The Fall 2020 semester will look different for many of us as compared to previous semesters. Many of us will be teaching or assisting with courses in either an online or hybrid format (see Lang’s Small Teaching and Darby and Lang’s Small Teaching Online as a starting point). For some instructors, this will be informed by experiences in Spring 2020 (see some students’ reactions here). For others, this will be a completely new experience. To help you prepare, we want to offer some resources and strategies on ways to navigate teaching and supporting your students in these uncertain and unprecedented times, especially amidst the persisting pandemic and movements for equality. Additional resources can also be found on Every Learner Everywhere and Pedagogies of Care.
Asynchronous online courses (i.e., students and the instructor do not meet during a specific time) necessitate unique considerations due to the lack of direct contact, as well as increased self-motivation required from students. Furthermore, consider the following when preparing to teach this format:
● The importance of first impressions through a welcome video: https://youtu.be/Lrh7hxh9r70
● Openly discuss your identities. For instance, your first course announcement/email could outline your background and ask students to do the same (Riggs & Linder, 2016).
● Be mindful of the diverse identities of students in your course. Think about how accessible your materials are for a student who is hearing and/or visually impaired (Pang, 2020).
● When determining how students will be assessed, be cognizant that recent research (Gernsbacher et al., 2020) posits that timed exams are not equitable or inclusive. See other assessment suggestions in the researchers’ paper.
● Prepare for potentially political discussions that might happen without the advantages of face-to-face interactions. Have a plan for addressing microaggressions and microinvalidations (Torres, 2018).
● To help you better determine how you will approach this method of teaching, see this resource, which compares and contrasts completely asynchronous courses (see here for a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of including pre-recorded videos) to asynchronous course content but live class.
Synchronous online courses (i.e., students and the instructor meet online regularly during a specific time) may maintain a similar structure as compared to traditional face-to-face classes, except the physical space of being in person. Here are some helpful strategies to keep in mind when preparing for synchronous online learning:
● Ice breakers may be helpful for the first day, as they have been shown to reduce stress and build connection between students and the instructor, especially in an online format where it is more difficult to have all students “go around the room” and share.
● Consider ways to maintain flexibility for students who need accommodations, such as closed captions, note taking, or whose attendance may be impacted by health-related factors or technology issues. Will class sessions be recorded for students to access at a later date? Will attendance be taken?
● Expect technical difficulties and have a back-up plan communicated to students on what to do should technology fail.
● Utilize live-stream discussion tools, like the “chat” and “reaction” features of Zoom or Top Hat to stimulate discussion and facilitate connection between students.
Hybrid courses (i.e., students and the instructor may meet in person for some period of time, whereas online during other times) may be new to some, and more familiar for others. If new to hybrid teaching and learning, consider the following suggestions:
● When reviewing or designing a hybrid learning course, ask how the online and face-to-face components work together to address the learning outcomes, accommodate various learning modalities, allow students to engage with the course content in meaningful ways, and lead to deeper learning.
● Explain the rationale for using a hybrid learning approach and list the learning benefits (expect some resistance as students are pushed out of their learning comfort zones; Sands, 2002).
● Consider how much time you spend online versus in-person. Some things may be easier to implement online (such as classroom lectures), whereas other things may be more important to share face-to-face (e.g., activities, discussions, interactive learning).
● Consider using a flipped-class approach. This consists of preparing pre-recorded material for students to engage with ahead of the class meeting so that your time in-person (or online) can be used to connect more deeply with the material. More information about a flipped class approach can be found here.
● Communicate with your program faculty and university administrator about your concerns should face-to-face meetings become a problem. Keep in mind your role and identity as a student first and foremost to ensure you are well and stay protected.
● Expect the unexpected and be forgiving of not doing everything perfectly. There will be many new challenges with teaching partially in-person and partially online. One instructor described the experience of their in-person teaching COVID learning curve here.
On another note, we also want to recognize that many of our colleagues have lost their teaching or assistantship positions because of the pandemic. While each college or university’s situation might be different, our desires and commitments to teach within these educational institutions remain the same. The ever-changing dynamics of the current pandemic are unprecedented, and we stand in solidarity with those who are unable to retain their teaching or other assistantships. Please know that we see you, we hear you, and we are with you. We hope to be of support for you in any way we can. If there is anything we can do, as a Steering Committee, to support our fellow colleagues experiencing such losses, please feel free to reach out to us and let us know of your situation and/or needs.
GSTA Invited Speaker at APA 2020
Dr. Amy Silvestri Hunter gave the GSTA invited address at the virtual 2020 APA Convention. Dr. Hunter is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Seton Hall University and the Associate Director of Project Syllabus, a compendium of model psychological syllabi sponsored by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology (APA Division 2). Dr. Hunter provided a brief background on the empirical basis for the current rubric used to evaluate syllabi and then provided suggestions for easy-to-implement changes to ones’ syllabus consistent with the Project Syllabus rubric that are likely to enhance student satisfaction.
GSTA Steering Committee
Jessica Brodsky (Chair), The Graduate Center, CUNY
Adam Green, Southern Illinois University
Amy Maslowski (Deputy Chair), U. of North Dakota
Laura Simon, Ohio State University
Terrill Taylor, University of North Dakota
Maaly Younis, University of Northern Colorado