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Transforming Your Class for an Online World

In a fast-paced, knowledge-on-demand world, education has been more reluctant to change; students still sit in a traditional classroom in rows and often take notes from a dry erase board while instructor lectures on a topic. To adapt to the changing student demographics and contemporary use of everyday technology, there has been a push towards making more material available electronically for students in both online and traditional classrooms. It many ways of setting up this content in the virtual world so that it replicates pedagogically sound principles can be time-consuming and difficult. Planning and preparing ahead can make all the difference, so here are a few suggestions on how to set up your virtual classroom to ensure that students receive and understand the material in a beneficial setting.

  1. Start with just one assignment or lecture

Start small by tackling just one assignment so that you get comfortable with the tools available and the process of transforming an assignment or lecture from its traditional format to online. One of the best places to start can be with just putting one assignment online. Share the directions to an assignment virtually (email, LMS, etc.) and allow the students to submit the assignment online as an alternative to bringing it to class. You can also try creating a short lecture using a free screen capture program like Jing or Screencast-o-matic.

  1. Find the equivalent

Remember that the goal for any material being built for an online environment is to make it equivalent to what is being used in a traditional classroom setting. Class discussions can become discussion forums/boards, lectures in-person can become video lectures recorded in a classroom or voiceovers on-screen recordings, peer group work can be done in private forums or using programs like McGraw-Hill Education’s Connect that have peer group functionality built-in. Almost everything used in a traditional classroom has some equivalent that can be used online.

  1. Ask for help

Although the internet has a plethora of information that can be useful to consider when thinking about converting assignments and lectures, colleagues and support staff can often be your best resources. Get to know and talk with fellow instructors who have already taught in your department online. Often, they’ll have already worked on converting the same or similar materials you’re looking to use in your course and will be able to offer helpful, course-specific advice and suggestions on avoiding potential pitfalls. Most schools, also, have support staff in a distance learning or e-learning department who are there to assist faculty with any of their online classroom needs.

  1. Adjust as needed

As with any assignment or lecture, there may be some adjustment that is needed semester to semester. Perhaps there were problems with an online assignment that was created; those trials and errors can be used to adjust and improve an assignment for the next semester. Maybe a particular style of video lecture was better received than another; this information can help with the creation of lectures online in the future. Asking for student feedback, particularly at the end of the semester, can also help an instructor know what was successful and what might need a little more work.

  1. Communicate with students

One of the biggest misconceptions instructors have with putting material online is that it will limit interaction with students. Communications shared with students can be even more meaningful when used properly in an online class. Sharing immediate feedback on assignments and being available via email and virtual office hours can go a long way to ensuring that any assignments or lectures put online will be received well. Even if something does not go as smoothly as hoped with an assignment or lecture, just communicating through announcements in an online class or through emails helps students understand the intent and allows them to see continuous improvement in a course.

Although the material that is covered in classes may remain the same, it is necessary to think about the ways technology can help instructors reach more students. Having assignments and lectures online will give students a certain amount of freedom to take control of their learning and also allow students to be as successful as possible in the long run. By taking the material out of the classroom and putting it online, the instructor is ensuring that education is not left behind as the use of technology increases.

About the Author

Maureen Walters has been an English instructor for the last thirteen years at Vance-Granville Community College located in Henderson, NC. Her classes include composition, literature, and technical writing. She teaches primarily online classes and enjoys finding new and exciting ways to use technology with students. She also works as the school's instructional designer and helps faculty and students navigate the online classroom as successfully as possible. When not in the classroom, she also enjoys working with students in the school's honor society and teaching students about the importance of community involvement.

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