Going Fully Online

It started. This week I began my year-long adventure into teaching a 100% fully online class for the first time ever. Up to this point I had only taught hybrid. So….what happened during my first online week? Well, other than being excited here are some things I learned:

Tip #1: Calm Down Already

I mean me. Not the students. I need to calm down already. I was so excited to finally get things started that I thought perhaps I should do something special the first say of class. Should I remind students it was the first day/week of class? How should I do that? In an email? A video? I was just really excited to get started.

I decided that nothing needed to happen. First, this is a masters class so I’m gonna assume they don’t need too many reminders. If this were an undergraduate class then I think I would send a reminder. I had opened up the syllabus two or so weeks early so people could take a look at it and get familiar with it. They could do some work in advance of the class officially starting if they wanted to. They didn’t need me cluttering up their lives with reminders. So I decided to just let the course start.

Tip #2: You Need a Structure Just as Much as the Students

Although we are online, my syllabus has a clear structure to it. I started the first day of class when the university started classes. That was a Wednesday so Weeks run from Wednesday-Tuesday. While this benefits everyone by keeping us together, as instructors you and I need something in place to help us as well.

We need to make sure we have a structure for creating anything that needs to be created for the class, grading, and communicating (to say the least). Ideally, I think the best way to do this is to mark out 2-3 hours each week (you can scale that number up or down as needed of course) on a specific day to get the work done. Prior to my new job, I always did this on the same days/times during a semester. But now, I find myself needing to get settled and figure out the rhythm. I also have a different set of expectations and things to do in my new position which may require me to be a bit flexible on when I can get my class work done.

If, like me, sticking to the same day/time of the week is not going to work for you – that’s fine! Acknowledge that. Then, at the end of each week, look at the next. Find that time and mark it. Otherwise we’ll be out there floating around doing things haphazardly, and that’s not good.

Tip #3: Let People Do Their Thing

In a F2F class, even in a hybrid structure, I felt like I could check in with everyone at least every couple of weeks since I saw them. Not doing that has caused me a brief panic. Is everyone ok? What is everyone up to? Does anyone need anything???

I honestly don’t know.

I have provided ample ways for people to ask questions. These include:

  • the standard email
  • a discussion thread for questions pinned to the top of our board in Canvas
  • the ability to leave questions on you tube videos (which are unlisted so only class members can see them)

There isn’t a whole lot else I can do. Obviously if someone looks like they are struggling I would reach out. But otherwise, they have the tools they need in place to communicate with me. I have to let them do their thing. I just didn’t know that I would be such a worry-wart. As the semester progresses I will probably find some way for them to check in with me more formally. We’ll see how I am feeling!

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