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Tips for moving a class online

As stay-at-home orders swept the globe last month, an abundance of free resources quickly emerged, available for teachers moving to online learning, parents looking to educate their children at home and adults seeking alternative ways to continue their learning and education.

For teachers and professors, this new normal meant adjusting lesson plans and curriculum to fit an online-only model while making resources as free and openly accessible as possible.

With Arizona State University gearing up for an online-only summer session, ASU scholarly communications librarian Anali Perry offers tips for transitioning to online teaching and discusses the benefits of creating a world “where each and every person can access and contribute to the sum of human knowledge.” (Cape Town Open Education Declaration)

Question: Coronavirus is reshaping the ways we access information and contribute to knowledge. Do you see this as a lasting change?

Answer: During this current crisis, as we’ve seen in past epidemics like the Zika virus and Ebola, governments, health organizations and research funders plead that all research related to the issue at hand be made freely and openly available to everyone so that researchers can learn as much as they can, as quickly as they can, in order to develop a vaccine or treatments that can help mitigate the spread of the disease. What’s astonishing is that we only do this every time there’s a crisis, instead of making it the standard for how we share the results of scholarship. Once the crisis is over, we have a tendency to just return to the status quo.

Clearly, we acknowledge the benefits of open access, that by sharing work without paywalls, by making research results openly available, we contribute more effectively to the scholarly conversation and produce more rapid results. This crisis blatantly exposes the weaknesses of our current system of sharing information and advancing knowledge. I hope that, moving forward, we can work with publishers, funding agencies and scholars to build on existing successful models and make open access to scholarship the norm, not the exception.

Q: People may not be familiar with the terms “open access” and “open education.” Can you explain and distinguish them from one another?

A: When we talk about open access, we mean that results of scholarship — usually scholarly articles — should be freely available for everyone to read and learn from, as well as free of most copyright restrictions to enable and encourage new scholarship.

Open education is the philosophy of freely sharing educational resources and practices to encourage others to reuse, remix, redistribute, retain and revise for their own purposes. Open education reduces textbook and course material costs for students and improves learning outcomes by empowering students to be more engaged with their studies.

Both open access and open education share the qualities of being free to access as well as less restrictive in their use and reuse. They only differ in their primary purpose and target audience.

Q: More and more learning experiences will be shifting to virtual environments. What are some tips you have for teachers, instructors and faculty who may be entering the world of online teaching for the first time?

A: As you prepare for summer sessions and start thinking about fall 2020, I definitely recommend strategically considering what course materials you include and not just relying on the same materials you used in person. Digital course materials, especially those that are openly available, enable more flexibility and equitable access for both you and your students.

  • Avoid using print-only resources if you can. Not only is the physical library collection restricted at this time, but there are continued supply chain disruptions that make it difficult for students to purchase or receive their texts in a timely manner. A great goal for right now is to default to using course materials that are available digitally.
     
  • Remember the ASU Library has millions of e-journal articles, e-books, databases, streaming audio and streaming video, including free access to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
     
  • Take advantage of Library Reading Lists, which make it easy to collect e-resources from the library as well as links to other websites: Organize them as appropriate for your course and share them with your students. 
     
  • Consider using open textbooks or adopting other open educational resources if you can. They’ll be easy for your students to access — often including very affordable print versions — and can be tailored to your learning outcomes. There are many recommendations on the Open Education library guide.
     
  • Take advantage of streaming videos. ASU Library provides access to thousands of streaming video titles, ranging from theater to dance, from psychology to documentaries, and from research methods to Shakespeare.
     
  • If the multimedia you need to assign is not available through ASU Library or freely online, check JustWatch.com to determine online availability. JustWatch includes multiple commercial streaming platforms, beyond the well-known Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. It’s a great resource to share with your students to let them choose the viewing option that works best for them.

We are happy to work with you to find the best materials for your course, whether in our collections or freely available online. Just ask a librarian!