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Adapt or Die

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

If you're a die-hard fan of online or hybrid teaching, this article is not for you.

Earlier last year, COVID-19 rudely barged into our lives and disrupted our familiar, desired ways of teaching and engaging our students in the classroom. From leading exciting hands-on lessons in the classroom to facing the ambiguous sea of turned-off cameras and muted microphones, there's no denying that the way we connect with our students has been severely altered. But as we prep for this semester, it's time that we learn how to adapt. As my good friend and guest lecturer Jim Breach says, "we either adapt or die."

That being said, here’s my take on how to effectively teach in both hybrid and remote classroom settings. 

1. Use Trusted Resources

Like IT, faculty support, teaching assistants, and graders!

Collaborate with your department and IT services to discuss how your style of teaching can best be supported. If you’re teaching hybrid in the classroom, ask if IT can supply an additional monitor for you to see your course content on one screen and your remote students on another. Otherwise, connect your personal laptop to your lectern. 

If you’re teaching fully remote (from your home office), ask your department to purchase another computer for you. If this isn’t an option due to budgetary constraints but you are committed to teaching long-term, be prepared to personally spend time and money to perfect your new teaching style. This is where adapting comes in — as industries are experiencing increased productivity and decreased expenses with working remotely, many will not return to our previous conception of “normal,” and academia may be no different.   

Be prepared to personally spend time and money to perfect your new teaching style

Just because working remotely increases productivity doesn't mean that this new way of teaching decreases our prep time! Teaching assistants and graders are an incredibly valuable asset. They relate well to students' needs and consequently offer great recommendations and peer support. If you cannot afford teaching assistants or if your institution instead employs faculty support, ask them for assistance with inputting grades, helping with your course website, or viewing recorded Zoom sessions to track attendance and participation. Alternatively, if you don’t have either luxury, modify your student assignments to lighten your grading.

2. Technology and Equipment

No doubt it is challenging to mimic the pre-COVID traditional classroom setting, and there can be an abundance of technology hiccups! But as it’s par for the course, let’s try to learn from them.

When teaching remotely from home, here are a few tips that have proven to add class engagement:

  • Use an adjustable laptop stand on your existing desk: This elevates your desk to standing height without spending that much monetarily. Lecturing while standing proves to be more engaging. I use this one and love it. 

  • Add extra lighting: Even with natural window lighting, it still may be insufficient or may create glares. After investigation and use, Lumecube did the trick. 

  • Connect your laptop to your flatscreen: Do this by extending or mirroring your laptop screen to your TV-screen. With my 60 inch screen, I can view more students at a time, enhancing communication and efficiency. 

  • For pre-recorded lectures: Are you one of those professors who used to move around your classroom, showing enthusiasm and engagement? If so, you might want to try the Robo 360 Rotation. It will not only record your lectures but also your movements and might add variety to your Zoom recordings or asynchronous content.

3. Connect More Often

Hybrid and fully remote teaching definitely challenge relationship-building.

It’s difficult teaching to an empty or nearly empty classroom, and it’s not easy making associations between a hybrid student who’s wearing a facial covering one day and the same unmasked student who attends remotely another day. Furthermore, communication may be disrupted from internet connectivity. So, host more office hours to get to know your students and support them. Offer additional ways to enhance class community like Zoom breakout rooms, polls, and discussion boards on your course websites.  

4. Dress the part

When you’re constantly teaching from behind a screen, it can get easy to log on wearing the same clothes you rolled out of bed in and throw on your “Zoom blouse.”

But I’m going to suggest doing the opposite. Dressing professionally and keeping our cameras on as if we’re teaching a typical class not only makes us feel better but influences us to act better. We stand straighter, smile more, and, as a result, convey trust and confidence. Plus, since video conferencing is the current method for most company team meetings, it’s important for us to mimic best industry practices to our students. 

By dressing professionally, we stand straighter, smile more, and, as a result, convey trust and confidence

5. Get feedback and adapt along the way.

And finally, survey your students and colleagues to perfect your new style of teaching and adapt accordingly.

This is a stressful time for everyone in academia but particularly for our students who are forced to learn and participate using a new modality. Since they (and their families) are spending the same dollars for a dissimilar academic experience, it’s important to perfect our “new normal” and continue to provide value as instructors. 

Many of us have read or heard about the VUCA world — how volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous the state of the world is. How spot-on is that acronym in describing the effects of COVID-19 on our economy, relationships, social movements, and even planning for the future? So, if you’re a dedicated educator who is struggling to adapt and you’ve made it this far into the article, your next step is to respond accordingly by trying some of these effective tips — because when we fail to adapt, we die! And if you have a tip on how to prevent fogging glasses, I’m all ears!   

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