The rapid outbreak of COVID-19 has forced higher-ed institutions across the nation to close down physical campuses and move instruction entirely online. With this abrupt shift in content delivery comes a flood of free resources designed to help students and instructors adjust to their new online reality.
Existing online instructors’ input will be invaluable as their brick-and-mortar colleagues go virtual in an incredibly short amount of time, and with little to no advance notice.
“Experienced online faculty should be encouraged to share materials (and their experience) with other faculty, especially when there are many sections of a course taught by multiple teachers,” says Jared Stein, VP of higher ed strategy at Canvas. “Students will need to know what is happening in their courses when an emergency arises. Frequent, consistent, and simplified communication will help students know what to expect and how to respond. Consider providing students with their own checklist, such as Western Washington U has done, to help them prepare.”
Here are a handful of just-announced tools to help move instruction online and manage virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. TAO Connect, a digital platform designed to make behavioral health therapy more accessible and effective, announced the addition of its Group Room feature, while also offering its video conferencing services to all 180 of its university partners. With this update, TAO Connect is giving more counseling centers the opportunity to offer teletherapy services when in-person sessions are not viable, ensuring students and faculty have easy access to mental health resources during this time of heightened anxiety.
2. The Rice University-based nonprofit OpenStax is responding to COVID-19 by helping students nationwide navigate their online courses and supporting faculty as they quickly transition to online course delivery. OpenStax’s 38 free digital textbooks can be used in any online teaching environment, and 28 of OpenStax’s online homework providers will make access free through the end of the term. OpenStax’s own low-cost online homework offerings, OpenStax Tutor and Rover by OpenStax, will be offered for free through the end of the semester.
3. Canvas has a number of tips and recommendations for institutions as they move to online instruction in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak. The company is built to support online learning, and the platform is designed to automatically scale to support a large number of concurrent users.
4. TutorOcean announced today that they are offering their online tutoring platform free of charge to all higher-education institutions. In addition, they have ramped up their server capacity, as well as support staff to meet the immediate demand to provide classrooms for face-to-face interactions between tutors and students.
5. Living rooms around the world can become places to learn how to start a business for social impact or to peek inside a museum to see homemade ancient wooden toy horses from Roman Egypt. The University of Michigan is providing multiple opportunities to learn and explore online while staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Through Michigan Online, U-M has several online learning opportunities for those who want to try something new, sharpen an existing skill, or just be enriched. U-M currently has a portfolio of more than 180 online learning opportunities.
6. To aid colleges and universities who must move to an online only operation, Engineerica Systems is offering complimentary accounts of Accudemia, its award-winning center management and cloud based software. These accounts are available free of charge through the rest of the academic semester. Wanting to help as many people as possible during this time, Engineerica will assist higher education institutions by providing a complimentary Accudemia account to academic student service centers such as tutoring, advising, or counseling. This will aid higher institutions as they transition to virtual offerings and services.
7. Instructional design firm iDesign announced that its Online Teaching course, designed to provide self-paced training for college and university faculty to help them make a rapid transition to online teaching, will be available for free over the next six months. The new five-part rotation helps faculty transition to online education, providing valuable best practices on teaching and communicating with students remotely. This program enables faculty who are less experienced in online teaching to access turnkey teaching resources, practice examples, and proven techniques used by experienced online instructors.