fbpx

Teach Online With Confidence

Helping Educators Engage More Online Students with Less Stress through Simple Strategies

Dr. Bethanie Hansen 

Teaching Excellence Strategist

#51: Helping Students Succeed in Your Online Class

#51: Helping Students Succeed in Your Online Class

This content originally appeared at APUEdge.Com

Online students often need extra help and support from teachers. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen outlines several scenarios when students need extra assistance including disability accommodations, unfamiliarity with online classrooms, and unexpected life events. Learn tips and strategies to communicate with students, extend flexibility, and provide support to help them succeed in the virtual classroom.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

A lot of students need extra help or assistance in your online class. Now, if you’re new to teaching online, this is a whole area that might also be new to you. If you’re a veteran online teacher and you’ve been doing this awhile, perhaps you’ve run into a lot of different scenarios where students need your help. Maybe you just want to brush up on some new strategies. Whatever it is, I’ve got some strategies for you today, some ideas that are going to help you with helping your students. So let’s jump in.

Challenges of Providing Help to Students Learning Online

Online students often need extra help or assistance. Now, when you have your face-to-face classes, you can speak to them often, send them emails as a backup plan. And when you have that face-to-face interaction removed and you start just working online, there are some problems that creep in that you don’t anticipate.

Adult learners, these are a high percentage of online students nowadays and they may be away from school for a long time, maybe many years. They may struggle to navigate the online classroom, struggle to maintain confidence in their academic abilities, or struggle to balance the time commitment of going to school while working, being parents, and doing all those other things that they’ve been doing for quite some time.

Some people still yet will have other special needs related to disabling conditions they might have, and they might need a disability services accommodation in their interaction with you.

As in live courses, students who are new in the subject matter you’re teaching might specifically struggle to comprehend the subject matter itself. Maybe particular concepts are just new and unfamiliar to them. They might need additional tools to understand and apply academic terminology, or maybe just to make their way through the content itself.

Online students might need general help learning how to communicate with each other and with their instructor authentically, because distance and separation of the online setting create a sense of anonymity, some isolation, and there’s no real clear way to communicate in the classroom. That is to say, netiquette does not come naturally to us when we’re taking an online class.

Especially in the world of text messaging, it’s easy to write in less formal language. Online students might need help navigating the classroom itself, or they might have unexpected life events come in, like an accident, an illness, a natural disaster, divorce, or some other surprise.

Sometimes those circumstances are anticipated and students can plan ahead. For example, if they’re in the military and they’re going to be taking a break for a special assignment for a week or two, they might know that in advance. And in those cases, they can plan ahead and work with you.

But what about those unexpected events where the student has to be absent for a short time and they don’t know this is going to happen? In every case, there are a lot of situations. It’s helpful to know that it’s possible for these things to happen. Interruptions do occur when students are taking an online class. And when you have a plan for accommodating individual needs, you can respond in a timely manner without having to consider every single case as a standalone situation.

So I’ve just gone through a whole lot of things that can happen to students when they’re taking an online class, or challenges they might face just bringing their own situation as it is. Let’s go ahead and start with the adult learner.

Adult Learners Face Challenges with Online Learning

There are a variety of difficult situations for students of course, online, but more particularly for the adult learner. For example, these students might have technology challenges finding their way around the online class. Maybe they’ll have a little bit of difficulty operating certain parts of the learning management system.

Some students, even though they’re technologically savvy in their personal lives or in their work, they struggle to learn a new system in which the course might be hosted. There’s a lot of ways to reach your students where they’re at when they’re adult learners. Maybe they’re new to the online experience, or they’re coming back to college after many years.

You could think of guidance assets, like giving them a PDF handout that illustrates steps of an activity. For example, if you’re going to have the students go to the online library, to conduct a bit of research to write an essay, you might create a PDF with step one, step two, three, four, and so forth, and screenshots of the different places they might go online.

Another idea is to actually make a screencast. There are a lot of different ways to do this. There’s Kaltura, there’s Camtasia, a paid platform. There’s also Screencastify on the screencastify.com website. And perhaps there is a built-in screencast recorder in the computer that you’re using. Whatever the method, a screen walkthrough recording is a great way to help your struggling students who don’t know exactly where they should be looking, and it could be a preventative measure that you’ve simply share with everyone.

The more you give help like this, the more students feel like you’re right there with them. You care about their success, and you really want to help them find the things they need to succeed. You could have a walkthrough of navigating the classroom. You could have a walkthrough with a screen cast showing the library, of course, clicking through those things.

Whatever you do, you want to check way the video will be accessed by students. Is it publicly accessible? Does it need to be locked down in the LMS itself? Is it private? If you’re going to upload it to YouTube, I recommend using the unlisted setting so that the video isn’t  searchable by everyone in the world, but you can give the address to your students and they will be able to find it more easily. You could also save the video to a Google Drive so they could play it from there. Or if you have a Vimeo subscription, you could also set it to private there and share the link.

Helping Students with Time Management

Let’s talk about time and task management. A lot of online students face challenges planning their work and managing their time, and then doing all of the learning tasks in a timely manner. Sometimes it’s hard to control this because students have so many other commitments. I mean, think about it. When you go to a live class, you sit there and you see the instructor, you see the classroom, and your subconscious brain has this whole recognition system for, “Yep, I’m in school.” You’re seeing that this is a situation where you’re going to be returning, you’re going to be in the classroom thinking about your academic stuff, and you’re going to do the work.

When you’re teaching online and when you’re learning online, these boundaries are so much more ambiguous. You might be the learning in your class or teaching your class in the kitchen, in the living room, or sitting on your bed in your bedroom, doing that work with the door shut so no one interrupts you.

The place that you do your online teaching or learning is not necessarily specific to academics, like it would be if you were in a live class. So when you’re there, you need some things that are going to help you focus. Your students need those things too.

One of the things you can do to help your students is to create a one-page document that just has these block sections stating what is going to be due each week. This would be like a summary of the calendar that might be more expanded in your syllabus or in your course outline area.

You could list these things such as week one, having introductory forum posts due by Thursday, and then put the date. The forum replies are due by Sunday, and then put the date. Then if there’s a quiz or an essay or anything else, list that in the week that it’s due, and put the day of the week and the due date. And then you could give students little check boxes next to each one of those things. Then in the next block, you would list week two items. This is really just a summary so that your students can see, at a glance, what is due that is graded. And they can make sure that they have covered every one of those items.

Students who suffer from time and task management challenges might reach out to you to ask for extra time to get their work done, or they might just stop participating in the course, or they could even withdraw. When you are preventative about that by sending them things like this at-a-glance planner I mentioned, or reminders in advance of due dates, or other tips to help them stay on track, you’re helping retain students in your course. You’re helping them succeed in their goals of taking and completing that class, and you’re helping them stay on top of the little things that are coming along.

Helping Students with Disabilities

What about working with students who have disabilities or disabling conditions? Students with special needs who have disabilities or disabling conditions will likely reach out to you directly to share some kind of accommodation plan if they have developed one with the university or college accommodations office. This is something that would be somewhat official and on some kind of a form or letterhead.

A disabling condition could include some kind of a mental or physical disorder or learning disability. It might be something like post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. A student might have a hearing impairment or a visual impairment. And depending on the course, these things could significantly impact their engagement in the class.

Although students don’t always inform their instructors of specific disabilities, if they have already arranged for a disability services plan, students with some kind of disabling condition may contact you and ask for these accommodations. Occasionally you might have a student who has not reported their condition, but who is asking for some kind of accommodation, and you might want to suggest they reach out to the disability office at your school to ensure that they have a plan moving forward for other classes as well.

Sometimes students will want just a little extra time to get something done, because perhaps they can stay on track most of the time, but just need a little flexibility, which is sometimes just a setting in the assignment due date that you can make for specific students. And it is pretty easy to arrange.

If you have a student who needs extra time and you need to plan this for the whole course, you could  go through and set the special access in your learning management system for that particular student to indicate the extra time. If you set this up as soon as you know the student needs this kind of accommodation, it’ll be a lot easier because it’ll be automated and already set up in your system throughout the course.

More common accommodations you might find requested by students who have disabling conditions are:

  • to get class notes or additional time on tests and assignments;
  • potentially a quiet setting in which to complete quizzes and exams;
  • a one-on-one office hour to check in with their instructor.

