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Avoiding the Classroom Crime Scene:

Tips and Recommendations from the Open Educator

· online education,remote learn,classroom,usf,university

It’s a fresh nightmare that has been running through many teachers’ minds since operation school restart. After 30 mins of fiddling with technology you hear a crackling voice in your ear, “Professor, you are on mute.” (Phrase of 2020) As you take a deep sigh, you look up not knowing to stare at the handful of students partly visible in front of you, blocked by the monitor or to look into that little dot on the monitor known as a camera as you stand robotically paralyzed giving your lecture on the first day of school. Then, suddenly, that feeling of falling emerges and a thought comes to your mind- “did you press the record button?” You silently curse at yourself and suddenly you blink. Was that a dream?

Currently, there is a lot of anxiety about going back to school for teachers and students. Adjusting to the new normal of education brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has created challenges and opportunities for educators and students. Having just completed teaching my first full course for Fall 2020, I would like to share insights and tips for both teachers and students in this new normal. While the course that I completed was a 1-week 45 hour synchronous MBA level course, it does provide a lens through which to view the upcoming school year.

Educators have primarily been cast as the “sage on the stage” imparting knowledge to those who attend class. While many critics have poked holes into this paradigm and a few educational institutions have even attempted incremental change, much of the classroom experience still operates under the same assumptions about teaching and learning as it has for the past 100 years. Below is a common type of room in educational institutions except for today it appears to be outfitted to be more of a “learning” crime scene than a space to inspire the workforce of the future and well-rounded citizens.

Acting as an accelerant within a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has forced educators and educational institutions to make changes that would have otherwise taken years or maybe even decades. One of these changes is the role of the educator. As a result of COVID-19, technological change, and drive for student engagement, the role of the educator has shifted from that of the “sage” to a dynamic individual incorporating attributes of part facilitator, engineer/ producer, and director/ringmaster. This has in turn forced educators to adopt an open mindset and level up to meet these new demands.

Tip 1: Prepare, prepare, and prepare some more.

Added complexity and juggling multiple environments (in-person students, asynchronous technology-mediated students, and on-demand learning) require extra time and preparation. You wouldn’t run a marathon without getting into shape, so why would you try to teach or learn without adequate preparation? Both educators and students need to commit themselves to teach and learn more effectively in this “new normal.”

  • Allow for seven to ten hours of preparation time for each in-class hour. 7–10 per hour of prep time for each in-class hour. You need a mix of content that targets the different environments: the in-class students, live virtual students, and the on-demand learning students. may need to learn the material.
  • Consider creating a script/ detail lesson plan/ itinerary for the course meetings and execute much like a director would for a movie, TV, or theater. This will allow you to maximize how you deliver the content through technology and equipment to avoid awkward transitions that break focus. Mastering technology and equipment is an ex-ante- period! While watching basic tutorials will help to familiarize yourself with the necessary techniques, it is a steep learning curve to produce and content that is warranted in today’s learning paradigm.
  • Adopting an open mindset. Openness is the new level up and competitive advantage. Organizations that have adopted openness have gained a competitive advantage over their competitors through reduced costs, greater access to knowledge, technology, and capabilities that wouldn’t otherwise be developed or capitalized on. Educators and educational institutions need to do the same. The “new normal” is about utilizing those resources, knowledge, technology, and edge that lie outside your classroom, institution, or even community to accelerate learning.
  • In short, practice openness- be an OPEN EDUCATOR.

Tip 2: Managing your Environment/ Digital Box

No one likes to be put in a box, but we are literally in a digital box on a screen. Since so much of our communication is nonverbal, maximizing your environment/ digital box is required to be an effective communicator and not to be a talking head.

  • Maximize your nonverbal cues by practicing and utilizing your physical space.
  • Create a bigger digital box through a combination of presentation skills, improv skills, and technology.
  • To be an effective communicator requires being a polished educator through the different technology mediums and different digital spaces we use and mastering verbal and nonverbal communication to engage our audiences. No one wants to learn with a camera focused on your double chin, skin tags, or up your nose.
  • In short, let’s move away from our Muppet Show Zoom or Teams like classes and expand our digital box.

The Muppet Show circa 1976

Tip 3: Digital Community Building- before, during, after, and beyond the meeting

  • Structure time for community building. Students are craving interaction.
  • By creating a space for them to be social with each other a deeper level of engagement can be made among them that wouldn’t be possible.
  • This feedback loops to the class and the engagement influences how students understand your content, pedagogy, and learning outcomes.
  • Teaching and learning do not have to end when the class or course does. How can you extend that learning outward beyond the digital or real walls of the classroom? For instance, before my course even ended, students had already scheduled their next meet up on the topic that was part social and programming.

Higher Education has been the greatest lubricant for upward mobility in history. COVID is pulling the rug out from many remarkable people financially, emotionally, socially, and psychologically. For Higher Ed to continue playing this important role for society, we as educators and educational institutions must respond with an approach that addresses the challenges and opportunities of this “new normal”. With unprecedented times comes unprecedented action- LEVEL Up and OPEN UP.

This post was expanded upon after being interviewed by ABC Suncoast View. The interview can be viewed here

Steve is a Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida. Steve has been a researcher at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain, Imperial Business School in London, UK in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group and has taught at other universities in Europe.

As a researcher of innovation, Steve’s contributions include extending the open innovation paradigm through his investigation with IBM Innovation Jams. Steve argues that inflows and outflows of knowledge within open innovation are relevant beyond product and service innovation and through the application of emerging technology can support managerial decision-making. Research during his Ph.D. studies at ESADE Business School culminated in framing his Open Model of Decision-Support research agenda.

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