Instructors use break to hone online teaching skillsby Jan Janes on Jan 13, 2021
In the continuing quest to improve online instruction, many Gavilan College teachers are spending the January break honing their online teaching skills.
Distance Ed taught two sections of Gavilan Online Teacher Training last summer. They continued those classes through the fall semester.
Sabrina Lawrence Distance Ed Coordinator; Peter Howell, Distance Ed faculty.
“We added classes as there was demand,” said Sabrina Lawrence, Distance Education Coordinator. “Support also continued with one-on-one, just-in-time responses, open office hours, and staff available through email, text and phone calls.”
Back in March 2020, with the Santa Clara County pandemic shelter in place (SIP) order, Gavilan College pivoted to deliver online instruction within 48 hours. The Distance Education team, partnering with college faculty, pulled out all the stops to make that happen. Other area community colleges paused instruction for two to three weeks before restoring classes for Spring 2020.
“Teachers know how to stimulate learning in a face-to-face classroom,” said Peter Howell, Distance Education Faculty. “How can we create that learning with our main online tools: Canvas, Studio and Zoom?”
Faculty, the majority new to online teaching, devoted hours during the summer and fall to reconstruct their curriculum to fit the new delivery system. As the COVID shelter in place continues, online instruction remains the primary delivery mode for the spring semester.
“For people who never intended to teach online,” said Lawrence, “Here we are.”
Some teachers will go back to the classroom and never return to online instruction in the future.
“There’s room for both,” she said. “A real need for face to face, because some students learn some subjects better that way. And for online, for students who need flexibility to complete their education.”
The initial training prepared the college, faculty and students for a successful fall and beyond.
“Registration for Gavilan College is open and our instructional delivery via distance education is excellent,” said Dr. Kathleen Rose, President/Superintendent. “Our faculty and professional support staff are here to serve our students and ensure that educational goals are met, despite these very challenging days.”
Distance Ed offered more training midway through the fall semester focusing on the gradebook and quiz features, plus strategies for creating effective contact opportunities. One Friday, they offered trainings in all three components. Distance Ed staff also presented trainings at department meetings.
“We work with teachers to identify what their outcomes are, what works face-to-face,” said Howell. “How can we accomplish that most effectively?”
Gavilan uses Canvas, a web-based Learning Management System (LMS) software with a flexible, online learning environment. In the spring, instructors had to learn key aspects of the LMS in order to conduct their classes online. Students could find the class learning materials, engage in peer-to-peer discussions, and complete assignments, all online.
“If things aren’t set up properly, that can frustrate a student,” said Lawrence. “When students know they can reach out to their instructor, it won’t stay out there and frustrate them forever.”
All classes had an online, self-paced training for students to take. “In the beginning, a lot of time was spent just showing students how to understand the LMS and be able to do their work,” she said.
During the four-week winter break, four sections are offered. Lawrence teaches GOTT 1 and GOTT 4; Howell teaches GOTT 2 and GOTT 3.
GOTT 1 is a beginning class introducing the essential Canvas tools necessary to build an online class. It includes building pages, creating assignments, introduces the gradebook and quizzes, demonstrates how to use the Studio record feature, navigating Zoom and creating a platform accessible to people with disabilities.
GOTT 2 is an introductory course to teaching online and creating a plan with intentional design. The training uses state-approved CVC-OEI Course Design Rubric. By the end of the course, faculty become certified Online Teacher Pros as they design an engaging, high-quality course.
GOTT 3 expands on the Canvas skills, explores options for presenting lectures and for using the calendar, assignments and quizzes features. Emphasis is placed on the differences between teaching online and face to face, and ways to optimize online instruction.
GOTT 4 introduces assessment as a design tool. A course is centered on student learning using the assessment loop. Backward design implements backtracking from official Course Outline of Record outcomes to weekly learning units to assessments. Learning outcomes are used to build thoughtful assessment tools, and analysis of overall assessment data results in better student engagement. Faculty who complete this training can earn a stipend by presenting the information during department meetings and serving as a resource to instructors.
“Online instruction can take hours of time,” said Howell. “I offer lots of tips to save time without compromising instruction."
Instructors and department chairs also had to update all curriculum to meet the CVC-OEI Distance Education guidelines by the Chancellor’s Office imposed deadline of December 31.
“It takes twice as much time to develop an online class,” said Lawrence. She recalled, while raising small children, her search for online classes to complete her BA in Computers, Science & Technology. Half the classes she took as to earn her MA in Educational Technology were online.
“Learning to teach online is just like becoming a new teacher, because it’s a different methodology,” she said. “In this current situation, it is a big ask. We’re succeeding because the faculty is willing to do a lot of extra work, and recognize we do this for the students.”