Instructors use student survey to guide online transition

Remind students

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Adapting courses for virtual instruction means plenty of change for instructors and significant adjustment for students.

To limit the stress of shifting classes online, Megan Myers, assistant professor in world languages and cultures, sent students an electronic survey to get their feedback and better understand their online capabilities.

"I wanted immediate student input on what they envisioned this course to look like online and what they thought would be most beneficial," she said.

The survey

Myers worked quickly to develop a survey when the announcement was made March 11 that online instruction would begin for a minimum of two weeks after spring break. She asked several multiple choice questions to gauge interest on a variety of topics.

One of the biggest was whether students preferred instruction delivered synchronously or asynchronously – real time or not. She also asked for preferred platforms for virtual office hours and group discussions.

"We promote asynchronous instruction because of internet bandwidth and the fact that not every student is going to have great internet access," Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CELT) program coordinator Laura Bestler said. "This allows students to be able to learn on their own time."

Myers sent the survey to 55 students and had a 70% reply rate within three days, allowing for discussion of responses before students left for spring break.

"We talked about any concerns and issues they may have had," Myers said. "Some of them just said, 'Thank you for asking for our input.'"

Myers built her courses using the top two responses whenever possible.

More than instruction

A survey available to instructors in Canvas can be distributed to students to help answer technical questions about the switch, and check on the well-being of those in their courses.

"I think the biggest thing is just knowing how our students are doing," Bestler said. "This gives us an idea of where they are at and what they have access to in order to be successful for the remainder of the semester."

Part of the survey focuses on housing accommodations and access to food.

"Those people taking care of a family, going to school and trying to figure it all out are some of the ones we hope reach out to us so we can help them navigate how best to succeed," Bestler said.

Students seeking help can email the office of student assistance while student accessibility services is handling accommodation questions.

Making the switch

Myers teaches Spanish 101 and 102 online during the summer semester, but this is the first time she has converted courses designed to be in-person to virtual instruction.

"I teach language courses, which I think face a different challenge," she said.

Myers said keeping things simple and having good communication are most important.

"The key is to keep it streamlined and accessible to everyone," Myers said. "Try to have really clear objectives and focus on fewer things than you might in a normal class to be really successful in those things you can accomplish."

Co-creating courses is something Myers does in her in-person classes, and it is an aspect she continues now that online instruction will last the remainder of spring semester and for full summer courses.

CELT has a guide for instructors based on the rule of 2's, which helps focus key online transition topics:

  • Two guiding principles for course redesign and instruction
  • Two tools to support your teaching
  • Two pieces of content students will understand after completing the course
  • Two skills students will gain
  • Two ways students can participate

Better prepared

Bestler believes the work of the past few weeks will serve the campus community beyond a single semester or two.

"This can all be used in future semesters," she said. "Anything faculty do right now can inform their pedagogical practice going forward."