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Distance Learning

Hawkeye Community College offers several ways for students to take classes and earn college credit without having to come to Main Campus. Whether taking a class at one of our centers, in their community, or online/hybrid, Hawkeye offers the flexibility needed to earn college credit.

The Brobst Center for Teaching and Learning Services staff support distance learning through faculty training, course design and development assistance, and supporting the use of instructional technologies including the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) and live, interactive classrooms.

Advice to Instructors Teaching Online for the First Time

Facebook post by Kendra Sibbernsen, Physics Instructor at Metro Community College in Omaha, NE and a former instructor at Hawkeye Community College.

This is for my professor and teacher friends who may be teaching online for the first time because of the school closures. I’ve been teaching online astronomy, astronomy lab, and algebra-based physics classes for well over a decade. I also am a lead online faculty member for the physical sciences for my school and a Quality Matters master reviewer. Here are some off-handed suggestions for the current situation based on my experiences.

  1. Cut yourself some slack. Most people take at least a semester to convert their classes to an online environment. You may only have a few days to adjust. Take a deep breath and take it day-by-day or week-by-week or module-by-module.

  2. Cut your colleagues some slack. Many of them did not want to teach online and are forced to now by circumstance. Create a community to help each other with ideas and tips.

  3. Cut your students some slack. They may not be used to online learning which requires them to bear more responsibility for their learning. Over-communicate with them. Post announcements for the class. Push these to email or text if they have that set up. Put dates on the calendar. These will usually show up in their “to do” lists on their college home page.

  4. Be clear about expectations. Tell them how often they are expected to post to discussions. Give them examples of an excellent discussion post, an ok discussion post, and a poor discussion post (like, “I agree.” or “Good post.”). If someone misses homework or does not post for a week, send an email asking if they are ok or if they need help. You can use tools in the LMS (Learning management system like Canvas or Blackboard) to focus on those who do not log in for a few days. Don’t think of this as “hand-holding” but this is how you let online students know that they are missed and maybe they are having major life issues and don’t want to bother you or are too embarrassed.

  5. Set up a discussion set up for students to post questions if you are not immediately available and encourage them to help each other. Even though they are no longer face-to-face, let them know that we are all in this together and we want everyone to be successful in their learning.

  6. Zoom may be a great option for doing meetings or recording lectures, but the free version may be overloaded soon, so you might look into alternative methods. I have physics students use their cell phone cameras to take photos of their written work to be submitted rather than trying to type it into an equation editor and I sometimes have them video their problem solving methods (usually by talking over their work as shown on a sheet of paper and explaining) and upload that in a discussion to share with other students. These are usually short and the video files are small enough to not be too much of an issue. Ask students for suggestions on what apps or tools to use for communication and learning. Astronomy education by TikTok? Why not? You might learn something too.

  7. Realize that you are not going to be able to effectively reproduce everything that you do in class in the same way online. There are ways to set up groups in the LMS try to do interactive lecture tutorials or think-pair-share, but I think it is more hassle than it’s worth. My community college students have kids, have jobs, and lots of things going on in their lives. I cannot expect everyone in the class to log in at a certain day and time to participate in synchronous activities. So, I use asynchronous activities exclusively.

  8. If you have a small and dedicated class, you could set up a Zoom meeting or a chat in the LMS during the time you would normally meet.

  9. If you have PowerPoint presentations, you could do a presentation video in Presenter Mode and use screen capture just chose an area of the computer so you have access to your notes and access to the next slide without it recording that extraneous information and upload it to YouTube. This also makes it a smaller video and slightly smaller resolution.

  10. I would record only short lectures on important topics or points or put breaks in the Presentation so students can navigate it more easily. I would suggest no more than 5–7 minutes for each topic. For accessibility purposes if these classes were to meet Quality Matters standards, all of these videos would eventually need to be closed captioned or include a transcript for students who are hard-of-hearing. Perhaps you can get ahead of the game and write a script, follow it and upload that text along with the video.

  11. If you make videos, make sure the lighting is decent and the mic level is appropriate.

  12. I suppose people will be most nervous about testing in the online environment. We have some math classes that require proctoring for certain tests and I suspect that our institution will be more lax on that requirement during the if the campuses and testing centers are closed. Multiple choice and true-false questions can be graded automatically. Essays will have to be graded by hand. If you do some computational problems, there are tools to randomize the values if you code the equations so every student has a different answer. You can set a time limit for online tests to reduce the answering by Google, but then you will have to made accommodations for individuals who require additional testing time.

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Brobst Center for Teaching and Learning Services

Tama Hall 110
319-296-4291
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Mon–Fri 8:00am–4:30pm

Distance Learning

Dean of Online Learning

Robin Galloway
Tama Hall 110A
319-296-4292
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