The general purpose of disability accommodations is not really to water down the course or to change it dramatically, but to level the playing field so the student can still be successful regardless of their personal circumstance. The accommodation is typically designed for specific students and intended to make their learning outcomes achievable and attainable for them. Be thinking about how you might make those things fit in more easily for you so that you can meet students’ needs the best ways possible without making it overly time consuming to make the adjustments on your end.

Helping Students with Communication or Writing Challenges

Another type of student help you might need is for students with poor communication or writing skills. Now, depending on your institution, you might come across students who have not taken a first year English class. Maybe they still need to take freshmen-level composition, or maybe they took it 20 years ago and they’re coming back to college, and they were able to somehow transfer their credit and they’re not going to take the writing class.

Many schools that offer online courses, don’t have a minimum entrance requirement for certain classes. So if you’re teaching a class that doesn’t have an entrance requirement or a writing requirement as a prerequisite, you may find that students come in and really do not know how to write an essay in paragraph style or where they should look for citing their sources properly.

Online students often need assistance and support with writing and communication, or generally need help learning how to communicate with others authentically in the online environment. The distance and the general separation online naturally create some kind of isolation. And for some students, this complicates their ability to write in discussions effectively as well.

There may be services and supports available at your institution in which you can involve your students. For example, at the institution where I teach, there is a tutoring service in the online library, and there are also lots of different writing services available in an asynchronous format. So students can look there and they can learn all about how to write a thesis, how to formulate their essay, how to cite sources, even if they have not taken their first writing class.

It’s worth your time to take a look around your university or college and find out where the resources are, what kind of tutoring exists, and what you can really send your students over to find. The more you use these services, the easier it’s going to be to help your students when they struggle with writing and communication.

Likewise, you might consider certain kinds of grading feedback comments that direct them to the same services. I saw another faculty member in their grading who also attached a handout of certain skills that students needed. For example, if students had a weak thesis or didn’t appear to have a thesis in the introductory paragraph for whatever class, this faculty member had a one-page guide on how to create a solid thesis and support it throughout an essay. So when returning the grading feedback, this faculty member would also attach this document for additional help.

If you find common errors happening with your students, it’s worth your time as well to create these kinds of assets that you can attach to grading feedback and return to your students. The more you help them, the better they’re going to be in their writing and communication skills over time.

Helping Students with Unexpected Life Events

Let’s talk about students with unexpected interruptions and life events. Students might need some flexibility or support due to unexpected life events like accidents, major illnesses, natural disasters, divorce, work or military scheduling changes and other surprises.

In some cases, students will reach out right away, as soon as they have a problem and they’ll probably work with you to try to resolve it and submit whatever missing work they have. In other cases, the students simply disappear and they stop participating in the course at all until some future time, at which point they either reach out to you or you have reached out to them. And somehow you reconnect.

If you can have a little bit of structure and flexibility at the same time, you’ll give yourself the space to accommodate students with these kinds of unexpected needs. Now, if you have a student who is just telling you they have a little problem and they need another day or two on their assignment, in the online world, it’s much better to give them one full week because the student may not be able to check their email or their messages tomorrow. So if you give them just one day, it might be a day or two before they get your answer. And by then, the time has already passed. So to make it work best for your online students, I do recommend setting that extended timeline a full week at a time, whenever you need to.

There are unusual cases where a student repeatedly disappears from a class, stops participating, and despite your flexibility or helpfulness, they really do fail the course. This does sometimes happen. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen. And you just need to know that sometimes in online learning, a student does feel that they can’t move forward and they do fail to reach out to you or respond to your messages. It’s typically not fully your fault. Sometimes it’s beyond your control. Circumstances happen in the student’s life and they will follow up at some other time.

Outreach Strategies to Help Students

When you use your outreach effort and your communication with students who appear to be missing or less engaged in your course, this might actually prompt your student to re-engage, especially if the student was simply discouraged and they started to think they were too far behind to complete the class at all. The more you reach out to a student, the more they are likely to re-engage and eventually finish the course. Your outreach could be an email. It could be a message in the classroom. It could be a phone call. When you reach out to your students, hope can be restored for them and you might even be able to remove some roadblocks to their success.

If you have a pretty harsh late policy, you might consider waiving it in cases like this where the student really has given up, they’ve lost hope. They think they cannot get enough credit to pass and you’re trying to work with them to get back on track.

Most academic institutions actually request that their instructors do reach out to some kind of academic advisor or student services or academic support or some other early-warning team to follow up with the student and help him or her in their future direction. So be sure to contact those departments as you’re doing these outreach efforts.

When you contact your students early the first week of the class, before things are really underway, this is a really effective way to help get a connection right from the start before any problems arise. Now, by the second week, you might notice that a few have stopped participating. And that’s also a good time to reach out and ensure that students know they can contact you, they can move forward, and you can help them navigate between decisions they might be making about dropping or withdrawing or persevering.

There are a lot of messages you can send students in cases like this. One would be a sample outreach message that I’ll share right now. My message might say something like this:

“Welcome to the class. I’m so glad you’re here and I hope that you enjoy our new course. We recently wrote a new textbook and redesigned the learning activities to help you have a better experience in the class. I might occasionally send you a note here in the messages area to share information with you or to communicate about the course. Please reply to this message to let me know you received it so I can be confident this is a good way to communicate with you.”

And then I’ll check back to see if the students have replied. I might send it a second time to their email if they don’t respond soon in the messages area. So I want to make sure from the very beginning of the class, that I have a really great way to contact them that’s reliable and that they got my messages.

Nothing’s worse than you and the student reaching out to each other over and over, but missing each other because one of you is using one platform and one’s using the other. For example, one of you is sending it to email and the other one’s using messages and you’re not checking those places. So be thinking about how to get a response before anything comes up.

Then in week two, if you see somebody missing, you might send something like this message:

“I noticed that you didn’t post or reply to peers in the week two discussion. Please go back to the forum and participate. It’s very important to post every week in our discussion forums to keep making progress in the class. I’m worried that you might be falling behind. If something has come up, I’d love to help you out. Please reply to let me know if I can be of help. I want you to succeed.”

The more you contact your students, again, as I’ve mentioned, the more you have a good chance of connecting with them and reengaging them in the class.

So we have a lot of different tips today that I’ve shared with you on helping adult learners, helping students manage time and task, and trying to follow up with students who have unusual experiences that take them away from the classroom and might interfere with their success.

Focus on Being Proactive, Flexible and Supportive

In summary, as you’re teaching a variety of online students, it’s normal to have to work with your students who have special needs, experience interruptions in their progress, or somehow go missing from your class. This can be discouraging for you if you haven’t experienced this. And at first you might wonder what’s wrong, but the most important thing is to reach out to these students. Focus on being proactive, flexible, and supportive so you can communicate and also follow up as much as possible.

When students have challenges, you might also have other departments that can support you with a whole team effort to refocus the situation and help the student deal with whatever problems they’re having as well. There are so many steps you can take before losing a student in your online class, as well as before the class even begins to already reach out to your students and connect with them. Take the time to look ahead and think about potential problems. It’s well worth the effort, and it will help you have a more successful experience with your students as well.

Thanks for joining me for this discussion of how to connect with your students so that they can be more successful in ways that will also work with you and the way you’re teaching online. Hang in there. It’s a challenge to reach out to struggling students, but you can do it. And the more you do, the more you can help. Best wishes in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week and your online teaching journey.

#50: Regular Reflection can Improve Productivity

#50: Regular Reflection can Improve Productivity

Online educators can get so caught up in completing tasks and meeting deadlines that they often feel like they don’t have time for the big or important things. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks about the importance of reflection to assess one’s values and priorities. She also suggests an approach of reflecting on yesterday, evaluating how that time was spent, and then being intentional in how you are using your time in the present moment.

This content appeared first on APUEdge. 

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m so glad you’re here today. We are headed toward the end of our first year in the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. With episode 50, we are anticipating about two more till we can call it a perfect year of 52 episodes. Thanks for being with us over the course of the past year.

We’ve covered a lot of topics on this podcast and hopefully something is always of value to you. There are specific pillars, or topics, that we cover on the Online Teaching Lounge:

  • Best practices in online education
  • How to reach your students better
  • Life as an online educator; and
  • Using multimedia tools.
  • Then there’s this fifth topic that keeps coming up, and that is your own growth and professional development as an online educator or an online professional.

