Teaching online soon? What students want…

What do students want teachers to think about…

Classes start in just a short time. As a teacher, what can you do to make your course less stressful for students? 

These ideas are from a student and instructor perspective, and are particularly valid when some students are online either for the first time, or in spite of their inclination to not choose online; and when the world is very much upside down.

Also keep in mind that now, some courses will be shorter than the usual 12 weeks.  For students and teachers these concentrated courses are a quick turnaround anyway: a challenge to cover the material and engage deeply together–and then to finish a final project when in spite of planning just appears, suddenly as DUE THIS WEEK.

  1. Start early: sent a short survey to ask students what technology they have used before, and how comfortable they are with this format. Ask clearly: how can I help you succeed in this course?
  2. Give a week or a half week just to orient. Plan a time online in Zoom or Skype with a text-chat option in case the student does not have a space where they feel comfortable sharing video or even audio. Follow up with a private note to see, again, how can I help you succeed in this course.
  3. State expectations around sickness early: maybe have one free pass where they can miss or skip a discussion no questions asked.  Give assignment options weighted so they can do an extra assignment, perhaps if discussions or joining a scheduled class does not work.
  4. Make scaffolded assignments with clear checklists that start early. In this way you are helping the students think about their final project, and encouraging them through deadlines to get pieces done early.
  5. Midway through the course: check in. Ask students clearly: how can I help you succeed in this course? Some students will think they’ve got this; and then realize it’s harder than they think.
  6. Schedule major projects for an early due date. Give students the options of peer review groups so that they can get additional help, comments and encouragement that’s not all on you. 
  7. Give the students 2-3 times of virtual office hours each week (can even be a half hour block) where they know they can reach you.
  8. Schedule 2 days off per week. For yourself and the students. You don’t answer emails and they don’t have work pending. One week or study section ends. There is a break, and another begins. 
  9. Just before the end of the course: ask students clearly: how can I help you succeed? You may need to think before this time about ways they can submit projects that still meet your course guidelines but also allow them to succeed. Allowing them to align the new material with something they know or an area they are passionate about is one way to encourage. Thinking about different formats of submission could work. Pairing students with 1-2 others may help some students; but still give the option of working alone.
  10. You’ve got this. You may have taught online before, or you may be new to this format. But, you know your students and your material and how to communicate. You got this–and your students will recognize that you are there for them, and sometimes, you will learn together with them in this strange new world. 

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