Tiny Tips #1: COVID-19 and Online Learning

The kind of online learning that many of us aspire to requires careful thought and planning. But what do you do when you don’t have time to carefully orchestrate a well-crafted online learning experience, such as when COVID-19 requires you to abruptly abandon your in-person teaching and switch to an online solution?

Here’s a few tiny tips:

  1. Recognize that you are now in a new environment. You’ll find yourself wanting to replicate your face-to-face course. That’s a losing battle. You have neither the time, and if you’ve never taught online, neither the expertise to do that. And that’s OK. Let me reassure you once again. It’s OK that you aren’t an online learning expert. It’s OK that your new course isn’t dealing with the intricacies of everything that you planned but are now unable to do.
  2. Reach out to colleagues on your campus who have either taught online or whose job is to help others teach online. You probably have an office on campus that’s called The Center for Teaching and Learning or The Center for Teaching Excellence or something similar. There’s people with expertise there, and they can help. But do keep in mind that those colleagues also probably already overwhelmed, so be patient.
  3. Reach out to colleagues online. Over the last 3 days I saw many more threads that I can count on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and individual blogs. There are some great ideas/tips/approaches being shared there, including this post by Tannis Morgan on teaching with one of the most basic tools that we all use on a day-to-day basis – email.

For some of us, online and digital learning is our bread and butter, the world we live in and the world we are experts in. Doctors, and nurses, and epidemiologists respond to COVID-19 in the ways that they were trained to keep the rest of us healthy. At times like these, we can lend a helping hand to each other in the ways that we are familiar with.

(but, beware of vendors that appear our of nowhere promising to put your courses online or offering free software to help you through the crisis, and heed Ayebi-Arthur’s recommendation, who in writing about educational technology responses to the 2011 earthquake in New Zealand, notes that such free gifts “set in motion long-term expectations that need to be managed.”)


CFP: Learning Analytics – Pathways to Impact


2020 Horizon Report – implications for Canadian Higher Education


  1. Dianne Conrad

    Good initiative George. It really worries me that novice and unprepared teachers are going to go online and – to be blunt- screw it up although well intentioned. That already happens WITHOUT a health crisis.

    • Junhong Xiao

      Absolutely, Dianne! China may be the first country to require all teachers at all levels to jump on the bandwagon with mixed results and chaos not only for staff but also for parents despite well-intentioned promises both from the authorities and experts and unsurprisingly from ‘vendors’ as well.

  2. Lisa Chamberlin

    Your “beware” statement at the end is so true. As a Dir. of eLearning at a Washington State community college, I have been bombarded with opportunistic vendors lately promising to solve all our Covid19-online woes. No. Just stop. We will call if we need you.

  3. Thank you for your initiative; good tips, George. We have to ensure that e-learning design is done right, at the right time in the right way. I’d like to share your link on my website and IABL (International Association for Blended Learning) fb ; we are putting together some mini-courses to discuss these issues.

    • Junhong Xiao

      Hi, Aga, hope you are well!

      Yes, we have to ensure that e-learning design is done right, at the right time in the right way!

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