Skip to main content

Quick Tips for Teaching Online: "What I’ve learned since last March and what’s working for me now"

Illustration of a woman scratching her head while holding a cup of coffee and staring down at a tablet computer on a desk.
Tue, 02 Mar 2021

Guest Contribution by Jean McCarthy.

Reading Time: ~5 minutes

Featured Image Source: Image by Saydung89 on Pixabay

 

In this post:

 

Introduction

Despite the pandemic, my initial emergency remote panic, and the fundamental shift in the way we now deliver learning experiences for our students, I’ve realised that the basics of teaching remain the same. For me, beyond the development of specialist knowledge and skills, that means supporting students with appropriate structure, designing meaningful assessments with clear tasks, and creating an environment that values students, both as individuals and as a group. I am certainly no expert in online teaching, but here are some of the practices that are working for me and my students right now. Included are some screenshots from three of my Sulis module sites, PM4067 Contemporary Issues in Organisational Behaviour, PM6131 Research Methods, and PM4014 Human Resource Development.

Supporting Students with Appropriate Structure

I organise my module site on Sulis (with special thanks to our KBS Learning Technology team for layout ideas and instruction) with a Module Overview section as follows:

Screenshot of the Module Overview section of the 'PM4067: Contemporary Issues in Organisational Behaviour' Sulis site.
Module Overview section, PM4067: Contemporary Issues in Organisational Behaviour.

 

This section is available from Week 0. For example, here, I made a video introducing myself for the Meet Your Lecturer tab:

Screenshot of 'Meet your Lecturer' Video.
Screenshot of the 'Meet your Lecturer' video.

 

I think it’s helpful for students to “see” me and hear me before classes begin. I don’t make reference to a specific module in this video, but I do outline my approach to teaching and learning so that initial expectations are set. I re-use this video for all of my modules, saving some recording time.

I am explicit about when and how the module will be delivered in the Module Timetable tab:

Screenshot of the Module Timetable tab available within the Module Overview section.
Module Timetable tab, located within the Module Overview section.

 

I also include (appropriate to Week 0) assessment information, detailing the number and type of assessments, basic instructions, due dates, etc. Later in the semester, usually around Week 3, I create a specific Assessment Hub or Exam Hub page which delves further into assessments, to include assessment rationale and instructions (in video format), sample or review questions, preparatory reading etc.:

Screenshot of dedicated Assessment Information section.
Dedicated Assessment Information section.

 

Each week, then, all material is posted to a weekly page, using numbered sections to guide the students through the material:

Screenshot of a Weekly page with numbered sections.
Sample Weekly page with numbered sections to signpost students sequentially through the week's material.

 

And I send out an agenda in advance of any live session via the Announcements tool on Sulis:

Screenshot of a sample Announcement.
Sample Announcement on Sulis.

Designing Meaningful Assessments

My goal, within the context of my discipline, is to develop students as scholar-practitioners; those who ground their practice in research and theory, champion research and theory in the workplace, bring practical insights into theory and research development, and disseminate findings from their own research and practice. As such, I develop assessments that place students in the role of a “practitioner”, using case studies, presentations, and simulations, where they get to solve an organisational problem using evidence, based on the learning outcomes of the module. I have found that this “real world” active approach gets students more engaged (and, sometimes, even excited) about their assessment, particularly in this new environment. My second-year students are currently developing an onboarding programme for a small (semi-fictitious) organisation who have “just hired 40 new employees”.

Creating an Environment that Values Students

I felt it has been important to openly acknowledge the various challenges we are all dealing with right now, and this has helped students to feel more valued as people, especially since we can no longer meet them face to face, or have those important chats before and after class. So, I adapted a set of Covid-19 Class Principles disseminated by Brandon Bayne at the University of North Carolina and created an infographic, as shown below. These principles have set a positive tone for the semester among each group.

Covid-19 Class Principles.
Covid-19 Class Principles originally disseminated by Brandon Bayne at the University of North Carolina, adapted to an infographic by Jean McCarthy.

Conclusion

These are my personal reflections on what is working to engage and support students in the context of my remote teaching – I would love to hear more on what is working for others. If you would like to contact me about anything in my post, my email is Jean.McCarthy@ul.ie

Thanks for reading!

About the author

Dr Jean McCarthy is a Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at the Kemmy Business School (KBS), and is Chair of the KBS Teaching and Learning Committee.