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3 Ways to Design an Adaptable, Resilient Course

By Aiya Williams, Instructional Technology Manager, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

The future of course offerings is currently unknown: Will UNC courses be online for the entire Fall semester?  Will we begin the term teaching online and then transition to in-person courses? Can we count on all of our students accessing our courses in the same way? We don’t yet know.

Here’s what we DO know: there are many approaches to design courses that are adaptable, resilient, pedagogically-sound, and prepare you for in-person, hybrid, and online instruction. Below are three ways you can start to design your course for multiple formats.

Pre-record lectures. Whether you’re teaching over Zoom, in a classroom, or without real-time interaction, recorded content frees you up to focus on interaction – whether student-student, student-content, or student-instructor. Students can watch this content before interactions begin. Bonus: You can re-use the content without spending additional time on it in future semesters. Watch this video on best practices for recording lectures at home.

Structure discussions in advance. Whether a discussion is in a small group in the classroom or using an online forum, the question/topic can be the same and the interaction guidelines can be similar. Consider establishing discussion groups with specific roles that students can use either face-to-face or in a forum. Bonus: Students get different lenses with which to approach the content, which can help them uncover new perspectives and nuances.

Use peer review. One of the best ways to learn is to teach. Peer review provides students the opportunity to deepen their learning, especially when peer reviews are structured and modeled. And, when students are given guidelines by which to review one-another’s work (such as a rubric and examples of constructive feedback), they deepen their engagement with the content and return to their own work with a more practiced eye. Bonus: the work they turn in for a grade is higher quality – their grades improve and it makes grading easier for you!

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