Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Online Instruction Tip: Communicate But Don't Over Communicate

After spring break, most faculty and students are back in their courses online for the rest of the semester. Spring break 2020 for me was not early morning fishing and afternoon napping in Florida, it was spent in Massachusetts converting my in person lecture and laboratory classes over midstream to full online delivery.

With the transition, many of our students are overwhelmed and confused. Faculty are struggling trying to figure out how to complete a semester worth of material in the next five or six weeks, how to handle lectures, homework, exams, laboratory experiments, etc. Lots of decisions, changes in decisions..... often overwhelming change that needs to happen very fast.

The tendency for many of us faculty with each change is to over communicate. Communicate, communicate, communicate right? Make a change, fire off an email to the class. Make another change, fire off another email. Change something back, fire off another one.  You get the picture – flooded mailboxes, overwhelming and confusing our students and ourselves...... it does not work very well.

My solution is to keep a single dynamic “Rest of the Semester” Google Doc that I share with my class. Any changes I make go in that document. I have it linked up in the Learning Management System (LMS, at Holyoke Community College we use Moodle) and students understand they have one place to go to get the latest and don't have to worry about missing an email.

Each online Zoom “lecture” starts with a 5 minute review of the document, allowing students the chance to ask questions, clear up any confusion, etc. Simple and effective.  

Here’s a link to an example of a sanitized Rest of Semester document for one of my electrical engineering classes

Like all of my course materials it is a work in progress. You'll notice in the template - I like to stay two weeks ahead of the class (in case I get sick and need to take some time off, etc) but not any more than that because things can change pretty quickly these days.

Feel free to download a copy and use as a template for your classes.

I’ll be posting here with additional tips. Stay healthy and safe!


Anonymous said...

Thanks Gordon! Great tips!

Unknown said...

Another thing I have found that works is to have one central place to post everything. For instance with my Cisco classes, which has its own LMS, I make sure that under each chapter all the labs, Packet Tracers, etc. are posted. I have even started posting the recording of the days lecture by topic and date under the appropriate chapter. Too many of my colleagues are just continuing to email the actual assignments to their students and it is just clogging up the student's email box and getting l;ost inthe barrage of messages. We review every week what is posted as well.