Changing Mid Stream

Some readers of this blog work at universities that have now shifted to online instruction after starting the semester with face-to-face classes — a repeat of what happened in March. You’re now faced with a very awkward transition. But as Simon, Amanda, and I wrote over the spring and summer, don’t try to wedge a square peg into a round hole. What works in the physical classroom often doesn’t function nearly as well online. And now is your opportunity to experiment.

Here is one simple suggestion: replace one day of synchronously-held class each week with a week-long asynchronous online discussion. Here is one rubric for designing and grading these discussions. Here is another. Drop from the syllabus upcoming assignments that are worth an equivalent amount toward the course grade. Inform students about your reasoning for doing this — whether it’s to reinforce their understanding of previously-studied concepts, to maintain a sense of community in the class, to lessen student stress at the end of the semester, or something else.

There are many other relatively simple adjustments that can be made that will simplify your life when teaching a course that has suddenly gone online.

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