This section addresses the following questions:
- What are different possible approaches to online education?
- What do I need to do before offering my module online?
- What do I need to do before class?
While a comprehensive redesign is more effective than taking an existing module and putting it online, in cases where this is not possible—as in the present COVID-19 situation—there are fortunately a number of options and formats available for teaching online, two of which are especially relevant. Instructors have the choice of either engaging in asynchronous or synchronous teaching—or in a combination of both.
- An asynchronous approach means that the students and teacher do not interact in real-time, but instead, teaching is delivered through the provision of online class notes in conjunction with recorded lectures.
- A synchronous approach involves streaming your teaching, which allows for real-time interaction in virtual, live classrooms where one can use collaboration tools as well as other Web tools or smartphones that support synchronous chat, video messaging, and more. These tools make it possible to do almost everything that we do in classrooms, but once again the online environment is sufficiently different from regular face-to-face teaching that additional steps are needed in order to ensure effectiveness (see below).
In reality, a combination of asynchronous or synchronous teaching is likely to be better than using only a single approach. Combining both allows for a mix of different ways of teaching that, though they may in some ways not succeed as well as a regular face-to-face classroom session, still allows for flexibility in meeting students’ differentiated needs.
Distributing class notes and other materials to students, including recorded segments, can support students by providing them with concrete learning artefacts and spaces for thought and reflection. On the other hand, synchronous, real-time interaction helps to provide mutual support, including possibilities for collaboration and discussion as well as problem-solving and question-and-answer review sessions.
The following section provides some suggestions on key areas to consider when planning the module and the classes.