3 quick starting points & 1 structural reflection on how to make affordable online teaching a reality

Right now, a lot of momentum is building up in academia around virtual meetings, broadcasted conferences and online teaching.
As I mentioned in last week's Links I Liked, I have written about the first two before, especially academic mega-conferences.
At the moment, some conferences seem to encourage uploading pre-recorded presentations which I am quite sure will be the media equivalent of downloading an article and keeping it in your 'readings' folder aka the 'pdf graveyard'...live broadcasting and interactive formats will always trump pre-recorded content-so why not produce a podcast of your panel, rather than sticking to the outdated 'presentation of your paper' format?

But to be honest, the conferencing-industrial complex is riddled with so many inequalities that not attending events is still a legitimate choice.
I am seriously wondering how many colleagues will actually miss many of the cancelled events and at the same time I am worried that many organizers will be back with bigger events in 2021 or 2022 to make up for lost revenues.

But let's get back to a topic I feel more strongly about: Online teaching.
I will include some of the very useful threads from Twitter in my post (predominantly written by male North-American colleagues which says something about my networks, but also more generally about online pedagogy, I think...) and will share a few basic entry points based on seven years of teaching our online MA in Communication for Development (ComDev).
This is not a post that addresses structural issues in detail (although my final point is a bit broader and written with a European/EU/GDPR background in mind), nor is this a post that engages with issues of neoliberalism in higher education, digital surveillance of students and teachers and the downsides of recording lectures and teaching online.

I will talk about online teaching as a team effort, befriending your Learning Management System (LMS) and being in charge of your low-tech efforts with a participatory approach that includes students.
Lastly, I will briefly touch on our emerging digital ecosystem in Sweden that enables us to deliver the online teaching of the present and future!


Yes, you'll never walk alone when good online teaching becomes a team effort
One of the most important aspect of keeping online teaching enjoyable is that ComDev has always been a team effort. Whether you discuss technical issues with a colleague who has IT/interaction design knowledge, ask a fellow teacher to moderate the Zoom chat during your lecture or simply distribute teaching and grading across a group of colleagues, team efforts are the key approach to avoid loneliness. The team effort also ensures that online teaching is implemented where you are, with colleagues sitting next to you rather than 'someone from IT' in another building. Those colleagues will be swamped with requests and will unlikely be able to help you-especially not tomorrow when you are supposed to have a seminar.  
Yes, Moodle/Canvas/itslearning/... are terrible, but you will have to spend some time getting to know your LMS better


As one of the colleagues wrote in his Twitter thread, you are probably using only about 10% of your LMS right now. There is no easy way to say it: You will have to spend a few hours getting to know your LMS. Do not just upload a pdf of your course syllabus or use it as a link dump. You will have to create pages, break up your syllabus into different sections and link between assignments, readings and the discussion space. Ideally, your faculty already has template so students find a familiar structure and get the impression that their university has put some thought into the system. Your LMS is the backbone of a virtual classroom.

Yes, you pretty much only need a Zoom account to teach online
When I started online teaching there were Skype, Google Hangouts and terrible propitiatory systems such as WebEx.
I am still amazed of how quickly and fundamentally Zoom has transformed 'video conferencing'. One of the great features is that you can maneuver a lot yourself (or in pairs/as team effort), share recordings easily and use a system students like as well. But my point is not simply about using a specific product, but trying to be in charge of your online teaching infrastructure as much as possible.
Do not wait for 'the university' to prepare special rooms (we have a dedicated teaching room which is a great privilege) or IT to purchase the 'right' hardware or services. The more you are in charge of the system, the better you can also decide what to do with recordings, what privacy settings to adopt etc. Not everybody will have such a large amount of freedom, but try as much 'bottom up' power as possible. Again, talk about it in meetings or faculty events.



Yes, as many things go wrong or work out online as in the traditional classroom
Most activities that you offer in a traditional classroom can be adapted to the virtual space. For example, many of our students actually enjoy more traditional lectures (maximum 60 minutes with a break in-between) and if you can teach several classes at a longer seminar this may be a good opportunity to bring the group together and create a virtual 'campfire'.
In the end, getting students to talk and interact from where they are is a very rewarding experience in our very international MA program.

Yes, Sweden is good in designing a digital infrastructure
In Sweden, SUNET provides the backbone for online teaching:
SUNET's aim is to provide Swedish universities and colleges with access to well-developed and effective national and international data communication, national academic identity infrastructure and related services that meet their needs, whatever their geographical location.
SUNET is part of NORDUnet, collaborating with partners from the Nordic region:
NORDUnet is a collaboration between the National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) of the five Nordic countries; Denmark (DeiC), Iceland (RHnet), Norway (Uninett), Sweden (SUNET), and Finland (Funet).
In practical terms this means that we soon should be able to offer integrated Zoom accounts to our students, that we just launched our own YouTube-style PLAY video platform and that we also have access to a range of other GDPR-compliant services, including a great survey platform Artologik
This may not sound super-exciting when there are pressing deadlines to get teaching 'done', but it is a reminder about discussions you may want to have at your institution about the infrastructural backbone; contact your IT colleagues and ask what tools are available-invite them to one of your team meetings!

There is so much more to say, but I will wrap up here for the moment.

Reach out to colleagues, get your LMS ready and prepare for some longer-term meetings about your digital infrastructure and you will have an enjoyable online teaching experience beyond the current COVID-19 crisis!
Update 10 March: Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption is an excellent resource by colleagues from Stanford

Update 12 March: Coronavirus triage: A primer for synchronous (aka real-time) teaching:

This quick introduction offers some tips and good practices we have developed for synchronous teaching in our Master of Development Practice program at Regis University.
Teaching in the context of COVID-19 is another evolving Google Doc resource.

Update 13 March: My colleague Erin shared this beautiful resource: Humanizing Online Teaching:
Our research and teaching praxis centers around striving to humanize education -- in the Saint Mary’s Single Subject Teacher Education program, we teach a class called Humanizing Education Methods. We offer this resource based on scholarship on teaching practices for equity and social justice and our collective experiences of online and hybrid teaching. It is not centered on the technical aspects of online teaching but rather pedagogical practices that promote care for the whole student and class collective. 

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