by Eric Royer, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning
Remote and now dual-mode teaching has forced many of us to change (and likely question) our teaching activities, tools, and strategies in the classroom. With the start of a new semester, I’d like to briefly reflect on our shared pandemic teaching experience and offer three tangible ways in which you can continue to create meaningful, inclusive, and challenging learning environments, regardless of the format you find yourself teaching in:
- Have a viable Blackboard course in place. As my colleague Sandy Gambill describes in her satellite model, constructing a Blackboard course that contains all of your course materials, activities, and assignments helps offset pandemic “uncertainty.” Having this course in place serves as a central learning hub and a stop-gap measure in the event you need to abruptly shift online. What I appreciate about having this foundation in place is it allows us to focus on the act of teaching itself, continuously, throughout the semester, rather than rushing to fill in course gaps. In addition, this course hub can allow you to effectively provide feedback, structure learning activities, and assess student learning in the event you find yourself teaching students in different learning spaces due to illness or quarantine.
- Consider some asynchronous options as a means of off-setting student hardware, bandwidth, and physical space deficits. These deficits are real and create equity problems in our classrooms. Including discussion boards or recorded lectures may lack the “pop” and excitement we’re accustomed to in our face-to-face teaching, yet these options offset barriers to access and inclusion imposed by students not having a laptop that can load Zoom, a reliable Internet connection, or access to a work space devoid of distractions. In addition, asynchronous options give all students an equal opportunity to digest, reflect, and participate (of course with parameters put in place). You might be surprised by the quality of discussion that takes place in self-paced discussion board with the right prompt and format; you might be equally surprised by the ability of these discussions to include a range of student voices you might not otherwise hear in the physical classroom.
- Set your students up for success. Students need the resources and metacognitive skills in place to succeed in our courses. Both are easily overlooked, yet invaluable variables in the learning equation. Directing students to resources offered to them on campus (e.g., writing services), scaffolding assignments so that students are working regularly on different components, and including low-stakes, formative assessments (these may not even be graded) are simple, yet effective ways to strengthen time management skills and show students you value them in the learning process. Providing clear instructions, teaching students how to use tools, and offering clear, consistent design features will also motivate them to tackle the difficult task of learning.
These are merely three suggestions. Pandemic teaching, for many of us, has allowed us to identify pinch points in our courses — points where our teaching feels distant, students feel adrift, or where our courses bog down — and reflect on what’s working and not working in our teaching. Don’t feel afraid to try new ideas or modify your approach as you’re learning new tools and techniques. To schedule a consultation to talk further about your teaching needs, please contact the Reinert Center at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also consider sharing advice, examples, or your perspective on spring teaching in the comment section below.