Checklist to Prepare for an Online Course
We have created this checklist to helpyou view your course in the framework of distance-learning during a difficult time. This checklist is a companion to the guide, Establishing Student Expectations in a Virtual Learning Environment, a collaborative effort of Academic Senate, the Dean of Students Office, the Office of Inclusive Excellence, IITS, and the Faculty Center.
- How do we successfully communicate to students in a virtual environment?
This guide to Communicating with Students: Guidance and Templates is good starting point.
Establishing an instructional communication plan
Communication during a disruption is key to keeping students on track and overcoming barriers to learning due to stress and external circumstances. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety and help you streamline your communication strategy should the unexpected occur.
Communicate early and often. Show them the areas in Cougar Courses where they can expect to find your communications, and tell them how often you will expect them to check their email, and how quickly they can expect your response. Encourage students to share with you their communication needs: Take this time to find out from students how many of them will be accessing the course through their smartphone only if the campus needs to close. How many will have unstable wifi networks and may need to work in a store parking lot to complete work?
- Manage your communications load
- Expect that some students will want to talk to you on the phone while others are happy with email or Cougar Course announcements.
- Know your capabilities and share your lines of communication with students in advance.
- Be accessible but set clear boundaries - what is the preferred method students should use to contact you? When and how often will you check email?
- How do we set expectations for online meetings to facilitate a successful session?
CSUSM has developed a guide: Recommendations for Students in a Virtual Learning Environment. It may be helpful to review this document as you create your expectations or to have students review this document before your sessions.
- Are you offering guidance about how to be successful in your online course and resources
for when they struggle?
Remember that over 50% of our students are first generation and many of our students may be somewhat less familiar with online courses. So the more guidance and encouragement we can give, the better.
Cougar Care Network (CCN) provides information, connection to resources, advocacy and support for students dealing with personal, academic, financial or other challenges which may adversely affect their academic success and/or collegiate experience.
- Provide specific tips about how students can succeed and excel in your course. This can include advice about how often they should be logging into the course.
- Have you created and explained a logical pathway or workflow for students to follow? How examples, Watch lectures by Tuesday, complete reading by Thursday, and post to the message board by Friday.
- Share the Recommendations for Students in a Virtual Learning Environment with students as it provides guidance and resources about how to communicate the need for assistance and how to get it.
- Have you looked at your course through an equity-minded lens?
Faculty at CSUSM do a good job considering these issues and teaching to our student population. However, the distance-learning mode presents unique challenges and opportunities to support all of our students.
- Consider reviewing following videos
- Kendra Rivera and Nicholas Lacey’s presentation on Equity Mindedness in Online Teaching presentation (CSUSM login required).
- Employing Equity-Minded & Culturally-Affirming Teaching Practices in Virtual Learning Communities
- 6 Ways to be More inclusive in your virtual classroom
- IITS Student Resources
- What can you do to support students with disabilities in a distance-learning environment?
There are three aspects of accessibility that are key here – accessibility for students with physical impairments that may create challenges for reading/seeing/hearing digital files and content, accessibility for students with psychological and/or learning differences that require certain accommodations such as extra time to process materials or additional exam time, and accessibility for students with limited access to computers or stable internet service.
Taking the following steps will ensure an accessible virtual learning environment:
- Ensure that there is an alternative format available ie, transcript for audio or closed captioning on media
- Provide approved accommodations for students who present accommodation letters from the Disability Support Services office
- Confirm that content is mobile-friendly
- Consider variation in students’ access to computers and stable internet service
Resources for creating an accessible online classroom environment:
- Have you reviewed ways of securing video conferencing software for lectures, office hours, etc?
- Have you familiarized yourself with the changes/updates to policies and procedures that include updated information for virtual environments?
- Have you thought about the unique challenges you may face in regards to academic integrity?
Issues of academic integrity are things that unfortunately need to be dealt with over the course of the semester. A distance learning environment brings with it unique challenges as well as unique pressures that can cause otherwise honest students to resort to cheating.
- CSUSM workshop on Academic Integrity in a Virtual Environment (CSUSM Login Required)
- The majority of academic integrity issues can be prevented by Designing online and blended course environments that promote academic integrity.
- As discussed in our assessment workshop, design assessments that does not lend itself to cheating.
- CSUSM policy
- If are using software such as Respondus or Proctor U to monitor students during an exam, since these require a camera there are several things you must consider. First and foremost is to let students know as soon as possible that a wifi connection, camera, and microphone are required materials for this course. The CSU Chancellor’s office recommends that any such assessment address the following four issues: 1. Alternate Assessments 2. Equity 3. Privacy 4. Disability Accommodation. Here are more details about the CSU guidelines.
- Are you teaching students that are new to campus?
This semester is going to be especially unusual/challenging to students who are in their first semester at CSUSM. Literature shows that sense of belonging and student engagement are predictors of both basic success measures (graduation, retention, equity gaps) as well as post-graduation success.
- Are you setting clear boundaries to protect your time (and mental health)?
While we are dedicated to giving our students a robust and meaningful learning experience during this shift to distance-learning, we must realize that we are dealing with many of the same issues as our students. We need to be deliberate and mindful that making our classes successful does not come at the cost of our well being.
- How are you going to handle administrative considerations such as add/drop?
Maintaining your roster is important during most semesters, but given the layers of a virtual environment, budget concerns, and challenges students are facing it is even more pressing. The consequences of students being dropped from classes have significant repercussions in terms of academic progress, financial aid, and long-term success. So please take some time to look at your current enrollment, waitlist and the up to date policies from the Office of the Registrar.
If you are a faculty member that may need to administratively drop students; please consider the following:
- Have you clearly communicated to students the deadline by which they need to complete the conditions in order to remain enrolled?
- Have you clearly defined what tasks students need to complete in order to be considered enrolled in the course?
- If you are teaching an asynchronous course, you need to have a benchmark in order
to determine attendance before dropping a student. The university suggests using the
completion of an assignment rather than whether they have accessed a document such
as the syllabus. An assignment such as a short “Getting to know you” discussion board,
writing prompt, or syllabus quiz would work. Here is a link to several examples of questions that can be incorporated into a check-in assignment from our Teaching
& Learning Online Workshop series (CSUSM log-in required)
You can track this and other student progress via the reports function in Cougar Courses. This is also a great tool for reaching out to students who may be struggling in your course.