When you realize you have to move your class online quickly, consider the following right away:
STEP 1: Review your syllabus for points that should change: What will have to change in your syllabus (policies, due dates, assignments, etc.)? Since students will also be thrown off by the changes, they will appreciate details whenever you can provide them.
- Consider realistic goals for continuing instruction: What do you think you can realistically accomplish during this time period? Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some additional assignments to add structure and accountability? How do you want to keep them engaged with the rigor of the course content? As much as possible, allow students to complete work asynchronously. At times such as this, less is more.
- Identify your new expectations for students: You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students' ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably. Give explicit instruction. Be deliberate and clear. Specify the length of time you expect each assignment to take and specific task requirements.
- Look at the learning objectives for the course. When triaging, it is important to do what you need to do and focus on those objectives to keep value for the student.
- Review your course schedule to determine priorities: Identify your priorities during the disruption—providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself a little flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than you think.
- Be understanding and empathetic. Encourage students to balance online work with offline time with family and those in need.
- Be present! Communicate consistently. You must be a present and active voice in your class whether synchronously or asynchronously. Let your students know when you will be online and available for consultation. Respond to their posts as soon as you are able. This will encourage communication and involvement in your class.
- Seek out student feedback. Ask them what is working and what isn’t and make changes as needed. This isn’t about you or your ability to teach but rather their ability to process information in the midst of a crisis.
- As much as possible be creative and thoughtful in your lessons. Consider alternative forms for assignments that build self-care into classwork. Could students draw a picture explaining a concept and share it with the class? Could they journal and reflect? Could you send them outside and have them identify parts of the natural world that correlate with your lesson goals? If all they do is sit and read and write responses they will quickly lose interest in the class.
- Curate multimedia materials and use digital tools to boost creativity and interactivity during lessons.
- Ask questions and share concerns. We are better together than we are alone. Together we can make this a successful semester for our students!
STEP 2: Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. A closure may be taxing to everyone's mental and emotional energy; introducing a lot of new tools and approaches may leave even less energy and attention for learning.
STEP 3: Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don't have a plan in place yet, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming and what your expectations are for checking email or the platform you use for grading (Canvas, Blackboard, etc.), so you can get them more details soon. Create a detailed communication plan. Once you have more details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). A useful communication plan also lets students know how soon they can expect a reply. They will have many questions.