Well, hi! My name is Jen and just like you, I am now working from home, during this time of increased uncertainty. I am thankful that I am still able to work in higher education during this changing and unprecedented time.
Over the years I have worked with some amazing faculty members in a collaborative effort to prepare their courses to be taught online. Now, we are seeing a huge shift and influx in online students on account of quarantine orders.
So, I thought for what it is worth, I would share some tidbits that I like to share with my first-time faculty members as they enter the online modality. Maybe this could be like a cooking class where I give you the ingredients you need to make a great recipe that will win over your students!
As an educator, you have an amazing gift and a social responsibility that you share for the greater good. You are imparting wisdom, empowering learners, and participating in the betterment of individuals.
YOU make a huge difference. This hasn’t and will NOT change. Sure, you may be used to doing this face to face, and online is different. Trust me, I get it. But while your delivery of content may change, you as a person won’t.
The first thing I would tell you as you are coming to terms with this new approach is to take a deep breath. Everyone is stressed out and apprehensive about the unknown. We are all in this together, and education is no different. You got this!
I want to share some initial ingredients as you prepare and organize your content for your learners:
First, be authentic. In fact, use the entire bottle of authenticity! Your students love you because of who you are. That doesn’t change just because you are socially distanced. The good news is that online learning is actually quite social. And, at a time like this, your students need your presence more than ever. So, if you open your class each day with a fun fact, or a joke, continue that. Remaining authentic will help maintain a sense of normalcy that your students need and rely on. Anything routine right now is a blessing, treat your class like that.
Second, a healthy dose of presence and engagement. Some of your students may not have the same access to essentials as others. You are their guiding light. Be available. Maybe a FaceTime check-in for a few or a Google hangout for a group. Knowing that you are there for them will keep them engaged with you, with one another, and with your content.
Third, a dash of resources, season to taste! Utilize any resources you can get your hands on! We are at a prime time to take advantage of technology in order to accomplish educational goals. Start by watching tutorials specific to your learning management system (Blackboard, Canvas, you name it). Utilize templates and examples that others have already created. Ask questions to others that may be more comfortable with a specific tool. Get creative, use conferencing software to host a collaboration session, to facilitate student presentations, or to just conversate.
Lastly, compassion, every ounce that you can spare. We all tend to get wrapped up in our own lives. Consider your student population. Maybe you have working parents that are now struggling with having to juggle a career and their children at home while completing coursework. Maybe a student is struggling with anxiety related to the isolation. Maybe another has a family member that has been exposed or infected. Be open, listen to your student’s needs, and exercise appropriate compassion. Also, listen to your own needs and give yourself time to adjust.
In closing, remember, there is no such thing as perfection, whether talking about a recipe or an online course. You are free to add your own spices or flare! When I said you could do this, I believe you can, you already have all of the ingredients! Be safe, Be healthy, and know that we will get through this, TOGETHER.