Flower Darby speaks, writes, and presents on topics in online education across the world. She has over two decades of experience in higher education and is a seasoned educator in both online and in-person classrooms. A regular columnist for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Darby writes about a variety of topics in online education, including how to be a better online teacher, using small teaching strategies online, and making the virtual classroom more inclusive. (You can learn more about her thoughts on all of these topics below.) Her keynote presentation at this year’s collaborative faculty symposium, “Rejuvenate, Revitalize, Reenergize: Rediscovering Our Fizz in Online Teaching,” is meant to motivate, inspire, and remind instructors that teaching online is a rewarding and transformative experience for both educators and students.
What makes a good online teacher?
In her advice guide ”How to Be a Better Online Teacher” for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Darby says the qualities that make great teachers in person make great ones online as well. It may seem like common sense, but Darby says that showing up to class, being yourself, and empathizing with your students go a long way in making better online teachers. In her guide, Darby also suggests practical ways to increase student engagement in the online classroom—from using scaffolding throughout a course to creating assignments with real-world application. According to Darby, these are just a few of the practices that engage students (and instructors) and make for a productive and pleasant classroom online.
From sticking to a schedule to authentically communicating with students, Darby provides key strategies for teaching online in her recorded seminar “How to Be a Better Online Teacher”
Access the The Chronicle of Higher Education via your subscription or home campus library to read Darby’s article “How to Be a Better Online Teacher”
What is small teaching?
In her book Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes with James M. Lang (who coined the term “small teaching”), Darby modified Lang’s small teaching strategies for the online classroom. Small teaching describes how research-based incremental changes to instruction can increase student understanding. For example, tasks like “retrieving,” “interleaving,” and “self-explaining” (to name a few) can be built into short (or “small”) activities that can improve student learning. According to Darby, these “small” strategies put less demand on instructors and are significantly beneficial for students. They can also be easily built into the online classroom. As she says, an instructor can make “one small change to [their] in-class activities, for example, an exercise that takes five minutes at the beginning or end of class and that requires no grading” and “this insignificant change can have an outsized impact on student learning when we base it on evidence-based principles such as retrieval practice or interleaving, both of which help students retain new information over time.”
Listen to Darby talk about small teaching online on the Trending in Education podcast
How can the virtual classroom be more inclusive?
Institutions around the world are figuring out ways to make their classrooms more inclusive—and that includes the online classroom as well. In “It’s Our Duty to Teach More Inclusively” in the Times Higher Education, Darby details the many ways online classrooms can be more inclusive—from ensuring that the viewpoints of historically underrepresented scholars are included in course materials to offering more choice to students in general (from completing assignments to participating in discussions). Another way Darby suggests instructors make their online classrooms more inclusive is by incorporating Universal Design for Learning. In her article, “6 Quick Ways to Be More Inclusive in a Virtual Classroom” for The Chronicle, she puts it this way: “With UDL, you can plan your course from the outset in ways that, while they lower barriers to learning for students with certain needs, benefit all students.”
Watch a recent seminar presented by Darby on principles and strategies that promote equity and inclusion in the online classroom
Access the The Chronicle of Higher Education via your subscription or home campus library to read Darby’s article “6 Quick Ways to Be More Inclusive in a Virtual Classroom”
Learn more about Flower Darby at flowerdarby.com/.
Flower Darby, “Rejuvenate, Revitalize, Reenergize: Rediscovering Our Fizz in Online Teaching”
Tuesday, May 24, 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
Event details: https://ce.uwex.edu/faculty-symposium/
Free; register at https://ce.uwex.edu/faculty-symposium#registration/