Post by Lydia Harrison | Instructional Editor & Content Curator
Read on for a collection of tips and tricks to help make remote learning a more enjoyable experience for your students and for yourself.
Whew! What a whirlwind this past semester has been! It's hard to believe that at the beginning of the semester everyone was following the same routine and chugging along as they had in the previous semesters. Now that finals are over, instructors everywhere have been reflecting on their experience with remote learning, both for themselves and their students. Looking back, some things may have worked, and others maybe didn’t, and that’s okay! Everyone is in the same boat, and the summer provides a great opportunity to pause for a few days, let your brain slow down, and begin to think critically about this experience. Whether you are returning to campus or continuing with remote learning in the upcoming semesters, this is a good time to think about how you might apply what you have learned over the last couple of months. Regardless of your situation, we are here to help and provide five quick tips to make remote learning a more enjoyable experience for your students and for yourself.
1) Be Clear About Expectations
Students will be juggling multiple courses, all with different homework types, exams, and projects. That’s nothing new. What is new, is that it may not be as easy for students to ask a question if expectations aren’t clear. Explain what is required of students early on in the course (the first day) both in print format via the syllabus or email, and in synchronous or asynchronous video if possible. Continue to reinforce your expectations throughout the semester. If expectations are not being met, provide coaching feedback immediately that helps students understand what needs to change.
2) Establish a Dedicated Communication Channel
Set up a method for students to communicate with you that is easy for them and not stressful for you. Any type of communication you prefer (email, text, Zoom, Slack, etc.) is fine, but be sure to establish early that this is the best way to reach you. Set personal goals for yourself that you can meet, such as addressing each email received from students by the end of the day. Consider creating a separate email folder to organize incoming questions and manually move them there until you have time to dedicate to providing thoughtful responses. If you’re feeling adventurous, try using email rules to automate that process. Hold yourself accountable to the personal goal you set and find a comfortable rhythm that works. Your students (and your sanity) will thank you!
3) Keep Class Personal
With remote learning, students can feel isolated and disconnected from their professors and peers. The small, personal interactions that take place in the classroom help to create community among the class and build strong relationships with instructors. While that can’t be 100% recreated behind a computer screen, you can still add personal touches easily. Try using an email merge function to send all your students (yes, all...even if you have 300 in your class) a personalized email just checking in to see how they are doing. Small things like that go a long way!
4) Have a Single Source of Truth
Syllabus, email, LMS, course website, discussion boards… There can be lots of places to post information about dues dates, assignments, and exams. When adaptations are required it is super easy to miss changing something somewhere. These miscommunications cause frustration for everyone. Establishing a single source of truth lets students know exactly where to go for the information they need, and makes it easier for you to update when needed. For example, add a “Due Dates” page to your LMS, and instead of listing the due date on each assignment, put “See Due Date page in LMS”. That way, if (when) something changes, you can quickly make that change in one spot and send a short email to update everyone.
5) Maintain Flexibility
“Flexibility is key” may be cliche, but it is true now more than ever. The truth is, we don’t know what each individual student is going through. Home environments, family health issues, stress levels, and many other things may be impacting performance. Opening up to an increased level of flexibility can help a struggling student and have a greater impact than we might think. Sure, a small number of students may try to “scam the system”, but now is a good time to take the approach of assuming intentions are not nefarious until you’re proven wrong.