We never saw this coming. Yet – in the eternity between the start of the semester and today – we’ve been tirelessly inventive in our responses to COVID-19 and the new normal: emergency remote synchronous instruction.
We had two days – which became a working week – to move to this new environment, and we were incredibly lucky to have a Distance Education team, Divisional “tech buddies,” and lots of generous volunteers to assist our transition. They provided face-to-face and remote instruction on how to activate Canvas, post syllabi, set up Zoom or other synchronous methods of meeting our students in their assigned class times, and more. The DE Team continues to send Tech Tips for the week, and to maintain the “Instructional Continuity” page with frequent updates.
GCC’s Instructional Designer, Katie Datko, maintains asynchronous sites where you can find instructions on how to maximize Canvas for your class, such as the GCC Instructional Continuity Canvas Course.
“This is where you can find information about the various instructional tools we support, technical information and links to Just in Time webinars to help you beef up your growing online skills. (This page also has the FB feed on it, so you can easily see updates and ideas...) Think of this page as your one-stop-shop for all things instructional technology!” writes Datko.
Another such resource is the GCC Remote Instruction Faculty Page on Facebook. You’ll find recommendations on instructional technology, interesting articles on remote synchronous instruction, and even ways to forestall Zoom-bombing – (tip: enable Waiting Room, and make sure your students have recognizable user names!).
Along with instructional support from DE, GCC’s Student Services has worked hard to establish policies and processes for our students to enable them to make wise decisions about “Excused Withdrawals,” and whether or not to select Pass/No Pass status in their current roster of classes. The Chancellor’s Office has relaxed the restrictions on course repetition, and all classes taken this semester may be repeated, passing grade or not. The CO’s recommendations continue to evolve: each individual student has choices to make about Pass/No Pass in terms of their major prep. classes, along with the “Golden Four.” Luckily, students can receive strong guidance from our counselors, and we should recommend that they seek advice before making this decision.
As for our summer sessions, Dr. Ritterbrown, Vice President, Instruction, recently assured the Enrollment Management committee that our schedule will not be canceled. But the likelihood is that we will continue to teach through remote synchronous instruction and fully online classes, with no face-to-face sessions offered. Instructors who are already certified to teach distance education courses (fully online, in an asynchronous form) may be asked if they would like to convert their summer classes to DE. For instructors who are not yet DE certified, their classes can still be offered through remote, synchronous instruction.
If you would like to obtain certification, please sign up to take GCC’s Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning here. IOTL is a four-week course that takes approximately 40 hours to complete. Successful completion equals certification! You can also look for IOTL courses through @One, the Online Network of Educators. Teaching a fully-online, asynchronous course is challenging and requires careful design of materials and assessments, but it is extremely rewarding. The IOTL courses are an effective introduction to methods and strategies that support high quality distance ed. (Here’s an excellent article about the distinctions between distance education and remote synchronous instruction from Educause).
For me, teaching remotely & synchronously has been exhausting, yet it’s turned out to be remarkably encouraging, too. My colleagues in the division have been stunning! And my students in my English 101+ class have approached this challenge with inspiring camaraderie. (English 101+ is designed in response to AB705, and students exhibit extremes in levels of preparation for transfer level work. They’re also a testament to our opportunities for re-entry into education, not to mention society). I’ve been moved by the unstinting support they’ve offered each other in this strange new world. Zoom has allowed them to “share screen” and show us what they’re working on, to give us a glimpse of their anime screensavers, and offer their quadruped family members brief cameos in class. I make my bed immaculately now that it’s part of my classroom. There’s so much to be thankful for! I have absolute optimism for them, and for us as their striving instructors. – We have the technology, we have the will, and we really do have our students’ faith in us.