By TLS Staff

We know that moving your courses online is just one piece of life that’s been knocked out of place by Covid-19. Worse, that piece is now perched on top of a wobbly pile of other tasks and responsibilities. Wherever you’re at in your course planning and whatever your comfort level with teaching online, we’re here for you.

Some of you may know what we do here at the Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) but some of you may not. We have a comprehensive support page about transitioning to online teaching with a quick guide to the many programs and resources we offer. We offer extensive workshops, mentorship, and one-on-one course design support, not to mention tech support galore.

In this letter, though, we want to offer a few simple words of advice:

  • Keep it simple. You’re already in uncharted waters, so this might not be the time to try out a complex new assessment scheme or multi-phase learning activity. Of course, if you feel comfortable and confident doing those things, great! But for most, simplicity and consistency will be your best friends. Set a teaching “formula” and stick to it – for example, each week will include __ reading/s + __ minutes of recorded lectures + __ minutes of synchronous check-in time. Look for opportunities to cut out material, activities, and assessments that don’t contribute to your learning outcomes.
  • Use “shortcuts”. Setting up an online course is a lot of up-front work, but there are ways you can reduce the load somewhat. If you’ve taught your course previously, import and update your old cuLearn page. If you’re building a new course from scratch, use a pre-populated cuLearn course template and customize it.
  • You don’t need to do ALL of it NOW. You don’t need to have every detail decided and in place on your cuLearn page before your course begins (unless you want to!). Prepare a basic structure for your course, and then fill it in 2-3 weeks in advance. Use backwards design in your preparations – what needs to be ready by Week 1? Month 1? Midterm?
  • Attend workshops. Whether you are new to online teaching or have lots of experience, we offer workshops to get you acquainted with the principles, practices, and tools of online teaching. This is your chance to ask questions and pick the brains of your fellow instructors. Can’t attend in person? We’ve recorded our sessions so you can watch anytime.
  • Practice. When you’ve got some workshops and ideas under your belt, request a “sandbox” cuLearn course to try out new tools before you integrate them into your course page. Or, use your course cuLearn page and the “hide/show” function to keep test runs invisible to students.
  • Get inspired by other teachers. Learn from others’ experiences when you can. We run a series called Welcome to My Online Classroom where Carleton teachers discuss different aspects of their online teaching experience — what they did, what worked and what didn’t, etc. You can also get great ideas from your own departmental colleagues and Faculty Teaching Mentors.
  • Let us help you. If you’re not finding what you’re looking for in our workshops and resource pages, reach out to us for one-on-one help. We’ll give you LOTS of ideas, tips, and tricks – but remember, you don’t need to do it all!
  • Stay healthy. Through it all, please take care of yourself as best you can. When it comes to your teaching, that might mean aiming for “good enough”. We’re OK with that and hope you are, too.

With virtual hugs,

All of us at TLS

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