Teaching When Campus is Closed

Metropocalypse, snowmageddon, and swine flu are no match for online learning! Learn how to continue your class remotely when campus is closed.

1. Communicate contingency plans at the first class session.

Let students know at the beginning of the semester how the class will continue coursework when campus is closed. Share your specific and individualized class plan in the “Emergency Preparedness” section of your syllabus.

2. Translate the day’s learning outcome(s) into an online version.

Identify the desired result(s) for the class (now online) that was originally designed to take place face-to-face. How will you, as the instructor, know that students have successfully addressed the day’s course content? One suggestion is to consult Bloom’s Taxonomy and other resources to help design tasks that align your content and methodology. After pinpointing the day’s learning goals, decide how you can achieve this outcome in a virtual environment.

3. Make sure students have the technology they need to complete assignments.

Consider your technological requirements. Coursework may need to be modified if students are living without access to power or Internet. If you would like students to see and hear you (or one other), all computers must have cameras, microphones, and speakers. If such access will be required, note it in your syllabus.

4. Determine if your outcomes require synchronous activities (occurring at the same time) or if asynchronous activities (occurring independently but with specific due dates/times) are appropriate.

Keep in mind that discussions, peer interactions, and even lecture content can be delivered both synchronously or asynchronously. For example, an online debate can be done synchronously (through Collaborate), with individual videos (through Kaltura), or through text-based Discussion Boards. Ensure that your students are aware of online meeting times (synchronous) or due dates/times (asynchronous).

5. Use an asynchronous model if students will work independently on an assignment or participate in a small group discussion.

Asynchronous tasks allow students to work at their own pace and may be best if power and/or Internet connection is compromised. These activities can be just as rigorous, if not more so, than synchronous coursework.  Make sure students know they are responsible for the work.

6. Prepare ahead of time for synchronous sessions on Blackboard Collaborate.

Synchronous discussions (e.g., video chat), peer interactions, and lectures can take place through Blackboard Collaborate. If desired, students without access to a computer or Internet can also join a Collaborate session via an automatically-created telephone number, which can be set up like a conference call. Consider wearing – and asking students to wear – smartphone earbuds with microphones to cut down on distracting feedback and echoing noises. Instructions for both professors and students on how to run a Collaborate session are available through the Blackboard eLearning team’s website.

7. Create your own videos or ask students to create videos using Kaltura.

Online content that is solely text-based can often become cumbersome and stale.  Videos can be created and posted through Blackboard’s Kaltura tool for students to access asynchronously. Kaltura can be used to create and post any video, including PowerPoint-based lectures or previously-recorded video uploads. Additionally, students can post their own Kaltura videos through a Discussion Forum and/or create video responses to each another. This technique may be particularly helpful if a class outcome includes student presentations. Kaltura instructions for both professors and students are available through the Blackboard eLearning team’s website.

8. Build thoughtful Discussion Board assignments.

Text-based discussions and peer reviews can easily take place through Blackboard’s Discussion Boards. Instead of asking all students to summarize materials (which will get boring and repetitive), ask students to draft something authentic, e.g., apply course content to a real-world relevant activity. Try tying course content to their personal lives and/or current events. Consider letting students run their own Discussion Boards, providing feedback and evaluating their fellow learners. You can also set up discussions so students cannot see other answers until they’ve posted their own. This strategy is sometimes especially useful for bigger classes. The Blackboard eLearning team can help with any technological issues.

9. Craft specific and meaningful grading rubrics.

Be explicit about the rules and rewards for text, audio, and/or video-based assignments. When introducing assignments, make sure to include a comprehensive rubric (or other specific grading schema) for transparency. Rubrics allow students to know exactly what is expected of them to be successful. Consider discussing “netiquette” and perhaps including it as part of your grading. Need help creating a rubric? AAC&U has many options to choose from, and a quick online search will reveal many more.

10. Host guest speakers through Discussion Boards or video chat (Collaborate).

You might host an “Ask Me Anything” session with a guest speaker. Students can provide questions (through a Discussion Board) that are answered either through text, video uploads (Kaltura) or video chat (Collaborate). Alternatively, the guest could evaluate work created by students related to their area of expertise (e.g., a lesson plan, OpEd, book review). The Blackboard eLearning team can add non-AU guests to your course Blackboard site.