Learning how to teach online well

One of my goals this summer is to get a good sense of how to learn to teach online well. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I am not optimistic about returning to face-to-face teaching in the fall, and I want to be prepared to give my students an excellent experience if we are online again. Second, I strongly suspect that learning how to teach online well is going to make me better at teaching face-to-face: I strongly suspect that I am lazy in certain ways because I know that I can rely on having face-to-face time to use a crutch to help me. Good online teachers can’t rely on this, and I will be better face-to-face if I don’t solely rely on being face-to-face.

My realization from this past semester is that, when teaching online, synchronous attention time is scarce. Certainly, some of my students didn’t have reliable internet, but even those who did only had so much patience for being on a Zoom call. This made me appreciate the luxury I have when teaching face-to-face—I have a ton of time when I have students’ attention in a synchronous environment. I have been taking this for granted. If I can learn the principles of good online teaching, they I should be able to use my face-to-face time with students better.

I decide to not reinvent the wheel. Instructors at The Art of Problem Solving and the Minerva Schools have been teaching math online for years. Part of my goal this summer is to learn more about what they do.

I watched an excellent video by Rena Levitt from Minerva at MIT’s Electronic Seminar on Math Education (which I someone didn’t know about until a couple of months ago—it is awesome!). In the video, Levitt runs through a mock calculus class. It gave me an idea of what I can do online (or face-to-face!), and I recommend it.

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