Online Teaching Survival Guide


Need Help Transitioning to Online Classes?
SIOP Is Launching a Dynamic Resource Guide for Faculty & Students

Christopher W. Wiese, Marissa L Shuffler, Diana R. Sanchez, Adriane M.F. Sanders, & Richard Mendelson

With many colleges and universities moving their face-to-face classes online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are in the predicament of having to quickly transition our courses to an online format. In response to this need, SIOP’s Education and Training Committee is spearheading a cross-committee effort to share tips and recommendations to help our colleagues quickly transition their courses online. 

Through these efforts, we’ve produced an Online Teaching Survival Guide. This document consolidates resources and recommendations that will help with the rapid transition of classes to online formats that will keep the structural integrity of courses they have already designed.  This is not the time to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to your courses, but you may have to redirect where your wheel is going.

This guide isn’t meant to be a comprehensive resource for teaching online, as this requires extensive time and training that can’t be acquired overnight. Instead, this guide is informed by SIOP members with online education experience as well as by a rapidly growing number resources available from the higher education community. It is meant for those of us who may have been given a very short time to change a traditional face-to-face graduate or undergraduate course to a fully online one. It also brings attention to faculty and student well-being as a critical consideration in light of this dynamic  international situation.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the tips and recommendations we initially compiled. We say initially because this survival guide is a living document, meaning that as we become aware of new resources or advice, we will add it to the guide. We’ve provided a survey within this guide to facilitate its development and, consequently, the content of this guide may be adjusted over time. We encourage those who are experiencing this novel situation to provide feedback on how you have adjusted your course content. In this time of crisis, it’s important for us to support each other as much as we can. Which leads us to our first recommendation:

Well-Being Considerations
It’s important for instructors to realize that this is likely a stressful time for everyone involved. The dynamic and uncertain nature of the situation can feel overwhelming for both you and your students. We recommend you:

  1. Be Kind and Considerate To Yourself and Your Students - Everyone is going through a stressful time, even if they’re playing it cool. 
  2. Support Other Faculty Members - Faculty members may need your help in understanding how to use various tools and guest lecturing if they are unable to do so. For those willing to volunteer to teach Psychology courses, Molly Metz has created an online document where you can sign up to help those affected by the virus. 
  3. Be Flexible/Understanding - Your course is not going to be the same as you initially designed it. For the sake of your (and your student’s) sanity, accept that it will be okay if everything doesn’t go as planned. It’s also important to be understanding of your student’s situation. They may be sick, have extra caretaking responsibilities, or may not have the same access to campus resources while they’re at home.

Understanding Student Accessibility/Security

Before moving your material online, the first thing you should consider is whether your students will be able to access the course material. While colleges and universities provide the resources and facilities for students to access the material in normal conditions, this may not be true for students forced to stay at home/off-campus. In our Online Teaching Survival Guide, we provide recommendations on how to access this and steps you need to take to ensure that your students can access the course content. 

Lecturing Online
Transitioning your face-to-face (F2F) lecturing style to an online environment is likely going to be your greatest challenge. In our guide, we provide you with a list of video conferencing tools, how you can use them to mimic F2F lecturing, ways in which they are better than F2F lectures, and tips on how to facilitate discussion in online lectures. 

Transitioning Your Course Material to Online Environment
Another challenge to overcome is transitioning your existing assignments to an online environment. Luckily, most online educational platforms (e.g., Canvas, Blackboard) have native functionality that will allow you to transition Presentations, Quizzes, Attendance, Activities, Exercises, and Discussion assignments online. We also provide resources on different strategies for putting your exams online - from online proctoring tools to alternative strategies. 

Student Engagement with Online Teaching
It is often difficult to encourage student engagement in a face-to-face classroom, let alone in an online environment. As most of us are unfamiliar with teaching in this environment, we provide recommendations that capitalize on this weakness (e.g., bonus points for catching errors/mistakes/bugs) and capitalize on the strengths of the online platform (e.g., pulse surveys, interactive discussions, online office hours). 

We hope that our Online Teaching Survival Guide will help you transition your course material as best as possible. If you have any recommendations or suggestions, please let us know through this survey