Here are our top tips for Buddhist Studies academics who are creating online courses, either from scratch or turning their in-person courses into an online version.
- Acknowledge the circumstances
- Create an online experience
Tip 1 – Acknowledge the circumstances
The current situation is very difficult for everyone, academics and students. We suggest to acknowledge this also when your courses start in the fall. Maybe Covid-19 will resurge then, maybe it won’t. Nevertheless, everyone will have very difficult months behind them.
For US students there is an additional factor as they are currently experiencing a nation in turmoil, aching from deep-rooted racism.
Online studies is most likely not what any of the students was signing up for when they enrolled in your institution. Acknowledge this upfront and feel free to share with them how you were working to come up with the course in this format, what you hope they will gain from it, etc.
Acknowledge the (far from ideal) circumstances and clarify your and their expectations.
Tip 2 – Create an online experience
Merely putting up PDFs online or recording yourself talk like you would in a normal lecture will not create an online experience for your students. With all the surrounding aspects of attending a university removed, your students deserve better than a hastily or unimaginatively put together course.
Going digital, going online offers an endless amount of opportunity to create great learning experiences for your students.
You can make the entire internet part of your course, if you want! Send your students to other websites, let them explore digital museums or archaeological sites, have them listen to Podcasts, assign YouTube videos to watch and discuss.
Create online quizzes and exercises, every major platform (including Canvas which many US academics use) allows you to do that.
Your students may fear that whatever “university” they come back to next term will not be as good as what they are used to from campus. Those who will start their degrees will likely fear that after all their hard work to get into your institution, they will be disappointed by how this new phase in their life begins. Make sure they will forget to think in terms of “better” or “worse” by providing them a very different experience to a physical university. They won’t be able to compare it. Provide them with an actual online experience.
Tip 3 – Modularize!
Try to break up your online course into sections/modules. They can build on each other, so that one needs to have grasped Modules 1-3 to understand Module 4.
Although students often benefit even more if at least some of the modules are stand-alone topics, which can be understood without knowing another module.
If you have video lessons to go with the modules, PLEASE break them up to 10-15 mins videos!