Dale JacobsEnglish professor Dale Jacobs has used a variety of approaches to shifting his teaching online. Photo by Gene Kannenberg Jr.

Prof takes varied approaches to adapting courses for online teaching

When switching from in-person to online teaching, a question instructors often ask is: “How can my current method of teaching be adapted to teaching online?”

English professor Dale Jacobs has varied his approach depending on the class.

In his fourth-year course on the Booker Prize, this adaptation has been relatively easy. With only 11 students in the class, face-to-face discussions have been easy to maintain, and the ongoing journal assignments that would normally be in a paper format have now moved to Blackboard’s journal tool.

The change from in-person to online teaching has been more challenging for Dr. Jacobs’ second-year class Intro to Rhetoric. With 65 students, it is conducted using Blackboard’s Virtual Classroom.

There is a core of about 20 to 25 students who attend the live lecture regularly, says Jacobs, the rest view recordings. Of those that attend live, none show their face and fewer ask questions using their mic; most choose to interact through the chatbox. While the chat section has been successful, the lack of face-to-face contact has made it difficult to gauge how well students are understanding the content.

In response, Jacobs has used Blackboard’s breakout groups to practise skills of rhetoric and the discussion board to measure students’ understanding, and to encourage participation, he has increased its percentage in grading.

Jacobs also requests that students talk to him: “If you have issues, make sure you open a line of communication.”

—Bridget Heuvel