March 2020 and the emergency transition to remote learning seem like a distant memory to many of us. The transition, plus two full terms (summer and fall) of online learning, led to research that brought our understanding of remote learning far beyond just the basics.
Interviews conducted as part of an independent study for IU's Office of Online Education (OOE) show the value that students place on programs that are flexible and convenient and that offer the "ability to reach your goal while working." Students said that technology should be user friendly, course designs streamlined, and logistical support at hand. They want up-to-date course material that's interesting, challenging, and applicable to their current or future careers; and they value instructors who are communicative, engaged, knowledgeable, supportive, and prompt in giving feedback. You can learn more about these findings in the webinar, Defining Quality and Value in Online Education from the Student Perspective: What Do IU Online Students Think about Their Online Learning Experiences?
Several other surveys and research studies across IU's campuses considered how we can provide better experiences for our online students in future semesters. To help consolidate these findings into tools that faculty can easily integrate into their class sections, the IU Online Course Delivery Task Force, with representatives from OOE, University Information Technology Services (UITS), the Faculty Academy on Excellence in Teaching (FACET), and the campus teaching centers, developed a set of easy-to-implement course design practices: Baseline Course Design during COVID. These practices will help improve the faculty experience of teaching and the student experience of learning.
To take a course to the next level, faculty can explore Quality Matters (QM). Achieving full QM certification may not be possible before the next semester starts, but learning some of its principles is. For an introduction to QM, review Exploring the Role of Quality Matters Certification in Course Design. For a quick list of course essentials that will get you on your way to QM, check out the IU Online Course Quality Checklist. Even looking at your syllabus and ensuring that it has some key elements outlined in the downloadable QM Syllabus Template can go a long way in helping your courses and students succeed.
To see what some of our university colleagues are doing in online education, consider going to IU Expand for the 2020 IU Online Conference. The conference was a solid success, and all the sessions can be found in the Expand course. Discover tools that faculty used to present their in-person classes online by watching Teaching through the Pandemic—Challenges and Solutions to Teaching Online. Learn about IU's collaborative program development model by viewing Are We All in This Together? How IU Faculty and Staff Are Pioneering New Online Collaboration Strategies to Promote Equity, Access, and Student . For more on online assessment, see Assessment Made Simple: Leveraging Canvas Tools to Perform Program Assessment for Collaborative Online Programs.
If you would like to take your teaching to the next level (whether online or face-to-face), consider watching Teaching for Student Success: Bringing the Power of Effective Teaching to Disciplines, Modalities, and Campuses. This webinar discusses the development and role of the Expand course, Teaching for Student Success. This course, a collaboration of FACET, 50 faculty from all nine campuses, and UITS instructional designers, resulted in a series of nine online modules that walk instructors through designing an effective course. The practices build on, and extend, current research on what makes teaching excellent. Faculty comments illustrate practical applications of concepts. Showcases of teaching strategies give detailed instructions for applying evidence-based practices to your own classes. Because it was developed collaboratively, the course delivers a "who's who of great instructors across IU."
The Online Course Delivery Task Force will continue to explore and share new approaches to improving our online classrooms. Several websites around the university facilitate this information share. In particular, look for new information on keepteaching.iu.edu, teaching.iu.edu, and teachingonline.iu.edu. These sites are updated regularly.
Without question, 2020 has been a year of challenges; but we've responded to these challenges with many true successes. Stress, fatigue, and anxiety have mixed with innovation, exploration, and empathy. As a community, we've learned a lot about providing education in a safe and socially distanced environment. I am confident we'll continue to learn and improve as we welcome 2021 and move toward the spring semester.