Teaching Communication-Intensive (C-I) Courses Remotely
These are unprecedented times. As C-I teachers, we know you care about teaching and learning, but we also want to remind you to care for yourself. We have been engaged in a variety of college teaching share sessions during the past week, and these pointed reminders are worth repeating:
- It’s okay to not know what you’re doing; You are not alone.
- Keep it as simple and accessible as you can.
- Good teaching is good teaching.
- Expect turbulence, change your flight plan accordingly.
- Be transparent and overly communicative.
Below are some tips and suggestions for teaching C-I courses remotely. As you have questions regarding your course, reach out to the CxC team. We’re here for you!
DISCLAIMER: Now is not the time to dabble with extreme course redesign or technology innovations. Consider how you can transition your course most easily for you and your students, while striving to achieve your learning objectives as best as possible.
Whether online or in-person, we are models for our students. They take communication lessons and cues from us. Yes, communication is different In remote learning, but it is no less important. In fact, it is even more critical during these unprecedented times. Be mindful of the key components of effective communication and commit to being consistent, concise, clear, and considerate in all your forms of communication with students.
Communication with students should be regular. Sending messages on what would have previously been F2F class days, once a week on a set day, might work for you. Identify a communication structure that you can reasonably uphold; doing so, and staying consistent, fosters students’ trust and self-regulated accountability.
In class activities and assignments, take the time to drop even simple, supportive statements like “thanks for sharing, Dev” or “interesting take, Dar” to class forum posts or small assignments to help the students connect. When you notice a student has missed some small-scale check-ins or assignments, it can be helpful to send them a note checking in.
Keep it simple and to the point. In a F2F class you might have engaged in more conversation, use more words to describe something, tell stories and offer multiple examples. In remote learning, start with the simple concepts and build from there by responding to student needs and questions. Say what you need to say in as precise a language as possible, keeping it brief.
Be transparent with your students when discussing the choices you made in course adjustments and about the constraints of your own workflow at this time. Transparency can help students understand the why behind the choices you made in shifting to remote learning. It can also increase their commitment to your new shared normal and their own proactive communication about what they can reasonably promise at the time.
Make your instructions and invitations to participate clear. In a F2F setting you might begin a discussion with “who would like to share their thoughts regarding the author’s assertions in X section?” In remote teaching, strive to be more direct and specific in your call to action for the student. Example: “Identify and describe, in your own words, two strengths and two weaknesses of the author's argument in Chapter 3, then describe a situation which you experienced or witnessed in which the author's theories would have either worked or fallen flat. Explain why they would have done so” (quoted from Transition from Tradition).
You have spent several weeks getting to know your students and this will be very helpful during this transition. When communicating with students, consider their experiences, perspectives, and needs. In a typical semester, when you have more control over offering a level playing field, you have your typical set of standards for fairness and accountability. Remember that many of the campus resources that offered the level playing field are no longer accessible for students.
One approach to addressing student confusion and to maintaining rapport can be offering a Zoom on how to Zoom as an optional activity. You can figure it out together.
Forgive yourself, and be gracious with students, for the circumstances that are beyond your control. This will enable you and your students to focus on the learning that is possible. If you have any concerns about a student academically or personally, please share with the LSU Cares & Academic Intervention Team.
- What do my students need to learn? Recognize that what was planned at the beginning of the semester may need to be altered. Think carefully about what students need to know when they leave the course.
- What tools can I use? There is no shortage of tools and resources. Make a list of the tools that you feel comfortable using and have already used with students. Then make a list of tools that you are considering for remote learning. Also, consider which tools LSU is already supporting. As you review your list and make decisions about your options, try not to add too many new tools.
- What options are available for students who might not have limited access to technology or who are experiencing internet access challenges? Look back at your goals. How might you meet these goals with minimal use of technology? Can you create alternative paths for students to complete assignments, one that uses tech and one that does not?
