The COVID-19 virus has taken a substantial toll on individual lives, the economy and the every day concerns we face. Among them is how to continue providing education services for our students and employment for faculty and staff while COVID-19, Novel Coronavirus, has disrupted the workplace and our daily activities. Administrators and faculty have a responsibility to do their part to avoid education interruption for learners who have committed to their program of study. However, not all colleges and universities, and not all faculty, are up to speed with some of the basics of online education. As instructional designers and information technology workers scramble to support and move courses online very quickly to avoid college shutdowns, we are relying on our technology and learning management systems more than ever. But, the system is only as good as the courses loaded, and in spite of the triage-type response the current climate necessitates we also need to use some good design and course load principles to avoid learner confusion, frustration or attrition.
As an instructional design team, we have had the opportunity to work with dozens of colleges and universities to move their programs online - and some now want this done immediately. We continue to maintain and focus on our quality while we rapidly deploy courses for our partners, and have some tips to share for administrators and faculty needing to move online quickly.
- Remember ADA compliance. Even in a triage-type mode of operation, we have a legal requirement to provide ADA compliant courses. Lean on your instructional design team who is familiar with these requirements. Be sure, for example, that all videos are captioned and transcribed. Work with your team to make certain you adhere to all legal requirements.
- Individual student ADA accommodations still apply online. If your student has an accommodation for example for extra time on a test, that extra time needs to be applied to the online course. Instructional designers and technical support can assist you with this.
- Consider changing due dates as students become familiar with the online platform, particularly if the learners are new to online education and have been in a traditional program.
- Some schools are extending breaks to give more time for things to calm down before reinstating work. This may work, but don't avoid contingency planning during this period. At best, it all pans out and we are in far better shape in a couple of weeks. But some experts warn this is not likely.
- Spend time evaluating your network bandwidth. Work closely with IT and make certain that if your LMS is hosted in-house, you and your students won't have trouble accessing it.
- Have your instructional design team make a template - quickly - for all faculty to copy and use. This will help avoid missing items in class, and allow students to have a consistent experience if they are taking more than one class or, in the unfortunate situation that this issue persists, have to take more than one semester online.
- Train your faculty as best you can. We have seen faculty scan their lecture notes into PDF format and put them online. Remember ADA compliance - while you need to do whatever it takes to get through this period of time and provide teaching continuity, it is important to consider design and accessibility as well.
- Consider having one of your designers or online faculty specialists create a 1 hour training class for students, so they know how to navigate the system. Put an uncertain, nervous student into a classroom without any knowledge of the system and you will create far more anxiety for that learner.
- If you aren't on a mobile friendly LMS, now is the time to quickly figure out if there are plug-ins or ways to make it more mobile friendly. Many of your students may work primarily from smartphones, especially the younger population.
Finally, while this impacts us, our work and our planning, remember that it impacts our students lives as well. We may need to be more flexible and help mitigate issues during this unusual and for many, nerve-wracking time in history.
If you need help going online quickly or just need extra man hours from a company that has working knowledge of every learning management system in use today, please reach out to us. We are glad to help.