Frequently Asked Questions About Online Teaching & Learning
Online teaching and learning is new to many of us. Even under normal circumstances, developing online-only courses takes a lot of time and effort, with careful (re)consideration of our typical teaching methods. Moreover, expertise on and empirical research around online-only classes is evolving even as trends toward such formats have increased. We are only now beginning to understand how and under what conditions teaching and learning become effective in online environments.
Below are our recommendations for some frequently asked questions about online teaching and learning at Baruch. In the coming weeks we’ll add more questions, and we always try to be as concise and direct as possible. For more detailed and varied set of recommendations to similar questions, or to ask your own, please visit our Ask Me Anything forum.
Can I require students to turn on their webcams?
We recommend encouraging students to turn on their webcams, however, this should not be a requirement. Here are some reasons why:
- Not all students have access to a webcam
- A poor wifi connection prevents a student from using a webcam
- Students might have no or little privacy
- Not all students have devices that can handle a virtual background due to computational demands
- Students may not be able to do so due to religious reasons
So you can ask, but not require, students to turn on their webcams, and you should not use this as the only way to assess if a student is attending and engaging in your class. You can read about ways you can check for attendance and participation in an online class in addition to the webcam.
How can I make sure students stay engaged with the class? I’m worried that without meeting in person it’s harder to tell if students are clear on what’s happening and coming up in the course.
Here are three suggestions:
1. Create a clear structure. For example, with assignments such as a paper, include with deadlines and frequent (and early) check-ins to put everyone on the right track and limit frantic catching up and confusion closer to the final due date.
2. Foster communication. Try to be clear with students (and reiterate this) about what counts as ‘work’ in the class. Some students will get anxious that they are not doing enough work (as they would during a face-to-face class, simply by showing up for class) by doing even more work, whereas others may get lost without structure and deadlines.
3. Build in a sense of community. Student engagement is also tied closely to classroom community. For guidance on setting up an engaged classroom community, check out Week 3: Student Engagement & Course Policies, and Week 4: Assessments & Communication, of the 4-week Online Course Prep Guide.
I miss seeing my students in the classroom. What can class participation look like online?
In the classroom, we’re used to being able to look around the room to see the body language of our students to get a sense of how students are responding. It’s hard to rely on this method in an online environment, even during a synchronous class meeting such as a Zoom class meeting. Here are some suggestions for meaningful class participation and attendance online.
How do I give an online exam or quiz?
It’s important to think about how you are designing and then giving your exam. You can read more about this in our post on Quizzes, Tests and Alternative Forms of Assessment. We also know that many faculty and students are concerned about academic integrity and have questions about online proctoring. For more information on the complications of using online proctoring solutions, and to explore alternatives, please see our position statement.
What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous?
In a synchronous course, students meet with the professor and with each other in real time. The professor might lecture, facilitate a discussion, or organize activities for students to complete in break-out rooms. For courses listed as synchronous on CUNYFirst it is assumed that students will be available to attend the class at the times listed (i.e. Tuesdays from 1-2:15pm). The attendance policy of the “synchronous” session is similar to a face-to-face class. Students should not assume that synchronous class meetings will be recorded for later viewing.
In an asynchronous course, students have a window of time when they access and complete assignments. However, rather than meeting at the same time, students can complete the work when it is convenient for them (i.e. between Monday and Thursday of this week). One student might do the work on Tuesday, and another might do it on Thursday.
We provide more details and share some examples in our post on synchronous and asynchronous teaching.
Do you have more questions, suggestions, or teaching tips for converting and preparing your courses for online learning? Check out our Ask Me Anything forum. Feel free to browse questions related to online pedagogy, Vocat, and Blogs @ Baruch. If your question has not yet been asked, submit one, and it will be reviewed and approved within 24 hours.
Do you have a technical question about Zoom, Blackboard, or other educational technologies that are not supported directly by the Center for Teaching and Learning? Please reach out to the Baruch Computing and Technology Center (BCTC) help desk, or consult the useful resources that they have prepared on troubleshooting common Blackboard requests.