- Keep in mind that accessibility concerns cannot be temporarily suspended for our current situation of remote teaching and learning. If anything, these unprecedented times highlight how important accessibility truly is throughout various forms.
- In some cases, dividing students up into pods may help them better connect with each other and enable you to better manage your remote learning environment. If you haven’t already established groups/teams, consider using Moodle to accomplish this.
- While reflection may not be part of your current C-I plan, think about how you can ask your students to reflect and document the different forms of communication they find themselves engaging, and what they are learning about professionalism, problem-solving, team work, digital communications, adaptability, and time management during this period. This will help students connect the dots and contextualize our circumstances in relation to how their experiences will translate into professional settings longer-term. It will illuminate that classroom time is less a simulation and more an introduction to practical communication challenges. These unfortunate times have created some learning opportunities for all of us!
- Copyright or intellectual property questions may arise as you continue to transition to remote teaching and learning. Here’s a great quick start reference guide from our friends at LSU Online. Also, if you want to chat one-on-one with a resource librarian, check out these opportunities that are currently open to all college teachers.
- Take a look at your learning goals for your presentation and other oral communication projects--what were you hoping to accomplish? How do these goals need to be adjusted for the current learning conditions? Can you accomplish these things by simply having students record themselves and upload a file to Moodle? If a live experience is desired, one option is Zoom.
- Whether your oral communication activities are structured as a team or individual is one of the first things you should consider. If you have team activities planned, return to your learning goals and consider if teams are necessary for meeting these goals. If team activities are needed, assist students in establishing strong team communication and accountability plans. Prepare them for inconsistencies in access among their teammates, and promote a culture of understanding. Can you shift teams so that students can pair according to the tech they have available? Can you shift into smaller groups, such as pairs or triads, so they can better manage their time together and their communication protocols?
- Consider the intended audience of the presentation activity and if adjustments/clarifications
to your defined audience might improve remote learning?
- Instructor only audience: If you as the instructor are the only audience for this, then asking students to record themselves may be acceptable. If you need to see accompanying visuals, consider asking students to record their session in Zoom. Or students can use tools like Screencast-o-Matic, which is free.
- Class (faculty and students) audience: If your plan is to share these activities with the class, then remember that audio will need to be transcribed or captioned. Zoom offers an easy solution to this. Some others like to use a private Youtube channel or otter.ai.
- External audience: If your plan is to include experts from your field, Zoom, Soundcloud, or a storage folder with a shared link are options you can consider alongside your goals. You will need to ID something that doesn’t require an LSU ID to enter. Experts can also review other video types and files.
- Are your oral comm activities synchronous or asynchronous? Zoom allows for easy synchronous sharing, especially if you are using visuals as well. There are many tools if the activities will be pre-recorded and shared. Zoom also allows for recording and easy transcription.
- If students will be either recording their oral communication or making presentations
via online platforms such as Zoom, and that was not part of your original course design,
be sure to set them up for success. Here are a few student-centric resources and tips
for recording audio and video regardless of platform:
- Student tip sheet for live meetings
- Tips for recording yourself
- Crafting your presentation: From content to delivery
- Podcasting in the classroom (Coming soon!)
- During these uncertain times, you and your students may be challenged with internet bandwidth which will affect synchronous and asynchronous video uploads/downloads. Given this, is your current presentation activity essential or is there another way you might achieve your learning outcomes?
- Help students see the connection to real life. Activities in online environments require different approaches, so have a conversation with your students about the differences. Because most professions engage remote presentations in some form, this is a valuable skill! If they cannot do a video, can they do a visual/written documentation of their oral communication plan? (for example, submitting their slide deck with rigorous presenter notes including their scripts and any other notes for delivery?)
- Be clear about your expectations for the activities, including the use of visuals, responding to Q&A, and what you mean by eye contact. Recording video and audio on a laptop can make reading from a script more possible. If you want students to show their ability to speak from minimal notes, help students think about how to prepare.
