Professor Ariadna Pichs had a dilemma. Her Advanced Spanish Writing course had a limited capacity to allow students time for discussion, but it was also in high demand because it satisfied a writing requirement. How could she preserve the quality of the course while making it available to more students? Pichs decided to offer her course online, leading her to the innovative teaching and learning team of GW Libraries and Academic Innovation (GWLAI).
Instructional designers, teaching and learning specialists, instructional technologists, graphic designers, videographers, and librarians partner with faculty to transform a traditional course into an effective and engaging online course. “Faculty know their courses inside and out. We help them to envision new ways for their students to achieve course goals and learning objectives in an online environment,” said Maddy Kadish, leader of GWLAI’s team of instructional designers.
Even though Pichs had previously worked with GWLAI staff on her hybrid course—held partly in person and partly online—she still found the process of creating a fully online course daunting. “I didn’t know what I was getting into, just to be honest,” Pichs said. She started her process with a workshop covering the big picture of teaching online. “The workshop gave me a broad overview of the process, but more importantly, it set deadlines for each step of the process. That helped me very much.”
She met regularly with Kadish and her team to develop new learning activities and assessments, as well as to ensure that the course met federal requirements and university policy. “In my mind, it was very different,” said Pichs. She hadn’t previously considered providing information to her students about netiquette—expectations for students conversing online—or how to conduct office hours. “It was so many things I wasn’t aware of before.”
At Kadish’s suggestion, Pichs scripted the lectures that the team recorded on video as a part of the course. Compared to an in-person course, in which Pichs could easily leverage students’ questions to discuss related points, the online course needed to have video content that was engaging for online students who weren’t live. “It was short and efficient,” Pichs said.
Pichs’ students provided positive evaluations at the end of the course, and Pichs found the support of GWLAI’s teaching and learning team invaluable. “It was a good experience, to be honest. I was afraid at first when I saw the amount of work and the deadlines. I said, ‘Okay, this is going to be insane.’ But in the end, it wasn’t.”