Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are required to social distance ourselves, which is nothing new for those teaching online. We are accustomed to working alone and communicating through a computer screen. However, our ability to work from a coffee shop, for example, has temporarily been suspended. An increased feeling of isolation may occur and in a time like this one, it is more important than ever to socialize. As we are all aware, technology can aid with this task.
One way to decrease isolation is through Zoom. Create video sessions with your students to build a sense of community. Our mental health is critical right now. Cabin fever can develop so it is imperative we find ways to combat isolation and be a support system. This will not only aid our students but ourselves.
You might also want to create Zoom sessions with your peers or those who are making the transition to teaching online for the first time. This is a time for us to shine as educators and show our superpowers. Host sessions that offer ways to be an effective online instructor. Share tools, resources, and allow your peers the opportunity to ask questions or brainstorm with you. We have navigated the online world for so long we can combat this pandemic and help those recently coming on board to the world of online education.
Always remember when creating these sessions to make sure they are ADA compliant. Zoom has a great feature that includes subtitles and a transcript option so students or your peers can view and follow the recording after the session has ended. Make sure to email the recording link once you are done so students and peers can use it as a resource.
Facebook live is another feature that is engaging. One university I work for canceled their in-person end of year concert and instead recorded it on Facebook live so everyone would remain safe but still have the enjoyment of live music.
Skype and Facetime are other video options you can use to reach out to students and peers. What is great about each of these tools is that we can access them on our smartphone, so if you want to get fresh air you can video chat in your backyard while giving them a tour of your garden (a lot easier than carrying your laptop around).
Engage in Facebook groups. The Babb Group runs a Facebook group called Make A Living Teaching Online. It’s a forum for online educators to share their experiences, learn about our company’s services, and ask questions. It’s not all business either. Members share pictures of where they are working from, stories of inspiration from students, a joke of the day, and occasional work-from-home videos that have us laughing in agreement. It’s a community that promotes socializing from all over the world.
Becoming a workaholic might be easy because we are not supposed to leave our house. As we all know, we need hobbies and diversions. I’m discovering Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, online shopping, and walking to the mailbox is not enough. I’ve increased my cooking on a daily basis trying new recipes and spent more time organizing my home. While I love these are tasks that I am doing for my family, I also want to reach out to others who might be struggling with this pandemic.
Chris McCann, the Chief Executive Officer, of 1-800-Flowers.com sent out a thoughtful email to customers offering ways to stay connected:
- Video chat versus texting – seeing your face will bring a big smile
- Send a complimentary e-card – “Just saying ‘hi’”
- Make a list of 10 people you’ve been meaning to call – and do it
- Call a neighbor or distant relative, just to see how they are doing
- Write a hand-written letter to an old friend
His ideas are an expression of kindness, which is exactly what we need right now. This week I’ve received texts from neighbors checking in on my family and I and I’ve done the same. I’m teaching my two-and-a-half-year-old son thoughtful acts of kindness, which begins with baking a sour cream cake from a family recipe and leaving these cakes on local friends and neighbors’ doorsteps. A simple act of kindness.
In the coming days and weeks ahead, continue utilizing technology. Remember to reach out with your voice so people can hear you and not simply read your words. We need the human interaction, whether it be a telephone call or a video chat. Remember, as online educators being at home is our domain and we know how to navigate this world. The waters will get rougher but if we tighten the sails and look ahead toward normalcy returning, we will be alright.
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About the Author
Dorothy A. Miraglia, PhD
Dorothy A. Miraglia, PhD earned her B.S. in Music and Sociology from Adelphi University. She attended Hofstra University earning her M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies and earned a M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of Phoenix.. Dr. Miraglia graduated with distinction from Capella University earning her PhD in Advanced Studies in Human Behavior focusing her dissertation on smartphone use in women.
She began teaching online in 2008 and has witnessed how the industry has changed over the years. Her goal is to help clients who are interested in transitioning to the online teaching world and help established online instructors advance their career. In 2019, she began helping University clients determine the best solutions for instructional design and curriculum development based off of her experience and knowledge as an instructor and former student.
Dr. Miraglia lives on Long Island, NY with her husband and two sons. She enjoys the luxury of working from home and having a flexible work schedule, which allows for plenty of family time, home projects, trips to Target and Starbucks, and vacations.