Recently, I picked up a great book called “18 Minutes” by Peter Bregman. It’s about finding your focus, mastering distraction, and getting the right things done. This episode is all about reflection. Although the book itself is about focusing in the future and making better use of your time, reflection is really about looking at the past, making meaning out of it, and taking something away that we can either do better, or cherish, or enjoy. In other words, there will be many things that we want to start doing, stop doing, and keep doing based on our reflection.

Have you ever thought, “Where did the day go?” Perhaps you got busy working, answering emails, doing a lot of things, making a phone call here and there and doing your various tasks. And all of the sudden, the day is over. Well, I certainly have. And Peter Bregman says that this actually has to do with the fact that we, as human beings, fall into habits. We start to do little behaviors that fill up the whole day. And pretty soon we’re unaware of those patterns.

From his book, I’m going to read just a little section that really inspired me today. He says:

Either we keep moving along a path that isn’t quite right, but we fail to knock ourselves off of it. Or we intentionally choose the right path, but keep getting knocked off of it. If we’re going to look back and feel good about what we’ve done over a year, a day, or even a moment, we need to break those patterns.

Today, we’re going to look back over the past year. We’re going to think about the previous day we’ve experienced. And we’re going to think about this present moment, right now. So buckle up and enjoy the journey that we’re going to take together today.

The Importance of Reflection

So let’s get started. Looking back in our reflection, what was the previous year about for you as an online educator and professional? What did you do over the course of that year to handle all of the things that came your way? What was your guiding focus or principle that led you to where you are right now, this moment, from one year ago today?

Identify What You Value

Everyone is guided by something. And most of us are very unaware of what we actually care about. We have things that we would call values that guide us. For example, you might value social connections, relationships, being with other people, talking to other people. If that’s one of your values, over the past year you notice that perhaps you didn’t have enough time to do that, or you weren’t able to do that because of things that stood in your way.

If your top value was actually moneymaking, you could look back and see were you able to stay employed? Did you make the money you wanted? Financial security is often a value in the top five that people do embrace for obvious reasons. We need to live. Not everyone has it as their top value. Often I find that it’s number four or number five in there for people who do really value that.

Then there’s time management. Do you value being productive and managing your time, or is that just some fluff about how to organize your life, but not really the substance of it? Think about what you value most, and over the past year, how aware did you become of your most important values?

In other words, what is your “why” behind what you’re doing? Did it come out to you? There were several distractions and interruptions to normal daily life that may have come up for you. And in those things, did you begin to see what actually mattered?

Many of us notice what we care about by looking at the negative side of it. Perhaps we’re noticing when we’re not able to spend enough time on that particular thing we care about, or when it’s being frustrated in some way.

For example, if we do value relationships most, we notice when we’re not able to connect with people. If we value solitude and thinking time most, we notice when we don’t get any of that either.

What Did You Bring?

As you look back over the past year, what became your personal theme? And what did you bring to your online teaching? Considering what you brought in the year that passed, you’re able to look ahead and think about what you’d like to bring in the future and what you would like to be your primary driver. What is it about online teaching that you really do love, even if you feel like you just can’t quite measure up in that area? Or you continually feel frustrated trying to reach a goal that you’re not quite able to hit?

When you settle down and think about what really matters to you, you may find that the reason you’re so frustrated is because you do care so much about a particular area. It’s not so much that you’re surrounded by lack and things that go poorly. It’s that you’re thinking, how could they go better, and how much more do you want to reach that particular goal?

When seen in this light, we can actually find our values much more clearly, and we can begin to live them in the coming year more clearly as well.

As we wrap up almost 52 episodes here of the Online Teaching Lounge, it’s a great time to be thinking about the year ahead. In the coming year, I value connection and relationships deeply as one of my top five values, and I’ll be bringing a lot of special guests to this podcast. You’ll be learning from others outside of me. I had one guest this past year, and we’re going to have several more that I think you’ll really enjoy.

I’m going to purposely bring my value of social connection into what I’m doing much more, and I hope you’ll enjoy that. So as you hit the year ahead, begin thinking about. What was the main theme of your past year and what would you like to take into the coming year?

How Did You Spend Yesterday?

The next step of your reflection is to think about the previous day. So if we just think about yesterday, whatever yesterday was. This podcast is typically published on Wednesdays. So if you’re listening to it near its publication date, possibly the previous day was a weekday for you.

What was yesterday all about for you? Were you teaching? Were you working online? What did you bring into that day that helped you to really feel fulfilled about your work? What is it in your personal value system or your driver as an online educator and online professional that you brought into your daily efforts?

When you look back at yesterday, did you get some of those right things done that you care most about? Was there something in your day thoughtfully included so that you ended your day with a high note, or was it just a big list of tasks to be done?

I talk to a lot of folks about their time management and how they spend their time, as online professionals and as online educators. Many times when we feel the most overwhelmed it’s because we lose track of the bigger picture we care most about, and we get lost in the minutia of the day-to-day tasks that are really pressing on us for time and completion.

If you look at yesterday and it was a big to-do list, never-ending, endless stream of emails and tasks to do, essays to be graded that are not finished yet, and a lot of really non-people connected tasks. If you see a lot of tasks and not a lot of connection, let’s think about tomorrow, what will that day be about? And how would you do it differently if you planned just one of what you might consider the “right things” to include in your day?

What kind of things would you include if you took the day on more intentionally? One person I know has the habit of listing the most one-important thing she wants to get done. And she does that thing first before opening her email or looking at any of the distractions.

In doing this, she’s able to live her why every single day. And she has actually become so productive that her eight hour Workday of tasks that used to bleed into nine, 10 or 11 hours of the day is actually taking her only five or six hours a day. That task focus left her completely.

And yes, she can still tend to the tasks that do need to be done as part of her role, but by living her why, completing that first most important thing, she’s able to have a productive day before the day even gets on. There’s no more getting lost in the minutia or distracted by a lot of things that need to be done all at once. And she just takes the time at the beginning of each day to think about what the one most important thing is that she needs to do.

Many people I’ve worked with in coaching have asked me how they can make more time for the big projects in their lives. Perhaps you have a big project, maybe there’s something you’re working on, it could be you’re designing a course or revising a course. Maybe you’re writing something professionally, or preparing to present at a conference. Or perhaps you have some other special project that matters to you and is important to you.

If you’re doing your to-do list all day, every day, chances are you’re never getting to that item. If you decide every single day is going to be about that one thing, and then you get to all the rest of your things, you’re going to find that you make incremental progress toward the most important things in your life regularly.

And you’re going to start feeling structure in your day. You’ll feel more satisfied, productive, and find that your work is measurable. You can see actual change and improvement. So as you reflect on yesterday, and what that day was all about, take away your patterns and habits and start one step towards just choosing one meaningful thing each day to complete first.

Living in the Present Moment

And then lastly, Peter Bregman talks about what this moment is about. It’s amazing how many of us are in the present moment, but thinking about something in the future. Perhaps we’re anxious about a meeting coming up, or a deadline that we have to complete a lot of work for. Maybe we have a lot of things to grade and they’re all due by Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Maybe there’s something in our personal lives coming up and we’re also anxious about that.

Or perhaps we’re thinking about the past. Maybe there was a situation with a student we were concerned about and wish had gone differently, and we’re worried about the past. Maybe we think about the past and we worry that we haven’t done enough for our family members, or for our own health.

Whatever it is we worry about from the past, or we get anxious about for the future, the present moment is none of that. The present moment is just right now. The future isn’t here yet. The past isn’t really here. And in this moment, if we let go of all those competing thoughts, we can focus on the here and now. And we can be much more clear in our thinking, and clear on what we care most about as well as what matters most to us.

In the present moment, some people have habits of slowing down, closing their eyes, breathing deeply, putting their hands on the sides of the chair, feeling that chair, thinking about what they’re experiencing right now in this moment. Putting feet on the floor, feeling the feet in the shoes fully, maybe wiggling their toes. And then taking a moment to just sense what is going on in this moment right now.

What sounds are being heard? What’s the temperature like in the room? How does everything seem in this present moment? And in doing that, a lot of things drift away from our mind, and we think much more clearly at times like that.

In each moment that we are working online, or teaching online, and in each moment that we’re living our lives, the more we can be present in that moment, the more we can let go of distractions and stay on the path that we really want to be on.

So, for example, back to those couple of reasons people go to work and things people think about. If you’re all about relationships and connection, and you slow down and get really present right now in this moment, you might suddenly be aware of people you’d like to connect to.

