11 Teaching Online

Author: Celia Popovic

Supporting faculty to teach online has risen to the top of the Educational Developer's agenda with the recent impact of Covid 19. Long before we were working with these restrictions educational developers were supporting online teaching and learning. In some institutions there is a clear separation between educational development with a focus on pedagogy in general, and instructional design with a focus on technology. In some contexts the two areas of work are regarded as belonging to separate job roles, in others they are combined.

We do not aim to provide a comprehensive guide to instructional design, technology in HE or online learning here. Instead we provide links to some excellent resources, many of which have been collated during the first half of 2020. See Digital Literacies for guidance in developing digital skills for students.

Supporting faculty to teach online is not unlike supporting faculty to teach in any context. Some instructors are keen to use technology, others are resistant. The role of the developer is not to encourage or discourage the use of any particular software (unless the institution has given a mandate to promote the use of something particular, such as the VLE for example), rather it is to help instructors to find the best way for them and their students to learn. Back in the dark ages of the 1980s, when word processing became available, suddenly writers were overwhelmed with fonts, colors, sizes, layout templates, and there was mayhem! Printed notices were a sickening medley of styles and colors. Gradually we learnt that just because we had more than a hundred fonts available, we didn't have to use them all at the same time. A similar thing happened a few years later with the emergence of PowerPoint. Every slide had a moving image, sometimes several, colors and fonts screamed at each other, some people felt the need to take travel sickness tablets into lectures. The same happens with every new technological discovery. The lesson remains the same - use the appropriate technology to assist with the current problem. If using polls will help to improve student learning, or a short YouTube video can illustrate a key concept, use them. Don't feel obliged to include a poll or a video just because they are there.

Good online teaching involves good teaching. Putting a course online does not automatically improve or ruin it. Use course design principles based on the learning outcomes, student engagement and work load to design a course.

Many instructors find that when they plan a course for online delivery they are forced to make decisions earlier than they might when teaching in person. They may find the need to put instructions and information into writing feels restrictive. This is not uncommon. What they may not appreciate at first, is that the investment in planning the course, creating resources and building in activities will be a valuable investment. The more work that goes into planning a course the better the outcome is likely to be.

In the first half of 2020, when instructors had to move their in person teaching online at very short notice, many felt rushed and experienced stress. Planning with some notice is not the same as being required to pivot at short notice. Online courses require as much thought and planning as in person courses, but there are some considerations that are more acute in the online context.

Contact and community are vital elements for a successful online course. Instructors are more in control of the learning environment online than they are in an in person setting. In person, students are able to make their own contacts. They see each other in class and outside. Online, the serendipitous connections are less likely to occur unless the instructor creates opportunities for students to communicate and work with each other. It is never sufficient to focus only on the content of a course or class, online it is even more important to think about the student's experience and to ensure that attention is given to building community, encouraging engagement and enabling students to check their understanding.



Derby, F. with Lang, J. M. (2020) Small Teaching Online,Jossey-Bass.

The Digital Support Partnership Project - Edinburgh Napier University. The project has three work streams: 1) curriculum development and delivery planning, 2) staff development, and 3) student participation, engagement and support.​

EDC Keep Teaching site, a curated list of resources on alternative approaches to teaching and learning

https://inclusivelearningdesign.com/  Virna Rossi's website contains webinars and videos all designed to support online teaching and learning.

https://tinyletter.com/threeteachingthings/archive Gavan Watson's  weekly newsletter with three resources related to teaching online.

SEDA Webinar Educational Development and Learning Technology: Challenges and Opportunities https://www.seda.ac.uk/events/info/486

University of British Columbia video series for online teaching:

UK QAA: Building a taxonomy for digital learning

Low bandwidth or off line teaching - resource list

An extensive lit review Liu, Q., Geertshuis, S. and Grainger, R. (2020) Understanding Academic's Adoption of Learning Technologies , Computers and Education.

This is a continuously improving site - please send suggestions for resources for educational developers working with instructors teaching on line - cpopovic@yorku.ca


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