School Daze

When the fall semester begins in three weeks, I’m teaching two different classes. We’re planning for face-to-face instruction, but preparing to go online if necessary. Figuring out how to make things work either way has me dazed and confused.

I’ve come a long way since March when UGA suspended classes for two weeks to enable faculty to switch to online teaching. I tweaked the syllabus and had class as scheduled via Zoom. Students didn’t enjoy 75-minute Zoom lectures any more than I did.

A team of UGA experts put together a training for faculty about teaching online. I recently completed the course (mostly) and was impressed. The training was well done, very useful, and a great example of what teaching online can look like. I’m in the process of putting what I learned into place for fall.

Modules provide the framework for our online platform. I’ve always created a module for each session and uploaded the PowerPoint lecture and any handouts. I learned a module is bigger than an individual lecture, but smaller than a unit and reorganized 20+ lectures into about ten modules.

Colleagues with online teaching experience talk about recording lectures. I envisioned something more or less identical to an in-class lecture with me lecturing on camera for 75 minutes. Ugh. That’s even worse than a Zoom lecture. I can’t imagine anything more boring.

Progressive colleagues have talked about “chunking” as a way to improve the quality of online instruction. Breaking the information into smaller pieces makes it easier to digest. Before the training, figuring out how to chunk my lectures had me baffled.

Breaking my 75-minute lectures into 5- to 10-minute videos was the only way I could envision chunking. That’s certainly one option. A much better option is to replace as much of my lecture as possible with links to videos, articles, and other online resources.

My class has been loosely organized around a textbook I hate and no longer use. Modules provide a new organizational structure that makes more sense — at least to me. I’m in the process of identifying key concepts from every lecture and assigning them to the appropriate module.

When I’m done, everything will be online with no need to meet face-to-face. The class will be asynchronous with start and end dates for each module to keep students moving forward. I’ll monitor progress and make myself available via Zoom, telephone, or the chat feature on our online platform.

What to do in face-to-face sessions is the question. Only a fraction of students enrolled in the course can be in the classroom at the same time. Students are still registering and I already have more than 120 in a room that now seats 20.

Frankly, the likelihood of face-to-face classes — in my opinion — is near zero. The number of COVID-19 cases here in Athens doubled in July. That’s just us. Students don’t return for two more weeks.

We’ll see what happens. I’ll do whatever they ask. Until then, it’s back to my modules. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll keep you posted.