In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the nature of the fall 2020 semester has changed from traditional face-to-face instruction to a more flexible approach, incorporating aspects of three teaching styles: face-to-face, online, and a blend of the two.
Scenario 1: Blend of In-Person and Online
Some students are in the classroom, and some are remote (dorms, hometown, international, etc.). Classrooms will have technology to stream lectures.
Due to social distancing guidelines, classes will be restricted in capacity. Students who attend classes in-person will be on a rotating schedule, with alternating classes online. For example, Student A is in a MW class. On Monday, they will be seated in a socially distant lecture hall; on Wednesday, they will be participating remotely. Student B, however, may attend all classes virtually due to being unable to be on campus.
It is important to make clear where remote students can watch your lectures. Options for lectures include GW-supported technologies such as Echo360 lecture capture, Webex, or Blackboard Collaborate. More information for each of these platforms can be found by visiting the Instructional Technology Lab.
Once you have chosen your lecture platform, familiarize yourself with its capabilities. In particular, know what options are available to take student questions. In the classroom, there is the traditional raising of hands; however, remember to verbally repeat the question so distanced students can hear it clearly. Remotely, students can submit questions in a chat window; however, you should either plan to monitor the chat yourself, or assign a TA or student to monitor the chat during Q&A portions of class.
Success with a Hybrid Audience
Tips for hybrid lecturing
- Plan an agenda and share notes/slides to students in advance to follow along.
- Make sure students can hear and see you. Arrive early when possible and test your technology.
- Break up content into 10 - 15 minute “chunks” with spaces designated for questions.
- Delegate someone to help monitor remote students. This can be a TA or a student, and it does not need to be the same student each class period.
- Consider a flipped model:
- Record lectures in advance and assign them as homework.
- Assign discussion board questions on lectures.
- In class, address student questions and online discussion.
Scenario 2: Fully Online Lectures
No matter how your course starts at the beginning of the semester, by Thanksgiving break (fall 2020), all courses will move to a fully online platform. This means that class will be held as a “synchronous” (sync) session in real time.
Similar to scenario 1, GW-supported web-conferencing tools (such as Echo360 lecture capture, Webex, or Blackboard Collaborate) will be used for lecturing. As such, it is important to make clear where all students can access and watch your lectures. All classroom interactions (such as raising hands, breakout groups, polling, etc.) will occur within the tool, so it is important that you familiarize yourself with the functionalities prior to the start of online learning.
It is important that you set lecture expectations at the start of the online learning period. Decide if you want to require students to have their camera and microphone on, and relay that information to them. For a smoother start to the first day back after break, ask that students do a trial run with the tool to ensure that computers, software, cameras, and microphones are working.
Consider creating an agenda and/or slides, and share them with students ahead of time. This way, students who may have brief connectivity issues will not disturb the class when they are back online. Additionally, think of policies around students who can’t participate live. Perhaps they can review the recording and contribute to the discussion board.
Success with an Online Audience
Tips for online lecturing
- Plan an agenda and share notes/slides to students.
- Pre-record lectures and use “in-class” time for engaging.
- Arrive early to the online session and load your materials.
- Make sure students can see and hear you. Test your technology ahead of time!
- Break up content into 10 - 15 minute “chunks” with spaces for questions to students or from students.
- Build in interactivity with breakout groups, polls, or whiteboards.
Flexible teaching will have faculty prepare for these situations by creating an agile plan to include all students. This approach relies on these four strategies:
- Planning instructor presence
- Utilizing active learning strategies
- Clearly communicating expectations
- Managing the classroom with online tools
Planning Instructor Presence
Introduce yourself to your students in class and online - provide a bio with a picture, link to your university page (if applicable), or record a welcome video. Check in regularly in discussions - don’t just read the discussions, engage with them! Send weekly “recap” and/or “preview” announcements - talk about common themes you saw emerge in that week’s assignment or activity. Discuss what is coming up in the next week. Share feedback in a timely way - if there is an essay due in week 2 and week 4, make sure you provide feedback by week 3. You want to provide students the opportunity to succeed!
Utilizing Active Learning Strategies
Active learning occurs when students are participating in the learning process, rather than passively taking in information. Active learning is helpful for students, as they are able to engage with the material and better understand the subject matter. Examples of helpful active learning strategies include:
- Large group discussion
- Peer review
- Group evaluations
- Case studies
- Jigsaw discussions
- Role playing
- Games or simulations
- Inquiry learning
Utilizing active learning strategies does not mean lectures must go away; rather, these are helpful activities that can further support the materials presented by the instructor. The more interaction students have with the material prior to major assessments, the better their understanding will be.
Clearly Communicating Expectations
Clearly communicating expectations begins in the syllabus. Create a welcoming first impression by providing information about you and the course. Consider including the following in the syllabus and the online platform:
- Course objectives
- Course structure
- Detailed information about the hybrid setting, if applicable
- Detailed instructions on where to find the lectures and activities
- Course schedule
- Course policies
- Instructor availability and response time
- Differences in time zone (we follow the U.S. Eastern Time Zone)
- Late work
- Sickness and attendance policies
- Technical issues
- Academic integrity
Managing the Classroom with Online Tools
- Tools for presenting and sharing information
- Tools for demonstrating
- Tools for debating and discussing
- Tools for collaboration
- Tools for checking for understanding
- Tools for socializing and team-building
- Tools for getting and giving help