Taking Stock

Virtually Absent? How to connect with the students who need it?

Now that the virtual ‘dust’ is hopefully settling, you’ve made the momentous shift and you are resuming ‘teaching’ in this ‘new normal’.  Students are ‘attending class,’ but you may have some new concerns now that facilitation is completely virtual. Here are some questions we’ve heard from faculty:

  • How do I know if students are engaged and engaging in my now virtual course? 
  • How do I establish and maintain connectedness with students, without relying on synchronous meetings?  
  • It’s been a couple of weeks and I’m trying to figure out which students have managed the transition and which ones appear virtually absent.  
  • How do I continue to monitor student engagement through the end of this virtual semester?
  • How much communication is too much?
  • How do I manage my time? 

Connectedness Matters Most!

Feeling connected, or socially present, is important for you and students.  Without the ability to physically connect on campus, feeling connected to you, the instructor, is critical to student motivation to persist and persevere in completing this semester.  Feeling isolated, uncertain, overwhelmed and vulnerable during this shift is common for instructors and students alike. We are all struggling to understand and accept this new normal. Now, more than ever, to maintain academic continuity and resilience, our students need to feel connected to us, the humans leading their courses.  

How much is too much? 

We know it’s better to over than under communicate.  But now that you have most likely established some patterns in your virtual instructional ebb and flow, at what point is overcommunicating received as well-meaning or overwhelming? 

The answer? It depends.  

Helpful, right? Truthfully, the ‘right’ level of communication will vary based on the student, so how can you realistically differentiate communication for all students while balancing the demands of virtual instruction? 

Below are some tips for using Canvas to manage communication, monitor student presence, and determine the right mix of communication and connection. 

Tip 1: Set Consistent Communication Routines

Consistent Announcements

Send one announcement at the beginning and midpoint of each week: 

  • Beginning of the Week Announcement: Send this the day before or the day that a new week begins.  Include the following:
    • Connect and Preview: Sum up key learning from the week beforeExplain how this ‘new week’ builds on the previous week. Preview the topic for the new week
    • Highlight To Do’s : Explain the week’s activities/assignments. Make a bulleted list of what’s due
    • Zoom Availability: List when you’ll be in Zoom.  Encourage students to come with questions or just to check-in and connect.
  • Mid-Week Announcement: This can be brief and sent out 3-4 days into the week.
    • Highlight any changes, updates, etc. 
    • Remind students what’s due 
    • Touch on any ongoing projects/papers, upcoming exams,  and ‘where’ they should be in the process

Expected Response Time:

Whether replying to student posts in a Q&A Discussion forum, Inbox/Email messages, or voicemail, let students know when to expect a reply (i.e. You can expect a response from me in 24 hours). 

  • Set aside a consistent time of day to check your communication channels, and reply to students.
  • If you are getting several questions related to the same topic, consider addressing this in your midweek announcement. 

Tip 2: Monitor Weekly Student Activity

Begin with the Big Picture

These two steps will help you identify students needing further attention in under 5 minutes.

Check ‘Last Activity’

Scan your roster and look for students who have not been active for 2 or more days.

  • Select People from the course menu
  • Scan the Last Activity Column
  • Note any students who have not been active for two or more days

Scan your grade book

Even if you don’t have everything ‘graded’, scan assignments due in the last week.  Take note of students who are missing, especially students missing multiple items from the same week. 

  • Discussion posts
  • Assignment Submissions
  • Quizzes

Canvas New Analytics

New Analytics, allows you to view course data for the entire class and/or individual students.  At a glance, you can get a pulse on grades and participation. 

Where do I find New Analytics?

First you have to turn on New Analytics in each course. Once turned on, expect to wait 24-48 hours for course data to process.  However, this delay occurs only once after the initial setup. 

Once the set-up request has processed, you will be able to view New Analytics by selecting the link in your course menu. Students cannot see or access this link.

Below are just a few things you can do:

Tip 3: Start with Weekly Activity

Use the Weekly Activity Data to analyze whole class and individual student data regarding page views and participation. 

  • Page views: This is determined by the number of times a page (page, assignment, discussion, quiz, etc.) is opened
  • Participation: This is determined when students take a specific action (i.e. post to a discussion, submit an assignment, communicate through the inbox, submit a quiz, comment on an announcement)

When you open New Analytics, you will automatically view Course Grade Data.

