Flexible Teaching Resources

Below you will find a number of questions that can help guide your preparation and thinking as you develop - or redevelop - your courses. The focus of this resource list is flexibility; many of the links are intended to be seen through the lens of whatever form your course takes. Under each question you will find a quick tip to give you the most direct answer; some links to short videos, lists, or articles designed to promote creative ideas; or both. 

CPI is available to work with you for designing your course. If you would like further support for any of these questions, or others not addressed here, we can help you. No matter what stage your class is in, CPI aids in thinking through objectives, structuring your syllabus, designing online activities, building community in classes, redesigning assessments, and more. Contact us anytime with questions!

Initial Questions

  • Where do I start?

    Links

    • In considering what modality you will implement to teach your course (e.g., hybrid, flexible, online fully, etc.), take a look at the various options Clemson lays out with pros and cons.
    • One of the most popular books at the moment is Small Teaching Online by Flower Darby (available digitally through the Wesleyan library). For an article-length version, check out her piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
    • One professor shares her “Syllabus for Summer Vacation” in the Chronicle to guide her preparation and planning for fall challenges both known and unknown.
    • For a quick chart of ideas to convert the most common pedagogical strategies from live to online or hybrid, check out this page from Boston University.
  • How do I write a strong learning objective?

    QUICK TIP: A learning objective is a statement of what students will be able to do or demonstrate by a certain point in the class (usually the end). An effective learning objective is measurable and focuses on the student’s perspective and includes timing (e.g., “by the end of week 4”), demonstrable activity (e.g., “define”, “differentiate”, “build”, “design”) and product.

    Links

Teaching in person in unusual circumstances

  • How do I teach when everyone is masked and socially distant?
    QUICK TIPRecognize the challenges that interrupt your typical teaching style and address those directly rather than trying to invent something new. For example, if you rely on students turning to their neighbor to discuss a question, invite them to discuss via text instead. If you call students to the board often, consider requiring everyone bring a small whiteboard with them.

Live and Recorded Video

  • Should I record a video or meet on Zoom?

    QUICK TIP: Pre-record videos for content that can be one-directional and static, requiring little if any discussion. Zoom meetings allow for content that changes regularly or focuses heavily on discussion aspects. Most courses - and even many individual “class sessions” - may exist as a combination of these two and can utilize both approaches. CPI can help you construct a plan for recorded videos or offer suggestions for improving the quality of synchronous meetings.

  • How do I use Zoom most effectively?

    QUICK TIP: Take advantage of the fact that all students are present and connected. Don’t try to exactly replicate the in person experience. Allow opportunities for short, regular breaks to give students a quick mental reset and make explicit space for inevitable distractions. For longer meetings, consider ways to have whole-group Zoom sessions “bookend” some other activity. Talk to CPI about some strategies and ideas that will make sense for your particular course.

    Links

  • How do I make a good instructional video?

    QUICK TIP: Above all else, keep instructional videos short, typically between 6 and 10 minutes (so a typical 50-minute lecture might consist of 5-8 videos). Have a plan for what you want to say (a script or at least an outline) and recognize that your timings are likely to be different than a live lecture because you won’t have feedback in the form of questions or opportunities for clarification. Find logical breakpoints in the lecture, and try to have each video be independent enough that students don’t need to watch the entire set straight through to follow the thread. Leverage visuals when possible, but try to keep your image on the screen (even in a small box) at least most of the time to build personal connection.

    Links

  • Can I use someone else's videos?

    QUICK TIP: Thousands of high-quality instructional videos already exist; no need to reinvent the wheel! For software instruction and process-oriented videos, we recommend you start with LinkedIn Learning (formerly lynda.com), to which all Wesleyan community members have access. For other academic content, all courses on Coursera is available for free to Wesleyan learners throughout Fall 2020; contact CPI to arrange access to any subset of courses you'd like. Of course, YouTube and other sources have plenty of high-quality videos, too, but require a bit more curation.

Community Building

  • How can I maximize my first class meeting?

    QUICK TIP: Encourage students to submit brief introductory videos or writing to the class before the first meeting. Allow for more extensive in-class introductions than simply name and major. Be sure to lay out expectations for conversation (Are they expected to mute unless talking? Can they use virtual backgrounds if able? Would you prefer the use the “Raise Hand” button or physically raise their hand?)

  • How do I ask good discussion questions?

    QUICK TIP: Craft discussion questions - whether posed synchronously or asynchronously - that reflect on weekly learning objectives and do not allow for yes/no answers. Allow space for students to consider replies before anyone responds. For forum-based discussion, provide multiple questions for response.

    Links

  • How do I encourage students to participate in class discussions online?

    QUICK TIP: The Community of Inquiry framework suggests an effective online learning experience requires elements of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence working together. Further, an effective pedagogical strategy incorporates the student interacting with each of the three main elements of the classroom - course material, the instructor, and other students - while allowing time for self-reflection. 

    Links

Assessment

  • How much work should I assign in my online or hybrid class?

    QUICK TIP: Beware of feeling a need to “compensate” for any lack of synchronous class meeting time. Assigning extra readings or instituting additional quizzes or papers can have adverse effects of lowering the aggregate quality of work across the semester. Focus on meaningful work that directly supports your learning objectives. 

  • How can I convert my in-person exams to online?

    QUICK TIPEven exams that require pen and paper can migrate to online. Myriad scanning apps exist for smartphones (e.g., Adobe Scan) do a good job of converting handwritten work to PDF formats. Be sure to allow extra time to accommodate scanning, and use clear numbering for students who can't print the exam! If you convert your exam into a digital format, give your students a "practice" exam to acclimate themselves to the environment and ensure that technical difficulties don't create barriers for their success.

  • How can I ensure academic integrity?

    QUICK TIP: Design questions that allow for the reality of accessible information and communicate that your assessments reflect this. Consider designing with a time guideline rather than a fixed time limit. Point explicitly to readings and craft questions that target specific moments (e.g., “On page 75, why does the author…?”) If applicable, have students turn in their study preparation (such as a crib sheet of formulas or definitions). 

    Links

    • Northern Illinois University provides some great suggestions for mitigating academic dishonesty in both tests and homework assignments.

Accessibility and Inclusion

Additional CPI Resources