Teaching Tips

Student learning improved online?

Student learning improved online?

A statement made during “Lessons Learned from COVID-19,” the day two plenary session of the Lilly Conference this May, shifted my perception of remote teaching this spring. The statement, “if instruction is done well online it improves student learning,” came from Judy Ableser from Oakland University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Now I had been thinking that good instruction online would be comparable to face-to-face activities, but for online learning to be an improvement… what could that mean?  

Here are some answers in these observations and experiences that developed her argument:

1.       Online instruction requires us to scaffold learning tasks more explicitly.

2.       It also encourages us to chunk learning into manageable sections.

3.       Instruction online compels us to be clearer in our communication to students.

4.       Teaching remotely fosters differentiation—we need to think differently about how/when/why we deliver lessons.

5.       Remote teaching highlights the need for responsive feedback on student work.

6.       It increases our awareness of student life and mental health challenges outside of the classroom.

7.       Online teaching requires us to be more organized in our courses and curriculum plans. Many of us now embrace Canvas more fully.

8.       Remote teaching is an opportunity to consider essential learning outcomes and rethink our focus on content areas.

9.       It provides an opportunity for us to model flexibility and professional adaptability.

10.   Teaching remotely invites us to consider assessment practices and evaluate how/what/when/why we assess students.

11.   Remote teaching is humanizing and interrupts notions of power and control in the classroom. Students enjoy seeing our pets, household backgrounds, and family life. In losing control of the classroom environment, we develop a culture of belonging.

At the end of the session, Ableser invited us to reflect on our own lessons learned from COVID-19. She asserts that improving our teaching remotely will improve our overall instructional practices when we return to the campus. 

These lessons were hard for me to identify during the semester, but now that I have a little distance they are becoming clearer. What are your lessons learned from COVID-19? Please share in the comments below.


Carol Burbee teaches in the Educational Studies Department at Principia College. She enjoys exploring new ideas and collaborating with others.



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