If you’re reflecting on teaching, you might be thinking about in this moment, a student or two who seems to need you right now. Maybe an idea comes to you about how you might reach out and connect to your students in a new way.

Or, if finance and wage earning is more important to you, you might think about right now how are your finances doing? If you just got paid and you are doing quite well, you have money in the bank, perhaps you feel pretty good. If you think about what you’re doing for employment, and you’re satisfied with the wage you’re earning, you might also feel very good.

And likewise, if you’re not satisfied with that, if you’re not pleased with your bottom line in the bank account, something might occur to you in the present moment that you’d like to try in the near future to change your income or move in a new direction, maybe take on another part-time role.

Whatever this present moment is all about for you, whatever your most important values are, drink it in. Really connect to that in the moment, let go of your anxiety and your worry, and you’ll find clarity where you can move forward right now.

In wrapping this up, we’ve just looked at reflecting in our online educator lives and roles, over the past year, over the past day, and in the present moment. And as we reflect, we are much more readily prepared to take steps forward where we’d like to go.

Whatever time of year this is for you, and whatever spot you’re in during a course or a semester, take the time to reflect. Decide if you’re pleased with your direction and how much of your values have been able to come out in what you’re doing. And after you’ve done that reflection consider what you would like to change in the year ahead to live your values much more fully.

If you’d like any suggestions on identifying your values and determining what your most important priorities are, there are some tools linked here in the podcast notes. So feel free to look at the transcript and try out some of those links, and that will help you move forward in that direction.

Again, we’re looking forward to the coming year in the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. We’ll be having a few special guests and some interesting and very helpful topics for you. I hope you’ll join us for year two of the Online Teaching Lounge podcast coming up in just a few weeks.

Thanks for being with me today to reflect and consider continuous learning as online educators and online professionals, and definitely check out Peter Bregman’s book “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, And Get The Right Things Done.” Here’s to being the best you in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#49: Taking Care of Yourself as an Online Educator

#49: Taking Care of Yourself as an Online Educator

This content originally appeared at APUEdge.Com

Being an online educator means you can work anywhere, anytime. As a result, it often feels like the workday never ends, which can lead to exhaustion and burnout. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares strategies for intentionally creating a self-care plan. Learn the importance of maintaining a healthy morning routine, planning breaks throughout the day, and an end-of-day routine to ensure online teachers can relax and reflect on the workday.

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Hello there, welcome to the podcast today. This is Bethanie Hansen, I’ve been an online educator since 2010. Wow, can’t believe it’s been that long already. And when I started out as an online educator, I was also a full-time public school music teacher. So, I was a part-time online educator, and then I became part-time at a second institution. And later, that became a full-time role. And I was part-time at my public school. Then I became a faculty director, where manage other faculty who teach online and I left my public school teaching career for the long haul.

Now, my experiences teaching online were a little bit disorganized at first because I was a part-time faculty member, juggling a lot of other things. If you listen to this podcast very regularly, you’re going to know that I have gone through my own set of struggles and wins with figuring out how to manage things, and also how to use best practices and effective strategies to live and work online.

Developing a Self-Care Plan

I want to encourage you today to take good care of yourself as an online educator. Are you able to take care of your own personal wellbeing while you’re working online? The important message today is to develop a self-care plan and to implement it. If you think about how we like to light the torch of other people through our teaching efforts and further their flame and their ability to contribute to the world beyond just the class we’re teaching, we can’t really light the flame of another person if ours has gone out.

That’s a big message. I mean, when you think about it and you think about kindling your own flame on a regular basis, what is it we do to do that? Is it to read books? Is it to connect with people? Or is there a lot more to this that is part of our self-care and our personal wellbeing?

The message I’d like to share with you today is that it’s okay to create a purposeful strategy to do this. It’s not selfish at all, in fact, it’s necessary. This is a method to take care of your flame, to keep it burning bright, and to be able to continue sharing it for years and years to come.

We’re going to talk about morning routines, options that you might choose there. Breaks that you can implement throughout the work day and a plan for ending your day.

Develop a Strong Morning Routine

So, let’s begin first with the morning routine. What do you do when you first wake up and you’re thinking about a day of online work and online teaching? Do you get up and get ready to go and go straight to your teaching? Do you have some other routines that you like to implement?

In my own work, I used to get ready for the work day and then launch right into my online teaching. And then I would do something else, probably drive to work and teach my full-time job. And then I would check into my online teaching at lunch, after that job was over in the afternoon before going home and then again in the evening. It followed me everywhere because part-time work tends to do that, especially if it’s virtual.

If you’re like me, it’s great to plan a set of routines so that you can get certain things done during your time very plan-fully, very intentionally, and also follow up on those unplanned things, like the many questions students have, or unexpected interruptions to your day.

Consider Exercising in the Morning

A morning routine might include things that you care most about. For example, if you care about getting exercise or eating healthy or taking care of your physical-self, those things could be part of your morning routine.

If you’re a person who likes to go for a walk or a jog in the morning, it’s a great idea to put on some inspiring music, something that’s going to give you energy, help you feel great about your day to come, and give you that mindset to start the day right.

Listen to Music or Read a Book to Start Your Day Off Right

If you don’t really prefer music in your walking or running or whatever routine you might have, perhaps you want to listen to an audio book. There are a wide variety of choices out there. You could always be entertained by fiction. You could listen to historical fiction or nonfiction, or even self-help and self-improvement. That happens to be my category of choice. I’m always choosing some kind of book about how to do something in a new, different, or better way. But that might not be your choice and that’s perfectly fine. Whatever you’d like to listen to in the morning as you’re getting ready for your online work of the day, that’s going to set you up for success and set the tone for the day ahead.

Eat Something Healthy in the Morning

If you are thinking about eating healthy as well, you can stop and take a little time for your meal and feed yourself something nutritious that’s going to give you the energy that you need, and plan what you’re going to have later in the day, like for your lunch break and for your different breaks throughout the day.

Whatever your morning routine is, you want to give yourself many options. Those could be in the physical, spiritual, emotional, social, and creative realms. You might think about what kinds of things get your day started well and how to get moving with some kind of intention.

Of course, the best thing about establishing some kind of repetitive morning routine that you can do in your online work is that your brain is going to latch onto this. Think about the idea of getting dressed for work and walking into the workplace. As you walk into an office, a classroom, or any place like that, your subconscious brain is noticing that you’re here physically, and it’s time to get started.

Just like you get yourself ready and you go to a workplace, when you’re working virtually or online, you need some kind of routine that signals to the brain: it’s starting time, it’s go time, we’re going to get to work now. And it helps you to really get focused and to get in the mood to start.

Set Breaks for Yourself Throughout the Day

The next idea of taking good care of yourself is about the breaks you take throughout the day. When you give yourself a break, it literally is a break state for your brain. It stops this constant churn of the thoughts that you’re having, whether they are about grading or teaching or interacting with students or following up on different projects. Whatever it is, when you take a solid break and you give your brain a break and really stop all of that thinking, you’re going to be able to get back to it with a fresh start.

Planning several breaks throughout your work day will help you to have a solid thinking break, change your state of mind, and come back. So, think about, will you get up and leave the room? Will you talk to someone on the phone? Will you turn on a television program for a short time, watch something on YouTube? Listen to some music? Take some exercise break? Do something creative?

Whatever it is, the best break is something that rejuvenates you, refreshes you, and is a totally different kind of task than what you’re doing. If you give your subconscious brain a break and your conscious brain as well, by really focusing on a totally different type of activity, you’re going to really be able to let go of the stress, as well as whatever you’re stuck on.

Breaks throughout the day should include some kind of water, nutrition. If you bring something in and you help yourself have the energy you need to just keep going physically, you’re going to also be able to endure your online routine all the more.

What’s Your End of Day Routine?

Lastly, think about your end of day routines. What do you want to do to signal to yourself that it’s time to stop working? We all know that working online is an any time, anywhere sport. We can literally do our online teaching on the weekend, every single day of the week, early morning, late at night, it doesn’t really matter.

And because of this, it’s easy to never feel like it’s really ended for the day. Think about what kind of routine would actually signal for yourself that you are closed for business, you’re no longer teaching for that day, and you’re fresh and ready to go for something else.

Consider Visual Input Signaling the End of the Work Day

Think about what visual input you’re going to need to have an end of day routine. What do you need to see? Is it shutting your computer down fully and closing it, and putting it aside? Is it changing to a different room? Is it that you get up and visually put on a different set of clothing, maybe take off the work clothes and put on the casual clothes, even if you’re still at home? Whatever it is, a visual component can be really powerful to help give yourself that signal that, “Yes, my work day is over.”

