Guess what? You are now teaching online!

March 10, 2020, 11:24am Eastern

“Should I sell my stocks this morning?” My answer is no. That isn’t advice, that is just my answer. My rationale is that it is too late; the window of “rational choice” is closed.” You are stuck and so you have to make the best of it.

Likewise, many of you have woken up to a surprise, a directive that you will now teach online. “How should I redesign my course?” you say. You don’t, you can’t, and you won’t. You are in triage mode while design is long-term planning exercise that, to do well, takes a great deal of experience, that is extremely hard to find even without a pandemic going on.

One of my best friends runs an instructional design firm. He makes all kinds of nifty educational software. He can find programmers, graphic artists, videographers, writers,etc pretty much within a few minutes; he can’t find GOOD instructional designers. A strong instructional designer is like a black swan. Believe me I know, I have been an instructional designer and professor for almost three decades….it’s also the family business….I come by my opinions honestly.

So, your only choice is to do your best. And let’s face it, 99% of professors in this world make their way by doing their best without any formal training, knowledge, or skill in pedagogy. Guess works fine for the most part.

Couple things to keep in mind that might reduce some anxiety. There is little evidence that technology (games, virtual reality, online courses, etc.) improves outcomes more than alternative technologies or no technology. Ask your friendly instructional designer why this is the case. What technology can do, and does well, is increase access...just what you need at this moment.

What seems to work is thoughtful design, which as I’ve mentioned, is not a triage activity. What’s left? Some tips and techniques I suppose; but, most won’t move the needle, many will be counterproductive.

The only thing you can do is to teach. That’s right, not design, not try to become a tech wizard, just teach. And the only technology you really need in a desperate situation like this is email. If you have other tools at your disposal, go for it. If not, start sending email. Here is what students need from a teacher: clarity and enthusiasm. You know your content, and in fact, you love your content. Now is the time to show your students that you want to know every last thing that they know. That you find them fascinating. That you adore them and simply want more details on every little thing from them.

When I was a kid, I went to a summer basketball camp led by a coach named Frankie Allen. Coach Allen’s advice was simple. He wasn’t about skills and x’s and o’s. He was about rebounding. “There isn’t any skill in rebounding. You simply have to want the ball so much that it hurts your soul if you don’t get it. Dennis Rodman is only 6’7”. He can’t shoot, dribble, and he doesn’t appear to be particularly smart and he is the best rebounder the NBA has ever seen. He does what he does because he wants it.”

Do you want it? Professors profess. So be bold, start teaching and ignore, for now, all the advice. Just do it and make sure every student can feel your heartbeat. It won’t be perfect. NO one expects perfect. In the summer or fall, come back and start working with your friendly neighborhood instructional designer. But for the rest of the term make this your finest hour.

David Richard Moore

Ohio University

Professor of Instructional Design and Technology