A variety of circumstances might require you to temporarily move to alternative (e.g. virtual) methods of instruction: a campus decision to suspend in-person instruction, increased absenteeism during a flu outbreak, a family emergency requiring your presence elsewhere, etc. This guide will provide you with some actions to take when making that shift quickly.
If you need assistance with your course, or have general questions, please email email@example.com and we'll connect you with someone as soon as possible.
Be kind to yourself and your students. Everyone is stressed, even if they’re playing cool. That includes faculty. And that’s OK.
Let’s acknowledge that the quality of education will not be as good in alternative formats as it is in the pedagogical model we’ve actually planned for. You will not recreate your classroom, and you cannot hold yourself to that standard. That’s OK as well—we’re just trying to survive.
Do not read on best practices for distance learning. That’s not the situation we’re in. We’re in triage. Distance learning, when planned, can be really excellent. That’s not what this is. Do what you absolutely have to and ditch what you can. Thinking you can manage best practices in a day or a week will lead to feeling like you’ve failed. Additionally, now may not be the best time to try new technology. Stick with what you know and use it well.
Prioritize: what do students really need to know for the next few weeks? This is really difficult, and, once again, it means that the quality of teaching and learning will suffer. But these are not normal circumstances.
Communicate, early and often. Stay in contact with students and stay transparent. Talk to them about why you’re prioritizing certain things or asking them to read or do certain things. Most of us do that in our face-to-face teaching anyway, and it improves student buy-in because they know content and delivery are purposeful. It is helpful to tell students that you recognize that this is a difficult and confusing transition and that you are going to make an effort to make your expectations for the remaining course as clear and concise as possible.
If you’re making videos, student viewership drops off precipitously at five minutes. Make them capsule videos if you make them and consider uploading it to YouTube because it transcribes for you. At the same time, of course, think about intellectual property and what you’re willing to release to a wide audience. An alternative is to write your lectures so all students can access them. Use a conversational style and infuse it with your personality.
Consider making your assignment lower or no stakes if you’re unsure about how your assessment will be completed remotely. Get students used to remote assessments with some low- or no-stakes assessments. Then you can do something higher stakes.
Be particularly kind to your graduating seniors. They're already panicking, and this isn't going to help. If you teach a class where they need to have completed something for certification, to apply to grad school, or whatever, figure out plan B. But talk to them. Radio silence, even if you're working, is not an option.
** Adapted from an email from Amy Long, Professor of Communication, Pacific Lutheran University, and Going Online in a Hurry, Chronicle of Higher Ed
Check out Matt Atherton's quick guide on using backwards design to move to virtual instruction. This guide offers a framework to use when considering how to present your content in a virtual environment.
Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es)—whether a planned absence on your part, or because of a crisis impacting all or part of campus. 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:
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:
The majority of Library resources and services are available electronically using the Library website (biblio.csusm.edu) as a portal, including collections, course reserves, and research assistance. Additional virtual research assistance services and contacts during this time will be posted at https://biblio.csusm.edu/guides/research-assistance.
An alternative way to record your voice as you present content on your computer is to record a lecture using Zoom.
Recording a Zoom meeting can be another lightweight and easy way of getting lectures recorded quickly with no editing required. Check out our page about Zoom best practices for some tips that will help make your recordings the best quality possible. To ensure accessibility,
Consider writing out your lectures, and posting them online, in lieu of a video lecture. A word doc, or slides with notes could offer a higher degree of accessibility for all students.
New to Zoom, and looking for some basics? Check out this video from Mizzou.
One of the biggest challenges of teaching during a building or campus closure is sustaining the lab components of classes. Since many labs require specific equipment, they are hard to reproduce outside of that physical space.
Considerations as you plan to address lab activities:
Fostering communication among students is important because it allows you to reproduce any cooperation you build into your course, and maintains a sense of community that can help keep students motivated to participate and learn. It helps if you already had some sort of student-to-student online activity (for example, Cougar Course Forums) since students will be used to both the process and the tool.
Consider these suggestions when planning activities:
Zoom Meeting Breakouts can be a great way to have students work in group, if you are already familiar with Zoom. Stephen Tsui, Associate Professor of Physics, has created a short video explaining how he does it: Tsui Zoom Breakouts Example
Collecting assignments during a campus closure is fairly straightforward, since many instructors already collect work electronically. The main challenge during a campus disruption is whether students have access to computers, as anyone needing a campus computer lab may be unable to access necessary technologies. Here are a few things to keep in mind: