The Key to Online Teaching: Humanizing the Technology

Community College of Philadelphia has embraced online teaching and learning tools for all types of courses, both online and on campus using primarily the Canvas online learning system, as well as Zoom video conferencing and other tools.

The FLOAT Division offers training on these tools to make their adoption smooth and convenient. Training is available to you through webinars and telephone and email contact. For information about training, go to Academic Technology Professional Development, send an email to, or contact any member of the FLOAT division directly.

But beyond the essential training, equally important are the intangibles that you know best: how to connect with your students and create a positive and welcoming learning environment that transforms people’s lives. Here are some useful guidelines:

Design your course. What actually happens in your classroom? Lectures? Discussions? Assignments? Assessments? Think about how to enlist online learning technology to deliver them. Are Canvas assignments more convenient than paper assignments? Is an online video better use of your time than showing it in the classroom? Make a list of the things you would like to do electronically. We will teach you how to do these things in the electronic classroom.

Communicate! Your students are accustomed to seeing and interacting with you in the physical classroom. The electronic teaching tools will be new to some of your students as well as to you. Fortunately, Canvas and Zoom have multiple communication tools that let your students know that you are there for them, and that you will get through any challenges together. You can do whatever you need to do in your electronic classroom, but you must communicate it clearly, and maintain ongoing contact with your students. We will show you how.

Be compassionate. We are beginning to emerge from the pandemic, but things are different now. In times such as this, the human touch becomes even more important than ever. Some of us may be more severely impacted than others in our ability to teach or learn. We won’t be able to shake hands or give hugs, and we may be challenged to be in the same place at the same time. But nothing can diminish our ability to express our care and concern for each other. Beyond the academic essentials, you can build your compassionate presence into everything you do online with words of caring, support, and encouragement.

There was never any doubt that we would triumph over the pandemic emergency. We proved that we are stronger than this disease. Now, we can take what we learned from the effort to overcome it and apply it to adopting sustainable academic innovation. The FLOAT Division is by your side every step of the way.

The Online Teaching Survival Guide outlines the tools you need and when to use them.