Note: This is the first of a three-part blog series designed to provide strategies to assist institutions in their use of digital teaching practices. The next blog post will focus on practical tips faculty can use to facilitate their transition to and ongoing use of digital teaching practices.
The pandemic has forced colleges and universities to pivot quickly toward offering their students remote and online course options. Many faculty had to quickly acclimate to using web conferencing tools to continue to offer instruction to their students. These courses are not the same as true online courses, which are designed and developed from inception to be a way for students to complete their courses without any direct on-site contact with their instructors. This is a special moment in the history of higher education: Colleges and universities were forced—at the same time—to require faculty who had never facilitated their courses using remote or online instruction before to quickly do so.
Shifting to remote and online instruction requires an institution to conduct a thorough self-assessment. Institutions need to help faculty identify where they need help presenting their courses in a digital format using various tools such as learning management and web conferencing systems.
Institutions also will need to determine if they have the internal capacity among their instructional designers and/or educational technologists to offer faculty development. New roles might need to be created or existing ones expanded upon to meet faculty needs, such as educational technologists to find the best ways to make the shift to remote teaching.
Faculty will also need to be encouraged to avoid just going through the motions of using technology to mimic what they have done in a physical classroom. Institutions have the opportunity to apply a judo move and use the weight of the pandemic to help faculty flip outdated instructional approaches and replace them with digital learning options that use the affordances technologies provide.
In addition to academics, student support services need to leverage digital tools. Students need online versions of advising, tutoring, proctoring, library support, and accessibility services—regardless of whether the physical campus is open or not. Some students cannot always fit their schedule to align with the typical business hours of a college or university.
As leadership determines whether their institution will open this fall, it will be very important for them to review and evaluate their current academic and student support contingency plans. This effort should involve collecting feedback from students, faculty, administrators, and staff to determine what lessons learned were gained in the institution’s shift to remote teaching and learning. This information can then be used by the institution to revise its planning for the fall, regardless of how much remote and online teaching is offered.
Some initial questions faculty, administrators, and staff can collectively ask themselves include the following:
- What types of faculty development on remote and/or online teaching does your institution offer? Are faculty making use of these opportunities? If so, what feedback have they provided that can help you improve how you assist your faculty?
- What educational technologies do you have to support remote and/or fully online teaching and online access to student support services? Which ones should you invest in?
- What type of information do you provide to students to help orient them to remote and online learning, as well as the technologies and student services available to support them?
- What student feedback have you received that will help you improve the quality of your digital teaching and online student support services? What do you think worked well and not so well, and what are your plans to improve your digital teaching and student support approaches?
The following will help an institution better understand and iterate its current approach to digital teaching:
- Hold sessions in which participants can openly brainstorm about how best to prepare to offer more remote and online teaching options for students.
- Identify what faculty development and technology-related resources you can leverage to enact your plan.
- Don’t try to boil the ocean. Keep a list of what you will do in the short term versus what you can do later.
- Create an evaluation plan to help your institution determine how well it is meeting its digital teaching goals and describe your time line for enacting your improvements to your planning.
- Remote Teaching Resources for Business Continuity (Google spreadsheet of various institutional examples of policies and steps institutions have adapted to pivot to remote and online instruction)
- Example of an Institution’s Online and Remote Readiness Policies and Procedures
- Educause Resource to Help You Evaluate Your Remote Teaching Efforts
- Six Red Marble’s Faculty Success Course
Opinions expressed in AGB blogs are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the institutions that employ them or of AGB.