Dear Ms. Scholar, I’ve moved from face-to-face classes to online and am feeling overwhelmed. Everything is taking twice as long as usual. I don’t have childcare and my children are home while I need to work. I have gotten very little writing done. I am wondering how others are facing this daunting workload.
Dear Overwhelmed Online, Unfortunately, your experience is common. Even those of us who have taught online before are having problems. Faculty across this campus, across the country are being asked to do more with less and are, like you, feeling overwhelmed.
Moving online over a single weekend was a crazy pivot that left many of us feeling behinder and behinder. I usually take six weeks to pull together an online course. As Gannon (2020) reminded us, it’s okay not to know what we’re doing, to need to make frequent adjustments, to not know what we’re doing in the way that we’re used to (if that was your previous experience). I walked into my writing-intensive course last week, where a peer review was planned for a large paper, and had to move to Plan B, as peer reviews couldn’t take place in class, at least the way they normally would. (Peer reviews took place later online).
I especially liked Barrett-Fox’s (2020) unfortunately-named article (“Please do a bad job of putting your courses online”). Barrett-Fox reminded us to set reasonable expectations for ourselves:
You are NOT building an online class. You are NOT teaching students who can be expected to be ready to learn online. And, most importantly, your class is NOT the highest priority of their OR your life right now. Release yourself from high expectations right now, because that’s the best way to help your students learn. (para. 2)
Face-to-face classes, when offered online, are not the same as online courses – they are more like a hybrid of the two. Instead, let’s call them “remote learning.” Online students go into their courses with different expectations than those of face-to-face students. My online students are often more independent and accept somewhat more responsibility for their learning. If all classes are taught online in the fall – God forbid! – we will need to respond differently than how we did this semester (Lederman, 2020).
Be patient with yourself – and your students. Our students have needed help getting ready to learn online (e.g., Full Tilt Ahead, n.d.), but so have we. As Sean Michael Morris said,
Recognizing that we’re also human, we also have to figure this out together is incredibly important. The idea of being able to just port what you’re doing in a classroom into an online environment has its own problems. But trying to do that in the midst of a pandemic is another problem altogether. (quoted in Kamenetz, 2020, para. 8)
One of the things that I have enjoyed during this period is that we may have been socially distanced, but we have been supporting each other like mad. The Learning Technology Center, of course, gets a call out and many, many thanks, but my colleagues, too – wow! I am thankful for their generosity, their time and energy, and their brainstorming through the difficulties we are all facing.
Our students also deserve a call out. This is not something that they chose, but my students have been patient as I have struggled with technological problems and made mistakes. As Moats (2020) says about one of her professors, “Even when she does get confused, she asks us for help, and we all just figure it out together” (para. 6). I have been honest with my struggles with technology, and they have been extraordinarily patient. Knowing that we are in it together has felt good. They have talked about their lost jobs, internships, and relationships; their internet and computer problems; and their difficulties with the transition online – and they are also talking about the good things.
I continue to struggle and feel overwhelmed – but am also feeling excited and enjoying the challenges raised by these last several weeks. I feel for those of you who who have small children at home, poor internet access, or were already feeling stressed with the semester’s demands – this job was already difficult. And, for those of you with limited social and professional supports, reach out for help, even if it is just for an ear. Please, keep in touch! — Ms. Scholar
Barrett-Fox, R. (2020). Please do a bad job of putting your courses online. https://anygoodthing.com/2020/03/12/please-do-a-bad-job-of-putting-your-courses-online/
Full Tilt Ahead. (n.d.). Student remote learning toolkit. https://rise.articulate.com/share/q5PJ6FkM4hdBgswxECMQ792L21rAZ07C?fbclid=IwAR0WS4DrDI3TteHoSt0MIlSg5exkqpjbUHWi-zMy0p-vXO3XT3SK7XI78As#/lessons/dOaUbPSi0vRlIqogP_dcouDEBBmMFWGN
Gannon, K. (2020, March 12). How to make your online pivot less brutal. Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Make-Your-Online-Pivot/248239
Kamenetz., A. (2020, March 19). ‘Panic-gogy’: Teaching online classes during the coronavirus pandemic. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/817885991/panic-gogy-teaching-online-classes-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic
Lederman, D. (2020, April 1). Preparing for a fall without in-person classes. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2020/04/01/preparing-quietly-fall-semester-without-person-instruction
Moats, K. (2020, March). We know you’re trying: An open letter to our professors. Onward State. https://onwardstate.com/2020/03/31/we-know-youre-trying-an-open-letter-to-our-professors/
If you have questions regarding teaching, student/faculty issues, or other comments/suggestions, please write to: Ms. Scholar c/o MsScholarCU@gmail.com