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Comment: Please do a bad job of putting your courses online

For my colleagues who are now being instructed to put some or all of the remainder of their semester online, now is a time to do a poor job of it. You are NOT building an online class. You are NOT teaching students who can be expected to be ready to learn online. And, most importantly, your class is NOT the highest priority of their OR your life right now. Release yourself from high expectations right now, because that’s the best way to help your students learn.

Barrett-Fox, R. (2020). Please do a bad job of putting your courses online. Any Good Thing blog.

Instead of asking, “What does the best version of this online course look like?” we should instead be asking, “What is the least worst version of this online course that will get the job done?” You may be thinking that the process of moving your class online is going to take a few simple steps, and that you can delay publishing it until it’s ready but the truth is, if that’s your approach, then you’re never going to get it out there.

This is how Mathew Inman (of The Oatmeal) describes the process of creating something new. He’s talking about the creative process but you can just as easily imagine that this is how many educators think things are going to go when they move their classes online:

But this is how it actually works:

See the full post on what Mathew has learned about creativity from 10 years of publishing The Oatmeal online comics. With some reflection there’s a lot to learn here about online and remote teaching.

Don’t expect it to go smoothly and don’t be hard on yourself when things don’t work out. Publish your class or course online before it’s perfect (before it’s even ready) and then focus on iterating. It will get better. You’re not building the ultimate online course; you’re building a minimal viable version of something that will get the job done.

The post from Rebecca also includes loads of really good insight for teachers, including taking the following into consideration:

  • Your students know less about technology than you think. Many of them know less than you. Yes, even if they are digital natives and younger than you.
  • They will be accessing the internet on their phones. They have limited data. They need to reserve it for things more important than online lectures.
  • Students will be sharing their technology with other household members. They may have LESS time to do their schoolwork, not more.
  • Some of your students will get sick. Others will be caring for people who are ill.
  • Many will be parenting.
  • Social isolation contributes to mental health problems.
  • …and plenty more important points to think about while you’re moving your class online.

This is not a “how to” type post but it includes so much useful advice for anyone trying to do remote teaching and assessment right now. There isn’t any technical advice in Rebecca’s post (there’s so much of that out there already) but it’s one of the most important posts you’ll read on the topic.

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.

2 replies on “Comment: Please do a bad job of putting your courses online”

Hi Karin. Thanks for the comment and all the best for your process. If there’s anything about moving your stuff online that you’d like to discuss before going ahead, there’s a great community of peers who would be happy to help. Some of them are involved with In Beta, a virtual community of physio educators from around the world. You can also give me a shout if you need any help. Keep well.

I have literally been through every phase so aptly described in the cartoon. At present I’m in the muddle at the bottom and definitely about to cry out aloud. Thank you so much for. this advice – I can definitely post some of my stuff now. I know that the explanations are helpful for struggling students even though the sound suddenly crackles for a moment or the screen suddenly blanks out. Definitely better than nothing.

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