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Center for Teaching Excellence

  • Asynchronous Online Teaching

Fostering Connections in Online Teaching

Jacob Rivers recently retired from the University of South Carolina after 20 years of service as the Director for the Office of Veterans Services. He also taught ENGL 101 (Critical Reading and Composition), ENGL 282 (Themes in American Writing), and ENGL 285 (Special Topics in American Literature) in a traditional face-to-face course format. He is currently an adjunct faculty member for the University of South Carolina Union campus. He teaches both ENGL 101 and ENGL 102 in an asynchronous online course format.

In Fall, 2018, Rivers taught in a 100% asynchronous instructional method for the first time. Using the resources at the Center for Teaching Excellence and support from CTE Instructional Designer Gloria Washington, he designed, developed, and taught ENGL 101. When Washington first met with Rivers in a consultation for transitioning his ENGL 101 face-to-face course to a fully online format, he was hesitant about teaching online. Rivers enjoyed teaching face-to-face and felt he might lose his special connection with his students. Rivers and Washington met at least once a week through the entire design, development, and delivery process. Rivers implemented teaching online best practices, used the CTE’s syllabus template and the Blackboard course design template.

Here’s what Rivers said about working with Instructional Designer Gloria Washington:

"Thank you again for helping me to become an effective online teacher.  Without your help, I would never have been able to make the shift to asynchronous online teaching.”

With the design and development of ENGL 101, Rivers made sure that his course was as engaging and rigorous as his face-to-face version of the same course. He placed students into random groups of 2 students (Peer-review Study Partners). Based on specific instructions, each student composed and submitted feedback to the study partner. Students incorporated the feedback in the final essay submitted to Rivers for evaluation.

In addition to student-to-student interactions, Rivers humanized the course with module introductions of himself providing an overview and helpful hints for student success. He recorded the videos in a recording studio at the Office of Distributed Learning. The link to the videos was posted in Blackboard along with a transcript file. He also provided additional resources for students, including sample essays and MLA format guides. The textbook for the course was available in digital and hard copy format.

Below is some feedback from students:

  • “Dr. Rivers has a very effective model. One that I believe would benefit other instructors to institute a similar module in an online environment.  I feel as if my writing has improved due to Dr. Rivers’ structured environment.”
  • “I really love this class! My professor is easy to talk to, ask questions, and much more!”
  • “Dr. Rivers is a great professor. He looks for every student in his class to be successful by providing feedback on almost every assignment that he gave.  I was very thankful to have Dr. Rivers as my English professor and would recommend him to all future students.”

After successfully teaching ENGL 101, Rivers was asked to teach an asynchronous ENGL 102 course in Fall 2020. He continues to teach both ENGL 101 and ENGL 102 in asynchronous course formats for Union. To enhance both ENGL 101 and ENGL 102, he plans to incorporate either Padlet or Flipgrid for student introductions to replace the discussion board student introductions.

About the Instructional Designer

Gloria Washington is an instructional designer at the Center for Teaching Excellence with 22 years of experience in higher education at the University of South Carolina. She is a Blackboard Certified Trainer and a Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Reviewer. Washington completed the Quality Matters’ Applying the QM Rubric and Higher Education Peer Reviewer courses. Prior to coming to CTE, she worked in Teaching and Technology Services and as a Technology Director for the Ted Mimms Foreign Language Learning Center. She serves as Associate Editor for the International Journal of Innovative Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. She is an At-Large Board Member for the Association for Distance Education and Independent Learning (ADEIL). Washington also authors the blog, Pedagogy Before Technology. She holds a Doctor of Education, a Master of Arts in Education, and a Master of Business Administration. Her expertise is in the pedagogical use of technology to support teaching and learning. Her instructional design philosophy is “pedagogy first, technology second.”

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