Making the Jump to Online Teaching

Like many (most?) faculty who started the spring term teaching in a face to face context, I’m finding myself suddenly figuring out how to move my classes mid-stream to a new format.

Based on what my college provides, the major platforms I have available to me are Microsoft Teams and Sakai as my CMS. I’m discovering there are a lot of features in these tools I didn’t know about. I’m also discovering that they’re a bit complicated to learn how to use and I’m concerned about how well students will pick them up – particularly without someone able to help them get over the bumps in person.

That’s what has sent me to Zoom for office hours. Based on my experience and some testing with others, it seems fairly easy to get up to speed in. I’ve confirmed it works acceptably well on a smartphone, even if I’m screen-sharing code in my text editor. I like that I can produce a single link that is how you get into my “office” any time you have an appointment with me or want to drop in for office hours.

Beyond that, my challenge for tomorrow is to start to get efficient at recording video lectures, as well as the process for getting them into a Teams channel that the relevant class can access. It is an unfortunate semester to be teaching courses numbered 220 and 230 and I anticipate content showing up in the wrong channel at least once.

The most reassuring thing is that I’ve gotten far enough into this process my to-do list is growing at an alarming pace. I am taking this as a sign that I now know enough about what I have to do that I can actually break it down into relevant tasks.

There’s a metaphor that is sometimes used around my campus that we may have to build the plane while it’s in flight – it tends to get used when we’re forced to get a project up and running without the planning time we’d have liked. Right now, it feels like we have a very short runway of the next seven days, and then hopefully we’ve built enough of the plane that we can in fact get the rest of it built mid-flight.

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