Here I sit in my new, make-shift home office moving my face-to-face courses online with a view of my backyard. For the last few days I have contemplated many things. I have wrestled with the ideas of teaching online in real-time while making videos, giving lectures, creating assignments, and going synchronous or asynchronous. It is as if I am going through the stages of grief with the loss of my students’ face-to-face interactions, in-class conversations, and experiences. I spent numerous hours researching methods of online instruction over the past week but was still unsure which method to choose.
While listening to faculty share their ideas of the best ways to deliver online instruction and listening to expectations being put into place, I was challenged to determine what would work best for my individual students in my courses. A bit of “redefining what’s fair” came into play as I considered all students were being asked to continue their studies online for the remainder of the spring semester. I thought of my own three children sitting at home, ages 17, 14, and 11, as they plow through their own online learning with help from my husband and myself while we both work from home. I began to question how many of my students were now homeschooling their own children while simultaneously trying to fulfill online course requirements as a college student. I also wondered if some of my students who moved home, wherever it may be, would even have access to internet. These thoughts began to shape the lens in which I formulated my next steps.
I felt like I was spinning my wheels when they announced we would go online for the remainder of the semester. Just when I thought I had an idea of how to deliver my online instruction to my students, I changed my mind. Instead, I searched for a method that met the expectations of my course, but was also accessible during the ever-changing needs of my students throughout our social distancing of Covid-19. After much deliberation, I finally came up with the un-decision to utilize a variety of methods to best differentiate my instruction during this time.
The first thing I did was video myself on my phone. I wanted to create a short video for my students saying hello with a little social-emotional check-in to see how they were doing and to reassure them that more direction and information was on the way. I used YouTube to do this. YouTube worked efficiently, and I was able to post my video to YouTube directly from my phone and email students the link.
I created weekly online folders and posted them in Blackboard. Here, I uploaded directions, assignments, websites, and other materials to each folder on a weekly basis. Students could then access the folder at the beginning of each week, watch a recorded lecture, read articles, visit websites, and complete a written assignment.
Kaltura is an open-source video platform that allows you to lecture while scrolling through any open tabs on your laptop. It has the capability to record your face on screen while lecturing, but you can easily disable the camera. I decided that I would make a video lecture and post it in my online folder on Blackboard so my students could watch the video on their own time. This asynchronous choice differentiated the way I delivered instruction to my students by minimizing any time constraints. By allowing students to view my online lecture on their own time, it supported them within their current environments.
Google Meet is an online conferencing platform that enables you to carry out live chats with up to 25 people at a time. To touch base and offer office hours, I now use Google Meet at a set time per class section to encourage students to talk with me and with each other. This time is set for students to ask questions or discuss any course-related topics with me.
The future is changing by the minute and our students need reassurance that we are all in this together. Make your students aware that you are making adjustments to best support them to be successful. As we move forward through this uncharted territory, I offer this: regardless of the manner in which you have always instructed your students, now is the time to let go and “redefine what’s fair” by embracing the most inclusive ways to deliver quality instruction that sets our students up for success. It is during these difficult times that our students will remember the teachers who were there for them and who blazed the trails through it all.
Bio: Stefanie R. Sorbet, EdD, is an assistant professor at the University of Central Arkansas in the Elementary, Literacy, and Special Education Department. With 19 years in education, Stefanie has taught elementary grades for ten years in Southeast Louisiana and has also taught at the University level in Louisiana and Arkansas for a combined 9 years. She currently instructs elementary education teacher candidates in positive classroom environment and observes practicum field experiences in partnering school districts.