All of us, faculty and students alike, are facing an unprecedented situation. Many of us may be experiencing anxiety and feeling stress about the public health situation in general and teaching and learning in new ways specifically. Be kind to yourselves, and keep sight of our common humanity as we all do the best we can under the circumstances. The following resources offer some important perspectives and strategies that will help you promote academic well-being as you keep teaching. And if you are looking for tips on staying physically and mentally well at this time, consider this crowd-sourced list of possibilities.
Be kind to yourself and your students during this disruption.
Creating Conditions for Academic Well-Being
Developed by the Center for Teaching and Learning, Georgia Tech (full site)
When fostering academic well-being while teaching remotely, keep these four principles in mind:
- Flexibility: Providing students with multiple ways to engage in the course offers them some control over their learning experiences and contributes to their sense of well-being.
Example: Provide multiple ways to view any recorded class sessions. For example if you do a synchronous session, also post the video later.
- Social Connection: Facilitating interaction in class helps students build social networks with peers and relationships with faculty/TAs. Helping students make these connections invites a sense of belonging and well-being.
Example: Encourage students to use Canvas Groups to set up check in meetings with each other even when they are away from campus
- Involvement and Engagement: Providing students with the opportunity to make real and valued contribution through their coursework creates a sense of well-being and satisfaction with the learning environment.
Example: Consider challenging your students to reflect on the current crisis through the lens of your course.
- Optimal Challenge: Challenging students to perform their best contributes to their well-being when we minimize unnecessary stress, provide on-going feedback about their learning and connect them with resources that can support their success.
Example: Communicate clearly about how you are adjusting your expectations to order to teach remotely and what resources you are making available to support students as they learn remotely.
(Excerpt from) 11 Things to Consider when Moving Your Course Online
Created by the Connecticut College Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL) and Instructional Technology (IT). (complete list)
With special thanks to Karen Gonzalez Rice, Jessica McCullough, and Anthony Graesch.
We don’t know [all] what we’re doing! And that’s OK! Most of us don't have expertise in online teaching, and few if any of us have experience suddenly transitioning from a face-to-face course to a fully online course. What does learning mean under these new conditions? Our assumptions and expectations of what we--and students--can accomplish will likely need to change. While there’s no one-size-fits-all or single best way to integrate digital tech into a remodeled curricular design, we have assembled some best practices in this document.
Reassure students that we will figure it out together. Acknowledge the big feelings involved with a closed campus, disrupted semester, and the general anxiety of this uncertain time. If you feel comfortable doing so, invite students to discuss what they are experiencing, air concerns, and ask questions.
Consider involving students in the work of figuring out how to best meet course objectives in the context of a now-online course, and indicate to them what kind of flexibility is possible within the framework of the course (e.g., course objectives, pacing, assessment, project timing, etc.).
Re-establish classroom community. Allow space and time for students to connect/reconnect individually and as a class. For example, students might record or write a short reflection (perhaps posted on a Moodle forum) on where and how they are working on course-related assignments during the campus closure, with attention to their work space, their strategies for staying connected, and how they are re-establishing routine. Or pair students up and ask them to check in with each other by email, text, or phone. You might also address COVID-19 from the perspective of your discipline (see assignment ideas here). These could be opportunities for exchanging ideas as well as for much-needed mindfulness amid somewhat unpredictable circumstances.
Expect setbacks and frame student expectations around the notion of adaptability. Technology will fail, time zones will be confused, assignments will be lost, and activities will go over like a lead balloon. Be prepared to help students problem-solve, extend deadlines, or simply wait for students to resolve issues and disruptions. It’s ok to share that you don’t know how to solve every problem, but do show that you will do your best to accommodate the chaos and to connect students to the help and resources they need.
Consider regularly gathering feedback on how the class is going. It will likely be challenging to gauge how the class is going and how students are responding to the online environment. Engage students in self-reflection and get a sense of their learning trajectories by offering opportunities for feedback in a variety of forms, including 5-minute free-writing posts to Moodle, an anonymous Google form, a targeted email, or using class time to invite students to text or talk on the phone with a peer in the class and then reporting out.
How to Humanize Your Online Class
Developed by Michelle Pacansky-Brock and T&L Innovations (complete resource)
This resource provides useful perspectives and tools to help you bring a sense of community to courses taught remotely. While it was designed for more traditional online teaching, some perspectives are particularly useful for our current situation of making a rapid transition to remote teaching.
Awareness: Know your students
Consider polling your students to find out how they are adapting to this new learning environment. For example, are they experiencing any difficulties with accessing the course or materials? Being aware of what your students are going through will help you know how best to respond and support them.
Empathy: Sense when students need extra support
Consider making a short video being transparent about the ways that you are doing your best to adapt to this unprecedented situation. Let them know that you are sensitive to the fact that all of you are making adjustments and may experience challenges. Create a space (e.g. a discussion forum) where all can share their challenges and help each other to overcome them.
Post updates regularly so that students still feel your engagement in the course even though you don’t meet face to face. Videos help a lot with enhancing this sense of presence.
Consider the Learning Context
Students will be accessing remote learning materials in a context that may be full of distractions and family responsibilities that they ordinarily do not need to manage. While learning at home they may face challenges such as sharing broadband or interruptions from caring for children and other family members. We should be mindful of the implications these challenges and adjust our expectations accordingly. In “Please Do a Bad Job of Putting Your Courses Online,” Rebecca Barrett-Fox provides some practical suggestions that help us to make this move to remote teaching more humane.
- Do not record lectures unless you need to. They will be a low priority for students, and they take up a lot of resources on your end and on theirs.
- Do record lectures if you need to. When information cannot be learned otherwise, include a lecture. While many people recommend lectures of only 5 minutes, I find that my students really do listen to longer lectures. Still, remember that your students will be frequently interrupted in their listening, so a good rule is 1 concept per lecture.
- Make all work due on the same day and time for the rest of the semester. I recommend Sunday night at 11:59 pm. Students who are now stay-at-home parents will need help from others to get everything done, and that help is more likely to arrive on a weekend. While, in general, I dislike 11:59 due dates because work done that late is typically of lower quality, some people will need to work after the kids go to bed, so setting the deadline at 9 or 10 pm just doesn’t give them enough time.
- Remind them of due dates. It might feel like hand-holding, but be honest: Don’t you appreciate the text reminder from your dentist that you have an appointment tomorrow?
- Listen for them asking for help. They may be anxious. They may be tired. Many students are returning to their parents’ home where they may not be welcome. Others will be at home with partners who are violent. School has been a safe place for them, and now it’s not available to them. Your class may matter to them a lot when they are able to focus on it, but it may not matter much now, in contrast to all the other things they have to deal with. Don’t let that hurt your feelings, and don’t hold it against them in future semesters or when they come back to ask for a letter of recommendation.
To read the full blog post, please follow this link.