Thanks to Liz Brown and the UAP team for this timely and important post.



UAP works with students of all kinds who may be experiencing academic vulnerabilities.  The COVID-19 crisis and move to online education has created unique issues for students who already find classroom learning challenging.



What Are We Seeing?

The biggest issues students seem to be struggling with is time management and motivation. They don’t know how much time to budget for classwork without the external course schedule imposed on them, and they’re finding it hard to create that structure and implement it for themselves.


Students also don’t know how to utilize academic technology as efficiently as we might have imagined. While they’re adept at Instagram and TikTok, they’re not as nimble in Canvas and other academically-focused softwares.


Many students are saying they ‘know everyone is stressed and overwhelmed’ so ‘don’t want to bother my professor by sending an email.’ So if they miss a synchronous meetings or have confusion about assignments, due dates, or the submission process, they may not be reaching out as casually as they would if they saw their professor during the regular school day.


Another thing to keep in mind are those students with paper test accommodations. About 50 students have this as a formal accomodation, but now that all students are working online, this could be more of a challenge for more than those who have this on the ‘record.


Additional considerations for ways to test students and ensure compliance and accessibility issues include

    • Alpha-led Zoom proctoring for individuals or groups
    • Enlarging font for individual students for whom paper isn’t an option

And finally, many students are struggling with limited technology, space, and privacy issues. Many have returned to homes where they no longer have a bedroom, are competing for internet and computer access with younger K-12 siblings, or are thrust back into family environments that may be dysfunctional or chaotic at best. Students’ limitations are real, distracting, and challenging, and they move to online has added a significant amount of additional assignments, coupled with little standardization across courses.


PLEASE REMEMBER: Alpha is still on-boarding! If students disclose a learning issue, disability, or mental health issue like anxiety or depression, please let us know at Also, remember we are providing Academic Coaching and you can email for more information or to refer a student at




Testing can be one of the most challenging aspects of online education. Some ideas from other faculty across campus that have proven successful include breaking exams up into smaller components and extending the time for all students. For example, students who take a TTR test in class receive 75 minutes. Taking an exam of this nature, splitting into 3 parts, and giving all students an hour for each part eliminates the need for extended time for students with this accommodation (Universal Design) and provides a standardized testing format for the whole class.


Test Honesty Statements/Reader Integrity Agreements may also help faculty maintain test integrity. Alpha Scholars has a draft for use, but a simple statement at the end of an exam asking the students to verify that they abided by the rules is also a good way to hold students accountable. For students who need readers for exams as an accommodation, the reader should be able to attest to the following minimum standards: I haven’t taken the course, I will only read the test questions and provide no other feedback or guidance.


Another idea some faculty are utilizing is embedding quiz questions or some form of high-value accountability check-in during videos or recorded presentations, to increase students’ engagement. For example, as they are watching, show a quiz question and answer that they will only see if they engage with the video content.


And finally, using the one-question-at-a-time quiz format in Canvas has a variety of advantages: for students with ADHD or dyslexia, seeing one question at a time can be extremely helpful for them in staying focused and keeping their thoughts organized; this feature also allows the text to be more easily enlarged for students with visual impairments or those for whom screen-reading is difficult; it reduces the likelihood of tests being shared between students because they can only screenshot one question at a time.




The following ideas are ones some faculty are using to increase Student Engagement:

    • Posting an outline or note sheet for students to follow along with recorded content
    • In smaller classes, requiring cross-responses to discussion posts
    • Holding set ‘online office hours’ where students can come in and out during a timeframe to ask questions
    • Allowing for some kind of processing of world events within the course content
    • Giving students ‘suggested amounts of time’ to spend on activities – help them budget their time
    • Being painfully clear – even repetitive – about expectations and assignment details
      • Everything they get from you in-person (passing conversation, body language, facial expressions, etc.), they no longer have to help inform their assignments


  • Use Win-Win language
    • If students express a need you’re unsure how to meet, use Alpha Scholars to ‘buy time’ and collaborate around solutions, and allow our staff to help maintain and foster communication and relationships between students, faculty and staff
  • Collaborate for creativity with Alpha staff
    • If you are open to out-of-the-box possibilities, we’ll do our best to help it happen
  • Refer students for Academic Coaching
    • Survey your class and ask who would like a referral for help with things like time management, getting organized, and breaking down assignments!
      • All we need are email addresses and we will do the rest