By Stacey M. Johnson, CFT Assistant Director, Vanderbilt
Jenae Cohn, Academic Technology Specialist for PWR, Stanford University
Esther C. Kim, Lecturer, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California
Dr. Wendi Prater, Director of eLearning, McNeese State University
In case of any kind of emergency that may keep you or your students from campus, it’s important to remember that the tools you need to teach online are already in place. For instructors moving course content online in a hurry, please remember:
1) Keep expectations realistic. Good online courses take a long time to build, but even given a week or two, we can create a useful, short-term experience for our students. Also, students may have unreliable access to technology when not on campus, which might require some flexibility from us as instructors. There will be some bumps in the road, but we’ll work through them together.
2) Stay Calm. While the process will no doubt feel unfamiliar and at times possibly frustrating, try as much as possible to be patient. There will always be hiccups, but times of disruption are, by their nature, disruptive, and everyone expects that. Be willing to switch tactics if something isn’t working. Above all, stay focused on making sure the students are comfortable, and keep a close eye on the course learning goals--while you might not be able to teach something exactly the way you imagined, as long as you’re still meeting the learning goals of the course, you’re doing fine.
3) Capitalize on technologies you are already using plus one or two new ones. No one can learn AND effectively use six new tools today. Start by doing more of what you already do. If you need to use new technologies, give yourself plenty of time to read up and play around with the new tool. Use the articles in this knowledgebase to help you learn new skills and to learn how to use new online tools and features.
4) Get help. Connect with colleagues who are faced with similar challenges or similar kinds of courses. If you have questions about any Moodle tools, check out our articles in this knowledgebase or reach out for support by phone. You can also email McNeese's computer services department or the eLearning department. Contact information for both departments is located on this knowledgebase's homepage.
5) Prepare for Technology Failures. Whether it’s problems with the online platform or internet connections, technology can and will fail. During the first few semesters of teaching online, each of us has faced a situation were we frantically tried to fix problems while remaining on camera in a live virtual classroom. Unless you are certain that it will be a quick fix, it’s best to post a message on the chat box or say (if your audio is working) that you are facing technological problems, and then offer a five-minute break. Include a time stamp in case the platform freezes; for example: “Hi all, I’m having technical difficulties. It’s 5:55 p.m. right now — let’s take a five-minute break and regroup at 6 p.m.”. In our experience, five minutes is enough time to restart the platform, restart your computer, or contact your online-support staff. On that note, make sure you have your real-time online-support phone numbers saved in your phone’s contacts. Another helpful tech support is a battery backup unit into which you can plug your computer and your router or modem. Having one will save you through a temporary power outage.
Other Online Tools for My Classroom?
We’re not recommending going outside of McNeese’s existing ecosystem of online tools (Moodle, Microsoft Teams Meeting, BigBlueButton, Respondus, ProctorU, Turnitin, etc.), at least not right now. There are some fantastic ed tech tools out there, but it takes quite a bit of vetting to make sure they have responsible student data handling policies, are accessible, etc. The best option in times of disruption is to stick with the tools which McNeese has already vetted and can provide tech support for as needed.