Culture Shock: Teaching Online in a Pinch

min read

Developing some basic survival skills can help faculty members begin to think strategically about online teaching.

Blog Artwork -- COVID-19
Credit: Robert Kneschke / © 2020

Our plane has made an emergency landing in a country some faculty members have been to, some have been curious about, and some never wanted to visit: teaching online. Some of you may have seen pictures and heard good things about it. Others may have heard horror stories. With the current push at many colleges and universities to move face-to-face classes online, faculty members may be at least a little worried about how this is going to go. Here are some steps you can take to learn a few basic online teaching survival skills:

Technical Training

Explore what training the information systems, educational technology, academic computing, and faculty development center at your institution offer. At the very least, avail yourself of the free training resources offered by the providers of the learning management system (LMS) your school uses (Canvas, Blackboard, Desire2Learn [], Zoom, VoiceThread, etc.). Being a self-directed learner will help you model this competency to your students; it is a skill they will need to rely on in the weeks ahead!

Pedagogy Training

Teaching online is a unique ball of wax. Bryant University's self-paced online module Teaching Online in a Pinch can help you begin to think strategically about online teaching. If you decide to complete this module, give it a good three-and-a-half hours, and really dig into the reflections. Then, seek out your departmental colleagues and fellow instructors and brainstorm together. Now is the time for generous, open, transparent sharing of knowledge, questions, and ideas. Model what it means to be a collaborative learner.

Networking and Collaboration

Finally, if available, contact an instructional designer (also known as a learning designer or learning experience designer [LXD]) at your school, in your professional network, or even on social media platforms like LinkedIn to discuss a specific teaching challenge. Be focused and targeted in your request, as these professionals are likely inundated at this time, but trust that these are precisely the conversations on which they thrive! For more resources, visit the crowdsourced document Tips and Tools for Teaching Online in a Pinch, a companion to the above-referenced module. Review what's there and contribute your ideas to help the community.

Remember that these and other resources are available to help you survive in this strange land of online teaching for as long as you're here. You can learn how to say "hello," "goodbye," and "my name is," and figure out how to find food and water. Know that you may not become fluent in this country's language, but you can become more familiar with the culture. Please share this information with your fellow teachers, and be safe out there. We can do this if we help one another.


EDUCAUSE will continue to monitor higher education and technology related issues during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. For additional resources, please visit the EDUCAUSE COVID-19 web page.

For more insights about advancing teaching and learning through IT innovation, please visit the EDUCAUSE Review Transforming Higher Ed blog as well as the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative and Student Success web pages.

The Transforming Higher Ed blog welcomes submissions. Please contact us at [email protected].

Bonnie Budd is Director of Online Learning at Bryant University.

© 2020 Bonnie Budd. The text of this work is licensed under a The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 International License.