While one needs to consider a whole host of issues when adapting instruction to address unexpected emergencies and residential campus closures, the following suggestions can help organize this effort.
Keep track of your campus’ status by consulting the Wake Alert website, the primary information source during an emergency at Wake Forest.
Confirm Policies and Plans
Check in with your Department Chair, Program Director, or Dean’s Office to confirm details around a given closure. Consult University communications on closures and alerts (Wake Alert). Your academic unit may also send out additional guidelines for you to follow to standardize this transition and minimize disruption. We suggest faculty run their classes at the same time of day and days of the week as their original face-to-face schedule. Of course, each faculty member will need to use their best judgment to determine what will work given the course material to be delivered.
Communicate with Your Class
It is vital that you communicate regularly with your students, even if your plans have not been formalized. Reach out to them (and any others in the learning community) to clarify what might be happening and when. For anyone using WFU’s Google Mail you can email your class directly as a group. Announcements can also be sent through your Canvas course site(s).
Academic accommodations approved by the Learning Assistance Center and Disability Services continue to apply in an online environment. Students with these accommodations will be encouraged to verify with you again how the logistics of accommodations may change in a remote learning environment. For online learning platforms, it is possible to provide accommodations of extended time if that is an approved accommodation the student has discussed with you prior to this point in the semester. For all accommodations, staff of the LAC-DS remain available to consult with individual accommodation needs.
Faculty: For students who lack broadband access or are without their laptop due to repairs or other reasons, please ask them to reach out to the IS Service Desk at help.wfu.edu or 336-758-4357 to request a hotspot or loaner laptop. Please direct them to include their phone number and shipping address to expedite processing.
Some situations will limit our ability to address all of the content, goals, and outcomes we intended to cover in the order we had planned. Identify the most essential ideas, activities, and assessments in a given week or unit. What activities are better rescheduled (as possible), and which can more easily be addressed remotely? Confirming these priorities helps to shape the creation of new content and remote learning activities.
Establish Realistic Goals
None of us will be able to do everything immediately. Acknowledge both your strengths and your limitations when it comes to adapting instruction for remote delivery. Set realistic boundaries around what you and your students are capable of adjusting to in a given period. This is probably your students’ first experience with learning via remote delivery of content. Give them some grace and allow them time and space to orient themselves. One tool used well and a single big idea fleshed out meaningfully might accomplish far more than all the tools being used to address all the ideas in all the ways.
Minimize the Relational Distance
When accustomed to traditional, face-to-face learning environments, remote teaching creates real and perceived distance between teachers, students, and each other. It is important to take steps to minimize the relational distance in digital spaces for learning. Provide opportunities for students to connect with each other and their instructor(s). It’s important that students can watch, hear, or read digital instructional content, but no level of production quality will replace the value of rich, thoughtful engagement between learners, their peers, and their instructors.
Sometimes change begets more change. Planning can help, but it is important that we all remain flexible in our expectations in certain situations. Elicit feedback from students, colleagues, and campus staff in a manner that centers a self-reflective teaching process as one adapts to new strategies for delivery.
The degree to which a digital resource or tool is accessible to someone may vary depending on the technology in use, types of materials, and a person’s circumstances, but striving to make your digital teaching more accessible can be of benefit to all students and colleagues. As campus engagement increasingly includes digital mediums, the IS Technology Accessibility team is available for consultation on accessibility best practices and resources for faculty and staff. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how they can support your work, and visit accessibility.wfu.edu for more information.
Moving forward, advanced planning can help to avoid many problems when adapting to an unexpected situation. Consider addressing contingency plans in your syllabus in a way that establishes expectations for both learners and instructors in advance of an emergency. Setting up a digital course site (such as in Canvas) for all your courses each term can enable quick responses when a situation demands it.