Anne M. Hornak, Professor, Educational Leadership
In Spring 2020, just as we all did, I transitioned my face to face instruction online. Even with experience delivering online instruction, translating to a virtual format was not a small endeavor. I’ve reflected on what I learned this past semester and highlight here some of the elements of the transition that I plan to incorporate into future teaching.
Through the spring, I kept regular meetings with the students via WebEx but soon realized that outside-of-class group work was going to create an undue burden on students. In place of a major group project, I created four new choices for assignments and termed it, “Choose your own adventure”. After reviewing my formative feedback, it became clear that students appreciated the opportunity to select assignments. Several students said choices should be part of every course.
Another lesson I learned was that I had to give space to acknowledge the moment during each class session. I found that each student was impacted differently by the sudden change, some having moved home for the first time in many years. In acknowledging the moment, I had to give up instructional time, to balance the loss, I created short videos for students to discuss in a class wiki. I quickly discovered that some students were more engaged in this format than they were during the eight weeks of face-to-face instruction before spring break.
Overall, I am affirmed in the fact that we can create a meaningful community virtually. I am also affirmed in the need to check in regularly with students synchronously. Despite the underlying health concern which necessitates our instructional shifts, we cannot and should not overlook mental health issues that may be a byproduct of the virus. Connection to students remains critical!