This blog was guest authored by Dr. Torria Davis, Director of Technology Training for Information Technology Services at California Baptist University in Riverside, CA. She is the author of Visual Design for Online Learning, as well as a researcher, and presenter.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is forcing rapid changes in educational delivery formats. Many colleges and universities have canceled classes for an unspecified period of time and asked professors and instructors to move instruction online as quickly as possible. To do this, we need to make the transition to remote instruction as seamless as possible. Below are five practical steps to help professors and instructors get started quickly.
1. Contact Your Students
Send an email through Blackboard. Share your concerns for them, their safety, and share how the course will continue online. Be flexible, provide your students with information on your course while your building it. This is a great time to show them how to access the specific student tutorials they need to be successful in your online course, such as how to submit an assignment, how to participate in a discussion forum, and how to check their grades.
2. Upload Your Learning Resources to a Hosting Site for Easy Access
Uploading all of your content directly in the learning management system (LMS) may not be practical due to file size. Specifically, multimedia files may time out before the upload or download is complete, making them inaccessible to students. Instead, consider uploading your instructional resource to your favorite cloud service subscription. Consider the following:
- Upload PowerPoint presentations, articles, and other documents to a hosting site like Google Drive. Change the privacy setting to “anyone with a link” so students can view and share the link in your course.
- Upload videos you create to YouTube. Change the privacy setting to unlisted and share the link or embed code in your course.
3. Keep Your Blackboard Course Simple
With all the information available for building content in Blackboard, professors can easily become overwhelmed. The following course design skills will get professors and instructors up and running quickly with the course shell provided by the institution:
- Course Navigation – Delete or hide pages from the menu that are not needed. Rename the remaining pages to match the content you will provide, and the resources students need to access, such as the syllabus, learning modules, announcements, instructor contact, tools, etc.
- Add Content – Consider grouping instructional units into a learning module and including only the instructional materials needed for that unit. Create content items to share information, assignments and quizzes to assess the student’s understanding of objectives, and a discussion to create opportunities to engage with peers and content. All the assignments, quizzes, and discussions created will generate a grade center column if selected while you’re building the content for easy grading.
- Use the text editor to format assignment directions that include an objective, how to complete an activity, and the instructional materials needed to complete the activity. Whenever possible, create links to documents so that students are not overwhelmed with large blocks of text.
4. Build Community and Engagement with Students Online
Facilitate a sense of “being there” for students by helping them feel connected to you as the instructor and their peers in the course. The resources suggested below have free services to create multimedia content that can be integrated into Blackboard through links and embedded codes.
- Create instructor videos to welcome students to your online course, introduce them to a unit of instruction, present a lesson, or explain how to complete an assignment. Screencast-o-matic is a free and easy tool for presenting information and narrating a PowerPoint.
- Provide opportunities for students to communicate with each other about the lesson content. Voicethread is a simple tool, with limited free access (up to 5 Voicethreads), allowing everyone to be seen and heard in the online classroom through their webcam and microphone. Pose instructional questions and give students an opportunity to provide a verbal response.
- Ensure students are viewing the videos you create for them by asking questions while they view a video. Playposit is a free tool that allows you to add questions to videos you host on YouTube and provides basic analytic data to help you monitor access to the content you create. Short video tutorials and documents are provided.
5. Hold Online Office Hours
Students will need your support with assignments and the technology they are asked to use. Consider holding office hours through a Collaborate meeting or other online meeting tool to give students an opportunity to talk with you in real-time.
I wish I could say this idea was something I thought of all on my own. The truth of the matter is that instructors need to stay connected to other instructors in order to do their best work at this time. Kudos and many thanks are extended to Mariann Hawken, eLearning Manager at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County for sharing their GO Online (GO) Kit, recorded webinar, and other resources with the online Blackboard Community through the Continuity in Education group. Join the group and contribute to the conversation. “Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.” (Proverbs 27:17 CEV)