4 scenarios for online teaching

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Jean-François Parmentier and I share a vision for a transformation of how we traditionally teach research-based approaches that promote active learning. Back in 2019, we had written a book (in French) about the principal aspects of teaching at universities and colleges, organized in 38 tools from course preparation through interactive teaching to planning for productive homework and exams.

Jean-François is an educational researcher at the top ranking French engineering school in Electrical Engineering, Electronics, Computer Science, Hydraulics and Telecommunications (INP-ENSEEIHT), in Toulouse, France. I am an assistant research professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in the US, but I used to be a research fellow and faculty developer at the University of Strasbourg, France. We are both involved in the working group dedicated to support learning spearheaded by FEBS Education Committee member Prof. Xavier Coumoul, and Prof. Emeritus Jean-Luc Souciet, within the French Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we all found ourselves under some form of lockdown, we decided to offer for free a compendium of the key aspects of successful online teaching. This booklet —about 40 pages long— is now available in English1.

Online teaching can achieve similar outcomes as in-person teaching, but the virtual environment calls for adjustments. In particular, having students learn online offers an opportunity to rethink teaching as a temporal continuum: one learns sometimes during the session, sometimes outside.

Optimal online teaching experiences rely on a series of synchronous and asynchronous activities linked to each other and to the learning objectives. The four scenarios presented in our booklet1 are based on principles and methods derived from experimental research in teaching and cognitive psychology. We chose that format from our cumulated experience in online learning. Our goal is to provide the reader with suggestions that are both reliable, based on research, and adapted to diverse teaching/training situations. Feel free to give us your feedback!

1DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.4641271

Quentin Vicens

Assistant research professor, University of Colorado Denver