At the outset of Oregon State’s Spring term in late March, the first post in this series suggested considering this sudden shift to remote teaching as an extension of the widely used, evidence-based blended learning modality. Now that we’ve passed the halfway point of the term and faculty are thinking ahead to Summer Session remote teaching, let’s take this concept further with the application of five blended learning best practices to remote teaching:
1 – In blended learning, in-class and online learning are explicitly integrated. Similarly, in remote teaching, synchronous and asynchronous learning need to be intentionally integrated. Use Canvas asynchronously to prepare students for what they’ll do when they “go to” a live Zoom session. Use the live session in part to prepare students for what they’ll do in Canvas in the days after class. Keep the teaching and learning flowing throughout each week and from week to week.
2 – As with blended courses, organize your remotely taught courses in weekly modules in Canvas. For the first page of each module, provide a module overview that identifies the major topics for the week, lists all learning activities (“tasks”). Note which tasks are synchronous, which are asynchronous and when they are due, relate them to weekly learning outcomes, and provide an estimate of the time needed to complete each activity.]
3 – If you think you can teach something as well in Canvas asynchronously as you could in a live Zoom session, seriously consider doing it asynchronously. Why? Because you have a relatively small, finite number of hours in live class sessions and potentially a much larger number of hours in which students can participate in the asynchronous parts of your course. Reserve much of that precious “live” time on Zoom for the activities that truly benefit from synchronous interaction in the social context of the class meeting.
For instance, instead of lecturing for 10 minutes in a live session to explain a particular concept, would it be just as effective to quickly record a mini-lecture outside the live session and make it available in the weekly Canvas module? Would students learn more from hearing it in a live session or would learning actually be enhanced if students watched the recording on their own time at their own pace?
4 – As in blended courses, structure your remote course so that your students encounter and interact with the course content multiple times through multiple modalities both asynchronously and synchronously. Design learning activities to provide students distributed (spaced) practice working with the course material throughout the term, including regular formative assessment and timely, constructive feedback.
5 – In all teaching modalities, it’s useful to bring content to life and engage students by frequently using strong visuals in both the synchronous and asynchronous parts of the course. (Yes, even a dog in pajamas working remotely.)
Use media well. A Canvas course site should always be more than “text under glass,” and a live Zoom session—or a recorded mini-lecture in Canvas—should always be more than a dry recitation of text-heavy slides.
Blend your remote teaching. Make it better. Your students will thank you!
Oregon State resources to guide you in applying these five practices:
Bruff, D. (2019). Intentional Tech: Principles to Guide the Use of Educational Technology in College Teaching. West Virginia University Press.
Linder, K. E. (2016). The blended course design workbook: A practical guide. Stylus Publishing, LLC.