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Suddenly Teaching and Learning Online for the First Time

Suddenly Teaching and Learning Online for the First Time

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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.

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. Dr. Boston lives in Owings Mills, MD with his wife Sharon and their two daughters.

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