Rapid Transition to Online Teaching

Transitioning to Online Teaching and Learning: A Guide for Mason Composition Instructors

Online Writing Instruction pedagogy, or OWI, is not new to composition, but teaching composition online may be new to you. This guide will help those of you who are new to OWI make the transition to online teaching efficiently and effectively.

Just a quick note about the scope of this: Mason is not asking us to create a fully online course; Mason is asking us to transition to online learning for several weeks. Keep the scale of the transition in mind so that you maintain realistic expectations about what you need to do.

Mason has wisely given faculty an extra week of spring break to make that transition. Use this guide to help you make the transition as smooth as possible.

Learning to Teach Online

In How Learning Works (2010), Ambrose, et al, explain how we draw upon our prior knowledge to learn new things. If you are new to online course design, you may not think you have any prior knowledge about this, but you do: online teaching is just a new rhetorical situation, a concept we understand quite well.

The exigence—temporarily shifting f2f and hybrid courses to online delivery—is easy to identify. Our response to that exigence is to rethink how audience, purpose, and context change when we teach in a new instructional platform.

AUDIENCE: Your students are still your audience, but you won’t be able to see them f2f in a regular meeting place. You are teaching them from a distance, but you are still teaching them. 

PURPOSE: What does your audience (students) need to learn? These are the learning objectives for the course in general, and for the lesson specifically. These objectives drive the instructional content you will create for the online portion of your course.

CONTEXT: Blackboard is the context in which online learning happens at Mason. Several familiar genres will also be present in Blackboard, including emails (via announcements) and discussions. The genres are mediated differently than in a f2f course, but the main components remain. The key is to transition to a different context, but with the same purpose and audience in mind.

Note that good online course design doesn’t really get to the “tools” part until after instructors think through audience and purpose.