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Conducting Courses Online

Given the extraordinary circumstances we are in, faculty have the flexibility to make alterations to their courses, with the understanding that the altered class will still allow students to reasonably achieve the learning objectives of the courses. Most courses will need to be adjusted, sometimes in significant ways, to be as effective online as they are in the classroom. Below are tips, resources and guidelines to consider as you continue to adapt to your circumstances and those of your students.

Particular attention should be paid to expectations of class participation, in light of our asynchronous teaching environment. Students may feel ill-equipped to contribute to class discussion if they are unable to attend class sessions or must participate at odd hours. The definition of participation can be redefined in these circumstances to include such things as posting on class discussion boards, writing short response papers, contributing to class chats, working in small student groups on projects, etc. Frequent faculty engagement with students will help students feel connected to their Columbia community during this period of physical separation.

Tips and Strategies for Online Teaching

Addressing Students in Different Time Zones:

Many faculty must now account for students who are in other time zones or who cannot join class online at the scheduled time. In this asynchronous learning environment, faculty can consider the following strategies:

  • Record a Zoom class session and ask students unable to join live to view, make notes, and post questions, comments / contributions to an online discussion (strongly recommended);
  • Communicate clearly about expectations for asynchronous student learning;
  • Use the Discussion tool in Canvas (Courseworks) to have a whole group discussion and set a deadline that gives all students an opportunity to contribute;
    • Consider creating discussions that require students to post before they see other students' replies.

  • Encourage students to adjust the time zone in their CourseWorks (Canvas) so they do not miss due dates;
  • Use the Groups tool to create groups of students to collaborate on course activities; and
  • Conduct class sessions two times per day (especially in the case of seminars in which participation in discussion is expected).

Cultivating Dialogue and Conversation

  • Develop small group projects that allow all students to be engaged with other students (particularly those who may be in close time zones), the results of which can be brought into full class sessions;

  • Utilize Zoom Breakout sessions during class, which allows students to break out into small group conversations, and then return to the larger Zoom class to share; and

  • Learn ways to engage the class using Zoom capabilities and synchronous online learning tools.

Other Ways to Engage Students

  • Consider asking for student volunteers to take and post robust class notes (see the “[CC]” function in Zoom) that provides leadership roles and always creates shared responsibility;

  • Offer additional Zoom office hours and/or individual conferences to provide the interaction and dialogue many students need to process and digest class materials;

  • Create a Zoom Whiteboard to collaborate on;

  • Share information with your class via screen-sharing;

  • Take polls to gather info from your class; and

  • Consider giving oral exams instead of written exams, where practicable.

Resources for Teaching Online