Spinning Up Online Classrooms

Earlier this month, I presented “Spinning Up Online Classrooms” at a regional conference for community college educators. In this post, I summarize my presentation.

For a number of reasons, educators are often in the position where they must quickly prepare an online classroom. Certainly, the pandemic caused this, but there are other situations as well. In IT, we talk about “spinning up servers” which means hardware (real or virtual) is prepared with an operating system, applications, and other features so that it serves a purpose. The work of preparing an online classroom is similar. It must be provisioned with materials for students and often this must be done quickly.

There are many tools for assessing the quality of online classrooms, but those who are quickly spinning up online classroom may not have the time to use those comprehensive rubrics. When spinning up online classrooms, there are some aspects of the classroom that should receive attention first to ensure the course is good and can be improved later.

First, design for ease of use. Using the LMS tools for chunking content and then collapsing all but the current chunks, ensuring all materials can be viewed on any device (including mobile devices), using consistent patterns of organizing materials, and providing visual queues are all examples of strategies for ensuring ease of use. Implicit in this is ensuring accessibility as well.

Second, check alignment. Especially in community colleges, we are preparing students for professional licensing exams, transfer, and other external audiences. As a result, all faculty must ensure their courses teach the objectives and assessments give accurate indication of students’ mastery of the curriculum. To support the rapid spinning up of online classrooms, the design of templates used for all sections of a course are an effective strategy.

Third, include interactive and constructive learning activities in each course. This idea of I > C > A > P is developed in other posts on this, especially I > C > A > P from September 2019.

Fourth, plan to be present. We know that effective online classrooms are those in which the instructor is an active participant. By scheduling time to log on and having a plan for what they are going to do when they do, instructors can manage their participation more effectively than if they have no plan.

Here is a PDF of the slide show I used to organize my presentation. For best viewing, open it in “full screen” by click in the icon in the lower right of the frame.