Remote Teaching Faculty Tips

Written by
Dr. Beth Brunk-Chavez, Dean of Extended University and Professor of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at The University of Texas at El Paso, member of the UT System Academy of Distinguished Teachers

Higher education faculty across the country are hearing “Campus is closed for classes, let’s move online!” But, we all know that is by no means a simple thing to do. If remote teaching with our campus Learning Management System is feasible for your class, before jumping into the learning management system, take a few moments to look at your syllabus and course schedule and make some decisions:

  1. What is my end goal for the course? Is my end goal still reasonable during this transition? If not, what adjustments do I need to make?
  2. With that end goal in mind, what do students need to learn and do?
  3. How can we work together to achieve these goals in a remote teaching environment?

Keep in mind that teaching portions of a course remotely is not the same as teaching a fully online or hybrid class. No one expects faculty to be able to transition everything in such a short period of time. Instead, we will work together to do the best we can.

Some advice to keep in mind as we address this dynamic situation:

  1. Keep calm: This is an uncertain time for all of us. And, let's be honest, we were not fully prepared for this situation, but we are getting there and can learn from this experience and continue to do better.
  2. Keep it simple: There are many exciting and effective online pedagogies, but now is not the time to try them all. Select a few tools that meet your learning objectives and stop there. The more complicated the course, the more questions students will have...and then the more questions you will have to answer.
  3. Keep it real(istic): You will not be able to replicate your on-campus class, and no one expects to you to. Similarly, do not expect your students to be able to manage everything they would have done in class.
  4. Keep it flexible: Let your students know that you are figuring this out, and that you are open to their insight and feedback. When they tell you something is confusing or may not be working right, listen, and adapt/adjust if necessary. They will appreciate your honesty and will appreciate that you listen to their feedback.
  5. Keep it to two: Consider selecting two items for each class meeting: content (reading, video, etc.) and engagement (discussion board, short assignment, quiz, etc.). The more you try to do, the more complicated things become, and the more there is for you to keep track of.
  6. Keep the channels open: One of the biggest monkey wrenches to the course transition process will be confusion. Communicate with your students regularly through announcements and emails. Establish expectations on how often you expect them to check in, what you expect them to do, and when you expect them to do it. Provide them feedback as soon as possible so they don't feel like they are working in a vacuum.
  7. Keep a smile on your face (but don’t touch it!): Even though you are moving to an online format, you can still maintain a strong relationship with your students. Send regular announcements, friendly messages, and post encouraging videos. They are just as thrown off by this situation and will look to you to set the tone.
  8. Keep a checklist: Make a checklist of the items you need to post online, of the tasks students need to complete, of the assessments you have done, and so on. This will help you keep track of multiple details so nothing falls through the cracks. Keep in mind that this may be one of four or five courses students are taking—and you may be transitioning multiple classes yourself. Keeping a checklist will help keep things organized and on track.
  9. Keep it low stakes: Of course we do not know how long this might last, but try not to make students responsible for high-stakes assignments right away. Low-stakes assignments, particularly in the first week, will provide students with work to do and not a lot of stress on getting it done right.
  10. Keep your friends close...but not too close! While we are practicing social distancing, set up a network of faculty you can communicate with regularly. Perhaps these are departmental colleagues who teach similar classes. Trade ideas and solve problems together.
  11. Keep it together: If something appears to not be working right, do not panic! Troubleshoot as best you can yourself. If the solution doesn’t readily appear, contact the Helpdesk for assistance.
  12. Keep student success in mind: At the end of the course, no matter how it is delivered, we want to see our students be successful. Plan with those goals in mind.
  13. Keep all students in mind: Online instruction should focus on accessibility of the course to all students. Under these circumstances, that may be easy to overlook. Make sure videos have closed captions, graphics and text are machine readable, and so on. Reach out to the accessibility experts on your campus for assistance.

While we may be distancing ourselves from each other, we are all in this together.