Reflect on the Day

You can also think about what things you’re going to say to yourself. Maybe you take a moment to reflect on what went well from your online teaching and your online work for the day, and what could be improved.

When you think about what went well, it’s even more effective when you take stock of why it went well, especially your role in it. The more you can find different things that you did that had a positive effect in your work, the better. You’re going to be able to feel that it has more meaning for you, and you’re going to start noticing your impact, both on the work you’re trying to accomplish and on the people who you are teaching and interacting with. So, think about what went well and why it went well, in terms of what you say to yourself at the end of the day, as part of your end-of-day routine.

Also, think about writing something down as a written reflection. Even if you just list the one, two, or three major things that you got done that day, when you write them down, over time you start to notice that you’re making major strides and you’re really accomplishing a lot. If you get a note from a student or a positive comment, you can even consider writing that down in your end of day reflection.

Kinesthetic Cues to Help End the Day

So, we’re thinking about the visual cues, and we’re also thinking about the auditory or written cues, and then the other thing will be the kinesthetic cues. What would you like to feel? Whether it’s physical movement, like a little exercise of some kind, maybe you’re going to take a nap, get some rest, or you’re going to actually connect with your emotions and feel something like a response to the day. Maybe you’re going to feel excited that work is over for the day or relaxed because work is over for the day. Some people turn on the evening news and for them, that’s the signal that I’m done with my work day, and now I’m moving on to some other activity.

Be Intentional About Your Routines

Whatever it is for you, consider intentionally implementing end of day routines that close off your online work day. Whatever you can do to avoid complaining about the past or about troubles throughout the day, but instead reframing those as opportunities to strategize for the future when you might bump into similar obstacles. Those things are going to help you reframe setbacks in a positive way, and also aim for continuous improvement throughout your day, throughout your week, and throughout your teaching career.

Online education, of course, as I continue to mention in these podcasts is an isolating venture. But the more we reflect on it, the more we connect what we’re doing with the impact we’re having, and also consider our personal wellbeing and continue to fuel our own fire, light that flame of inspiration within ourselves, the more we have to give to others.

I hope that this coming week you’ll consider how you’re taking care of yourself in your online teaching routine and what you might do for intentional morning routines, taking breaks throughout the day intentionally, and also considering purposeful and intentional end of day routines.

These things are going to help us all throughout our online education careers and throughout the daily work of being an online educator. And with that, I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episode, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey!

#48: How to Build Community with Online Faculty Teams

#48: How to Build Community with Online Faculty Teams

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com. 

Online faculty often feel disconnected from the institution and fellow faculty members. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides tips and strategies for building community among faculty members to help them feel connected, informed and engaged. Learn how department leaders can focus on building relationships through consistent weekly messages, interactive team meetings, one-on-one time, peer mentoring and coaching opportunities, collaboration sites, and much more.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to The Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for joining me today to talk about building community with online faculty teams. You can employ a variety of strategies to build community with your online faculty and work to really create a sense of being there.

Online education, as we know, is very distance-oriented and it can tend to make us feel very disconnected, especially if we’re not normally comfortable teaching online. Even if we are, that sense of distance can grow and grow, and prevent us from feeling connected to the institutions we work for and the people with whom we work.

In this podcast today, I’ll be talking with you about how to communicate clearly and consistently to keep your faculty informed, and how to build community so they get to know each other and build camaraderie and rapport and feel a lot of support.

Strategies to Build Faculty Community

So let’s jump in. As I mentioned, there are many strategies you can employ to build community with your online faculty. If you are a faculty lead, a faculty mentor, maybe a department chair, or a director of some kind at an academic institution, chances are you either mentor, guide, support, or even supervise faculty who teach online.

Communication

It’s really important to communicate clearly, effectively and consistently to keep your faculty informed and connected to your department. In online education, quality teaching and learning is part of student retention, student success, and student satisfaction.

Of course, because teaching online is so solitary and in many places, asynchronous, our online faculty who teach alone are often disconnected from the institution and they may be physically distant from the home campus as well.

In the institution where I teach and also manage online faculty teams, many of these people that I’ve hired, supervised, coached, and worked with live all over the country. We may have never met face-to-face. In fact, I hired them all virtually and we worked together virtually as well. Building community with your online faculty members can really help them have reasons to feel invested, be part of the team, and be a significant contributor to student success long-term.

And now, as you’re thinking about this process of connecting with your faculty, connecting with faculty individually, in groups, and together as a team allows you to model expectations and empower your faculty to more fully drive their teaching quality and their overall teaching experience. This can also help your faculty really enjoy what they’re doing as teachers, as instructors, and feel that they’re making a difference and having an impact with their students.

If you’re wondering what steps you can take to build community with your online instructors, I’d like to suggest that you will need to be developing a set of online specific strategies to build community with your faculty who might be teaching at more than one institution or across the country. Maybe they’re working at home while someone else is working at home who normally would be leaving to go to the office. Perhaps they’re even homeschooling children at the present time.

For them, time is at an all-time premium. They might feel disconnected due to this remote work, as I’ve mentioned several times already, and their geographic separation from you and the rest of the team can prevent real connections.

Focus on Relationship-Building

But you can build community by developing solid relationships. If you make relationship building your goal with remote faculty, you can succeed. Consider this question, what can you do to make your faculty feel like part of the team, part of your department, and part of the entire institution? Maybe consider providing weekly electronic communications specific to your team and your department’s needs.

One example to build relationships through these electronic messages is something I like to call The Monday Message. This could be a newsletter with announcements or faculty information, updates and teaching reminders. Or one faculty member called it a “Mid-Week Missive” sent on Wednesdays. Another person I know sent them out as “Friday Funnies.” These started with humor and proceeded with news.

Consider Sending Weekly Updates and Information

When I was first hired as a director, my Dean asked me how I would bring together our diverse group of 150 faculty, most of whom were part-time, and they were located all over the country. My first thought was that I would send a weekly message with all my news and updates and information all at once.

Some of the things that related to me personally, my leadership goals, and other things really came together in that weekly message every single a week. As I started to do this, faculty responded very well. In fact, they started looking forward to “The Monday Message” as their definitive source of information about the entire department and what I cared about as their faculty manager.

You might think you want your messages to come out at different times of the week or sporadically, organically, et cetera, but I’ve found that this approach of being consistent really helps. Inconsistency makes faculty wonder when they’re going to hear from you next and they don’t always know where to find the information they need.

For these reasons, I suggest selecting a day and time that you’d like to send that message. Make it regular, make it predictable and dependable and your faculty will benefit from the community you can provide in that message.

One year, I included a spotlight section as well, which I’ll mention again in just a couple of minutes to highlight individual faculty. Another example you might consider to build relationships is to host and record monthly virtual faculty meetings to keep everyone informed and included.

Some examples of interactive and engaging virtual faculty meeting ideas could include using video. You could ask faculty to do the same. Invite faculty who manage a course or lead a course to make a slide and present it at the faculty meeting to share updates is also a great strategy.

Celebrate Achievements

Whether it’s at a faculty meeting or through email or other means, it’s a great idea to celebrate achievements. Ask your faculty to send these to you in advance and talk about them during the meeting. You can highlight high-performing faculty based on some performance standard you might have at your institution. You can recognize those who have presented recently at a conference or published something. Or maybe a student gave you a comment about positive things a faculty member has recently done. Either way, celebrating achievements has a lot of power, especially remotely. You can also celebrate small successes like readiness preparations, engagement increases, or other things that are achieved in the department itself.

It could even be creative and fun to host remote celebrations during your meetings. For example, if a faculty member has a child born that month, perhaps you might mail out a little confetti and ask people to toss it during the meeting as part of that celebration. Faculty also love to receive electronic happy grams. For example, when faculty all prepare their courses on time, you can send out a message to the entire team to thank them and let them know about the win.

Create a Faculty Spotlight

Now, whether you use these in your weekly messages or in your virtual faculty meetings, I really like the idea of using a faculty spotlight in working with your online faculty. When I started doing these about six years ago, I solicited my faculty in advance so they could feel special and have the time to prepare what I would write about them.

