This is an Eval Central archive copy, find the original at danawanzer.com
Packing up the spring 2020 semester and transitioning to
remote teaching was difficult, not just for me but also for my students. As I
told them, “None of us signed up for online teaching. But we’ll make it through
this.” And we did! At least most of us did…
Part of the challenge was doing this in my first year at
UW-Stout. I was prepping two courses (undergraduate stats and graduate
evaluation), and practically prepping my two sections of intro psychology after
a major overhaul from the fall. I was trying to keep up my scholarship and
service commitments. I was already a little burned out from the semester and
had to skip my spring break to focus on transitioning to remote teaching. I was
trying to figure out how to work from home again after finally getting used to
working in my department every day.
On reflection, I think there were some things I did really
well with the transition that I want to keep in mind for future semesters.
There were also some things I struggled with and want to improve for next time.
Here are the five things I am taking away from my experiences with remote teaching
due to Covid-19:
Have more lenient late policies
I already had a fairly lenient late policy: the points
possible decrease every day an assignment is late, then it’s maximum 50% credit
but you can turn it in at any time during the semester.
After the transition, I made it even more lenient: turn in
anything for full credit by the last day of the semester. In other words, there
was no late policy. Deadlines were all suggestions.
Students were grateful for both structure of assignment
deadlines and for leniency when they couldn’t meet them. Some students needed
the regular deadlines, whereas others needed to focus on other courses before
they could think about mine. And you know what? It worked out just fine.
I was always a little worried about abuses to the policy. Would
students get the answers from another student to submit their homework? Would I
get a huge influx of grading right at the end of the semester? Neither seemed
This policy doesn’t work for all situations, particularly
when a large project is broken up into multiple sub-projects. But I plan on
being much more lenient in the future.
Relatedly, I’m going to think more critically about
high-stakes assignments. All my classes went to low-stakes assignments
throughout the semester, and it was much more enjoyable for both students and
Incorporate more videos and flip the classroom
For my undergraduate stats class, I recorded all my attendance-optional
lectures and put them into our LMS. This didn’t require any additional effort
or time beyond adding the link to the LMS after the recording was done.
Yet it saved me so much time answering student questions. Students
learned pretty quickly that most of their questions could be answered by
referring back to the lecture, so I wasn’t fielding as many repetitive
questions about the basics. Instead, I could focus on the more advanced
questions students were asking about the content we were learning. It was so
much more rewarding!
I will definitely be incorporating more videos into my
classes in upcoming semesters, regardless of whether we’re online or in person.
I want to design my courses to be disaster-ready: flipped so that much of the
learning is on their own and class time is spent applying the content. That
way, if something does happen, they’re already set to finish out the semester
the way they started the semester.
p.s. If you’re looking to improve your videos, I finished
reading Karen Costa’s “99
Tips for Creating Simple and Sustainable Education Videos” and I highly
Build a better classroom community
I was particularly proud of the community that I build in my
intro psych classes using team-based learning. But Covid-19 hit just when teams
were starting to norm and perform. To accommodate students’, I went completely
asynchronous and made the class as easy as possible for them to complete (and
still I had a number who sadly were not able to complete).
But the one thing I struggled with was keeping up the
classroom community we built when we were in-person. This was a struggle for
all my classes, even my graduate class that kept up synchronous meetings. I
just felt like I wasn’t connecting with a lot of my students anymore. I couldn’t
check in with them before, during, or after class like I was doing prior. And
email check-ins just weren’t the same…
I’m still not entirely sure how to go about this. I have
some ideas though: more videos to humanize myself and connect with students,
especially if we’re online; having an assignment for points that has students
come visit me during student hours, whether that be in my office or online;
continue to use MS Teams for each of my classes and grading on participation; and
continue to hold online student hours, even if I have in-person student hours. I’d
love other suggestions you have for building a community in an online
Embrace universal design for learning
The transition to remote teaching made me better embrace UDL in my classes: providing multiple
means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. I was already
doing it a little bit, but I realized how important it was for my students that
they have alternative ways to access and participate in the learning opportunities.
For example, I had two small papers in my intro psych class.
At the beginning of the semester, I decided to open it up so that students
could either write an essay or they could record a video. After the transition,
I had a student ask to just call me and describe what they did, which of course
I still have a lot to learn about UDL—and the CAST website provides a ton of great guidelines and resources—but one of my core principles in teaching is that my teaching is accessible for all students.
What about you? What lessons are you taking away from the transition to remote teaching due to Covid-19? What changes will you make to your land-based teaching moving forward? Add your comments below!