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April 2020 #MedEdPearls: Mastering Adaptive Teaching in the Midst of COVID-19

The current coronavirus outbreak is forcing all educators to rapidly adapt to a new method of teaching - online. While many educators may have mastered their teaching domains in the classroom, virtual teaching will certainly challenge their mastery of adapting to this new learning environment. With the help of faculty development colleagues, we can remain nimble during times of rapid transition. How do we as medical educators stay resilient and step courageously into this unfamiliar territory?

This #MedEdPearl highlights strategies for maintaining teacher, social and cognitive presence in a virtual learning environment.

  • Maintain Teacher Presence
    • Connect with students via web conferencing apps such as Zoom, Skype, Google+ Hangout, YouTube Live or Microsoft Teams.
    • Minimize email communication with students by establishing office hours via your institution’s learning management system, Google chat, Twitter or web conferencing.
  • Maintain Social Presence
    • Don’t downplay the truth or risks of COVID-19.
    • Start every session with an activity to lower stress, such as having students in the virtual environment stand on their non-dominant leg for 30 seconds and talk about balance as a sixth sense.
    • Create safe spaces to talk about concerns and reach out to students who seemingly disengage in the move to virtual learning.
  • Maintain Cognitive Presence

To see additional strategies and resources other learning institutions are developing to support this move to online instruction, visit the EDUCAUSE website.

What strategies do you find successful when teaching in a virtual environment? Share your ideas via Twitter at #MedEdPearls!


  1. Garrison, Innes, and Fung. 2010. Exploring Causal Relationships Among Teaching Cognitive and Social Presence: Student Perceptions of the Community of Inquiry Framework. The Internet and Higher Education.
  2. McClelland. 2016. Top Hat Blog: 4 Tools for Synchronous Teaching and Learning.
  3. Gross. 2020. New England Board of Higher Ed. I’m Worried…Higher Education Isn’t Focused at all on COVID-19’s Psychological Toll.  
  4. EDUCAUSE. Online Learning.

#MedEdPearls are developed monthly by the Central Group on Educational Affairs. Previously, #MedEdPearls explored topics including a transformational book for educators, writing multiple choice questions, and small group instructional diagnosis.


Author BIO

Leah Sheridan, PhD, is a medical educator in physiology. Leah currently holds a position as Associate Lecturer at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine where she serves in curriculum innovation, development and leadership. Leah’s areas of professional interest include the scholarship of teaching and learning, physiology education, and curriculum development. Leah can be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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Sunday, 28 November 2021