In the first couple of weeks following the announcement that OISE would be running all of its courses online for the intersession and summer semesters in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of questions I was getting from colleagues tended to focus on helping them to acquire some key technical skills. Instructors wanted to know about things like: how to conduct video-conferencing with Zoom, how to use some of the features of Pepper that they hadn’t previously explored, and how to record and upload instructor videos to a media server.
Now, I’m finding that instructors are starting to focus more of their attention on instructional questions. I am getting asked about things like: how to best organize an online course environment, how to structure online discussions, whether to have group projects when students can’t physically meet to co-plan, where to have students hand in their assignments, how best to provide feedback to students, how to structure the pacing of courses when it is no longer constrained by classroom scheduling, and how to balance synchronous and asynchronous activity.
So, I thought it might be helpful to contribute a short series that addresses some of these more technological-pedagogical concerns (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). The series will be organized into the following broader categories (see below), spread over the next week (my goal is to post one new blog per day).
- Getting Your Online Course Started Off Right
- Structuring Effective Online Discussions
- Structuring Group Work in Online Courses
- Assessment and Evaluation in Online Courses
- How to Keep Instruction Interactive in Online Courses
It’s important to note that these are ideas based on my own online teaching and research. So, the ideas are not meant to be an exhaustive list of strategies, but rather a place to start for those who are new(er) to online teaching. As I present these strategies, I will also provide some commentary around four key things that I tend to keep in mind when making decisions about my course structure. These four things are:
- Time Demand for Students: How much time do I expect this to take my students to complete? [low, moderate, high]
- Time Demand for the Instructor: How much time will be required from the instructor to support this? [low, moderate, high]
- Task Interdependence: To what extent does the task require students to depend on one another in order to complete it successfully? [low, moderate, high]
- Synchronous versus asynchronous: Is this task best suited to a synchronous or asynchronous learning format? [synchronous, asynchronous, mixed]
One final note for OISE instructors who may still be considering which technologies they’d like to use: you may want to refer to UofT’s Ed Tech Catalogue, which outlines all applications that are supported either across the institution, or within specific divisions. There are also guidelines for instructors who are considering the use of social media or other non institutionally supported third party software. Here is the link: https://act.utoronto.ca/edtech-catalogue/.
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.