Virtual Teaching Camps Will Help Instructors Transition to Distance and Blended Learning

FLEX Camps, offered by GW Libraries and Academic Innovation, offers faculty guidance on adapting existing courses no matter what teaching looks like in the fall.

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May 29, 2020

By Ruth Steinhardt

The George Washington University Libraries and Academic Innovation (LAI) will host a series of summer workshops to help faculty adapt their existing coursework to online and blended formats, as the university plans for in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester but is training faculty how to blend online instruction for those who can't be on campus.

Designed so participants can see how online classes look and feel from a student perspective, the FLEX Teaching Camps will help guide instructors on how to manage large classes online, create active learning experiences in a virtual environment, choose between essential instructional technologies and more.

“The key to transitioning a course to a flexible model is deciding what is essential for you, the instructor, to talk to your students about in real time,” Director of Faculty Development Patricia Dinneen said. “This becomes the core of the synchronous instruction and can be done live in-person or online using various teaching techniques and supporting tech tools.

“We will walk faculty through the process of determining what this core is for their course and identifying the tool or tools that support that functionality. We will also identify a basic toolkit of technology tools and detail the teaching functions that each tool supports.“

The camp will be conducted online in Blackboard so that faculty will have opportunities to experience synchronous and asynchronous tools and activities for themselves.

“Faculty will walk away with a template for transitional course planning, an essential toolkit for virtual instruction and resources for ongoing support through the summer,” Dr. Dinneen said.

Dr. Dinneen will lead four FLEX Camp sessions this summer, each with identical programming. Each camp contains three morning and two afternoon blocks and will run from June 8 to 11, June 15 to 17, June 22 to 24 and July 6 to 8.

Faculty development and instructional design teams in the LAI Instructional Core, GW’s resource center for faculty development, are designing the FLEX Camp program. It draws from the unit’s Course Design Institute, now in its sixth year, which LAI taught this spring in an online format for the first time.

“Our team has years of experience in guiding faculty through the design of online and blended courses and in delivering teaching-focused workshops and webinars,” Dr. Dinneen said.

The target audience for these camps, she said, is instructors seeking to ensure they are ready for any academic scenario in the fall. Currently, the university is planning for in-person instruction in fall 2020, but is training faculty how to blend online instruction for those who can't be on campus.

“The camp is about teaching and designing for online and blended formats and giving faculty experiences as a student in Blackboard and other tools, but it is not a technology how-to training,” Dr. Dinneen said. “Once participants have a plan for how to transition their course and some experience using tools from the student perspective, we will guide them to technology workshops that will be available ongoing through our partners in the Instructional Technology Lab.”

FLEX Camp’s focus on content means instructors who are already familiar with online instruction technology may find it particularly helpful, Dr. Dinneen said.

“A tech-savvy faculty can learn how to fine-tune assignments, activities and communications with their students to make the teaching of the course even more interactive and effective than before,” she said.

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