Skip to main content

Online Teaching & Learning in the Time of COVID-19

This past August faculty members from VSCC attended the University of Wisconsin’s Distance Education Teaching and Learning Conference. Like so many other conferences being held during the time of the pandemic, this four-day teleconference offered a large variety of online sessions, interactive and streaming, focused on the how to best meet college students’ needs to help them be successful during these challenging times.

One of the most refreshing and valuable aspects of this year’s conference was the focus on how online higher education and educators are working hard to meet the moment of our current national situation. Not only did keynote addresses and session discussions center on the challenges of distance education during the pandemic, but also many discussed the ways to create antiracist curriculum as we address concerns voiced by the Black Lives Matters Movement. The keynote speaker, Dr. Newton Miller, focused on how faculty can connect real-world issues to our teaching, reminding us that students are not empty vessels. Like Dr. Melva Black’s excellent professional development session “Supporting Black Male Achievement,” Dr. Miller emphasizes the need to focus on providing equity in college classrooms, particularly for Black males. To learn more from Dr. Miller, check out his TED talk from this past April.

Many of the sessions focused on building community in online classes, especially as home, family, and social dynamics are rapidly changing for students who are forced to take online classes. Students are working hard, but often need more time and more support. They emphasized the need for relationship-building between faculty and students to create authentic communities in our online courses. Community, creating a sense of belonging, has been proven to help students meet success.

Conference attendees Erin Bloom, Sheri Waltz, and Laura Black compiled a list of best practice take-aways from the conference—reminders for us all as we work to support our students in online classes in our current distanced and mediated environment.

Reminders and Best Practices for Faculty:

  • Make connections with our students to ensure students’ feeling of belonging and to achieve student engagement in online courses.
  • Design courses with intention for student success.
  • Create an easy to use course, but don’t expect a well-designed course to be the only element that will ensure a student’s performance.
  • Rely on fellow faculty to learn new ways to use technology to help students.
  • Communicate!—Communication is so, so, so important—with faculty and students, especially as we are isolated during the pandemic.
  • Don’t assume that students are proficient in the same type of technology that we are.
  • Connect classroom content and activities to the real world.
  • Actively work on anti-racism and equity issues in our classrooms.
  • Be flexible with students as we continue to work under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Remember external factors may determine student success or failure. Encourage students to use Academic Support services and refer to Student Services for other issues, for example food insecurity.

Author: Laura Black, Associate Professor of English, laura.black@volstate.edu

Popular Posts

Differentiated Instruction in an Online College Classroom

Differentiated Instruction in an Online College Classroom Differentiated Instruction: Providing students opportunities to learn content using different resources, employing varied strategies, and/or allowing students to demonstrate their learning in different ways based on their individual learning needs and interests. --Natalie Milman, Differentiating Instruction in Online Environments Are we still thinking about differentiated instruction now that we're online? It's a core instructional principle that we all believe in, but in an overwhelming race to digital learning, it can easily be pushed to the side in a to-do-later-pile by even the very best and the brightest. How can we make an online learning environment engaging for our students while maintaining the integrity of the academic content and without further complicating the process? Creating an engaging course is as easy as focusing on the 3 main principles: Course Clarity, Student Communication, and Timely Student Feedba

Online Mastery Series

Hello, campus community!  In October 2021, I had the opportunity to participate in an online nursing mastery series focused on enhancing online instruction utilizing interactive activities and an understanding of learning theories to optimize student learning in the online environment. The program lasted through December 2021, with meetings one week each month and supplemental assignments, discussion, and collaboration in the remaining three weeks. Overall, the opportunity provided me with an improved understanding of online learning while providing me the opportunity to recognize areas of improvement in my current course delivery. For many of you, I am sure the concepts I learned are “old news”; however, as a new instructor, I found the discussion engaging and enjoyed the opportunity to explore ways to improve the classroom experience for my students (especially in this virtual environment). As you all know, the pandemic has changed the way in which we teach and learning occurs; there