The impact of COVID-19 is forcing institutions across the country to make incredibly hard decisions. Many schools have chosen to move residential courses to online delivery in order to finish out the term while adhering to social distancing protocol. For residential faculty, this abrupt transition to online will require immediate and major modifications to your course, content, and teaching practice.

Migrating from residential to online delivery is never a simple matter, and making this change with no time to properly design and develop the online course is an incredible challenge. Based on our long experience working with faculty on the development and deployment of online and hybrid programs, we want to offer some insight to help make this transition as seamless and successful as possible.

Expert advice for a smooth transition to online instruction

In the midst of this global pandemic, you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed by this sudden shift to distance learning. Many colleges have found themselves in unchartered territory and are looking for guidance. Here are a few pieces of advice we’ve gleaned from our experience in this area.

1. Keep it simple

This abrupt change to online delivery will be difficult and confusing for your students. Do whatever you can to make it as simple as possible for them. The simpler it is for students, the less they will focus on the changes and the more they will be able to focus on the learning.

2. Be realistic

Be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish in this hurried transition to the online environment. You do not have the advantage of planning and time, and you will not be able to accomplish everything you want to do. Start by identifying your realistically attainable goals and prioritize from there.

3. Adjust your expectations for students

COVID-19 has had a massive impact on all aspects of students’ lives. From health concerns and limited access to goods to lack of childcare and changes to educational methods. A lot is expected of Americans during this time. With this in mind, you will need to adjust your expectations for students.

From an educational perspective, consider how this disruption will impact their ability to participate, engage, meet deadlines and perform on assignments and assessments. Assess these areas and adjust accordingly in order to lighten the load a bit for students.

4. Focus on outcomes

Even though courses are moving to the online modality, the goals of those courses are the same – to enable student to meet the course level learning outcomes. Just because you’re working toward the same outcomes, doesn’t mean you should be duplicating exactly what you would do in the classroom.

You will find that you can achieve many of the same learning outcomes online, but you may achieve those outcomes in a different manner than you do residentially. Remain flexible and consider alternative ways to deliver the same instruction.

5. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

You must prioritize what you and your students can accomplish during this time online. You may not be able to keep your original syllabus unchanged, so you’ll need to prioritize what is most important. Assess all of the elements and determine which learning activities can be effectively facilitated online and what might need to be rescheduled or postponed.

6. Be flexible

Be flexible with your students and in your teaching. Determine which classroom teaching methods translate well to the remote setting, which don’t and what new approaches you might need to incorporate. Collaborate with faculty at your school or others to share effective distance learning strategies. Amid these trying times, we’re all in this together.

7. Take advantage of the technology

Today’s learning technology provides powerful tools for communication, interaction and engagement between students, instructors and institutions. Be open-minded about integrating new tools. In fact, you might discover useful learning technology tools that you continue to employ even after your teaching returns to the residential classroom.

8. Support your students

Keep in mind that this shift to online learning may be harder on some students than others, particularly under-served and marginalized students who don’t have the same access to resources, technology and support. Students may face additional challenges such as personal illness, needing to care for family members, or having to deal with children home from school. You should be prepared to respond to requests for extensions or flexibility for personal circumstances.

9. Think about accessibility and accommodations

It is likely you’ll have students in your course with learning or sensory disabilities. When developing online content, you must consider the accessibility of that content for all students. Further, students who need accommodations in the residential classroom may require different or additional accommodations in the online environment.

10. Be patient

As you can see, there is a lot that goes in to transitioning courses to online delivery. You should not expect to master everything on the first day. The technology won’t always work the way you want or how you expect. However, you will learn quickly and become better each day at managing the online environment, and as you and your students become more comfortable in the online world, the level of teaching and learning will improve.

Prepare for a strong finish

COVID-19 has rewritten the final chapter of this school term for many college students, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still have a happy ending. With a strategic, thoughtful approach that is centered on your students’ needs, you can help smooth the transition to the virtual classroom.

We have years of experience in helping institutions bring programs online. If you have any questions or specific to your needs or concerns, contact us at info@collegiseducation.com.