The Kelley Direct online MBA program at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business consistently is ranked No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report and other news organizations. Sarah Smith-Robbins, director of learning technologies at Kelley, can discuss the transition that many colleges and universities are having to make, from in-person to online instruction.
Don’t try to recreate your classroom:“Learning online is different, just as holding a virtual meeting is different from an in-person meeting. Both residential class meetings and virtual class meetings have their drawbacks and their benefits. Take advantage of those benefits. For example, in an online meeting, more than one student can ask a question at a time in the chat. They can even answer one another’s questions there without interrupting the instructor. It’s also far easier for students to get together as teams and collaborate when they’re all online. Encourage them to do so.”
Let your hair down just a little: “Virtual class meetings allow you and your students to see one another in a different setting than in a classroom. Personalize the space that students see behind you when you’re on camera. Let them know a little bit about who you are that you wouldn’t typically be able to share. Login to live sessions a bit early to chat casually with students who are there. That informal communication matters.”
Consider the wide range of student circumstances: “Some students may have gone home to a fast internet connection and a great computer. Others may have to park their car in a parking lot to access free WIFI on a borrowed laptop. In either circumstance, your students want to learn. Do what you can to meet them where they are. For example, if you’re posting a pre-recorded lecture to your course, record it in a few short videos rather than one long one. The file sizes will be smaller and students will still see the whole lecture. If you’re planning to host live class meetings, understand that not all students will have the bandwidth to attend or might lose their connection in the middle of class. Post a recording of the session afterwards so everyone can participate. If you can cut the recording into several small videos, even better.”
Learn from other instructors:“It’s not often that faculty sit in on one another’s residential classes. In a typical semester, you may have little reason to compare notes on teaching methods with other faculty. However, you now have a perfect reason to compare what you’re doing to ensure that your students continue to learn. Why not practice holding online meetings by meeting with fellow faculty to share ideas about converting your courses to online delivery? Make use of your department’s mailing list to ask questions and learn from one another. If you’ve taught online before, offer yourself as a resource to faculty in your department who haven’t.”
Think of it as an adventure:“Though the situation that brought us to this point of teaching online at short notice is dire, we’re all in it together. No one expects your online course to be perfect. Consider it an adventure that you and your students are on together. They’ll forgive your mistakes and make a few of their own. Connecting with one another, even online with a few hiccups, will go a long way to ensuring that students still feel connected, considered, and cared for.”