Student taking notes with notebook and phone while instructor at chalk board.

In  Week 4 – Live Instruction, we discussed what the opening of your class will look like, how you support students and tools you can be used to assist with that. This week we’re going to talk about your class. You’ve designed your curriculum, and students are using quizzes, discussion boards, and other Online Educational Resources (OER) for work. So let’s talk about how to define success, and what to expect from your role as an instructor, and how you use the tools of an online course to help with your workload and support the peers in your classroom.

Define Success

Students will become more familiar with technology as they use it; what was new day one will have lost its shine by day two. Make sure you prepare to help students with connectivity and power issues. As far as accessing the information, the classwork is in the cloud, and students will be encouraged to work in the cloud as well.

By the end of the first week, expect the majority of students to be accustomed to your class. At the end of week two, you will be able to reinforce and assist students in creating and using aids to help them be comfortable performing in the classroom. Measure the success of your class with the absence of task-based questions (i.e., how do I reset my password, do you have a phone charger, and so on). Determine a successful curriculum by students having questions about the work, not questions about how to get to the work.

All in all — outside of the 1:1 technology — your classroom performs with the same bustle as any other classroom you have had.

Your Expectation

Your role in the class will change. Because you have done most of the work on the front end, you will know where you want your students to go, which you’ve always known. Different from years past, all your items are ready — there is no copying of worksheets, there is no forgetting a presentation.

Instead of responding to the student’s learning growth, you are guiding it and fleshing it out. Your curriculum is a road, the class is a convoy, and you are the lead — you have a path to follow that will get everyone to the end successfully. 

Sometimes people take this to mean that you can’t move off course — that’s not true. Dive deeper where students show interest; this system allows you that freedom to do so. Let’s look at two examples of how this can work. 

In this example, your class is set up for participants to reflect on a reading (or multiple readings) — they do that work. You review the work, make your comments, and give a score. The students can see your feedback. In class the next day, you can:

  1. Refer to summaries of what students said to build a more robust conversation.
  2. Or use something not related to the course — a news report, funny video, song, whatever — and frame questions relative to that “something” and the items read.

Do you need to lecture? You can, for sure, but how will you deliver it? A lecture can be a video response you produced after reading all the work — what is a central point that needs reinforcing? Or maybe you want to include an informal video made “off the cuff,” like in a supermarket or on the street when you see something from your curriculum reinforced in the real world. The beauty to using the video is that you are creating a message that can be used across classes, if wanted.

Having that curriculum set is going to free you to do more in your class.

Your schedule

Use the automated features of your CMS or testing apparatus (like H5P) to ease your workload. There is nothing wrong with thoughtful yes/no or true/false questions. Equally, the use of hotspots on a quiz can help add variety. Use auto scorers to alleviate your workload on the low-hanging fruit so you can focus on subjective assignments like projects and writing.

Use the rubric to focus your feedback on projects and writing. Some instructors will use a screen capture recording to make a video of their response while filling-in the rubric. In doing so, instructors are typing less, participants have a more concrete understanding of what the instructor wants, and instructors find it takes less time.

A feature that will allow you to personalize your instruction is to color code the gradebook and assignments. Set up a heatmap that will quickly show you which students are having difficulty in your class. 

Some CMS allow for auto-generated messages to be sent to the participant — you set the message and trigger, then when that indicator is met, the message is sent out. Many instructors think of emailing students who did not do well, which is a great use of communication with students, but why stop there? Using these automated systems, you can send “attaboys” reinforcing the positive behavior you want, which will help with persistence.

Outside of automation, I encourage you to set up office hours — an hour or a couple of days when students know they can reach you live. You can use traditional phone calls, persistent chat, or webconference. Using office hours along with VoiceThread is powerful because then the participant also has the choice for asynchronous communication.

Because you have a set curriculum and are using automated features, you now have more time to offer personalized feedback. I feel like the examples above are what comes to mind when we think about the benefits of using computers with instruction — we can do more with less effort, offering you a life outside of teaching.


Use privacy filters to support those who will be helping in your class. These people might include a teaching assistant, a substitute, or even another instructor after you. What are the notes that you think will be helpful to them? The explicit instruction described in Week 4 – Live Instruction can be used again here.

When working in the Blackboard CMS, I created courses geared towards UX so it was friendly to student navigation. To make the experience pleasant to the student, I used hyperlinks in the classroom to organize content, but it was not like what participants had used in other courses. What occurred is that students would get to their to do list (good), enter the assignment (good), submit the assignment (good), and then sometimes see a screen they had not seen before feeling lost (bad). 

To resolve the issue I made a navigation note to the participant and a second note to the helpdesk if the student needed more help. Students were not able to see the instructions set for the helpdesk. If the student was not able to get back on track with my note then they called the helpdesk.

The helpdesk people I worked with appreciated this addition because they were successful when helping the learner. The learner was happy because they called and spoke with a capable helpdesk. And I was happy because of the quick resolution. You can similarly set up instructions for different audiences.

Beyond the helpdesk notes, create messages for a person who will cover your class in an emergency. The reasoning behind this is that you don’t know when these messages will be needed. Because you are using your set, online curriculum the work process will become familiar to participants, so participants will largely be able to work in a self-regulated way.

Best practice dictates to have these messages set up before it is necessary. Make quick bullet points so the person walking into your class can be “spun-up” quickly. I recommend three bullet points:

  1. What participants learned that can be pulled upon for the lesson (what should they know).
  2. Where do you believe students will find difficulty in doing the current work.
  3. A light anticipated questions section with answers.

Create an accessible feedback loop for these people to give their point of view during the term. This feedback loop is similar to “Back Channel Communication” where you formalize a space for non-instruction related course discussions. But it is different because this is to make your course better from the support point of view. If you’re using discussion boards, you could create a discussion board that only instructors access. Or use a clouded tool like Google Sheets to capture people’s ideas.

A rolling ball

The big thing to know is that you are ready for this term. It will be new and challenging at times — for both you and the participants. Remember that you are all learning together. This first term will be confusing, but you will course-correct after the term, and the next delivery will be even better. 

Next week we’re going to talk about Planning for the Unknown. I’m looking forward to it.

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