Repositioning the North Star

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

At Convocation, President Beck shared how the North Star guided her to safety.  I have to admit, in light of recent events, I have felt a bit lost. Classes are suspended.  Our hearts are broken. We want the best for our students emotionally and academically. How do we proceed?

Wednesday morning, several of our Teaching and Learning Faculty partners met via Slack to discuss these issues – brainstorming collectively.  This is the beauty of a true Community of Practice. We felt the conversation and ideas shared may be useful to the broader campus community. Below are suggestions from your colleagues, in their words.  Perhaps their sharing, paired with the Faculty FAQs, will help reposition your North Star as you guide students through a challenging time.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate with Empathy

  • We don’t know what our students have experienced in the past two weeks.  Lead with kindness and concern for wellbeing before academics.
  • I think that many of us have opened our arms to friends and families and are being an emotional sounding board to others. This is still exhausting and time consuming. We need to consider students providing support to friends and family personally impacted by recent events.
  • Changes can be potentially very confusing. Send multiple reminder announcements and emails.  You can schedule these ahead of time in Canvas so reminders will automatically be sent to students.
  • Consider using a voice or video messages in Canvas instead of the traditional text announcements.  Let students know how best to contact you and an expected timeline for replies (i.e. within 24 hours is recommended)
  • Let them know if you will be holding office hours in person or virtually.  Encourage students to drop in for personal or academic needs.
  • If you hold office hours, consider stocking up on Hershey Hugs and Kisses as well as information for campus counseling services.
  • I communicated a course outline via Canvas Inbox, Announcements, and Q&A Discussion Forum so students know what to expect when we return. I made it clear absolutely no work was expected between now and November 26th.
  • Provide a certain level of support and leniency to the class as a whole and not just specific individuals.

Be Flexible with Due Dates and Grading

  • For my online class, I have shortened a module and will extend accepting assignments as long as possible. I know many are having internet issues in the surrounding community, so connecting for some is an issue
  • I’ve extended all due dates a week from the 26th and encouraged students to communicate if they need further adjustment.  Our mantra is Flexibility!
  • Provide choice and allow students to complete all modules and assignments with the option to drop a certain number of assignments. Some students are counting on later assignments to improve their grades.
  • I am teaching a GE so I decided to just shift all modules up 2 weeks and drop the last two weeks.  I know this may not be possible in core courses.
  • Do not punish students for missing work . Communicate and create flexible pathways for submitting current assignments after the 26th.
  • I’ve extended due dates.  I am giving them the option to meet me in Zoom to discuss work that’s been submitted, but only if they are ready for that.
  • I reduced the next exam and cut out the assignment for this week all together.

Consider What’s Essential and Communicate your Rationale

  • Offer a rationale to students for the work you require them to do. I let them know that I very carefully curate the readings I have assigned.  In your communication with students about these changes, you may want to make an empathetic case for the things you are keeping.
  • Revisit material and assignments left to teach.  Realign the final weeks’ content and assignments with learning outcomes.  If content or an assignment is not directly aligned with a learning outcome, eliminate it.
  • Eliminating quizzes created space and time for peer feedback on final projects. I made it clear that careful consideration was given to remaining content and assignments.  My focus is supporting their well being, academic goals, grades, and a shortened timeline.
  • In my online class, all remaining Modules will be available to students on November 26th.  I’m using the time right now to pair down modules and focus on learning outcomes. I am carefully considering which content is necessary for final projects.

Collaborate with Colleagues

  • Many of us are asking the same questions.  Consider reaching out and strategizing together.
  • If you teach a class that has multiple sections, coordinate with the other instructors of the class
  • Meet in Zoom to share concerns and discuss solutions
  • The Teaching and Learning Innovations Team (TLI) is here to help.  Our team includes academic technology experts and current faculty. Visit the FIT Studio in person or virtually if you need support in making adjustments

TLI is Here to Help!

Teaching and Learning Innovations is eager to support you as you plan to move ahead.  We can meet in the FIT Studio located at Solano 1201 or virtually in Zoom. The Studio is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm or schedule an appointment.

We are so proud of this community and confident our Dolphins will rise and thrive!  We recognize that the best way to support students is through supporting our incredible faculty!  Thank you for being the difference and a North Star for students.

Resources you may find helpful

Canvas has many built-in tools for humanizing communication through voice or video recordings anywhere you see the Media Comment button. screenshot of media comment button You will find this in the tool menu when you make announcements, edit a page or assignment, or in SpeedGrader.

If you experience a ‘gray’ screen when you open the Media Comment feature, you need to allow Adobe Flash.  Directions for enabling Flash from different browsers are included below

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