Ten Tips for Moving Your Class Online Quickly

You’re probably working away at moving your class online. Even with the extra week to prepare that some of us have been given, there are weeks of work ahead of us. We’ll all have to rethink activities, change things that aren’t working, and give up on some things that are beyond the possible right now.

Your work will be easier and more successful if you keep these ten tips in mind:

  1. Choose online tools you know. This is not the time to innovate. It is hard enough to migrate all your course materials online. Don’t add to your workload by choosing a new tool to do it. Whatever you’re using is good enough.
  2. Remember time zones matter—as do personal schedules. Students are no longer in the same place and time. They are spread all over the globe. Their time zones are different and their personal obligations are different. Asynchronous work (work that doesn’t require everyone to be online at the same moment) allows everyone in the course a fair opportunity.
  3. Keep it as simple as possible. The activities and expectations should be clear and straightforward. Break things out into smaller steps, rather than creating one larger activity. You’ll help students keep track of what they need to do when they can complete an activity in one sitting.
  4. Let students track their own work when they can. Ask students to keep track of how they are doing in the course. They can keep a log of what they have posted easily, for instance. All you have to do is review their logs. That’s much easier than you having to keep track of every thing that every student has done.
  5. Allow reasonable accommodations and exceptions for everyone. With the many additional demands and challenges we are facing, we can all use a little extra help right now. Give students who ask for more time an extra day. Allow students whatever they need, as long as it’s reasonable.
  6. Share accessible resources. There are students in your class who will not have the resources that they need. It may be their textbooks, class notes, or library books. If you can share PDFs or offer alternatives, do so. Students may have no other option if you cannot provide them an alternative.
  7. Be clear about your availability. When classes meet on campus, students know when they can find you. If all else fails, you’re about just before and after class meets. With classes online, students have no idea. Will a response to that urgent email message take a few hours or a few days? Be specific about when you are online and working so they don’t worry needlessly. For example, tell students something like “I am usually online and answering messages weekday afternoons, from 1 PM to 3 PM, Eastern.”
  8. Explain yourself. Tell students the reasons behind your choices and decisions for how the course proceeds. Don’t expect students to guess what you’re thinking or expecting. With all course interactions online, you can help things run much more smoothly by explaining logistics and other class decisions.
  9. Encourage students to help one another. Create a space in your course resources where they can ask one another for help. Whether the questions are about the course, Internet connectivity, or which grocery stores are open, students can help one another—and their effort will reduce your workload while building community.
  10. Give up on perfection and absolutes. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your students. It would be nice to imagine there will be no Internet or software issues and that students have access to all the resources that they need. It’s not likely to happen that way however. Scale back your plans, allow for changes as needed, and have alternatives and back-up plans ready. You’ll thank yourself later.

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This post originally published on the Teaching Online 911 blog.

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