Psychology professor Jill Singleton-JacksonPsychology professor Jill Singleton-Jackson says communication with students is vital to success in teaching asynchronously.

Psych prof learning to teach asynchronously

In professor Jill Singleton-Jackson’s first-year Intro to Psychology classes, she has focused on using an asynchronous format to create an atmosphere where she can best connect with students.

Normally the first semester of the Introduction to Psychology course combines a lecture and small group breakout time with upper-year psychology mentors. When taking place in person, the switch between the two parts is simple — it takes place partway through the class. In an online setting it becomes necessary to separate the two and requires asynchronous lectures and synchronous mentorship get-togethers.

A course entirely taught asynchronously raises many issues: How are lectures effectively organized? How is student communication prioritized and managed without it being overwhelming for the students? How do you measure the computer skills of students? These are all questions Dr. Singleton-Jackson had in mind while creating her classes.

She finds organizing online courses is incredibly time-consuming. Creating lectures that are easy to follow and fit within the time restraints of a normal lecture is very challenging and often takes multiple attempts. Working to measure student engagement and understanding is problematic when you can’t view students faces, and as a result, instructors have to find other ways to settle students’ nerves and assess comprehension.

During these times, communication becomes even more important. Singleton-Jackson has noticed a significant increase in communication with her students and stresses the importance of having enough communication to inform students, but not so much as to overwhelm them.

What has made this semester successful for her is not simply the opportunity to modify her teaching methods but how willing and determined students are to get through COVID-19 and adapt to online learning. Student willingness has been key in making her classes successful and has created a situation that makes the best of COVID-19.

—Bridget Heuvel