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    What are you trying to accomplish?

  • Communicate with students

    You’ll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety and save you dealing with individual questions.

    Keep these principles in mind:

    • Communicate early and often: Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren’t in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Don’t swamp them with email, but consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand (for example, the campus closure is extended for two more days; what will students need to know related to your course?).
    • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them (i.e. email, Canvas Announcements, etc.), and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email and how quickly they can expect your response. If you are using Canvas to manage communications, you might also suggest that they update their notification preferences.
    • Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider creating an information page in Canvas and encouraging students to check there for updated information.
  • Distribute course materials and readings

    You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more instruction online. In a pinch, providing some new readings and related assignments may be your best bet for keeping the intellectual momentum of the course moving.

    Considerations when posting new course materials:

    • Make sure students know when new material is posted: Let students know what you posted and where (i.e. Course Reserves, Canvas, Google Drive, etc.). If you need to put materials on electronic course reserves, contact the ZSR Library’s Course Reserves team. Please note that as of March 27, access to physical materials in ZSR Library is no longer possible and digitization of physical materials is unavailable until further notice. If you need assistance identifying electronic versions of materials or alternatives to unavailable physical materials, contact your library liaison or Research Services. They can also help identify streaming options for media, or help you identify alternatives if streaming options are not available. For all other questions regarding how to provide access to your course materials, including copyright considerations, please click here.
    • Consider alternative materials: In an emergency situation, some of your students will not have access to their print textbooks. Consider using a free, peer-reviewed alternative, such as those made available through the Open Textbook Library, or search for other free and open course materials through the OASIS search tool. Also consider materials that might be available through ZSR Library. including ebooks, streaming video, and other multimedia.
    • Keep things accessible: In a crisis, many students may only have a phone available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats. Moreover, new modes of delivery and access can create issues for learners of different abilities. Keep in mind strategies that better enable access and remain flexible to accommodate people as needed. PDFs are often mobile-friendly, but they can present access issues if improperly formatted: ensure accessibility of PDFs. Consider saving other files (for example, PowerPoint presentations) as file types that are easier to read on phones and tablets, and keep the file size small. Downloading videos take lots of bandwidth, so consider what tools and delivery methods you are using for videos.
  • Deliver lectures

    Deliver lectures

    Be aware that a 45-minute live lecture sprinkled with questions and activities can become grueling when delivered online without intellectual breaks. Here are a few suggestions to improve online lectures:

    • Record in small chunks: Even the best online speakers keep it brief; think of the brevity of TED talks. We learn better with breaks to process and apply new information. To aid student learning, record any lectures in shorter (5-10 minute) chunks and intersperse them with small activities that give students opportunities to process the new knowledge; make connections to other concepts; apply an idea; or make some notes in response to prompts. Smaller chunks also lead to smaller files, especially when using voice-over PowerPoint presentations.
    • Be flexible with live video: Lecturing live with Webex or Zoom is certainly possible and it can do a good job approximating a classroom setting since students can ask questions. Some students won’t have access to fast internet connections and others may have their schedules disrupted. So, record any live classroom session and be flexible about how students can attend and participate. Check out Hannah Inzko’s post “Troll -Proofing Your Zoom Sessions” to set up privacy procedures to avoid unwanted or disruptive interruptions.
    • It’s not just about content: Lectures can mean more than just providing course content; they also establish a sense of normalcy and a personal connection. Instructor presence is key during short-term remote stints. Consider ways that you can use lectures to make students feel connected and cared about: acknowledgement of current challenges, praise for good work, and reminders about the class being a community. This affective work can help their learning during a difficult time.
  • Run Lab/Studio/Performance Activities

    One of the biggest challenges of teaching during a building or campus closure is sustaining lab/studio/performance classes or parts-of-classes. Since many such activities require specific equipment or facilities, they are hard to reproduce outside of their usual physical space on campus.

    Considerations as you plan to address lab/studio/performance activities:

