Academia Series: Conversations with Faculty

Teaching Online

This is the fifth of a series on academia we will be writing over the following weeks addressing the significant challenges—and opportunities—facing post-secondary institutions amid COVID-19.

Remember last year, when university faculty and staff were busily getting ready to welcome students back to campus?

Obviously, this year will present a much different learning environment, but one thing hasn’t changedthat students still need to learn and faculty still need to teach. While the virtual world has been embraced by academics around the globe, many are still wary about the platform. After all, it’s a big transition from in-person, face-to-face instruction to teaching online.

Facilitation and Participation

If you’re encountering resistance, ambivalence or discomfort from faculty, the following talking points may be helpful:

I don’t want to just add all the content to the course and then have the students left to their own devices. Wouldn’t weekly Zoom calls be better? I can see them and I’ll know if they’re paying attention or not.

Online learning still requires active teaching and facilitation to make it happen. While the temptation may be to replicate some components of in-person classes, frequent Zoom calls don’t increase engagement or participation significantly, can add to the course load, and may lead to Zoom fatigue. Instead, using evidence-based teaching strategies that are proven to work with online learning is a better bet.

This is just a way for universities and colleges to get rid of the teacher or take my intellectual property. 

Faculty members are still required for the course; this is not self-directed, which is a different style of learning. The intent is to create a course that allows students to be guided by the content towards their weekly activities or assessments. This format allows for students in different time zones, or with varying schedules, to access their learning and keep up with activities. The goal is for faculty to incorporate their knowledge and expertise into the course.

I want to include all of my live lectures into the course as videos.

While some videos are useful, there are other formats – such as podcasts, activities, textbook readings, articles and YouTube videosthat can also be used to ensure a variety of delivery methods are provided to students. This works well within the online learning space to maintain engagement, being mindful of the course load and content students will be juggling throughout the year.

I’m going to give you my PowerPoint slides and you can just build the course from there.

While PowerPoint slides can be used as a guide, the goal is to take that content and add context beyond bullet points. That’s achieved by working collaboratively to write content for the course and ensure all key concepts are covered. It’s also important to create accessible content that includes closed captioning on videos, alternative text for images, and descriptive or HTML versions of any charts and graphs.

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