Making some preliminary decisions about the direction of your remote course for Summer or Fall 2020 can help you focus in face of a sometimes overwhelming number of technological options and educational jargon.
Here are three ways of delivering remote learning to contemplate before you go too far down any one path. Prior to locking yourself into a method, you should keep in mind that your students may face some constraints or limitations for synchronous learning (e.g., bandwidth, webcams, a suitable space to participate in the call). Check in with your students about any such restrictions.
- Will you meet virtually with your students at a scheduled time for teaching and learning?
“Synchronous” means you and students are “together” using an online platform or tool in real time. When you choose to teach in real time, you are deciding that a schedule will be set, you will teach at that time, and students will attend and be able to use and access the virtual space. If you want to design your course for instructor-student and student-student real time interaction, then you are planning synchronous learning. You and your students will need to learn to use WebEx. Other tools exist (e.g., Zoom, Teams) but WebEx is the tool supported by the University and is the best approach because of the support. Do not tie your hands with synchronous learning if you plan to lecture, largely without interaction among students.
- Will you set up the learning without scheduled meetings?
“Asynchronous” means you and students are not limited by timing. You are deciding that students can engage with the material on their schedule, at times and places when they may have better bandwidth and other kinds of capacity. You are providing materials that students can go back to over and over again. You are likely preparing recorded lectures as the term goes (this is more manageable than preparing all recordings in advance and you will want to adapt to what is happening in the course) and posting other materials for students to review/read/learn from (keep in mind that videos should be in short chunks). To do this, you will need to learn to record your lectures on Panopto or on WebEx and to upload these recordings to either Blackboard (available for two more years) or Canvas (new, and being phased in). You will need to incorporate learning processes for your students that engage them actively, but not on a tight schedule. For example, you may use discussion forums where students and you contribute in writing to a discussion over a two to three day period at regular intervals over the term.
- Will you do some combination of both?
“Mixed” means you do a combination of the above. In fact, this is often our recommended approach. For example, record your lectures for the week, have students watch them and review other materials or do other homework, then have smaller groups of students (best would be 6-12/group) meet in real time with you, with TAs, with each other to actively discuss and problem solve. This can be weekly, or could be less often. U of S Instructors are reporting students appreciate the addition of well-planned interactive sessions in otherwise asynchronous courses.
For more on a range of remote learning tools, including WebEx and Panopto mentioned above, see Remote Teaching: How-to and tools.