Dr. Ashley Hall is an adjunct instructor at Abilene Christian University
There are a variety of reasons you may find yourself teaching multiple modalities of a course. Maybe your school adopted the HyFlex model during COVID, giving students the option to pick how they wanted to attend class. Maybe your department is experiencing a push towards online learning, and you find yourself assigned to teach online courses whether you want to or not. Whatever the reason may be, being an educator now requires more flexibility than ever.
Different modalities of classes require different elements. For example, some things work better in a face-to-face environment than they do online, and vice versa. The aim should be to take the best out of each modality so that students have a good learning environment, and the course objectives can be met. If you try to keep everything the same across course modalities, you may be increasingly frustrated, as some elements just do not work in a different context.
We know that instructor burnout is on the rise. So how can you successfully manage multiple modalities of a course without overwhelming yourself? Here are five simple tips.
1. Start with the End Goal
Start with the course learning objectives, then think backwards to determine the various paths you need to take to achieve them. Keep in mind that there are different ways to show an understanding of the course material, so assessments used may look different in different modalities. But, they can still serve the same purpose.
2. Regularly Evaluate What’s Working—and What Isn’t
Do not wait until the end of the semester to try to analyze performance. Instead, regularly assess how things are going and make adjustments as necessary. Communicate with your students regularly and try to get a pulse on how they perceive things are going. Pay attention to the types of questions or comments you are receiving from them. For example, is there a way to address their concerns without sacrificing the rigor of the course?
3. Develop Systems — and Communicate Them
Implementing systems will help you maintain your sanity as you try to juggle multiple course modalities. Having a structured system that is communicated well helps students know what to expect, and helps you manage all your tasks. When we feel overwhelmed, it is easy to jump from one task to another based on what feels most urgent, not necessarily what is actually important.
For example, try time blocking certain times during the day to respond to student emails instead of just replying as they come in. This can help you get other tasks done without the constant distraction of incoming emails. Similarly, set up a grading schedule so you and your students know when to expect completed grades.
4. Collaborate with Colleagues
Maintain open lines of communication with your colleagues. Share frustrations or concerns so that others can provide ideas on how to solve them. Similarly, be willing to share what is working for your class, too. What seems commonplace to you may be a really helpful idea for a colleague who is also trying to manage multiple modalities of a course.
5. Keep Good Notes
Multiple modality teaching in higher education is not going away. So, keep good notes for yourself as you go along throughout the semester. What do you want to change next time? What worked better than you expected? What flopped? Don’t be afraid to make adjustments as you go for the next time you teach a course.
Teaching multiple modalities of a course can be stressful. From technology woes to course elements that just don’t seem to work across modalities, there is a lot that can require you to be flexible and adaptable.
If you keep the end goal of the course in mind, regularly check in with yourself and your students, develop systems to regulate your work day, collaborate with colleagues and keep good notes for yourself, you can set yourself up for successfully managing multiple modalities of a course — without being overwhelmed.
To learn more about building a flexible online course, check out The Cengage Guide to Teaching Online eBook.