Make space to acknowledge what is happening. We can't pretend that we are teaching our courses and that students are attending their classes as we would normally.
Encourage or require students to work in groups. Assign small groups thoughtfully (as you would during the regular semester). Groups can work synchronously or asynchronously.
Strive fo simplicity and clarity. It is not the time for elaborate activities. Present your students with clear, written assignments and tasks, even if you are meeting synchronously. Also, be flexible. All of our lives are very much in flux. Students may be able to complete assignments one week and be unavailable the following week. Build into your classes asynchronous opportunities for students to participate, but remember that they may not be able to meet your deadlines.
Reach out for support if you need it. Esther and I are available (though not always immediately). Elaine is also around. Reach out, also, to your fellow instructors (see the comp instructors groups).
Writing Logs (from this useful Google doc): Create an individual discussion thread on Blackboard for each student. Have them write daily updates on how they’re progressing on the current assignment. You can provide a prompt for each day (post an outline, describe a source you’ve found, share your favorite sentence, pose a question about a writing problem). If you like, put students in small groups and ask them to read and respond to each others’ posts. (this option could easily be combined with another)
Presentations (from this useful Google doc): Have students voice-record short versions of their presentations using PowerPoint slides, Google slides, or--in a pinch--their phone cameras and then post their presentations to a Blackboard discussion board. Ask each student to write a 200-word response to at least three other student presentations (ideally, tell them what you want their responses to focus on). You may want to provide alternate forms of response such as recorded audio and/or video. So that every presentation gets some feedback, ask students to reply to presentations with fewer than three existing responses.
Try using rubrics so there is clarity about grades (something important for both instructors and students). Here is a sample rubric for discussion boards. Here is a rubric builder (note: I have not tried this out).
In order to judge whether students are getting anything out of class discussions or assigned readings, consider entry and exit tickets. Here are some guidelines that can be adapted to online discussion. Have students post these on the discussion board before or after class. You can also try quizzes.
Some students may need the structure of regular meetings and deadlines. Others require greater flexibility. Given the current situation, consider providing a structure (deadlines and class meetings) but encourage students to reach out to you if they are having difficulties with meeting those deadlines and attending class. You can work with those students on a case-by-case basis.
Peer Review (from this Google doc): Use Blackboard to create peer review groups. Make a discussion thread prepared for each group. Ask individuals to write a brief introduction to their paper, and then provide a link to their paper (probably on Google Docs). Use a guided worksheet to help students provide feedback.
Text-based reading discussion (from the same useful Google doc): Assign a reading. Prepare a 5-minute screen-captured or cell-phone lecture framing the reading and how you want students to use it. Have each student write a 500-word reflection on the reading/lecture in a Blackboard discussion thread and post 50-word comments on 2 of their peers’ reflections.
Question-posing paired with synchronous or asynchronous lectures (from the same useful Google doc): In Blackboard, ask students to identify 2-3 questions that they have about an assigned reading on that day’s discussion board. Provide a short lecture to address questions (pre-recorded or real-time via BBCollaborate, where you can toggle between your face, a screencast or a whiteboard as needed.) Have students spend 5 minutes freewriting new questions they have about the topic in response to the lecture, choosing their best idea to post to that day’s discussion board. Ask students to engage in a large group conversation by providing a first response to one peer, and then continuing the conversation on at least two other threads. Be sure to model an ideal response (i.e. depth of engagement).
Mini Research Reports(from the same useful Google doc): Write 4-5 discussion prompts, each of which will require students to do some research. Ask students to do individual research for two prompts and then post a response/description of what they learned. If you want, you can make the posts visible only after students post responses and then have them write a 250 comparison/contrast of their results and someone else’s. What do they learn from the contrast?
Discussion Tips: Here are some tips. Pay attention, especially, to the importance of clarity, flexibility, and patience in all aspects of online instruction. Also, remember to ask students to mute their microphones if you are in a group chat.