Transitioning to Online Teaching: Three Successes

CA and FreudLike many academics and teachers, over the past two weeks I’ve spent WAY TOO MANY hours transitioning from face-to-face to online teaching. In the process, I’ve experienced several epic fails, and, although I’m tempted to list them, instead, I’m following the principles of positive psychology and listing my successes. Woohoo!

Let me explain the woohoo. According to B. J. Fogg, a positive habit researcher, we should make gestures and say things like “Yessss!” and “Woohoo” to help instill the habit. He says that doing so releases dopamine in the brain and consequently serves to reinforce the habit you’re trying to establish. Despite the fact that I despise the over-focus on neurophysiology in general and the over-focus on single neurotransmitters in particular, I’m still going with Dr. Fogg’s recommendation.

Aside from painful and exhausting failures, my decision to use the words Moodle, Zoom, and Powerpoint as profanity, and the virtual absence of technical assistance, I’ve had three big successes. All three came in the form of videos. All three are now available on Youtube.

First, as many of you may know, at the end of an especially long and failure-filled day, I recorded myself doing a mood-enhancing happiness dance to M.C. Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.” Not surprisingly, my students ignored my efforts to regale them with erudite knowledge, but they universally lauded, shared, and liked my happiness dance video. Here’s the link to this 1 minute sensation:

Second, in an effort to bring life to powerpoint lectures, I interspersed various videos of myself making profound comments. Generally, the response to these videos was a collective “ho-hum.” However, my use of two action-figures, Captain America and Freud  to illustrate the pain of unrequited friendship and romantic love garnered rave reviews. You can view this masterpiece in less than 4 minutes:

Third, inspired by Nick Heath’s Twitter-page, instead of a traditional (and boring) Moodle-based quiz, I decided to organize and deliver a Livestream Happiness Pub Quiz using Zoom. My discoveries: I loved doing the (Sober) Happiness Pub Quiz, and got great and positive feedback from the 30 participants. Although Zoom failed to record the session (Zoom does some things very well and other things, very badly or not at all), I made a rough and embarrassing recording using my iPad. This 55 minute soon-to-be viral classic is available here:

I present these video resources to you not because I’ve become a successful online instructor, but because I’ve become–through repeated failures and frustrations–a better online instructor who can now brag about three strategic successes.

Have a fabulous weekend, while staying safe, being socially distant, and regularly washing your hands and your brain.


2 thoughts on “Transitioning to Online Teaching: Three Successes”

  1. John, I am a university professor looking for new ways to increase student interaction. I LOVE your idea of the pub quiz. How did you facilitate that through Zoom – did you use the Zoom platform or something like or? HELP! Thank you so much! Ava Kate Oleson at

    1. Hi Ava,

      Thanks for your comment. I just have used Zoom. I’ll have to check out What I do is prepare about 25 or 30 questions in advance and put them into a ppt. Then I don my U of Montana cap, get a mug of water and chips, and get my extraversion on and talk and talk. . . eventually plowing through the questions with commentary. Students respond via the Chat Box as the questions come up, and I make side comments and it’s especially fun when the students make jokes or silly answers when they don’t know. Usually I award extra credit points to whomever is first to answer correctly, but sometimes I say something like “the 3rd correct answer gets the points.” The next slide includes the answer(s). All of the live questions are for extra credit. Then, after the pub quiz, everyone should know the right answers, but they have to write them up and submit them to me. About 90% of students get 100%, but there are always a few:).

      Hope this helps.


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