My faculty spotlights consisted of a photo that the faculty member provided to me, something they would be happy sharing, and also some things about that faculty member, like what they enjoy most about their online teaching, what their favorite class to teach is, where they have traveled, what their hobbies are.

We tried to personalize this for each person so we could build connections and actually get to know some of these other people that we might never see face to face. It’s also important to include both full-time and part-time faculty to truly build a real community.

This is especially important for your adjunct faculty and part-timers because they really don’t know others in the department. They need the same kind of connection to their colleagues and this helps them understand who their colleagues are, who they can go to with questions. Highlight your full-timers as well as your part-timers and it will bring everyone together.

Offer Voluntary Service Opportunities

Another way to build relationships is to offer voluntary service opportunities like serving on committees, peer coaching, and brief curriculum content reviews. These can go on faculty members’ vitaes or resumes and really enhance them professionally, as well as giving them the opportunity to influence courses that are developed.

Develop Collaboration Sites

You can develop collaboration sites where faculty members can share their practices, as well as collaborating on this curriculum I’ve mentioned. Ask questions to colleagues teaching the same subject or courses and learn about curriculum updates, or post errors in the courses and then have them repaired.

Collaboration sites are a great way for all of these ideas to come together. In my teams, we have used a space in the learning management systems set aside for the team. We’ve also used online collaboration tools and Microsoft Office 365 email groups for this. Each one was effective in its own way. I also recommend using photos and videos whenever possible to create identity and presence.

There is an unspoken sort of stigma about sharing photos or personal details with others you work with entirely online. Faculty might really hesitate to do this. They might have serious concerns about it. Work to develop identity and community in non-threatening ways, but also be sensitive that some faculty may have this tendency to feel this way.

Through all of these methods, your collaboration, promotion, your monthly faculty meetings, your emails, your celebrations, and all these ways of getting connected, take the opportunity to communicate.

Highlight and focus on the mission and vision you have for your team and the mission and vision of your institution. Be positive and set the tone upfront for your leadership and management of your faculty by focusing on one of the university’s mission points each time you meet. All of the vision points can come through. You can also make connections to real-life contexts, students’ stories, and the big picture regularly. And be sure to communicate consistently and clearly.

Now, when you have faculty meetings, your tools can be updated regularly and other resources you have, like collaborations sites or the site the university stores all of the team information, these can also be regularly updated.

Schedule Monthly Meetings

Monthly meetings would then, of course, be held monthly. Faculty really love to be part of all of these things when they have the time and when they can contribute something. So let your faculty know in advance so they can arrange their schedules to be there. Record them for all the part-timers if these are meetings who really cannot attend live, or full-timers who may be on vacation and send those links out so they can view them remotely and be up-to-date on your policies and procedures and announcements.

If you have additional opportunities for your faculty to get together, to collaborate, be sure to communicate these regularly just as if you were with a live team. Even if you send out a weekly message, you might have an intermittent message here and there in between with a update about one specific thing. Maybe it’s a training webinar, a teaching and learning opportunity, or other kinds of professional developments you’d like to recommend. Be sure to send things out in a timely manner and your team will learn to trust you and connect with each other as well.

Coaching and Peer Mentoring

One other idea about helping your faculty really connect online is coaching and peer mentoring. Coaching can focus on connecting people, but also giving them the space to teach each other. Faculty coaching might be faculty led with follow-up actions to get together and just to review each other’s teaching.

When you’re hiring new faculty, consider providing one-on-one coaching to review specific faculty approaches at your institution or recommendations and just get to know each other. You can conduct this by phone in a live webinar presentation, like in Zoom or some other kind of virtual platform.

You might do this yourself or bring on other faculty members to begin building that community right away. You can ask and answer questions with your new faculty members so they’re clear on exactly what your department or your institution emphasizes, and so that they can share any concerns or questions right up front.

Connect Your Faculty with Other Departments

Additional ideas you might consider using with your faculty could involve bringing in different departments to meet with them. These could of course be done during virtual faculty meetings or they could be prerecorded and sent out or used in the email communications.

One group I really love to include is the library team. They can talk to your faculty about specific questions, resources available, ways to cite things, what kind of writing help might be available in the library, and other things specific to where you work.

By doing this, we generate a lot more resources for faculty. We give them a lot of strength and support and better communication with different departments. Faculty feel more connected and have a greater sense of community with the big university identity as well through having these special guests.

You might consider having someone from the assessment team or the accreditation team speak with them. You might invite your Dean or other school officials to the meetings to bring their own insights and perspectives.

The more you do this, the more faculty feel like they’re really part of the institution. They feel validated, valued, and supported. They also show up and help each other and really connect with each other because they have such a network of support and a lot of people to interact with.

Another idea in terms of coaching faculty could be developing a short series of personalized messages, like e-coaching messages, to guide your instructors through different strategies or different approaches.

Share Teaching Strategies

You might consider sharing different methods of providing quality online grading feedback. Perhaps some faculty are not sure what this could look like or should look like to give students enough information. You could model how to produce this feedback, especially on written assignments and the ways that might be most valuable to students. You can do it in an attachment, in a video, in a screencast, or in a live meeting where some collaboration can occur online.

Online faculty always love to see each other’s ideas about using different types of questioning strategies or discussion strategies, interaction and engagement methods for forum discussions. And tips about sending out welcome messages or announcements or various types of wrap-up and summary activities. If you can enlist your faculty members to help each other with messages or give each other shared tutorials to help their peers, this builds community because they can see each other. They also feel less pressured to perform just for you and can really see each other’s ideas and start to come up with more innovation and more creativity.

This is a great way for the whole group to support each other with teaching excellence and also to aim for the best ways to support their students. If you develop and schedule regular methods for them to coach each other and for you to support them through your own coaching, this will refresh everyone by bringing in new ideas on a pretty regular basis.

To help your online faculty most, you might consider formalized methods of sharing these strategies. Perhaps there is an annual online conference in your department or some kind of share space, as I’ve mentioned before. When you share student testimonials, pictures, screencasts, screen clips, some positive comments from student, and of course, survey or evaluation feedback, this can really support positive and effective teaching and learning online.

It’s very common for a lot of observers to stop into online classrooms and faculty who are used to teaching in live universities or institutions might really be surprised at this, if someone pops into their class and observes. If this is going to happen, be sure to let them know upfront who these people might be, whether it’s some kind of peer observer or an academic support team member so they’re prepared when an observation might occur.

Be Available for Faculty to Meet with You

For checking in one-on-one with your faculty, I can suggest providing a calendar. Maybe you use a Setmore or TimeTrade or Calendly scheduler to give faculty opportunities to get on your schedule at their own convenience. You might set up times in 15-, 30- or 45-minute increments so that faculty are able to connect with you and speak whenever they need to. This will give you an opportunity to visit with faculty about their questions and give them guidance on whatever they’re seeking, and also just to connect from time to time.

It’s really helpful to be approachable and available to your faculty, especially if you’re a lead, a director, a chair, or in some kind of role like that where faculty are looking to you for support and guidance.

One way to provide this support if you don’t want to do individual appointments or even to enhance that is to provide a weekly office hour when any instructor can stop by and just check in. It’s nice when your faculty have a place to go to just connect and be heard. And when you can post that office hour so that it’s available to everyone and they can find the link, it makes it even easier.

And lastly, you might consider scheduling one-on-one small group or large-group sessions where faculty can share these practices, review course setup procedures, or conduct observations, or just talk about what they’re thinking and feeling right now. It’s helpful to arrange space and time where others can feel heard and seen, and really get back in touch with each other and with you.

Providing Faculty Support Contributes to Strong Performance

In closing, when you plan and consistently find ways to connect your faculty to each other and connect with them yourself, you’re going to help your faculty be supported and build a great sense of community throughout your entire department and support your team well.

These strategies can really help faculty members take more initiative and positively influence each other, giving everyone a more connected and positive experience when teaching online. Especially if online teaching is new to them, this is essential and critical to their success.

Thanks for being with me today to talk about building community with online faculty. I hope you’ve found these ideas valuable and enhancing your practice. Please stop by bethaniehansen.com/request anytime you’d like to share your feedback, or perhaps suggest a strategy that we can include in this podcast to support each other when we’re working and teaching online. And with that, I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week.

