Dr. Kathryn J. Moland, PMP, is the Director of Computer Technologies at Surry Community College
The 2020-2021 academic year was a challenge for many faculty and students as a result of COVID-19. Most of us had to pivot abruptly to an online modality for course delivery and office hours—which complicated teaching and learning for anyone new to the format. To accommodate this shift, I utilized collaboration tools like Microsoft (MS) Teams and Blackboard Collaborate.
These adapted behaviors led to several best practices I will continue using upon my return to campus this fall. These include: how-to videos, class recordings, and virtual office hours. Read on to discover how and why I plan to apply these strategies in my in-person courses, too.
Since many faculty and students on my campus had never used MS Teams and Blackboard Collaborate prior to the pandemic, faculty-led training sessions were great for supporting new users. Instructors who were more seasoned using these collaboration tools created how-to videos. For example, I created videos explaining how to set up and use Blackboard Collaborate in the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS). The more experienced faculty also provided virtual support throughout the day and evening hours, answering questions and providing drop-in training sessions focused on specific functions of these tools. I hosted drop-in training sessions for using Blackboard Collaborate and addressed any questions related to its functionality.
I plan to continue using how-to videos like these on campus to provide a step-by-step explanation of how to use collaboration tools and create course artifacts that can be placed in the LMS. These existing video recordings and any new recordings will be located on the faculty resource center so they’re always available to my fellow instructors.
Using MS Teams and Blackboard Collaborate, I hosted virtual classes during the regularly scheduled seated class time. Students were able to join from their remote location and participate in class. After the class, the recordings were posted on the Moodle LMS, which allowed students to review them as needed throughout the semester.
I will maintain this practice of recording and posting my class sessions on the Moodle LMS so students can use them to prepare for the next class. This approach also offers students the option of attending in person or joining remotely, similar to a HyFlex class. Enabling student access to course materials during and after class, regardless of how they choose to attend, is a win in my book.
Virtual Office Hours
Because they took place during various times of day and on weekends, virtual office hours were a rave. Unlike traditional office hours typically held Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., I was accessible via MS Teams throughout the week and during evening and weekend hours. The MS Teams link to my virtual office hours was placed on the Moodle LMS in the Meet Your Instructor block. Students simply clicked on the link and joined me on-screen.
Given many of my students work and have families, virtual office hours provide a way for students and I to meet around their availability, which is often later in the evenings and on weekends. This was a major factor in my decision to keep the practice going once I head back to my in-person classes this fall.
While many of us were catapulted out of our comfort zones as a result of this pandemic, the experience yielded us several new approaches that make learning more flexible and convenient for our students. These are three I’m choosing to continue, but I won’t stop there. I will always remain open to other best practices I can implement to ensure my students’ ongoing success.
Are you headed back to campus after a year of remote teaching? View our recorded webinar for more advice on merging the best of the traditional and virtual classrooms!