Tim Davis earned a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) with a concentration in clinical social work and a Ph.D. in Psychology with an emphasis in Health Psychology-Behavioral Medicine. He currently serves as the Chair of the Department of Social Work at Fort Hays State University, where he oversees both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs on campus at Hays, multiple outreach cohort sites, and online. Dr. Davis has an extensive practice history in mental health and continues to provide clinical services at HaysMed, specializing in bio-psycho-social assessment, individual and family psychotherapy, and consultation to the medical staff as an expert in behavioral health. As an extension of his scholarly and clinical interests, Dr. Davis is also very involved in developing and enhancing the practice of clinical social work. In this capacity, he has served on multiple state level boards and advisory councils.
What I consider best practices in online teaching
Our department adopted a “best practices in online teaching” that outlines several practices we consider essential and others that are considered beneficial. As specified by this document, all online courses in our department must include either a weekly synchronous meeting (Zoom) or weekly asynchronous videos from the instructor. While only one is required, most of the courses delivered by the department contain both.
1. Hosting Weekly Zoom Meetings
My online classes typically meet with students over Zoom once a week for an hour. These sessions are recorded and posted online for the students who cannot attend. While attendance (or viewing the recording) isn’t mandatory, it is highly encouraged. In my experience, usually around half the class attends on a regular basis, and others come and go throughout the semester. We often combine sections of the same class when we host a synchronous Zoom meeting, in which two or three sections of a course meet with all of the instructors in attendance. This practice serves to increase collaboration and consistency across sections and is particularly helpful when an adjunct with less academic experience is paired with a core faculty member. In addition, our students report enjoying the synergy of academic and practice expertise in the meeting.
2. Using Short Recorded Videos to Deliver Lectures
I also post at least one asynchronous video per week to guide the students as they prepare for the learning activities, and to assist them to clarify any issues I think important. Usually, these videos are from 10-20 minutes long and are posted on Monday morning. If necessary, I think it is helpful to record and post shorter videos (no more than five minutes long) when students need help to understand a specific topic. While posting a written document might be seen as an equivalent way to share information, I think a video is more personal and results in the students feeling more connected to the instructor. A written narrative is useful and at times even preferable; however, it isn’t as personal.
3. Provide Easy Access for Students to Schedule Meetings
Finally, I utilize Calendly (calendly.com) for virtual office hours. This tool allows students to schedule a 30-minute Zoom call during a time that works in my schedule. At first, I thought this might be more time intensive than opening a Zoom call as office hours during set times each week. However, I find that it is actually less intrusive, even though students are more likely to utilize the meeting time.