Communicate Frequently with Your Students.
The current situation is stressful for faculty, staff and students. You may notice elevated levels of anxiety among your students as they grapple with technological challenges, the reality of social isolation, modified assignments, how to organize and manage the various groups they are part of, uncertainty about their exams and more generally how their current situations will work out. It’s a lot to handle for anyone and especially for students that are struggling with mental health. Students with accommodation needs and international students may also need extra support.
As much as possible, respond with kindness and reassurance. In practical terms, be proactive and communicate frequently and in detail with your students about what you are planning to do for the remainder of the course and reassure them that while there will be some hurdles to cross and glitches to deal with, everything will work out. The sooner you give your students a sense of clarity about your course’s roadmap for the coming weeks, the better.
Please also ensure that your messages to students align with the messaging coming from the ADA’s Office. The repository of COVID-19-related communications can be accessed here.
Dealing with Accommodation Needs
Please reach out to your students with accommodation needs. With remote teaching, the context has changed and with that likely the way your students need to be accommodated. Some might need less complex accommodations because you may be changing a sit-in exam to an essay, for example. But some new requests may arise. For example, some students may find the live virtual classroom challenging. Some may ask for accommodation to deal with online testing. Here are some recommendations:
- Check in with any student in your class that has an accommodation of some kind and assess what that accommodation might mean in the new context. Then, try to agree with that student on specific accommodations for the remote teaching period and any new/altered assessments. If you try but struggle to find common ground with the student contact your area coordinator first, then the ADA if necessary.
- If you are conducting live Zoom classes, consider recording the session with transcription enabled so students who struggle with the online format are able to revisit the class.
- Consider setting different time limits for test submissions for students with accommodation needs.
Hosting Office Hours Remotely
Instructors’ office hours will be more important than ever. Zoom and Canvas both offer features to support office hours including, waiting rooms and appointment sign-ups.
Attend Training for Online Course Delivery Tools.
The Schulich Teaching and Learning support team are here to support instructors and students. We will be offering training sessions and technical support throughout.
Recognize the Extraordinary Times We Are in and Adopt a Proactive Approach.
While shifting a course to an online environment can feel overwhelming, adopting the right approach can make all the difference:
Teaching during times of potential disruption requires creative and flexible thinking about how instructors can support students in achieving essential core course learning objectives. […] While the process will no doubt feel unfamiliar and at times possibly frustrating, try as much as possible to be patient. There will always be hiccups, but times of disruption are, by their nature, disruptive, and everyone expects that. Be willing to switch tactics if something isn’t working. Above all, stay focused on making sure the students are comfortable, and keep a close eye on the course learning goals–while you might not be able to teach something exactly the way you imagined, as long as you’re still meeting the learning goals of the course, you’re doing fine.
Source: Cohn & Seltzer, Teaching Effectively Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption