Teaching in a Pandemic

Congratulations, educators!

We made it through our first semester of pandemic teaching.

Today, the CDC released their guidelines for reopening schools. Based on the guidelines they provided, I suspect that a lot of us will still be teaching online in the fall.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably give yourself a week or two of free time, then start thinking about how you want to approach teaching in the fall.

I was lucky this spring. I was already teaching two classes mostly online by the time we were told that our students wouldn’t be coming back to school after spring break. And because I have been teaching hybrid and online classes for roughly 15 years, the transition was pretty straightforward for me. Not so much for many of my K-12 friends and former students. By necessity, “one day at a time” was the unofficial motto of Spring 2020.

Now that we have more planning time, I wanted to share some general pro-tips for you to consider as you think about structuring your class(es) to go online this fall:

  1. Organize your materials by unit or topic, and make that structure clear to your students through an outline of units/topics for the semester.
  2. Create one content page per subtopic or week, and make them easy to find. Bonus points for linking them from the original outline structure.
  3. On the content page, use headings to chunk out your material. Incorporate links and shortcuts to assignments and submissions. Embed videos and images. Look for ways to include white space.
  4. For each content page, include a mix of elements:
    • Intro or overview of topic: text and video, if possible
    • Headings for each section of material
    • A blend of text, video, images, and bulleted/numbered lists presenting content: short and digestible
    • Action items for students to complete: write, read, respond, watch, think about, work on, etc.
    • Preview of upcoming materials and/or lingering questions for students to consider
  5. Have a consistent due date (every Friday night, for example) for assignments. Consider using one due date per week.

These tips are easiest to incorporate if your school is using a Learning Management System (LMS) like Canvas, but they could be adapted for MS Teams, Google Classroom, and other sites as well.

What other pro-tips do you have for organizing online classes?

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