March 17, 2020
Here we are in Spring Break “B” as we like to call it in the Adams Center! Speaking of Spring Break, please note that nothing should be due for your classes this week (March 16-20) per the Provost’s office. Students were notified that this week is simply another week of Spring Break. However, we strongly recommend you connect with your students sooner rather than later. A quick video recorded through a Canvas feature or even with your phone offereing love, community, and reassurance will go a long way. As we move into next week, make plans to connect with your students in a personal way at least every week or two beyond your communication for assignments and other course work. Feedback from students consistently states that they value their relationships with faculty very deeply at all times and in these uncertain times, that will certainly be magnified.
What should you do about your syllabus? Many of us view the syllabus as a contract that we wouldn’t dream of changing in the middle of the semester. However, during this unique time, we suggest refocusing your attention to your course outcomes. These need to be the stable piece of your courses. Make the appropriate and necessary changes to assignments, assessments, due dates, and even the weighting of grades while maintaining the integrity of your course outcomes.
A big question that is already pressing is whether faculty should rely on synchronous or asynchronous online gatherings. The answer to this is probably… both. If you want to create some synchronous time with your classes, make sure this happens during your regular class time. This will prevent professors asking students to meet online at the same time for different classes. If you create some synchronous time, try to utilize a platform like Zoom that has the capability to record the session. This will allow students unable to be present at that exact time to watch later when they’re in more stable wifi or have access to technology. Please don’t penalize a student’s inability to connect at class time synchronously. One tip is to try to limit your synchronous interaction to smaller chunks of time. If you have a large class, you might consider breaking the class into smaller groups to meet with fewer students synchronously at a time.
Keep in mind many students have five or six classes. If each of their instructors move to only text content to read online, this will be a big burden of reading on even the brightest and most engaged students. Opt for other ways of connecting when possible. You could even try video feedback within Speedgrader!
We highly encourage you to create some content just for the next week or two right now. Then, you can get a better sense of how your delivery modes are working. Be flexible… with yourself and your students. Let them know you are all in this together and to expect that you will make little changes to improve the course as you go. Remember that you have the advantage of having eight weeks of a face to face relationship with your students. Build on this! They know you and you know them. You will serve as a steady presence in a time that feels quite chaotic.
A few other notes:
- You didn’t sign up for this and neither did your students. Right now “good enough” will be “good enough.” This is not a moment to learn every trick and tool of online teaching.
- The medical clinic on campus is open.
- Food services and residence halls are open for those students who must be on campus.
- The librarians are ready to assist you.
- The Learning Studio is ready to assist you.
- For technology and software problems, feel free to contact Jon Bruner in IT and his team or Marisa Beard and Stephen Recktenwald in the Innovation Foundry. They’re also eager to assist you.
- Please contact Laura Carroll, Cliff Barbarick, Amy Boone, or Berlin Fang at the Adams Center for assistance with any teaching and learning or instructional design issues. We are so eager to work alongside you.
- Find ways to create community!
In this very unusual moment in time and in honor of St. Patrick’s Day today, I leave you with the following prayer:
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.