When I learned the news that the institution I work at was moving all online for the remainder of the semester, like many of the universities in the country, I felt overwhelmed with sadness. I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to my students. Our time together was brought to an abrupt end. I find that in this time, I am moving through a grief process. I imagine that some of my students may be encountering feelings of grief as well- having to pack, to move, to leave for the year earlier than anticipated. For some, this meant an early end to their final year and their college career as a whole. For some, this meant no commencement. Not only do I need to process my feelings surrounding this semester not looking as I pictured, but thousands of students are needing to process their feelings of sadness and confusion surrounding an abrupt end to the semester.
I suddenly felt immensely ill-equipped to teach online. I thought: I didn’t sign up to teach online. I wanted the in-person teaching experience. I felt like I was finally getting to a good place with my classes, finally getting my students to participate in meaningful discussions, finally to a place where I had learned (almost) all of their names. I thought: How do I teach students who are now located all over the world? I also was feeling immense grief. How do I talk to my students about my own feelings as a professor, and encourage them to share about their feelings (as they feel comfortable)?
All of a sudden, universities across the country are trying to put together trainings for professors on how to move their courses online. Some trainings better than others, I’m sure. I thought of the research that I was involved in- trying to rack my brain for all that my team learned regarding teaching pedagogies and best teaching practices for online learning. I have found some resources that have been helpful (listed below), however, I have mostly felt as though this experience is akin to drinking from a fire hose. I’ve spent countless hours reading empirical research studies and meta-analyses, trying to find the best resources on how to move my courses online. Courses that were never designed to be online.
What does this unprecedented move online mean for the future of higher education? I don’t know. I don’t think any of us really know. We can speculate all we want. Right now, I am trying to focus on providing my students with an accommodating, interesting, and knowledgable experience. While also giving myself and my students grace.
Resources that I have found to be helpful when moving my courses online:
- Flipgrid: This is a 100% free resource for educators and students. Flipgrid allows professors and students to record videos on a topic. Professors can include a prompt and an example video, requesting students to record their own videos responding to the prompt. https://info.flipgrid.com/
- Qualtrics: I have found Qualtrics to be helpful to be able to create low-stakes practice quizzes for my students to take, in order for them to have frequent opportunities at interleaved practice for the course topics. Students can receive Qualtrics surveys via email, text, or Canvas.
- Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP): The STP has many resources for instructors, including example syllabi, activities, video suggestions, etc. In addition, the STP Facebook page has been quite active during this time, with professors around the country providing suggestions and resources related to teaching online. https://teachpsych.org/page-1603066
- Breakout Rooms in Zoom: My university is using Zoom to deliver video instruction to students. In the name of pursuing social justice, I am choosing to not hold required synchronous lectures during our regularly scheduled class time. This is due to uncertainties surrounding students internet connection, as well as students schedules needing to adjust to work and family responsibilities, in addition to potential illness. However, I have found the Breakout Rooms in Zoom to be incredibly helpful when I want to encourage discussion in the meetings I do have with my courses. Breakout Rooms provide an instructor with the opportunity to divide the students into smaller groups to discuss, work on an activity, etc. To find out more information on breakout rooms, visit: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206476093-Getting-Started-with-Breakout-Rooms
I have been so encouraged by the thought that We are in this together! I have found my colleagues to be incredibly helpful in providing resources and support. I have been encouraged by the support that I have found from colleagues across the country- ones that I have never interacted with before. I feel honored to work and study in a field of brilliant and helpful individuals. Thank you!