By: Holly Whitaker Learning Strategy Consultant
When making a sudden shift to fully online delivery of learning experiences in response to a crisis, campus leaders need to openly acknowledge and have shared understanding around a few key points listed below. This shared understanding should flow into communication to instructors and other stakeholders in your campus community.
- Just because a campus is moving to fully online delivery for the duration of this crisis, doesn’t mean that all courses will always be online forever. It doesn’t even mean that courses will finish the term online – it’s something the campus is doing for the short-term in response to this crisis. Some instructors will want to turn this into a referendum about the merits and demerits of their perceptions of online education. Ultimately, all instructors want to reach and teach students, and right now out of concerns for everyone’s health and safety, that means they do that through fully online delivery.
- If an instructor were interested in teaching online, that person is probably already doing it or has done it in the past. For this group, the transition will be easier. The group that is most likely to resist this change is going to be instructors who have never taught online, or who taught online years ago when online tools were not as easy to use as they are now. For these instructors, it will take some creative thinking about the kinds of in-class experiences they have planned in their syllabus, and how they could achieve the same or similar results in an online setting. See the companion article for more information.
- Avoid giving the impression that all the work of moving online needs to be completed right away. This will raise anxiety in a time when anxiety is already high which could result in a lot of ugly pushback. Instead, help instructors focus on what they can do to transition their NEXT class session to fully online. The “do what’s next” approach will help instructors feel that this task is achievable without making it seem insurmountable. This kind of quick conversion process only needs to be one class meeting ahead of students to stay on track with the syllabus. Remember that most instructors spend months converting courses to online delivery – and you make incremental improvements over time vs eating an elephant.
- Adjust your expectations on course quality. Keep in mind that the goal metric is the availability of learning experiences in your LMS so that students can continue learning, not that all the new online learning experiences meet or exceed a quality review.
- That said, laws around student experiences still exist. Accessibility is one of them. There is a minimum standard for accessibility that all campuses should be widely promoting during this shift. All the options in the companion article include considerations and requirements for accessibility. Do not overlook this vital step of risk mitigation.
- Please remember that not all students have equal access to the internet or have devices that access the internet. Some students share devices, have older devices, or go to a third location for reliable internet access. Help your instructors understand the diversity of student backgrounds and help them remember to offer a variety of learning experiences, even ones that can be completed offline.
- Not all courses or learning experiences will have an immediately obvious equivalent online experience. Examples include lab sections, field experiences or courses where students need expensive software housed on university computers to participate in the class. As part of your planning, include some method for instructors in these cases to work with campus IT staff or instructional designers to work within these constraints to identify creative solutions.
When communicating about this to instructors, be positive and confident. Your positivity and confidence will spill over, making your instructors positive and confident. This will, in turn, help students be positive and confident.
- Work with your LMS administrators to ensure that all of your instructors have access to the LMS and a course shell created there. A tool usage report from data hub can tell you which courses have open shells with no content. Your LMS administrators can also help you know which courses have shown no login activity during the response to the crisis. Focus follow-up efforts on these courses and instructors.