This article first ran in The Chronicle of Higher Education and appears here under an agreement with The Chronicle and with the author’s approval.
If there’s one big takeaway from the Covid-19 crisis for higher education, it’s that teaching well online is increasingly, and vitally, important. Maybe you’re thinking, Well, once this global health threat recedes—with testing, tracing, and vaccines—online learning will diminish in prevalence and I can go back to teaching entirely in person.
Not likely. The virtual train has left the station. And it’s to your advantage to be on it.
Having survived the huge disruptions of this spring’s emergency online pivot, leaders across higher education have a new perspective now on the value of online options to help students keep progressing toward a degree in the face of an unexpected impediment — whether it’s a pandemic, a hurricane, or a personal challenge. The financial arguments for why colleges and universities need to improve their course-delivery options are important. But for me, as for many of you, it’s actually, and only, about the students.
It comes down to this: If you care about your students, if you want them to learn and succeed, you’ll embrace the opportunity to improve your online teaching this summer. If you’re an administrator, you’ll support today’s—and tomorrow’s—students by helping your faculty get better at online teaching.
How to get better at it is the focus of this new series of columns. As someone who has taught in virtual classrooms for the past 12 years, and written about online instruction, I know this can feel like a daunting task. So I’m going to tackle it in bite-size pieces. My emphasis will be on asynchronous, planned activities — because they have far greater potential than synchronous teaching (e.g., lecturing in real time via Zoom to a bunch of students trapped in boxes on your screen).
But first, for those of you still having doubts, here are four reasons you should join the online-teaching movement and start improving your digital pedagogy.
Covid-19 caught us off guard. We don’t want to be in that position again.
Academics have years of experience with face-to-face courses: first as students, then as teachers. The same is not true of online classes, and plenty of professors have long resisted the idea of teaching online.
We learned in March 2020 that sometimes we don’t have a choice. With very little experience to fall back on—indeed, in some cases, next to none at all—those new to remote instruction found themselves at a loss. If you’re like most faculty members I know, you didn’t enjoy the sensation of being thrown into the deep end of the online pool.