Moving Courses Online: My 7-Step Journey Toward Learning Excellence Amid/Post-COVID-19

Having moved an MBA course 100% online (and teaching it right now) at Yale SOM and also just initiated “moving courses online” tutorials for faculty and staff colleagues back home at Hitotsubashi ICS, I would like to share what I have learned through this uncharted journey with like-minded learning designers out there, with the spirit of “sharing is the best way of learning.”

Moving Courses Online: My 7-Step Journey Toward Learning Excellence Amid/Post-COVID-19
  1. First and Foremost, Big Arigato!

My very first step is to express how grateful I am to those I am hugely indebted to for what I am sharing here. Those whom I have learned a lot from include:

  • Yale SOM students enrolled in MGT 875 Service Management and faculty/staff colleagues at MBA Program, Faculty Support Team, SOM IT and Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning | First off, big thanks to Service Management Class for bearing with me as we are going through this transition together. I would also like to extend my appreciation to SOM colleagues, whom I have received so much help for the last several weeks. Because of your patience and support, I have gained great confidence and comfort with doing what I am doing now.
  • Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa, the teaching team, and classmates of “PSYC E-1609 The Neuroscience of Learning: An Introduction to Mind, Brain, Health, and Education” at Harvard University Extension School | Back in January this year, I gave this course as a birthday present to 51-year-self to celebrate the start of my second half of 100-year life. I have been and am learning about learning so much since.
  • Current/past students and faculty/staff colleagues back home at Hitotsubashi ICS | Together, we have been using Canvas, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other learning tools for the last 5+ years for online delivery of our courses in Degree Programs (MBA/EMBA/DBA) as well as sessions in Executive Education Programs (open-enrollment/corporate-customized). I see myself as a product of all the joint effort on digitizing learning experience at ICS.

2. Riding on a Roller coaster into the Uncharted

Soon after I flew in New Haven in March, Yale-wide decision was announced to close campus and move all courses online for the rest of the academic year. Yet, I was advised that faculty members can still come to Evans Hall and teach from a “Zoom-enabled” classroom as we usually do, only to find that the building was to be closed the night before the very first session! I then rushed to Best Buy and Staples to do the last minute shopping to turn my apartment living room into an instant digital studio!! I have run the first six sessions with students participating from Connecticut, to Oregon, to Singapore, and to Uganda!!!

3. Moving Courses Online: Purpose, Premise, and Principles

I first set my own guideline — purpose, premise, and principles — for managing the process of moving courses online as follows:

Purpose | In the Relentless Pursuit of Learning Excellence

Premise | Moving Courses Online is:

  • NOT about running a course as a “degraded copy” of classroom teaching and okaying it | Online learning and offline learning each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Our challenge is how best to mix the two, if possible, so as to maximize advantages and minimize disadvantages of each mode of learning;
  • NOT JUST about mastering how to run a Zoom session | Knowing how to run an online session with Zoom (or with Google Hangouts or any other tools) is important, but we want to go further and beyond. Our challenge is how best to reengineer learning experiences in a single session (i.e., redesigning a session) as well as across multiple sessions (i.e., reimagining a course or program); and
  • ALL about helping make everyone stronger. | Skills and senses we will be acquiring through moving courses online will translate back over in offline settings (that is, typically, those performing well online — either student or faculty — tend to get even better offline). Our challenge is how best to help each other to grow as a better learner, as a greater instructor, and as a stronger institution amid the COVID-19 situation and into the post-COVID-19 environment.

Principles | To redesign your course and sessions,

  • REFLECT on your course/session objectives
  • DEFINE “success” for course/session
  • PIVOT assignments for better managing student attention, engagement, and motivation.
  • CHUNK learning into smaller, manageable bits.

4. Reimagining Course Design

I then devised a simple 2x2 matrix framework — online vs. offline x synchronous vs. asynchronous — to re/organize different elements of student learning experience, while keeping the course objectives, structure, and schedule unchanged.

After contemplating and debating myself, I decided to make two major changes to the course design:

Class Participation | Taking the “hybrid” approach to the case method — synchronous (live Zoom session) and asynchronous (pre-session online poll and post-session discussion board on Canvas) — both of which count toward student class contribution.

Individual Assignment | Instead of the originally planned “letter writing campaign” (students choose two companies to write a a letter to, with one about their best service experience ever and the other about the worst experience ever, and sent them to the companies, and learn from their response or lack thereof). Instead, I replaced it with the module takeaway assignment in the form of “3–2–1 reflection” (which I unashamedly copied from what Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa do in the aforementioned Harvard Extension School’s PSYC-E 1609 Neuroscience of Learning), by which students are asked to reflect on what we discussed in each module, an write a memo including:

  • 3 things they did not know or had not thought about before the module
  • 2 things they are going to share with someone else or continue to research because they are so interesting
  • 1 thing they will change in your professional practice or personal life because of the insight learned in the module

5. Redesigning Session Teaching Plan

Link, link, and link | Link pre-session assignment (Canvas), live case discussion (Zoom), and post-session discussion boards (Canvas).

Chunk, chunk, and chunk | For maximizing attention management and keeping up momentum of discussion-based session, I chunked student learning experiences into 5–15 min. bits throughout each session.

6. Doing Homework on Attention Management and Zoom Features

Attention Management| Based on my own learning from LeeAnn Renninger of LifeLab Learning (Online Teaching Workshop with Zoom (LeeAnn Renninger), Yale SOM, March 19, 2020), I did my own homework with setting for managing student attention:

  • Set camera-on culture | Prior to the class, setting up the norm among students with activating Zoom video as default;
  • Plan for optimal combination of GALLERY VIEW & SPEAKER VIEW | So that students can see with each other as well as instructor/guest speakers clearly.
  • Move the Zoom bar as closest as possible to my web camera | So as to adjust and align your eye/face level to those of students.
  • “Frame Yourself” | For gauging how much space I have for walking around as I talk and showing gestures in front of the camera.

Zoom Features | Having used Zoom for the last five years at Hitotsubashi ICS, I am confident with each feature, but the challenge now is how to develop the optimal combination of these tools to maximize learning experience within each session (as part of session design) and across sessions (as part of course design), as I was moving the course 100% online. Tools I am now using on a regular basis include:

7. Converting My Apartment Living Room into a Digital Classroom

While moving along all the steps above, I have tried to turn my apartment living room into an instant digital classroom, with the following setups:

Dual Display | My laptop 1 and TV display, connected with HDMI cable:

Split Screen | This setting allows you to keep multiple windows on your display, even when you are using Zoom’s “SHARE SCREEN” function. Again, you can do keyword search on “split screen” on the web, and can find a lot of useful instructions available:

Joining a Zoom meeting from two laptops | Using laptop 1 to launch a Zoom meeting as “host”, while joining the same meeting through laptop 2 as “guest”. This way, I can check what a student is seeing without asking them if/what they are seeing too frequently, and I can also detect any issues even before students notice it. Huge helper with my keeping the momentum going in class.

Web Camera | Connecting it to my laptop 1 with USB cable, and mounting it on top of TV screen. I give a remote camera control privilege to my session coordinator and TA, so that they can zoom in/out as well as pan right/left, as I am moving around in my digital classroom, aka my living room. I am one of those who gain momentum and get dynamic, and simply cannot sit still and talk.

Whiteboards & Easel Stands | I put three whiteboards in my back, simulating a regular classroom setting. I am a hardcore case instructor by training, walking around in front of and jotting down student comments on whiteboards. For flexibly changing whiteboard layout as needed, I decided to put whiteboards on easel stands:

Earbudgs, Mouse, and Pointer | Cyborging myself into the “extended self” with the following gadets :)

I hope that this my 7-step journey would be of help for someone out there with their version of “moving courses online.” I am also hoping that this Medium piece could help me get connected with fellow learning designers out there, and that we can work together and help with each other to further explore learning excellence amid/post-COVID-19.


Moving Courses Online #2: A Few — yet Critical — Steps for Learning Continuity Amid/Post-COVID-19


Global Network for Advanced Management (2018). Global network courses guidelines and best practices, Internal document.

LifeLabs Learning (2020) [Website]

Schiano, B. (2020) Adapting quickly to teaching online [Webinar recording]

Schiano, B. & Andersen, E. (2017) Teaching with cases online, Harvard Business Publishing [Article]

Tokuhama-Espinosa, T. (2020) PSYC-E1609 The neuroscience of learning: An introduction to mind, brain, health, and education [Course syllabus] Harvard University Extension School.

Workiewicz, M. (2020) How to move to online teaching (fast) [Blog]

Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning (2020) [Website]

Zoom (2020) Tips & Tricks: Teachers Educating on Zoom [Article]


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