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Teaching and Learning Committee - Online Teaching Toolkit

Image of tools with blue background and the words "Virtual Teaching"

As with any learning scenario, start with a clear idea of what you want your students to walk away from an exercise knowing or being able to do. For more information on how to construct goals for your students in a way that allows you to monitor their progress, see Writing Learning Outcomes (CTAL).

Virtual Teaching: Many Options

You have choices when teaching online. Do you ask a faculty member to set up a Zoom meeting with her class or offer to record a lecture? Should you push to be included on Canvas to provide feedback and answer questions on a discussion board? The answer is: It depends! When deployed intentionally, synchronous and asynchronous teaching modes can both support active learning and help establish meaningful connections between students and their library or museum teacher.

Hybrid Teaching

As we transition back to campus, hybrid teaching requests are likely to come along.  As you plan a hybrid session, keep these tips in mind:

  • Schedule your class in room 200B if possible.  See the documentation on setting up 200B for room and zoom.
  • Ask in-person students to log into zoom if they have laptops.  In-person students can mute themselves, but still participate in the chat with online classmates.  You can also use zoom polls and still allow everyone in the class to participate. This makes it easier for everyone to feel as one group.
  • Project the online students onto a screen, so the in-person students can see them talking or asking questions.  
  • Plan each item of your lesson plan in both formats complete with instructions.  Are you asking your hybrid students to access library resources?  You may need to remind them how to log-in from home within those instructions.
  • Consider recruiting another librarian to help moderate the chat if you'll be teaching a large hybrid group.  Navigating questions from online students and in-person students can be challenging and a second librarian can be really helpful. If you can't find another librarian, consider asking the course instructor to moderate online questions.

Synchronous Teaching

If students need to unpack a difficult concept as a group, collaborate jointly to achieve a goal, or receive immediate critique and feedback on their work from you or the course instructor, synchronous teaching may be the most efficient mode of instruction. However, simply translating a lesson plan that worked well in person to a Zoom session is not always the best use of students' time and attention. Tips from CTAL can help plan for effective synchronous teaching. You can also explore asynchronous options for class activities that don't translate well into Zoom.

  • Do you need all your students to be on the same page at the same time? Create shared Google Docs with directions for each activity.  Share the URLs ahead of time so they can be uploaded to Canvas for synchronous use.
  • Do you want your students to practice research skills?  Give video-off practice time, then ask them to share their screen with their most effective search or the best article they found. Warn them they you'll ask this ahead of time, so they can be prepared.
  • Do you struggle with asking questions and getting no responses from students? Try a chat-blast technique. Tell students to take one minute to think, type their response, but do not hit enter until you say so.  This removes the tension of who will be the first to answer.
  • Are you concerned that some students may not be able to participate based on home technology? For example, if you plan to share your screen in a synchronous environment, will some students be calling in and unable to participate? Are some students without Wi-Fi, sharing computers with younger siblings at home, in different time zones, etc.?  Ask the faculty member if they often have students in any of these situations.  If so, you may want to alter your activity or suggest an asynchronous lesson instead.

Asynchronous Teaching

Asynchronous discussions can be a great way to focus on learning outcomes that require students to demonstrate reflection or to draw connections between ideas. Asynchronous modes are also effective when students need to grapple with highly technical information. For example, when students are learning new search tools or software, they can benefit by access to transcripts, the ability to rewind or revisit steps, and access to supporting material at their own point-of-need (which may be late at night when not competing with other family members for computer or Wi-Fi access). Asynchronous discussions can also give students who may be more shy in a classroom environment the ability to contribute on equal footing with chattier peers. Asynchronous teaching can also support students who may need more time to process their thoughts. When considering asynchronous instruction for your course, ask yourself the following:

  • Do your learning outcomes focus upon students' ability to effectively use tools and software or master highly technical processes? In these cases, a tutorial or step-by-step guide may serve your students better than a synchronous meeting, as described above. Consider a video paired with a LibWizard quiz which allows you to get feedback about how well the material was received.
  • Does your outcome lend itself to a discussion-based teaching strategy? A threaded discussion in Canvas can be completed by students at their own pace, to capture a variety of perspectives. A social annotation activity using Hypothesis can also generate discussion using a LibGuide, or other online material.
  • Would your students benefit by community knowledge building in order to practice skills or demonstrate their learning process, as in the case of problem-based learning or case study scenarios? If so, embedding in Canvas may allow you to facilitate sustained practice over a period of days or weeks.