To view Weekly Online Activity:

  1. Check the date and time of the report you are viewing
  2. Select the center tab for Weekly Online Activity
  3. Use the three vertical dots to the right to view display options
  4. Select the display option you prefer (table or shapes)

Weekly Online Activity As a Table

  1. Above is an example of Weekly Online Activity displayed as a table
  2. View data by your entire class and/or add a specific student or group of students using the dropdown menu
  3. View data based on date ranges
  4. Data is displayed as Page views and Participation.  For more detail select the number of page or participation views

Student Activity at a Glance

Once you’ve selected a specific date rang for Page Views and Participation you will be able to see how many students did and did not view or participate. 

By selecting the numbers next to Didn’t View or Didn’t Participate, you will generate a Message Page from which you can see students by name. 

You can further filter results to a specific assignment or page by using the dropdown menu to the right of Resource.  To view specific students, select the Students link next to the pencil icon. 

Messaging Students based on Analytics

Time Needed: 20-30 minutes

New Analytics lets you message students based on certain Analytic Criteria. At a more granular level, you can target which students need more communication based on: 

  • Course Grade
  • Weekly Online Activity
  • By Individual Student or group of students

In addition to Weekly Activity, you can message students based on Assignment Filters:

  • Score Range
  • Missing Assignments
  • Late Assignments

Tip 4: Message with Care!

Before you message students directly from this instance, dedicate a bit more time to taking in the student’s situation as a whole.  Before you message a group of students or an individual, right now, I’d recommend doing a brief wellness check first.  

We know the student experience is even more diverse now than it was even before we faced a Pandemic.  In addition to virtual learning, students are managing:

  • Moving home and being true distance learners
  • Financial need due to sudden unemployment
  • Homeschooling their own children
  • Feeling the same grief, isolation, and malaisie we are all experiencing

Put Humans first! 

The data is rich, but the navigation and filtering takes some practice.  Until you feel confident with the interface, I would be cautious before messaging students from this platform. Before you talk ‘grades’ or ‘participation’, I would still send a personal message to these ‘virtually absent’ students and just ask: How are you doing, as a human?  Tell them you miss them and want to make sure they are, ‘ok’. Offer support for keeping them in school while managing ‘life.’  

As with all technology,  New Analytics is a tool that can help you be socially present.  Use it to guide your communication as you extend empathy and connectedness to those students who need it most. 

—– end of post


Survey Basic Needs

Many instructors have surveyed their students in the recent weeks to take stock of:

  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Sense of Security (home & financial)
  • Technical (access to wifi and device)
  • General concerns for virtual learning

Below is a sampling of what’s been reported from our CSUCI Students:

  • While I like the time home with my son,I have lost both my jobs and am feeling unmotivated to do anything.  
  • I’ve had to take on an extra job and work extra hours because my parents have been laid off and they need my help
  • I had an uncle pass away and we cannot have a funeral and I’m not sure how to handle it
  • I have nine other people in my house who need to be online for school and work.  I’m not sure I can always count on wifi for my classes
  • I’m having to move back home, so I may be out of touch for a few days

Concerns we’ve heard from instructors:

  • I’ve surveyed my students and have had a good response rate in my lower division class, but a concerning response rate in my upper division
  • I’ve held Zoom check-ins for my classes.  Some classes have had a great turnout and many students have not shown up to the sessions or communicated with me through email.  
  • I’m not sure how often my students are accessing my course and if they are, what they are doing.  
  • I’m not sure how to tell if there are students struggling to participate in the class? I haven’t heard from them, but can see they’ve logged in recently. 
  • What do I do about students who have seemed to disappear? 

How to Survey using Canvas Quizzes

If you’d like to get a quick pulse on your class, you can use Canvas Quizzes to send out a survey.  If you opt for a ‘graded survey’ you can incentivize responses by offering a coupe of easy points. To get a pulse on your students, you don’t need to ask much.  A few suggested questions include:

  • Are you physically well and safe? Is there anything you need?
  • Do you have what you need for virtual learning (i.e. computer, reliable wifi, a place to focus, feel comfortable using technology)? Please let me know what you need or if you have any concerns.  
  • Is there anything you are concerned may interfere with your success in this course that you’d like to share?  This will remain between you and me.  
  • Is there anything else you’d like me to know? 

Turn on New Analytics

Once you turn on New Analytics, it will take 24 hours for the data to process!  

You will see it in your course menu and can reposition it just as you can any item in the course menu.  However, students cannot see or access this link! 

You will not be able to view your course data for 24 hours! After you have turned on New Analytics, please note data is refreshed in New Analytics every 24 hours. Please confirm the time the data was last updated in the course, as content may be outdated compared to recent course activity and student submissions.

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