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Tools and Tips for Teaching Online

Dear colleagues:

On Monday, we will begin fully online teaching and learning for the remainder of the spring term. As we navigate this transition and finish the semester, Chancellor Donde Plowman and Provost David Manderscheid have asked us all to adopt three principles:

  • Be compassionate. Students need to know that we care about them and will help them succeed. Make it a high priority to communicate these sentiments to your students.
  • Be creative. Transitioning to this new format may mean adjusting assignments and being creative in how you teach. Don’t be afraid to make changes as you go. If something isn’t working, it’s OK to shift to a new platform or process.
  • Be flexible. There will be bumps in the road as we all adapt to fully online teaching and learning. Adjusting our expectations and remaining flexible will help us all navigate this process.

We know that this rapid transition to online instruction has created anxiety and stress for students and instructors alike. Establishing early and regular channels of communication and remaining transparent about this process will reduce everyone’s stress. If you haven’t already, consider reaching out before your first class next week.

  • Assure your students that you understand they might be worried about succeeding in an online class and that even though the class experience will be quite different, the learning community they belong to will still be there.
  • Let them know you’ll do everything you can to help them continue learning for the rest of the spring term.
  • Tell them what they can expect on the first day of class next week. Will you use Zoom to host a live class meeting? Are you planning to post materials to Canvas that they should review ahead of time?
  • If you have a high-stakes assessment scheduled for next week, postponing it or reworking it—for instance, converting an in-class assessment to a take-home assessment—could help reduce students’ anxiety. If you plan to make a change of this nature, let your students know now.

Be sure to review and bookmark two essential campus resources:

  • Teaching and Learning Innovation has developed a website devoted to helping instructors make a quick start to online teaching. Review the “Getting Ready” tab for a list of things you can do right now to make the transition easier for you and your students. Then browse through the extensive list of resources TLI has compiled to support high-quality online teaching and learning.
  • The Office of Information Technology has developed a website showcasing the technology tools that are available to support working and teaching remotely. It also provides information about the extensive online support that OIT staff can provide to help instructors shift to online teaching.

Instructors who experience technical difficulties during class should call the OIT HelpDesk at 865-974-9110. Calling this number will assign your call a higher priority than calls to the regular HelpDesk number, 865-974-9900. Use the regular number to schedule one-on-one consultations with OIT.

This is the first in a series of weekly emails you will receive from me to help answer questions, share best practices, and point you to resources. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you have specific questions, but also look to your colleagues and department heads for support. We are all in this together.

As the chancellor and provost said during yesterday’s Faculty Senate meeting, thank you for all you are doing to support our students and our important mission of teaching and learning during these difficult circumstances.

Please take care of yourself and each other.

RJ Hinde
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs