Online Fall Courses Need Not Be a Consolation Prize: 4 Things That Yield Students Who LOVE an Online Class

June 29, 2020 at 4:00pm ET

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"The online format works really well and is even better than taking an in-person class. I absolutely loved this class.” 

That's a real quote from a student in an online CS1 at UC Riverside, and evaluation comments from other students are similar. Online courses need not be a consolation prize if in-person classes can't be offered this fall. Instead, online courses have unique advantages that, if capitalized upon, can not only yield grades similar to in-person classes, but also very satisfied students, and instructors too.

This presentation summarizes what we've learned at zyBooks and at UC Riverside (where we've taught online CS1 since 2013) on how to teach online classes that students don't just tolerate, but that they truly enjoy and thrive in. 

The 4 key items: 

(1) Synchronous online lectures/labs with active use of the text chat box, 

(2) Strong learning outside class (in our case, using zyBooks), 

(3) Simple class structure and tasks broken into smaller pieces, and 

(4) Great teachers. Department chairs are strongly encouraged to have their faculty trained before fall term, for happier students and instructors, and great learning outcomes.

Why participate?

* Online courses will be happening in the fall; few doubt that

* Departments can benefit from our online class experience rather than starting from square one

* Big cost savings due to extensive auto-graded activities, plus less dependence on teacher/TA quality

* Very little preparation necessary -- no pre-recording of lecture videos or sophisticated instructional design, the zyBook "off-the-shelf" handles much of the core teaching; teachers then add value to the extent they can.

* Happy students rather than students grumbling about not getting what they paid for

* As a professor-founded company, and a research focus, we know how to talk with your faculty. One said "We expected a sales pitch; this was a meeting with colleagues." Another said "You're one of us." -- indeed we are.


Frank Vahid

Chief Learning Officer/Co-founder 

(Ph.D. Computer Science, UC Irvine)

A UC Riverside CSE professor, Frank is an active researcher, and has also written several popular textbooks with major publishers and received many teaching awards, before co-founding zyBooks in 2012. He produced zyBooks’ first materials and currently co-leads all authoring.