For the majority of remote courses, your course content will be the same as what you’d use in an in-person course: assigned readings, videos, and other materials. Lecturing, however, is more likely to take a different format in a remote course. Depending on the course topic and discipline, it may be possible to shift some or all of your lecturing to an asynchronous format, which might be desirable if you’re trying to add asynchronous content in order to cut down on synchronous meeting time.
Some questions to keep in mind when deciding between synchronous or asynchronous lectures:
- Do your lectures typically involve back-and-forth with your students, or prompt questions for clarification? (A lecture with frequent back-and-forth may not work as well asynchronously.)
- Could the ability to pause or rewatch lectures help your students to learn the material?
- Do your in-class activities depend on students having watched the lecture beforehand? (If not, you may consider assigning a short Canvas quiz or another type of low-stakes assignment for accountability.)
Making Lectures Engaging
One of the limitations of remote teaching is that it’s harder for students to pay attention to lectures. Without the embodied stimulation of a physical classroom space, students’ (and instructors’) attention spans are shorter. As a result, a lecture that may be perfectly engaging in a 50-minute in-person class may be more difficult to take in remotely. When possible, you might try to address this issue by splitting asynchronous lectures into shorter clips of 7-9 minutes, and using checkpoints to anchor student attention (for example, giving students “guiding questions” to consider while watching and, if appropriate, asking them to submit answers as a complete/incomplete assignment).
For synchronous lectures, you might create similar checkpoints by pausing for discussion or polling students to assess comprehension.
For more ideas, consider consulting this guide to effective educational videos from Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Flower Darby’s Small Teaching Online also discusses some guiding principles and strategies for effective videos.
Structuring Engagement and Accountability Around Lectures
One of the biggest challenges students face with remote learning is accountability. If you post lectures and readings online, it’s possible that some of your students will struggle to engage with this content on the intended schedule – especially during weeks when they have major assignments for other courses.
You can prompt students to engage with asynchronous content on schedule with an easy, low-stakes assignment that allows them to demonstrate their engagement with assigned lecture or reading material, such as a Canvas Quiz or a response to guided questions in a Google Form or Canvas Assignment.
More generally, you can foster a sense of accountability by using backwards design to ensure that your lectures and assigned readings have a clear alignment with course assessments and learning activities, and being transparent with students about the role that this content plays in the course.