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Center for Teaching & Learning: Teaching in a COVID World

Supporting the MCPHS faculty and staff in their commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning

Are you looking for best practices in this COVID world?

Are you wondering how to plan for next semester? Explore our curated recommendations and resources below. They'll help you streamline your course development, provide the extra support your students need now, and reframe your workload.


Supporting Your Students

Reduce Student Stress

Lower their feelings of isolation: Check-in with them. Ask them how they are doing. Listen and be authentic. Make it easy to meet with you – try Office 365 Bookings for easy office hour scheduling.

Increase their sense of control: We’ve lost control over many aspects of our lives. Give some back to your students. Offer choice by offering options for completing an assignment (a presentation, poster, infographic, paper). 

Lower their cognitive load: Establish consistent course structure and weekly pace. Create a learning space where the expectations are explicit, the connections between assessment and course objectives are transparent, and your students know “what’s next”. 

Build connections for all: Support student-student and student-instructor connections on a personal level to build trust and a sense of safety within your class. These enhance motivation and improve learning outcomes. Include ice breakers, offer personal perspectives, create an open discussion forum for informal discussion and questions, ask for student feedback more often, or take time for a “fun” day (invite students to coffee or tea during a live class, create a discussion forum for posting a pet picture).

Pare back the coursework and retain the rigor: Review how each assignment aligns with the course objectives. Do you have too few or more than enough assignments to achieve and measure your students' learning? In a learning management system, it's easy to keep adding more content and more assignments - there's always room. Reducing the number of assignments, substituting a high-stakes final paper with several lower-stakes assignments, or extending the timeframe for an important assignment while removing some quizzes or a discussion are all pedagogically sound approaches that reduce student stress. 

Building with Templates and Checklists

Fast Track Your Course Development

Starting fresh? Consider applying a course template to build a consistent structure for your students:

Basic Course Template

Learning Module Template

*Please note:  If you elect to use either template, course copy processes will append your content to the bottom of your course navigation, and you will need to manually move/reorganize content.  We can help – it’s also a great time to reassess your content, reduce/remove materials, or realign to your objectives! 

Have you been working in a development shell, or plan on reusing content from a previous semester?

Course Copy

Prepare Your Course

Making Blackboard Work for You

Work Smarter: Tips for Building Content

We have tips to make your workflow easier and reduce emails asking you "how many pages" or "where is the assignment". Follow our suggestions to ensure consistency and coherence in your course development, from assignment instructions to quiz settings to due dates. This minimizes future corrections and decreases possible student confusion.]

Adopt an assignment template. Standardized instructions help students focus on the task at hand and support faster content development for you. Here are two approaches:

  • The transparent assignment template clearly communicates the purpose, task, and criteria. Students know the expectations. And you have an easy to use structure for each assignment. (The template can be simplified as needed.)
  • Write a set of generic instructions for each type of assessment (e.g., paper, discussion, exam). Save these in a document. Then, copy, paste, and edit in your course as needed. 

Create your own content settings template. Build an assignment or quiz with your preferred settings. Take screenshots of the settings and paste these into a document for future reference.  No more hunting through your course to find the settings on the last assignment you created.

Use Blackboard’s Date Management tool. Quickly review and update existing course due dates and availability dates. And, identify which content items are missing any of these dates so that you can easily track down the content that needs editing. Learn more about the Date Management tool.

Attracting and Maintaining Student Attention

Attracting and Maintaining Attention

Attention comes before motivation, engagement, and learning. But, when students are stressed, gaining their attention is harder. Adopt these simple practices to create more compelling content.

  • Keep them watching and listening. Vary your facial expressions, tone, and pace.
  • Enhance student attention and retention through shorter presentations. Break up (chunk) your longer lectures by sub-topics or objectives. Think about 10-15 minutes (or less) per recording.
  • Instead of text-dense slide presentations, create a Notes document to share with students.
  • Reserve slides for relevant pictures, diagrams, or brief outlines. Then, supplement them with narration and a transcript (if possible). 
  • Use strong color contrast when including text in slides or video, but avoid neon.
  • Use fonts designed for online reading. Arial and Verdana decrease eye strain and increase retention. Whichever font you choose, be sure to use a san-serif font.

Grading: Make the Most of Your Time

Rubrics are fast and easy to use. Simply evaluate the student work against the rubric’s qualitative statements and assign the associated points. The feedback is “built in”. Develop your own or use one of the many rubrics found online. Build your rubric in Blackboard and it’s ready to use. Share it with your students in advance to set expectations and supply structure.

Flipping Your Class

What is a flipped classroom?

Online or on campus - you can flip your class!

The Flipped Classroom is a blended learning model. Instead of a lecture hall full of students listening to a professor, imagine a classroom filled with students working in groups to solve problems. Students interact with new material (recorded lectures, videos, readings) for homework. They use class time to discuss the new information and put those ideas into practice.

What does it mean for my teaching?

If you use lectures as your primary mode of delivering new content, you'll record those presentations in advance and share them in the learning management system. Class time can then be spent eliciting questions, correcting misunderstandings, observing groups, posing questions for deeper conversations. When you flip a class, you need to develop a class routine to structure that open time previously devoted to lecture. 

Learning Activities at Home

  • Watch an online lecture
  • Review online course material
  • Read physical or digital texts
  • Participate in an online discussion
  • Perform research

Learning Activities in the Flipped Classroom *Yes, you can do much of this online too!

  • Skill practice (guided or unguided by teacher)
  • In-person, face-to-face discussion with peers
  • Debate
  • Presentations
  • Station learning
  • Lab experiments
  • Peer assessment and review
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