Redesign your in-person course for online: creating connections and
promoting engagement for better learning.
This spring, instructors moved their courses online in an emergency
fashion as campuses were closed due to the pandemic. As colleges prepare
for the next academic year, there is a need to provide flexible
instruction that is more intentional for quality online learning. We
taught two undergraduate courses online for the first time this spring
and surveyed our students’ reactions to the course experiences. From our
experiences and student feedback we identified design elements and
activities that were beneficial in promoting student engagement, sense
of connectivity, and learning. We describe four qualities for a
successful transition to online learning: 1) big questions and core
concepts; 2) peer groups including reflective writing; 3) outreach to
broader scientific community; and 4) instructor’s social presence in the
class. Our experience gives us confidence that courses can be redesigned
for online without compromising rigor or essential learning goals.