 hours, and I will hold online office hours Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-4 EST. You will find links to my office hours sessions posted in _____.”
“I will collect emailed questions and answer them in an Announcement each Monday and Thursday, unless the question is a private matter.”
It is also a good practice to clearly state your standards for student-to-student interaction in your syllabus, so that everyone is aware of your expectations. For example:
“Informal language and relaxed grammar is fine in course Discussion, but please refrain from chat-speak; not everyone will understand.”
“I expect you to be respectful to each other in all online course interactions, including videoconference chat and in peer reviews.”
“It’s easy to lose nuances of tone and body language when communicating remotely. Remember to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and always try to express yourself as clearly and courteously as possible.”
The Canvas platform has a wide variety of tools designed specifically to facilitate fully online courses. This includes:
A peer review setting on Assignments that allows you to assign or randomly select peers to review each other’s work, which is made available to reviewers automatically, including online annotation tools.
Canvas Groups, which provide each group you create with a miniature course site of their own, in which they can create Conferences, pages, discussion boards, and share files within the group.
Canvas Quizzes, which allow you to set test duration, password protection, and specify whether and how students can see their own or the correct answers.
Quizzes supports many question types, including essay, choice, numeric, fill-in-the-blank, and file upload questions, which means students can upload scans of hand-written answers or respond with a video recorded on the spot.
Quizzes also grades many question types automatically.
Discussions allows students to respond to a prompt, and to each other, with text, images, video, or audio. Encourage students to be media-rich in their responses.
The Chat tool provides a place for real-time course discussion.
My Media, if you enable it in a course, allows students to record sophisticated video presentations using their screen and webcam both, and share them with the course if you also enable Media Gallery.
Consult with the LSA Learning and Teaching Technology Consultants for help thinking through which tools may be of most use for your particular course.
Consider checking your preparations using this Thumbnail Checklist. It’s unlikely you’ll have time to ensure all of these; this is the current gold standard for online courses! But it’s a helpful guideline for thinking about what students might need to know in a fully online environment.
Contact us at LSATechnologyServices@umich.edu for assistance in planning your online course.