Planning and Strategies
Considerations when moving your course online:
Communicate with your students immediately: Even if you don’t have specific plans in place yet, communicate with your students to let them know your expectations for checking email and your Blackboard course. You can quickly send an email to all the students in your class by creating a message using the Announcement tool in your Blackboard course and selecting the Email Announcement check box.
Identify new expectations for students: Reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students' ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.
Focus on learning objectives and outcomes: Adjust activities to keep students moving toward your learning objectives and outcomes by prioritizing course activities. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself a little flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than anticipated.
Maintain normal course scheduling: If you plan to hold synchronous activities via Zoom, schedule these during your normal class time to avoid students having to choose between simultaneous activities for different classes.
Edit your course syllabus and schedule for changes: Make change in your syllabus and schedule to update policies, due dates, assignments, etc. that reflect your new plans.
Use familiar technologies: Select from tools that you and your students are already familiar with to keep the use of new tools to a minimum, such as:
- Office 365
Create a more detailed communications plan: Once you have more details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.).
Strategies for online courses:
- Software availability: Students may not have access to specialty software located in on-campus computer labs. Use software that is available on myUSI.
- Minimize emailed attachments: It may be easy to collect assignments in small classes via email, but larger classes will swamp your email inbox. Consider using the Blackboard tools instead. Balance what is simplest for students with what is easiest for you to manage.
- Clarity of expectations: Some students may have difficulties meeting deadlines. Make expectations clear, but be ready to provide more flexibility than you may normally have in your course.
- Use quizzes: Keep students engaged with course concepts, particularly if quizzes are interspersed with small chunks of video lecture. Consider very-low-stakes quizzes to give students practice at applying concepts and accountability but not so many that the activity becomes all about points
- Utilize online proctoring: USI has adopted Proctorio for online courses and has extended this to use to all courses for the duration.
- Apply concepts: Move beyond factual answers that students can quickly look up. Instead, write questions that prompt students to apply concepts to new scenarios, or ask them to identify the best of multiple correct answers.
- Check for publishers' test banks: Look to see if your textbook publisher has question banks that can be loaded into Blackboard. Even not used for your exams, they can be useful for quizzes.
- Update expectations for projects: Students' access to resources may be limited. Be ready to change assignment expectations based on the limitations. Possible options include allowing individual rather than group projects, or having group recorded presentations with Zoom.
- Link to objectives and outcomes: Plan for interactions with clear purpose and tied to course outcomes. Consider how activities help meet course outcomes and prepares students for other assignments.
- Build in accountability: Ensure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious, so some instructors ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
- Balance newness and need: Balance the needs and benefits of online collaboration with the additional effort such collaboration will require on everyone’s part. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, unless there is clear benefit.
- Email use: Don’t swamp students with email, but timely communication when changes in class activities and/or updates related to your course is helpful.
- Set expectations: Inform students about how often you expect them to check their email, and how quickly they can expect your response.
- Utilize the Blackboard Announcements tool: Keep track of frequently asked questions and share responses with all of the students via the Announcements tool. This way, students will receive answers to common questions before emailing you.
- Alert students when new material is posted: Sending a brief Announcement should suffice. Also, adding dates to documents is helpful.
- Keep content mobile friendly: Use mobile friendly content as some students may only have access via their phones. PDF is the most common mobile friendly format. Save or create a Microsoft PDF file
- Create brief lectures: Videos requires bandwidth. Record lectures in shorter (5-10 minute) chunks, and intersperse them with activities.
- Live video lectures: Zoom can be used to synchronously meet with students but be flexible and record live sessions to allow flexibility in attendance and participation in the event students don’t have access to reliable connections or have schedule conflicts. Schedule sessions during your normal class time to avoid students having to choose between simultaneous activities for different classes.
- Lab activities: Take parts of labs online that are feasible such as video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations, analysis of data and lab work. Save the physical practice parts of the labs until access is restored.
- Investigate virtual labs: Online resources might help replicate the experience of some labs. Check with your textbook publisher, or Merlot for materials that might help support parts of your lab.