To Secondary and Higher Education friends in the midst of a quick transition to elearning due to COVID-19:
If you find yourself at a loss as to where to even begin with the transition, allow me to offer a starting point.
Key concepts: Synchronous and Asynchronous learning experiences.
Which learning experiences in your course / class can be completed by your students independently, on their own time? Those are asynchronous learning experiences.
Which learning experiences in your course / class require your students to be present at the same time with you and/or other students? (Again, think present together at the same time to interact and communicate with each other, as any direct physical interaction isn’t there in a virtual setting.) Those are your synchronous learning experiences.
Lecture = asynchronous. Record a video of yourself lecturing for your students to watch when they wish.
Discussion = synchronous, if you want your students talking or text chatting with each other at the same time. (Could also be asynchronous — think message board.)
For the sake of a offering one single place to start with, I will offer this one tip/tool as where to begin: Sign up for a free Zoom account.
(I do not work for Zoom and do not get any commission if you use their product. It’s just a great tool.)
There are plenty of tutorials (including through the Zoom Help features) on how to use the various features of Zoom, so familiarize yourself with its basic features and usage. While no single tool is perfect, some advantages of Zoom for you as an educator are:
— In addition to the obvious real-time, synchronous interaction possible with Zoom, you can also (when using Zoom on a computer) make a video recording of yourself lecturing (either with or without students present as you lecture) while sharing your screen (e.g. PowerPoint). That video file can then be uploaded to YouTube or Google Drive for quick sharing.
— Low friction: While you need a Zoom account to create your Zoom class sessions, your students do not need to create a Zoom account to attend those Zoom sessions. Zoom will give you an easy-to-share link (via email, text, posted on a website announcement/blog, etc.) that your students can use to access your class session. They will be prompted to install the Zoom app the first time they access a Zoom session from a particular device, but will not need to setup an account. This significantly lowers the ‘friction’ of getting your students to access your live sessions, as well as the fact that the Zoom app is available for mobile devices as well as the more traditional computer operating systems (yes, your students can attend your live sessions right from their phones!).
Best Wishes and Welcome to the Brave New Digital World!