Suddenly Teaching and Learning Online for the First Time

Guest Post by Dr. Kimberly Jacobs

This week’s guest blog contributor, Dr. Kimberly Jacobs, is Associate Dean of Faculty and Student Success at APUS. She leads our Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), which provides ongoing professional development to faculty with a mission to improve student learning through teaching excellence.

Jose has been teaching face-to-face for years and is comfortable standing in front of dozens or even hundreds of students every day. He is the sage who imparts knowledge to those sitting in front of him—some are eager to take in what he shares, while others force themselves to stay focused and take notes.

Unexpectedly, though, Jose has suddenly lost the stage where he stood before a mix of semi-interested, lounging, and shuffling individuals. Missing now are the foot bounces, pencil taps, keyboard clicks, and occasional sighs that indicate life amidst the quiet listeners. As the campus encourages students to finish the term online, Jose considers continuity and student learning.

Maintaining Continuity and Student Learning Online

There is an assumption that college students are comfortable online. Although they may be comfortable using social media, navigating websites, researching online, and playing video games, they may not be comfortable learning online. Sure, they know how to send an email or complete online textbook modules, but are they prepared to engage during a live, online lecture or interpret written feedback?

Jose’s syllabus and topic schedule were set at the beginning of the term. Stick to that plan! Students are accustomed to a meeting on a specific day and time in which they gather to learn together.

Also, video conferencing allows students to attend a live lecture at a set time on a specific day. When Jose meets his students via video conferencing, he will cover the pre-determined topics, prepare students for upcoming assessments, and ensure the course or program’s outcomes are covered over the remaining weeks.

During the live events, Jose should use polling features built into the conferencing platform or consider Poll Everywhere so students can demonstrate their learning. Asking questions that keep learners engaged is important. Also important is allowing students to use the conferencing platform’s chat feature while they listen to the speaker.

Jose should record meetings, distribute the recordings, and share chat transcripts so students can revisit the events. As students adapt to a virtual learning environment, they will need to adopt new learning strategies and re-watching class meetings will help reinforce key concepts.

What if Jose needs to miss a video call? He should ask students to engage in asynchronous discussions where they can challenge each other, share their insights, question the instructor, explore problem-based learning scenarios, and delve into new topics, all while receiving relevant feedback about their learning.

Students who are facing the last term of their academic programs and students who are still new to college will be challenged in these coming weeks. Instructors can make all the difference by demonstrating a calm demeanor and communicating clearly in a gentle and encouraging tone will ensure students find peace in the midst of the societal storm.

Subjects of Interest


Higher Education

Independent Schools


Student Persistence