This crisis is impacting every facet of people’s lives, and the students are likely to be under considerable stress. They may be losing income by not being able to go to their jobs, family members may be at risk, and they may have limited or no access to computers and/or internet service. Research shows that stress increases cognitive load and subsequently interferes with information processing and learning. Because of this, instructors should examine their courses and identify what areas of learning can be reasonably managed and what aspects may be more difficult under these circumstances. Please know that these are merely suggestions and may not apply or be feasible for all courses. Faculty are free to adopt whichever strategies that work for them.
- Modify and/or Remove Course Assignments. Review high stakes assignments. Are all of them still feasible in a remote teaching environment? Which might be challenging to adapt? Consider for instance a Group Research Presentation. Although not impossible, this could be difficult to adapt under remote teaching conditions. You may wish to adapt this assignment to be completed by individuals rather than groups, and/or as a paper rather than a presentation. Or you may wish to remove the assignment altogether and adjust your grading scheme accordingly. The decision to adapt or remove assignments is not an easy one, but it is the right decision if it will reduce student anxiety and optimize performance on assignments that are more adaptable to remote teaching.
- Consider Selectively Reducing and/or Removing Content. Examine your course schedule and scheduled topics. Which are most important for students to learn? For example, some topics may be required for accreditation purposes, or as important concepts for future courses. These should be your priority. There may be other topics that are less central to the primary course outcomes. These can be truncated or removed to allow for more time to adapt the critical topics for remote teaching.
- Adapting Exams and/or Quizzes. Adapting in person exams to remote teaching is challenging. One concern is that it is difficult to ensure academic integrity. One possibility is to modify the exam questions to focus more on higher order thinking such as application and analysis. These questions require more than recalling a definition and ask students to apply the concepts to new examples.
- Ensure Ways to be Available to Answer Questions. During these times, consistent ongoing communication with students is crucial. Creating opportunities for regular communication will do much to allay their fears and promote student learning. For example, you may wish to post a pre-recorded Yuja video of you teaching course concepts, and then schedule a Zoom session or a discussion board where students can ask questions and/or share thoughts and examples that emerged for them during the presentation. This also gives you the opportunity to clarify areas of confusion and make announcements for upcoming assignments and sessions. You may then wish to summarize any key points or announcements that came up in a follow up email or canvas announcement.
- Make Choices that Work for You (and your students). Consider the range of tools for remote teaching that are available to you as just that – tools. Some may work for you and others will not. If the idea of implementing Zoom fills you with dread, do not worry about it and use a modality that are comfortable with. If you are new to canvas, just stick to the basics – modules for each week to organize the content, announcements to keep in touch with students, and assignments that enable online submission. The peer mentors for your school and faculty center staff are here to help you with this so do not hesitate to reach out.
Dr. Matthew Paolucci Callahan, Sonoma State Faculty Fellow for Teaching and Learning