- If you are reviewing and assessing pre-recorded video or audio files, consider what edits you might need to make to your rubric to accommodate for the difference in delivery medium. Also, consider what’s the most efficient way for you to provide feedback—verbal via recorded audio/video capture or written via email, grading notes, etc.
- LSU’s Faculty Geaux Online site is the hub for all technical information, and you might also find these tips for maximizing teaching with Voicethread helpful.
- Take a look at your learning goals for your visual projects—what were you hoping to accomplish? Can these goals be accomplished with students taking photos of their projects and sharing them to Moodle? Is a video explainer best? Is there another method for students to share their projects with you?
- Visual projects require different types of tools. If there is any concern that students may not have access to the tools required for the planned visual communication project, consider alternatives.
- Consider if you need to make edits to your rubric to accommodate for any differences in how the project is delivered. Also, think about what’s the most efficient way for you to provide feedback—verbal via recorded audio/video capture or written via email, grading notes, etc.
- If students will be sharing their visual communication projects through images and video, consider the tools offered at LSU that promote visual sharing and collaborative feedback such as Voicethread, Lightbox Gallery, and Kaltura media assignments. Other options include Padlet and Pinterest. If these projects are made available to the class, remember to require students to provide for alt text and transcripts. Here are a few tutorials for students creating visual communication projects. While the focus is science, the main ideas are applicable across disciplines.
- Creative use of technology to communicate with others will be a key part of the next few weeks. Consider how to make this fact transparent to students as they continue their efforts with technological communication.
- Be prepared to make some changes if the technologies you planned to use this semester are no longer accessible to students.
- Review your planned rubrics and assessments for the technological project. Do these rubrics still work given any changes to the completion and submission?
- Your CxC coordinator is available to help you as you transition your technological communication projects for the remote learning context. The LSU Faculty Tech Center has many resources available as well for both students and faculty.
For those of you currently teaching writing-intensive courses, you are likely experiencing a smoother transition for remote learning. For others, some of the adjustments you make to accommodate low-tech options may mean you are transitioning to more writing activities. Either way, below are a few things to consider.
- Take a look at your learning goals for your writing projects—what were you hoping to accomplish? Be as clear as possible about genre conventions and requirements. Remember that students may not know what you mean by phrases like “blog-style” or “professional in tone.” Give examples and resources whenever possible. The OWL at Purdue is an excellent resource for demonstrating writing conventions to students.
- Think about the most efficient way to provide detailed feedback for large assignments. Some options include a video or audio recorded response, or maybe a reviewer letter you compose and share with the class that discusses common trends and notes for success based on the class’ overall submissions.
- As you support the development of your students’ writing, consider using tools that encourage collaborative editing and peer feedback. LSU has access to multiple tools, such as Voicethread, Turnitin, and group functions in Moodle. This isn’t a time to learn a new tool—rather use what you know. We are here to help!
- Synchronous and asynchronous writing support is available online to all students via CxC. Encourage your students to access it as needed.
If you planned for peer feedback on assignments or projects, consider if this element is necessary to reach your revised learning goals. If it is, there are many tools that can be used to support peer feedback.
- Consider assigning peer buddies. Ask all students to come up with a plan for communicating with their peer buddy to provide feedback on assignments. These small groups can customize their ideal forms of communication and advise of what works best for them. This can be helpful when managing students who have varying levels of access to tech.
- If making groups, keep them a manageable size for logistics—4 or 5, for example. You can set up groups in Moodle and students can collaborate in cloud-shared documents (e.g., Google Drive), or they can provide feedback directly inside their Moodle groups (however you set them up) as text, audio, or video.
- It is important to continue to promote good habits of peer review. Be explicit with
students about your expectations. Some quick reminders:
- Critique the work, never the worker.
- Find positive points, as well as areas for improvement.
- Frame comments positively, even when they are critical of the work.
- Set deadlines for students’ asynchronous peer-to-peer reviews. And keep to them.