Yes, most of us like shiny, flashy, and interactive technologies.
How many truly awful webinars have you experienced?
How many times have you had to log back on, or fight with your microphone settings?
And, indeed, we have three well-provisioned video conferencing platforms that should handle the traffic, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, and MS Teams meetings. We also have Panopto which will allow you to record video and audio to share with your students. And video and live conferencing may be more engaging when done well, but it isn’t necessarily easier, and it is most certainly far more difficult to make compliant with accessibility laws and to get to work consistently over low-bandwidth connections.
Even if you are adept with technology, we urge you to tend toward simplicity with students who didn’t seek to be online students. They may not like to read, but text may be your and their best friend.
If you create text within Blackboard using any of the built-in functions, it is automatically usable by screen readers and available for students who need that tool. Discussion boards may be clunky, but once you’ve mastered the flow, they work, and at low bandwidth.
If you choose to do live classes or to record videos, you may want to consider pre-scripting them so that you can easily send a copy of the transcript to any student who requests the transcript.
So consider whether your high-stakes information and content might better be delivered as text, as text and photos, or as a recorded video that has an identical transcript.
Remember that you can insert images and links to YouTube videos easily within Blackboard from the editor and that links to external sites work as well. You can even create a reflection assignment or discussion board afterwards.
For images, remember copyright issues (a great guide from our library is available here) and remember that there are several cultural heritage institutions that provide their images free for educational use (like the Smithsonian).
And, if you’ve been forced to move online because of outside factors, be kind to yourself. Stick with simplicity or use simplicity as a fallback when complexity causes confusion.
Remember that the best practices of online course-creation call for a 1-2 year preparation for a well-designed online course and that many outside companies suggest a budget in the tens of thousands for well designed video and interactive content. You don’t have the time for that. You have the core of content and can use tools like Zoom or Collaborate as extensions of the relationships that will get us all through this time of change together.
Focus on getting a working wall of sandbags built to channel the water for a short period of time. This isn’t time to try to build one of the wonders of the world.
We’re here to help you with your technology, but don’t forget that words and reading are still one of the most powerful technologies, and that they still have their place in the world of online teaching and learning.