    • Take part of the lab online: Many lab activities require students to become familiar with certain procedures and only physical practice of those processes will do. In such cases, consider if there are other parts of the lab experience you could take online (for example, video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations, analysis of data, other pre- or post-lab work), and save the physical practice parts of the labs until access is restored. The semester might get disjointed by splitting up lab experiences, but it might get you through a short campus closure.
    • Investigate virtual labs: Online resources and virtual tools might help replicate the experience of some labs (for example, virtual dissection, night sky apps, video demonstrations of labs, simulations). Those vary widely by discipline, but check with your textbook publisher, or sites such as Merlot for materials that might help replace parts of your lab when teaching remotely.
    • Provide raw data for analysis: In cases where a lab experiment includes both collection of data and its analysis, consider showing how the data can be collected and then provide some raw sets of data for students to analyze. This approach is not as comprehensive as having students collect and analyze their own data, but it might keep them engaged with parts of the lab experience during the closure.
    • Explore alternate software access: Some labs or studios require access to specialized software that students cannot install on their own computers. Depending on the nature of the closure (for example, a building versus the entire campus), the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, ZSR Course Delivery, or IS might be able to help set up alternate computer labs or creative studios that have the software your students need.
    • Utilize video and audio recordings: Consider if some studio or performance-based technique instruction can be replaced with demos on video followed by student reflection. Perhaps students could be asked to view and respond to a filmed performance or audio recording rather than attending live performances? Could students record audio/video files of their own performance activities, to be shared on a course site for classmates to critique?
    • Experiment with alternative creative media: If the visual art supplies or resources typically employed in your studio class are not available to students away from campus, consider redesigning creative projects to allow for experimentation with more readily available media.
    • Increase interaction in other ways: Sometimes labs are more about having time for direct student interaction, so consider other ways to replicate that level of contact if it is only your lab or studio or performance hall that is out of commission.
  • Foster communication and collaboration among students

    Foster communication and collaboration among students

    Fostering communication among students allows you to reproduce any collaboration you had built into your course and maintains a sense of community that can help keep students motivated. It helps if you already had some sort of student-to-student online activity (for example, Canvas Discussions) since students will be used to both the process and the tool.

    Consider these suggestions when planning activities:

    • Use asynchronous tools when possible: Having students participate in live video conversations can be useful, but scheduling can be a problem and it can be challenging to manage large classrooms. In such cases, using asynchronous tools such as Canvas Discussions or VoiceThread allow students to participate on their own schedules. In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.
    • Link to clear goals and outcomes: Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. How does this activity help them meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments?
    • Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious. Some instructors may ask for students to detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
    • Balance newness and need: You will need to balance the needs and benefits of remote collaboration. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit. Keep the focus on your lesson topic and less about the technology, when you can.
  • Collect assignments

    Collect assignments

    The main challenge during a campus disruption is whether students have access to computers, as anyone needing access to specific software may not be able to use it remotely. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    • Require only common software: Students may not have access to specialty software located in on-campus computer labs. Software @ WFU provides an overview of items generally accessible to students, but keep in mind that they may be limited in what they can use in situations that keep them away from campus. Be ready with a backup plan for such students.
    • Avoid emailed attachments: It may be easy to collect assignments in small classes via email, but larger classes might swamp your email inbox. Consider using tools better suited for this purpose (i.e. Canvas Assignments). Balance what is simplest for students with what is easiest for you to manage.
    • State expectations, but be ready to allow extensions: Some students will undoubtedly have difficulties meeting deadlines. Make expectations clear, but be ready to provide more flexibility than you normally would in your class.
    • Require specific filenames: It may sound trivial, but anyone who collects papers electronically knows the pain of getting 20 files named Essay1.docx. Give your students a simple file naming convention, for example, FirstnameLastname-Essay1.docx.
  • Assess student learning

    Assess student learning

    It is fairly easy to give small quizzes to hold students accountable or do spot-checks on their learning. This might be ideal to keep students on track during class disruptions. Providing high-stakes tests online can be challenging, however; they place extra stress on students and test integrity is difficult to ensure. If you know there is a date for resuming on-campus classes, consider delaying exams until you return.

    General tips for assessing student learning during class disruption:

    • Embrace short quizzes: Short quizzes can be a great way to keep students engaged with course concepts, particularly if they are interspersed with small chunks of video lecture. Consider using very-low-stakes quizzes to give students practice at applying concepts—just enough points to hold them accountable, but not so many that the activity becomes all about points.
    • Move beyond simple facts: It is good to reinforce concepts through practice on a quiz, but generally it is best to move beyond factual answers that students can quickly look up. Instead, write questions that prompt students to apply concepts to new scenarios or ask them to identify the best of multiple correct answers.
    • Check for publishers’ test banks: Look to see if your textbook publisher has question banks that can be loaded into Canvas; see How to Connect Your Canvas Course with Various Publisher Tools. Even if you don’t use these questions for your exams, they can be useful for simple quizzes. Some textbooks also have their own online quizzing tools that can help keep students engaged with the material.
    • Update expectations for projects: Campus disruptions may limit students’ access to resources they need to complete papers or other projects, and team projects may be harmed by a team’s inability to meet. Be ready to change assignment expectations based on the limitations a crisis may impose. Possible options include allowing individual rather than group projects; having groups record presentations with Zoom; or adjusting the types of resources needed for research papers.
    • Consider alternate exams: Delivering a secure exam online can be difficult without a good deal of preparation and support. Consider giving open-book exams or other types of exams. They can be harder to grade, but you have fewer worries about test security.