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CAST professors share tips for maximizing online instruction

Dan Wilson shares tips to transition to online instruction

Dr. Dan Wilson delivering a video on ReggieNet

Dr. Dan Wilson, a professor in the Department of Technology, was fortunate to have an easy transition to online learning due to prior experience teaching course material online. “The content I teach is more applicable to online teaching than some other disciplines. Also, the students in my three courses are all juniors and seniors who have had an online learning experience, so the transition went smoothly.”

Wilson decided to maximize videos in delivering his classes with students participating asynchronously. “In addition to regular Zoom meetings, to ensure that I am regularly present to students, I record and post regular progress videos on the home page of the ReggieNet course site. I capture these personal video messages in Photo Booth with my laptop cam, upload them to my YouTube channel, and then embed the videos under the ReggieNet home page’s ‘Site Information.'” Wilson has also found Camtasia, a software that captures audio and video of the computer display, useful in uploading videos directly to his YouTube channel for easy student access.

Dr. Will Lewis delivering a lecture online

School of Information Technology professor, Will Lewis also shares a similar experience as he transitioned all his exams, quizzes, and assignments to Reggienet a few semesters ago. “I think the biggest difference is not being able to meet with my students face-to-face where we can discuss the course material and use body language as well as words to communicate. Another challenge with online teaching is the difficulty in determining the pulse of the class. Since I do not require them to turn on their camera or microphone, it’s hard to tell if their following along and understanding the material. It’s also difficult to tell what mood the class is in,” he adds.

Both professors acknowledge the importance of maximizing ReggieNet for online teaching. “The number of tools in ReggieNet can be overwhelming, so I try to keep the interface as simple as possible. That means using the Manage Tools to remove any tools I’m not using from the side bar and then label and order the tools I do use. I primarily use Assignments to assemble all aspects of a unit of instruction for students to complete their projects. This includes lecture material, demos, and activities. Then I use Lessons to create custom named week-by-week tabs to organize the course material for students,” Wilson said. He highlights the importance of breaking teaching materials/content into logically ordered bite-sized chunks, with regular practice and feedback after each chunk as well as being personable. “Learners as respond motivationally to a personal teacher. Giving a bunch of “resources” and not personally and consistently delivering the instruction will always result in low motivation and engagement.”

Dr. Lewis reminds teachers and students that it’s okay to make a few mistakes this period. “Just try to learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. Always keep in mind this is challenging for both instructors and students.”

Illinois State University has a wealth of resources to support faculty, staff and students in this period. For information and resources on navigating research, teaching, and learning online, please visit https://coronavirus.illinoisstate.edu/.