Monday 18 May 2020

Moving Your Teaching Online

Many of us are having to adapt to delivering training and other interactions online instead of face to face. This is a situation likely to continue for some time and it can be daunting to know where to start if you are new to developing online materials.

I have recently joined a team running a teaching course for librarians at Cambridge and my first task was to curate a list of resources on how to move training materials online. It's far from exhaustive and mainly represents what I have come across on Twitter or online but I'm sharing it here as a starting point if you are looking for similar resources. Please add any others you have found useful in the comments section and I can add them to the list.


The current circumstances mean that there is an increased emphasis on the development of online educational materials. With traditional face-to-face training unlikely to resume for some time, many teachers will be thinking about how they can adapt their existing content for online delivery. This process is not as simple as just replicating the physical environment online or copying and pasting the content. It is worth spending some time thinking about the best way to deliver the training you can with the resources you have. The most important things to consider are the needs of your students and how you can meet these online.

General guidance on moving teaching online
Many teachers and trainers with experience in online teaching have shared their insights over the last few months. The following sources are particularly useful:

Moving classes and seminars online - Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning. 
CCTL has prepared a comprehensive guide to many different aspects of online teaching including accessibility concerns, dealing with interactions and how to prepare online materials.

Excellent blog post from Veronica Phillips from Cambridge Medical Library on her experiences of adapting her training for online delivery.

Teaching online in a time of crisis - Jane Secker and Kathryn Drumm.
Blog post from City University detailing their experiences of moving training online and including top tips for others looking to do similar.

Developing online instruction according to best practices – Ashley Lierman and Ariana Santiago.
This article from the Journal of Information Literacy contains a useful literature review and outlines some best practice for developing asynchronous online instruction.

A longer read but contains lots of thought provoking questions to encourage readers to consider how you can make the best use of moving teaching online.

Useful guidance on what you need to do to move to online sessions in a hurry.

Recording lectures
Creating videos is one of the easiest ways to adapt existing content, especially if you are presenting a lecture style session. All you need is a slide deck, your notes and some type of recording software. Many of the tools you will have been using for online meetings can be used to record lecture videos. These often use screen sharing to show slides whilst the teacher adds a narration. The teacher can choose to be seen on camera or hidden as they wish.

Webinars can be a little boring for the listener so try to make them as engaging as possible. This advice from Jisc is a good place to start if you are new to developing or delivering webinars. People have shorter attention spans online so consider recording a long webinar as shorter sessions e.g. four fifteen minute videos rather than an hour long session. If you do create a longer session consider adding an index to topics in the description. You can see an example on this YouTube video from the Moore Library (you will need to click on See More in the description section). This creates a clickable index so that viewers can go straight to the appropriate section.

Shorter videos
You can create effective videos outlining key concepts which can be used either on their own or as part of a larger resource/session. The advantage is that these videos can be viewed again if learners want to refresh their knowledge. There are many tools available to produce short videos, depending on the feel you are aiming for. Some suggestions to investigate are Animotica, Lumen5, Powtoon. You can find more details of some of these tools in this CILIP MMIT webinar (with slides).

In order to produce successful videos it’s important to understand how students learn online. This article on creating Effective educational videos by Cyntia J. Brame explains some of the theory behind developing good videos that help people learn.

Where your sessions involve live demonstrations of software or websites it might be a good idea to think about recording screencasts which can be included in online training. This involves capturing a recording of your screen as you perform a task (such as finding an item in the catalogue) and can be narrated if you feel this is needed. If you’re new to screencasting Screencastomatic and Screencastify are easy to use tools.

It is a good idea to keep these screencasts short if possible. Software and web platforms frequently change and it is easier to update shorter videos than re-record long ones, especially if you don’t have access to video editing software. This guide to free online video editing tools is useful if you want to investigate editing.

It’s important to think about how you can build interactivity into your sessions. This may be led by you as the teacher, students talking to other students or it may just be a reflective activity which students complete themselves. This interactivity can help students to relate otherwise abstract concepts to their own circumstances and help to embed learning. This graphic from Jo Boaler from Stanford University outlines some of the key principles for making online teaching interactive in small and easy to manage ways whilst the article 6 steps to effective online group work by Peter Hartley and Mark Dawson has some great tips on getting people to work together as well as a useful table comparing common tools that learners may have access to.

Top tips
There are plenty of lists with top tips for online teaching. Here are just a few:
Edited 30/5/20
Since I wrote this post I've found additional links which might be useful. These are included below:

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