Stanford Teaching Commons offers new resources for online learning

The website Stanford Teaching Commons provides curated guides on designing online classes; articles on such topics as accessibility, asynchronous activity, and inclusion and equity; and links to resources and services that support online education across campus.

The updated website Stanford Teaching Commons provides an array of new resources for the university community, including faculty, lecturers, teaching assistants and staff.

While sheltering in place last spring, Sarah Soule, a professor at the Graduate School of Business, turned her refrigerator door into a whiteboard for Zoom conferences with PhD students. (Image credit: Ivan Geraghty)

It provides curated guides on designing online classes; articles on a range of topics – accessibility, asynchronous activity, inclusion and equity, and more; and links to Stanford resources and services that support online education across campus.

For those who are new to teaching online or who are looking for a few tips, the website provides a “quickstart guide” outlining three basic options for shifting classes online; a list of 10 promising practices for effective online teaching; and solutions to five common online teaching challenges, such as Zoom fatigue and teaching students in different time zones.

It also describes ways to build a classroom community at every stage of the course: before the first class, during the first online meeting and throughout the quarter.

Among the articles available on Stanford Teaching Commons are Ten Strategies for Making Virtual Office Hours More Effective and Ten Strategies for Engaging Discussions Online, both written by staff members at the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning.

Streamlined resources

Two academic technology specialists – Jenae Cohn, Stanford Program in Writing and Rhetoric, and Beth Seltzer, Stanford Introductory Studies – were members of the cross-campus team that redesigned and relaunched the website.

Among the campus partners that collaborated on Stanford Teaching Commons were the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning in the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and Learning Technologies & Spaces in the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning.

The team’s mission was to present resources that were simple, flexible and research based.

“Instructors at Stanford are incredibly busy, so we wanted to streamline resources in a way that would support full schedules and prevent readers from feeling overwhelmed,” Cohn said. “While there is a tremendous amount of literature out there on effective online learning, we wanted to home in on few key points around encouraging access, equity and student-centered learning. The resources on the website support those goals.”

Cohn said the online teaching guides on Stanford Teaching Commons will lead instructors through the basics of designing an online class.

“Some instructors may be fully revamping their fall online courses, while others may be redesigning components of their classes based on a specific concern that they want to address,” she said.

“We wanted to accommodate both styles, which is built into the structure of the site. The teaching guides offer a more or less chronological path through the material. You figure out the basics, plan out your syllabus, set up your Canvas course and so on. You can also skip around to see what teaching topics interest you. We know different users are jumping into the teaching guides at different spots in their design process, depending on their needs and experiences.”

Student-centered teaching

Seltzer said the resources available on Stanford Teaching Commons all emphasize active, student-centered teaching.

“For example, if you’re interested in Zoom breakout rooms, you’ll be able to read Successful Breakout Rooms in Zoom, which shares pedagogic techniques, and Small Group Activities for Zoom Breakout Rooms to promote peer-to-peer learning,” she said.

The website’s “Find Articles” section includes links to resources developed across campus, including the website, Playbook for Teaching in 2020/21, which was developed by the Teaching and Learning Hub of Stanford Graduate School of Business. It also includes a link to technical advice and equipment recommendations, Remote Teaching Setup Options, which is also available on the website Stanford Teach Anywhere. In addition, assistance is available from Learning Technologies & Spaces, which provides resources for designing online curriculum, courses and programs.

Seltzer said the team is constantly adding new material to Stanford Teaching Commons and welcomes feedback from the university community. Visit the Stanford Teaching Commons website.