Earlier this week, I taught my first online MBA class.
It did not go as well as I would have liked.
Despite paying for a 1 GB internet connection in my home, my students told me they were getting a message that my computer didn't have enough bandwidth, and so my voice was cutting in and out as I was trying to present. I still have no idea why this happened, but I'm in the process of figuring it out so it doesn't happen again.
To try and solve the problem in the moment, I left the video-conference, rebooted my computer, reset my router, and then logged back on to the Zoom meeting.
That didn't help much.
The workaround solution was for everyone to mute themselves and turn off their video, which left me presenting the slides I had prepared to an empty screen.
It was a terrible experience for me as a presenter, and I'm fairly sure my students have had better classes.
The second half of the class was a little bit better because I was showing my students a video instead of presenting.
But it was only a little bit better; the sound for the video was coming out of my speakers instead of out of my computer, and so my students couldn't hear the voices from the video very well.
I didn't anticipate the sound not working properly, but I did suspect that showing a full-length film via Zoom might not work. So as a backup plan, I put a copy of the video on my cloud drive, then shared a link to the video on my class portal. When my students told me they couldn't hear the sound, I asked them to click the link on the portal so they could watch the video on their own machines (without using Zoom), and then we used Zoom's chat feature to discuss what was happening together.
There are two takeaways here.
First, no matter how much you prepare, sometimes your plans are going to go off the rails. That's just life. When it happens, the only thing you can do in the moment is to apologize and keep going. Then, after it's over, you can figure out what went wrong, and take what steps you can to ensure it doesn't happen again.
And second, whenever you can arrange to have a Plan B in place, do it.
P.S. In case you're wondering, the vast majority of my students recognized we're all trying to figure this e-learning thing out together, and were very understanding. Today, I did notice my class now had four fewer people in it, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over that. I'll use the time I don't need to spend marking eight extra assignments to make things better for everyone else.