Last month, I gave a talk about my new book, Intentional Tech, at the University of Waterloo. The night before my talk, I dreamed about the talk, as I often do. Usually in these dreams, I go over every bit of the planned talk and worry whether or not I should include it. It’s not quite a nightmare, but it’s also not restful sleep. I’ve accepted it as part of who I am.
This time, however, there was an extra layer of stress. In my dream, I found out that Waterloo had decided to move all of their courses online in response to the coronavirus pandemic and so my dreamself went over my planned talk, deciding what teaching principles and examples of practice from the talk would be relevant to fully online courses. This is what my brain was doing to me in early March 2020.
Now, of course, pretty much all of higher education in Canada and the US has “pivoted” online, allowing faculty, staff, and students to practice social distancing while continuing the educational enterprise. My institution made the pivot the week after spring break, first cancelling classes for four days, then restarting classes using alternative, online instruction. As I write this, we have finished our third week of remote teaching and learning.
My teaching center’s initial efforts to support our instructors in this pivot focused on tools that would help faculty to continue doing online what they had been doing in person, including screencasting and video conferencing tools. We knew that faculty wouldn’t have time to rethink their entire course design for online learning, so we provided resources around teaching continuity. You can see that in some of the resources we generated in short order to share with faculty and other instructors.
Three weeks in, however, we’re starting to see more faculty interested in other models for online teaching. Many faculty are learning into their Zoom sessions with students, but they’re aware that synchronous video options can be challenging for some students, given computer and internet access issues, time zone differences, displacement, and family care responsibilities. This is motivating them to take different approaches to online teaching, leveraging more asynchronous learning activities and low-bandwidth technologies.