Below are some tips for developing a distance learning class. These tips come from research and Baker instructors and are divided into categories. Whenever possible, links to additional resources are provided.
Develop a plan for how you will interact with each class and for how the distance learning class (Cass City) will receive documents, turn in documents, report out to you, etc.
- Students can report out by standing in front of the camera (from both classrooms).
- You’ll need to work with the class proctor when developing your plan.
Establish a pattern for each day the class meets. The students in the distance learning class will be less confused if they can predict what activities will happen and in what order. If you’re unable to build a routine, send students an agenda.
Formally gather feedback from the students early on, week 2 or 3. Ask them what’s working and what isn’t working. Ask for suggestions on ways to improve how the class will run.
You have to bring together two classrooms and make it feel like one class. So even though you have to visually and spatially two separate classes, try to treat them the same.
- Move in front of the camera to make eye contact with the distance learning class.
- Encourage students to talk to each other through the camera instead of amongst themselves in their physical classrooms.
- If possible, physically go to the distance learning class and teach from there to make those students feel important and a part of what’s going on.
- Give proportional amount of time to each classroom to prepare and respond.
Use the Blackboard discussion board to bring the two classes together in asynchronous discussion.
- Blackboard help site for discussion boards
- Video on how to create a discussion board forum. Please note that in the video the narrator points out that when you get into a forum it’s best for the instructor to post the first thread. This is good advice. The narrator suggests posting the first answer. Instead, you should create a thread that contains your discussion board question.
Practice, practice, practice. Spend time in your classroom practicing using the technology and the camera.
Always have a backup plan. What will you do when the technology fails? What will you do if students come unprepared? What will you do if the proctor is sick and someone else steps in to fill that role?
- Keep the phone number to the distance learning class (Cass City) on you so you can call in if something goes wrong with the technology.
Email all materials to the class proctor at least two days in advance along with instructions on how those materials should be distributed.
Become familiar with the video software. Currently, Baker is using Google Hangouts. You’ll need to know how to make and answer a call and how to share a screen at a minimum.
- Written instructions on how to start a Hangout
- Video that shows you how to start a hangout
- Written instructions for screensharing
- Video that shows you how to screenshare
Understand the AV technology in the classroom. You need to know how to use the camera and sound system in the room you are teaching in.
Don’t experiment with technology in this class. If you’ve never used a program before, try it out in a different class first.