Inclusive Teaching, Instructional Continuity, Learning Spaces, Teaching with Technology

A Model for Pandemic Era Course Design

Satelittle Model Discussionby Sandy Gambill, Sr. Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

As we face the uncertainty of the fall semester, it is hard to see how our instructional time with students won’t change.  We may go through the entire semester without transitioning to remote learning, as we were forced to in the spring. Even if that proves to be the case, there will be major differences.

You are likely to have students in your class who won’t be able to be in the classroom with you. This number could change on a regular basis as students become ill or are forced to quarantine. The number of students you can have in your classroom at one time may decrease because of physical distancing requirements, or you may find yourself teaching in an unfamiliar room or event space.  You and your students will be in masks. You may need to be absent from the physical classroom yourself, whether for a few weeks or all semester. So how can you plan to do your best teaching, while accommodating the needs of all students and yourself?

I want to share with you a model I have started thinking about for pandemic-era courses.  In addition to addressing social justice and equity issues for students who will have differing needs this fall, this model provides the benefit of having your course completely planned and ready to go if a second wave of Covid-19 forces us online. Your students would know what to do, so the transition could be relatively painless.  

Before we jump into the model, take a moment to think about what you have always done best in your teaching. What are your goals for student learning? By starting with the backward design technique of first explicitly stating where you want your students to end up, you can then make sure you are selecting instructional materials and facilitating student interactions that will help them achieve the learning outcomes. If backward design is new to you or you want a refresher, take a look at the Reinert Center’s self paced course on Designing Courses. [link]

I’m sure you’re heard a lot of terminology or labels for fall course formats: hybrid, blended, flip, hyflex, remote, online, asynchronous, synchronous. I’m bringing characteristics of these formats together into what I’m calling the “satellite model.”

In the satellite model, you will construct your fall course as an online course in Blackboard. The online course should contain all course materials (pre-recorded lecture, links to readings, videos, etc.) and activities or assignments students would typically do individually. 
 Think of this as rather than spending time lecturing in your physical classroom, the students who can be with you there would watch the lecture online and be prepared for whatever form their class time takes. If you don’t lecture in class, think about what you would typically do to set the stage for each class, and give students context. That might be what you record.

Different groups of students, with different needs, would interact with you according to their needs.  I’m thinking of these student groups as satellites that rotate around the core Blackboard course.

Here are some examples of  satellite groups. 

  • Satellite group in the classroom for discussion/activities. Depending on how many students you have in other formats, you might go down to meeting with this group once a week, or you might split your students into groups, with each group meeting with you in person once a week.
  • Satellite group on Zoom at a mutually agreed upon time
  • Satellite group in Blackboard asynchronous discussion
    • students who did not come back to campus for whatever reason
    • ill students
    • quarantined students
    • students in different time zones or for whom Zoom is difficult

If we are forced to close campus due to a second wave, your students who meet in the physical classroom could easily transition to Zoom or asynchronous discussion. In an upcoming blog post, I’ll outline some ways the satellite groups might work together to help make that transition more seamless. 

The Reinert Center is offering assistance in the pedagogy of online course design through individual consultations [link] and an online seminar [link]. If you are not one of the several hundred SLU faculty members who have registered for the online seminar since May 2020, you might want to start with an individual consultation as we get closer to the beginning of the semester.

The Reinert Center will be holding a discussion on this topic on this Friday, July 24, at 10:30 a.m. CDT. If you would like to join us, the Zoom info is below. 

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 934 5171 6104
Password: 855526