Monthly Archives: September 2020

Have a “When you can reach me” policy

One critical factor in building a sustainable online course is deciding how and when to set limits on your own work and interaction time with the course. In-person classes have the advantage of a clear end time: You walk out of the classroom.

This fall, for many of us, the classroom will go with us wherever we are, in our pockets on the internet-connected smartphones we may be carrying around. At the furthest, class is but a few doors down in most households.

That can be exhausting. If you’re feeling a need to reply to student email in the middle of the night (or dinner, or during TV breaks), consider whether you’re able to provide thoughtful and quality help in these situations. Then think about whether you can sustain the always-on work mode for the rest of the year.

Ready to set some limits now? Try this:

  1. Communicate clearly from the start of your class when you will be available.
    • This includes office hours (synchronous video? phone?), class times, and other by-appointment times, and the hours when you’re available by email or other contact methods (if you provide a texting number or use an app).
  2. Stick to those times.
    • If you can’t stop yourself from replying to email at 2 a.m., consider using the Schedule Send feature in Gmail to make that message appear within your scheduled work hours.
  3. Explain why you have these policies, and what students should do if an issue comes up when you’re not available.
    • Technical problems can be referred to the Student Help Desk (SHeD).
    • Tutoring and academic questions can go to Academic Tutoring Services, where they can find appointments at many hours of the day.
    • I offer automatic extensions on deadlines if students contact me in advance of a due date. If their printer explodes or their understanding of citation evaporates between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, they can ask for an extension, know that they’ll have one, set up an appointment with me, and be ready to work as soon as I’m back on Monday.
  4. Don’t feel bad about being less than always-on.
    • Taking time off is not a disservice to your students. It is vital to your own survival.
    • Being clear about how soon you’ll respond lets students know that they aren’t screaming into the void, which can reduce some anxiety.

Other things to consider (not recommendations, just ideas):

  • Add an autoreply message when you’re not available to remind students (and colleagues) that you’ll get back to them at X time, and also to show them their message has been received.
  • Poll students to find out when they plan to complete their work, and schedule your available time to match up with these hours.

Do you have a way of dividing work and non-work time that’s, um, worked for you? Let us know in the comments, or join us at an upcoming Friday morning Coffee Check-In with Colleagues to talk about it.

Zoom is the new classroom

Adorable Guide Dogs Host Zoom Call
Zoom is the new dog park.

If we like it or not, Zoom and other online web conferencing (Google Meet) is here to stay and the “easy” days of normal may never be “normal” again. How do you replicate what we did in the classroom in zoom? A: You can’t.

If you are expecting to fully engage your students with your live lecturing performance you will be sorely disappointed with the level of participation.

Students most likely will have their webcams turned off. They may not have a private space or many other reasons why it is uncomfortable for them to allow you (and ALL their classmates) into their home/car/porch/tent/etc… Because their webcam is turned off, you can not see their face or read their reactions to the discussion.

Why the summer sound of noisy crickets is growing fainter
Crickets chirp when it’s silent.

Have you tried asking an open question in zoom only to be answered with silence [insert crickets chirping]? Students may not be paying attention or know how to interact in this new classroom. Building class-community and connections with students from the start may help easy their tensions when trying to interact with their instructor and classmates. Give students a chance to use Zoom reactions vs verbal responses. Then WAIT…until ALL students have responded in some way.

You may have also heard about Zoom fatigue. Imagine a student who has 3 lectures on zoom in one day. Now imagine having three 1-hour to 1.5-hour long meetings in one day via Zoom. YUCK is right! Only ask participants to turn on webcams if it is absolutely needed.

So how do we teach inside of Zoom?
I fall on the side of using Zoom to support the content, rather than deliver the content. Zoom makes it really easy for us to create, edit, and link in Moodle a screencast of our content. We use Zoom to screencast our content into micro-lectures, then use our live class sessions in Zoom to discuss, reinforce, and expand upon concepts. Sounds like a new type of flipped-classroom!

There are hundreds of tips and tricks to use while teaching in Zoom. The best advice we can give is to practice – practice – practice. All of the reactions, filters, polls, screen-shares, etc are only great if you know how to use them and seamlessly transition from one to another. We can help you get started in the ATC!

Need to talk through your course plan with an Instructional Designer?

Post UPDATE: Learn Zoom through LCCs Linked-in Learning platform.