#47: Tips for Adding Audio, Video, and Multimedia to the Online Classroom

#47: Tips for Adding Audio, Video, and Multimedia to the Online Classroom

 Are you looking for ways to enhance class content in your classes, but concerned about the time and effort it might take to create and manage those assets? In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen recommends several technology tools to help you add valuable audio, video, and multimedia components. Most importantly, she provides guidance on developing a strategic approach to creating these new assets, including making sure it’s accessible and useful to students, has a positive impact on your teaching, and isn’t overwhelming for you to create and manage.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge, the show that helps you teach online with confidence and impact while living a healthy, balanced life. I’m Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge. My background is in K-12 education and also in higher education, and both live, face-to-face classes and online.

Something I really enjoy about online teaching is being able to integrate different varieties of multimedia into courses to make them more engaging. For example, we can use audio, video, interactive media, and animations. There are more programs and apps to consider than it might be possible to use effectively and more are created every year. It’s easy to struggle with the overload we can all face when we look at this huge variety.

If you’re sometimes tempted by what I call bright and shiny object syndrome when teaching online, this is the temptation to try out new and fresh apps or interfaces, you’re not alone. Finding a new tool can bring fun and interest in your own work as an educator. However, this same set of possibilities we find in the latest and greatest media apps or platforms can quickly cause us to spend a lot of time upfront learning and not enough time actually developing the course or teaching the class.

My focus now is on teaching excellence at an entirely online university. And I believe media and related tools can help us reach our students in new and better ways. At the same time, I suggest using a strategic approach to innovating that allows you to regularly try and use new methods while also reducing the tendency to get overwhelmed by bright and shiny object syndrome. This way, you don’t spend too much time learning and exploring possibilities and not enough time actually using them.

In today’s podcast, we’ll explore several engaging media options and ways that you can approach them strategically so that you and your students are most likely to benefit. After all, through this podcast, I help online educators become more effective in their work while also living healthy and balanced lives by using intentional approaches so that they can love what they do and impact their students positively.

We will first take a look at several audio, video, and multimedia apps or programs you might try. Then we’ll talk about a strategy to intentionally explore and use these special pieces of technology in your teaching. And lastly, we will also reflect on reflecting. How will you decide if it’s working and if your plan is what you’d like it to be? I hope you’ll enjoy these strategies this week. And so we’ll just get started.

Audio Tools to Create Engaging Classroom Content

Beginning with audio, there are four particular audio interfaces I’d like to share with you today.

AudioBoom

The first one is called audioboom.com. Now, there are many different hosting services for creating podcasts and creating hosted audio. This is just one of the many. AudioBoom is a web-based service that lets users create and share podcasts. They’re available at audioboom.com and through the service, you could create a podcast audio recording or entire networks of audio shows. This content can easily be shared with a player that embeds onto a webpage or into a learning management system.

This service can easily be used in your online education if you’d like to create little episodes of things you’re talking about in your teaching. It can also be used for students to create their own episodes as they’re putting together some kind of project or assignment to report back on their learning.

SpeakPipe

A second app is SpeakPipe. Now, SpeakPipe is a very interesting thing and it’s available at speakpipe.com/voice-recorder. When you get to this page, you’ll notice it’s a free online voice recorder. It could be used as a widget, it can be used on your mobile device through an app, or browser extension add-on, or right through the website. And of course, you can use this for audio, as I’m sharing with you now.

You can receive voice messages from your students directly using this recording tool, as it’s embedded easily in the classroom. You can also use it to receive voicemail through the webpage link. It has that free online voice recorder that I mentioned, and you can share sound files of up to five minutes in length instantly through links as well as through the embedded feature.

Now, if you go to the speakpipe.com voice recorder page, you’ll notice that it really is that simple. It just has a green button right in the middle of the page that says “Start Recording.” So you can record your audio, listen to it, and then send it. It works on iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android devices. You can send it through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus. You can also embed it and share links through the web. It’s incredibly versatile and very easy to use.

Talk&Comment

A third audio service is called Talk&Comment. Talk&Comment also has a browser extension so you can add it to Google Chrome, you can use it as a widget, you can use it on the mobile device app and so forth. You can also access it at talkandcomment.com through the web, so the direct web page there.

Talk&Comment lets you create voice notes inside any service on the web, including Google Classroom, Google Docs, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Reddit, Slack, and a lot of other things too.

When you add this to your Chrome browser, it literally allows you to create notes that you’re going to record with your voice anywhere. And you can send those in all of these different ways that I mentioned. You simply record your voice from the widget in your browser and paste the generated voice link anywhere you want.

It’s a really interesting way to share voice notes and also capture your thoughts. It’s pretty much as easy as sitting face-to-face with your students and having a conversation with them where you’re sharing your ideas. Because people talk faster than they write, you can evaluate your students’ work with voice grading using half the time if you try this tool.

It’s not only useful in presenting content, but also in grading students’ work and helping them create interesting projects. I highly recommend taking a look at Talk&Comment for its versatility and also ease of use.

Vocaroo

A fourth and final audio tool that I’d like to share with you today is called Vocaroo. It’s a free online voice recorder provided as a widget and available at vocaroo.com. Through this app, you can make audio recordings directly on the page, and you can also share the recorded content with web links or embed codes. And you can download the sound file as an MP3, OGG, FLAC, or WAV file. You can also delete the sound recording from Vocaroo’s hosting site when needed.

There’s nothing personally identifiable that is recorded with your information, so you’re going to create these sound files that really don’t tie to you, yourself, your students. So there’s a little bit of anonymity with that that protects you to some degree. But also, it’s easy to use and free. Who doesn’t like free, right? So embedding the widget makes it fun. And also, sharing little voice recordings people really seem to enjoy.

So I recommend trying it with students, especially in things like world language classes or where they’re going to need to do some kind of recorded speaking. They can make narrations or other recordings for things like projects. They can submit assignments using Vocaroo. They could record their voice using Vocaroo and post it in a discussion forum. So instructors and students alike can both use Vocaroo very easily.

And one idea you might have is to generate a short podcast to have students try this as a project. So it’s a really great tool. Basically, you’re going to go to vocaroo.com and simply use their easy online recorder. It’s just got a big red button with a microphone in the middle, and then it gives you some options when you’re all finished recording. Easy to use. And again, it’s free.

Adding Video Content to the Classroom

Now, just as audio content can be simple to create and share and also really bring your presence and your students’ knowledge to the forefront, video content can even more enhance your presence, and also what students are bringing to the situation.

If you’d like to add video elements, there are so many tools out there now, and a lot of learning management systems provide integration that’s very automatic and simple to use. For example, you might have something like Kaltura embedded in your learning management system, or even just the built-in video system that the learning management comes with.

Whatever it is, I don’t need to give you a whole lot of video capturing tools because so many already exist within whatever you might be using. I would like to highlight two here today. Simple videos can be created using Screencast-O-Matic, and you can also try Screencastify.

Screencast-O-Matic

Screencast-O-Matic is a free subscription-based site that enables you to make screen recordings, and you can find it at screencast-o-matic.com. This tool is really easy to make video guides, like if you want to explain assignment details or walk students through areas of your online classroom, or maybe you want to illustrate and explain a concept with some visuals.

This site could easily be used to record over short clips of sound quality. Like if you’re a music appreciation instructor, maybe you want to play a musical performance video clip and talk over it and give some direction to your students, allowing some narration to occur and maybe explaining elements of the music as it’s happening.

It gives you screen, camera, and screen-sharing possibilities, and finished products can easily be saved as video files. You can upload them to the Screencast-O-Matic website or to YouTube. And there are just a lot of options there with which you can store your content.

Screencastify

The second option is Screencastify, and just like Screencast-O-Matic, Screencastify is a free web-based video recording tool. This tool is advertised as an add-on screen recorder for Chrome browsers because it just puts an icon into the browser to allow you easy access.

Screencastify offers both free and subscription-based and premium-level products. And I highly recommend checking out both of these options and deciding which one simply works best for you, which interface you prefer, and what you’d like to use.

Tips for Making Great Video Content

Now, I’d like to say just a little bit more here about video content because I’m only mentioning a couple of interfaces. So here are a few tips about adding video. Video can, of course, enhance your course. It can also create some challenges because you’re going to spend a little bit more time. You’re not just editing audio, you’re also looking at how it’s coming across at the same time.

However, it can be really a huge asset for welcoming your students, introducing yourself, lecturing about your content, narrating the content, explaining ideas, and otherwise guiding your students. So it takes some time, but it adds way more personalization than audio alone can do.

