Planning for Fall Classes (Online?)

10 Jun 2020 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Dear ECPs,

I’d like to spend part of the summer preparing for my fall classes, which I expect to be at least partially online (though our institution has not yet made a final decision). I am overwhelmed by everything I am seeing. Can you help me think about course planning?


Overwhelmed Summer Faculty

Dear Overwhelmed Summer Faculty,

Yep, we hear you. Not only are the disruptions difficult in and of themselves, but the copious amount of information about converting courses to online is overwhelming (even when the info is helpful). We’re going to help you by clarifying some of the main points to consider. Our goal is not to be comprehensive, but rather to present big picture ideas to consider and organize your planning. We have tried to add in resources for those of you that want to dig deeper, as well as some of our own lessons learned.

Consideration 1: Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) & Course Design

At the end of the course, what do you want your students to know? I mean, really know. Anytime you make changes to your course (COVID related or not), this is the first question you should ask yourself. Creating a hybrid/blended/virtual/term-du-jour course follows the same pattern as any other course change: identify your SLOs and build from there. Once you know what students need to know, you can start planning the components of your course: projects, assessments, class discussions, etc. You will need to decide which components should be online vs. face-to-face (if teaching hybrid) and which elements should be synchronous vs. asynchronous.

If this starting stage feels overwhelming, here are a few resources you can use to give some structure to your planning efforts.

·        Virtual Instruction Readiness Quiz (San Diego State University)

·        Blended Course Planning Forms and Steps to Create a Hybrid Course (Oregon State University)

·        Hybrid-Flexible Course Design (EdTech Books)

·        Consider Immediacy & Bandwidth

·        Low-Tech High-Returns Online Teaching Tips

Consideration 2: Accessibility

As faculty, we need to ensure our courses are accessible for all. This includes considerations for accessibility (captions for lectures, documents that are screen reader friendly, etc.) and access (recognizing that there will be large variability in how and when students will be able to access the course content). As you plan your course for the fall, these considerations should be a central focus in your decisions. Though institutions differ, most have some sort of regulations or support that you should be checking into. Reading the STP Diversity Committee’s advice on inclusive pedagogy might be a good place to start thinking about these issues. This conversation (+ transcript) from EdSurge Live also considers accessibility and universal design in this age of remote online teaching.

Consideration 3: Social Engagement & Presence

As fellow ECP Crissa Levin noted in STP’s Facebook group, we need to play to the online medium. That is, we should be doing teaching techniques that do well online, not the teaching techniques that we like or are used to (from Crissa Levin).

Considerations for creating social presence and engagement:

·        Create a welcome video at the beginning of the semester that welcomes students and excites them for the course content

·        Interactive techniques you might be able to adapt depending on your course

·        Some thoughts on what online engagement looks like and how to assess it (though this is for a K-12 audience, many considerations apply to post-secondary educators as well)

Consideration 4: Assessment

Faculty have questions about how to create assessments that are valid, minimize the likelihood for academic dishonesty, and are scalable for classes of different sizes. Some of the most important considerations coming out of the literature is to create transparent assignments so that students know exactly what to expect, make sure your assessments support your SLOs, provide well-designed rubrics, offer examples of performance at various levels, and provide ongoing feedback. If you are concerned about academic integrity, consider using an honor code as one approach (Purdue Honor Code Resources as an example).

Consider some alternatives to standard exams, like these end-of-term essay questions.

Putting it all together

Thinking again about your course holistically, consider these strategies of award-winning online teachers, which speak to each of the above considerations.

You might also consider checking out our favorite podcast, Psych Sessions: Convos About Teaching ‘n’ Stuff, whose recent episodes have been about various aspects of this shift to online teaching, with lessons learned and tips from seasoned online instructors.

Once you’re done designing your course, you might consider using one of the many available rubrics to self-assess the course you have created.

Finally, if you feel like you have the emotional and mental bandwidth this summer, here is an open course in best practices for online teaching from NISOD (National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development).

We hope this helps - and don’t forget to continue practicing compassion for your students and yourselves. Although the most urgent crisis period seems to be behind us, these are still not normal times and considering carefully how to take care of ourselves and each other is just as important as ever. Happy Teaching!

Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee

Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.

Daniel Storage, Ph.D.

Janet Peters, Ph.D.

Karenna Malavanti, Ph.D.

Molly Metz, Ph.D.

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