Consider asking your students to create videos as part of a forum discussion or an assignment. This can also help with originality checking, if you’re wondering who’s really creating that assignment. If it’s a video assignment, you’ll start to see the same person each time and not have a concern so much about that originality of who’s really submitting the work.

Having a lot of methods to capture your video can be helpful. And again, we’re trying to reduce the overwhelm so start with one and then explore others in the future.

You don’t need a lot of equipment to record video. You can make even more complex videos with captions, transitions, and other elements with purchased software. A lot of things like Camtasia will bring that feature suite to help you add a lot of bells and whistles to your video presentations. And of course, you can spend a lot of time really making them better and better and more engaging.

And sound quality is dramatically improved when you use a headset microphone and not just the microphone on your computer. You can clean up the audio noise, bring the speaking voice in more directly. You can balance the sound with maybe background music or something else, if you really want to get crazy about your videos.

You can use a smartphone to capture the video and upload the video to another app or a program, or just upload the different files into your LMS. You could also branch out and get a separate digital video camera or digital video recorder that’s more high quality than what comes on a smartphone or a computer. But I don’t recommend investing really heavily until you’ve explored the software and the possibilities for why and when you might personally choose to use the video in your class or in your teaching. If you do decide to invest in high-quality video tools, microphones, and lighting, those things can improve the quality of your instructor-created videos. So think about the content, the background, the lighting, the appearance, and the length.

Content should be concise. You might want to chunk up ideas into separate videos so students can look at them one at a time and see the topics broken down, or segment your topics into the smallest component so you have these shorter videos.

And also, think about how you might produce the captions or the written component for students who need that alternative approach. We always want to supply those things in the classroom so students don’t have to ask us if they need some kind of accommodation to see what you’re saying. Be sure to always include it so it’s accessible automatically for everyone.

Interactive and Multimedia Tools for the Classroom

Now, in terms of interactive or multimedia types of tools, I’m going to speak only about two of these today. Again, I’m a real big fan of not overwhelming you. I want to give you some options to help you get started without giving you far too much.

Prezi

The first one I want to talk about is Prezi. Prezi is a web-based program. You can access it online. It also had, in the past, a classic version that was downloadable so you could create it on your desktop. But also, you can use it in the mobile app as well, so it’s very versatile. You can create dynamic presentations through Prezi. You can either get the free or paid membership and you can create multimedia presentations that move, that zoom in and out. You can embed videos, PowerPoint slides, and other things in a Prezi to make it even more interesting and engaging. It’s a more interactive alternative to PowerPoint. Basically, you can share it through links or downloaded files.

Prezis can easily be used for students to create presentations as well, such as how to put facts and information together and how to present what they have learned. It can be also used effectively by groups of students to produce some group projects. All of the members can contribute to one final presentation. There is a whole bunch of information out there with tutorials, learning materials, and support for using Prezis.

Powtoon

The second option I’d like to share today is Powtoon for education. Powtoon is a website that provides templates, graphics, motion, and other features to build short and engaging videos. And you can check it out at powtoon.com/edu-home. These cartoon-like images are included, but you can also use photographs and videos of your own if you’d like to.

It’s an alternative to traditional instructor-made videos, and really, it’s an engaging way to convey information that’s fun too. One common use of Powtoon in online education is to present an introduction to the instructor. You might also consider using it to put together short lesson presentations, or even to enable your students to create projects.

Strategy for Using New Tools and Technology

Now, let’s talk a little bit about how you might intentionally explore and utilize your new technology, whether it’s audio, video, or media related. The first part is to decide your why. Why would you use these tools or why do you want to explore particular tools?

Why Do You Want to Use New Tools?

Well, the first reason I can think of that is probably the best one is that it’s going to promote student engagement and student learning. When you provide any kind of recorded content like a podcast or a video in your lessons, this can also minimize learning anxiety and increase motivation for all of your students.

If you were to think about your own reason for being an educator and what you’re trying to accomplish through your online teaching, think about particular tools that are going to enhance that mission that you’re on. What really are you trying to do with your students?

Some things you might think about when you’re trying to decide why you might integrate something are what you’re going to do with it. For example, are you trying to help students use the app or tool to collaborate? Are you helping bring the content to light for them? Are you giving them interactive ways to engage with the content and further their learning? As you think about those things, you’ll better be able to decide when and why you would be using it.

When is a Good Time to Add New Technology?

The second half of the when question is, when is it really a good time for you to integrate this kind of content in a course or in your teaching?

It’s my personal stance that each piece of media content, whether it’s audio, video, or interactive, included in your online course should serve a purpose and not just be a bright shiny object; and you want to thoughtfully integrate this.

As you bring course materials and topics to life through these interactive means, audio, video, media, bringing it to life and helping students really see it more clearly is a justifiable purpose. You can also help them gain meaning from tools and content in the way that you use the content. How the students are expected to work with it while viewing or engaging with the content, and the way they’re going to recap or review the whole experience. Maybe they’re going to reflect on their learning or the experience of creating using these tools.

8 Tips to Consider When Using New Tools

Think about the following eight tips as you create your media content or explore different tools.

  1. The first step is to choose the resources wisely for both the content you’re going to include and the quality it’s going to put out there.
  2. And second, how can you comply with copyright restrictions and properly attribute the sources you might use in this type of content?
  3. Third, how will you introduce your students to topics and key points to be presented before they use or engage in the content? Or is the content itself the way to introduce students to the topic and key points?
  4. Fourth, if it’s a video clip, I suggest keeping it between seven and 15 minutes long total to maintain focus. And if possible, break it down to even smaller pieces.
  5. Fifth, give your students engagement tasks to complete while they’re viewing the video, listening to the audio, or engaging with the interactive element, like answering specific questions about the points, things to note, and so forth.
  6. Sixth, promote some kind of reflection or thoughtful integration after they’ve viewed, listened to, or engaged with the content. It might be answering questions or going to the discussion forum to talk about it.
  7. Seventh, verify that the things you’re going to use, whether it’s audio, video, or a multimedia interactive, you want to verify that these things are accessible and free from technical issues. Basically, students of all types and of all platforms need to be able to reliably see, hear, or engage with it in a variety of systems and formats.
  8. And lastly, number eight, if you’re using external video content in any of these things that you didn’t create as an instructor, be sure to use it to extend the lecture or add to what’s happening, rather replacing your instructor role.

All of the multimedia tools and strategies that you use, they can be instructor-created or they can be student-created, or someone outside of you can develop them. If students are going to use these tools to create their own assignments and projects, you want to also give them a tip sheet, how-to guides, and really helpful examples so they’re not lost in trying new media themselves, and they can actually enjoy the process and engage with things appropriately.

Reflect on Your Plan to Use New Tools

Now, the last piece in this entire process would be at regular intervals to reflect on your plan. As you reflect upon your plan and how you’re trying new tools or using them in your online teaching or in your course design, you might consider asking yourself, is your plan working? Have you devoted enough time each day/week/month, or year to exploring potential options? Or are you spending too much time and exploring too many options? Are you able to use what you’d like to try without getting overwhelmed? And how would you like to adjust your approach to ensure that you can continue to try these new things for the benefit of yourself and your students without that overwhelm of just getting stuck in the learning curve without actually using the tools the best way possible?

As we close out the podcast this week, I encourage you to consider the various interactive elements you might try in your online teaching, including audio, video, multimedia, and artistic assets that you create. As you decide how you might use various methods and strategies, always, more importantly, consider why you might use them. And then create an intentional plan to regularly explore and learn about these ideas and a strategic approach to selecting and using them.

Working through your plan to keep yourself growing and learning while reducing the possibility of getting overwhelmed will help you to always be learning and actually use the tools. Then at regular intervals, as you look back on your learning and your implementation of these kinds of tools and approaches, you can feel like you’ve actually brought new things to the classroom and new things to your teaching over time.

Is your time and strategy manageable? Do the tools you’re using have a positive impact on your teaching? And do they help students learn? And what might you change in your approach over time? As you think about these things, think about the best possible way to implement it in small, strategic approaches to keep it manageable.

Thank you for joining me today for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. We took a look at how we might approach the wide variety of media and interactive elements that can be incorporated into online teaching using this intentional strategic approach that also includes continuous learning by reflecting back on your own process so the approach works best for you.

I hope you will think about the possibilities and consider one new thing you might try this week in this area to keep your teaching fresh and help your students become more engaged as well. Best wishes to you in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

Note: Materials consulted for this episode come from Teaching Music Appreciation Online, published by Oxford University Press.