We surveyed TU students for feedback on how instructors can assist them with the transition back to in-person classes after being virtual during the pandemic. Here are their suggestions (bolded are the most frequently endorsed):
- Some students really enjoyed aspects of remote learning and thrived during this period. They may need more encouragement and coaching during the transition than usual.
- Provide explicit explanations in the syllabus about how you plan to teach the course and what you do and do not allow, particularly for policies and practices that are different than last year. For example, if recording is not allowed, let them know and explain why (e.g., for confidentiality).
- Give exams or quizzes within the same class in the same format and style. Try to align design as well as content for reading consistency.
- Use the grade book feature in Harvey to post grades and feedback on an ongoing basis, rather than just for midterm and final grading.
- Record and post lecture audio, video, and/or slides or notes as many students reported that they were able to learn more efficiently when they could watch and re-watch lectures.
- Alternatively, allow all students to record classes themselves.
- Permit the use of laptops/tablets for taking notes. Students are more accustomed to note-taking by computer now.
- Consider how you follow up with students who arrive to class late or seem unprepared. They may have a health reason for being late or unprepared, or may have acclimated to a flexible format during the pandemic. Often, following up in private via email, phone, video-chat, or in person can be more effective.
- Provide some flexibility with attendance and engagement. Students report that the flexibility has made a huge difference in their performance during the pandemic. As the pandemic continues, more students than usual will miss classes; prepare ahead of time to offer multiple methods of engagement and participation. For example, students who miss discussion could be required to write or record a reading response as a make-up exercise.
- Allow students to ease back into paper and pencil assessments (e.g., offer low stakes assessments in a format that aligns with higher stakes assessments, offer alternative assessment formats if feasible). Students report a lot of anxiety about changing to this after becoming accustomed to online learning.
Tips to Help Faculty with the Transition to In-Person Classes
We surveyed TU faculty and staff for tips for faculty to help transition back to in-person classes successfully, summarized below:
- Be prepared to offer a lot of grace and patience as this is an adjustment period. This does not mean that expectations need to be tempered or rigor watered down, but that the transition will be challenging for everyone.
- Know that you may get more requests for changes and alternatives than is typical. Teach in a way that is most conducive for your pedagogical style because you are the expert in the way you deliver your content, but try to plan ahead to be ready for students who will need to quarantine and pivot to remote options, for example.
- Continue offering office hours both virtually and in person if possible. Many students report anxiety about physically coming in to see instructors. In many cases, we have seen attendance go to 100% when virtual participation in classes or meetings was permitted.
- Regularly remind students of your office hours and that they may send you an email if they have questions. Some students are anxious about asking for help and your encouragement can help them over this hurdle.
- Be as transparent as possible about student standing in your class. Share feedback early and often.
- Talk about accessibility and assistance available regularly. There are many services (Student Access, counseling, tutoring, etc.) and the amount of information can overwhelm students to where they don’t remember what is available, especially if they feel they are in a crisis. Here is a sample script you can use and modify, per your classroom policies, to talk about accessibility in class:
“I am committed to helping you be successful in this class. If you have any needs or concerns about participation or attendance that arise, such as illness, family emergencies, etc., please contact me as early as practical so I can try to assist you. It is important that you communicate with me so I can best help you. I have attendance and participation policies and expectations in place to help you with accountability and staying on track. I have found that regular participation and attendance is related to success in my class. Additionally, coming on time and prepared will set you up to do well in my class. However, life does happen and sometimes an adjustment is warranted.
Please contact me if you need help. Also know that I may privately reach out to you if I am concerned about your participation or attendance because I care and want to see you succeed. I am here for you in office hours, both in person and virtually, and please feel free to call me or email me. I may need up to ___ hours/days to respond to you because of my responsibilities, but this does not mean I am ignoring you.
Be assured that I will respond to you. If you know that you work best with certain formats, such as having access to readings electronically or in hard copy, or having captioning, please let me know and I will try to provide alternative formats that will work best for you. If you would benefit from audio recording lectures so that you can go back and check your notes, let me know. If you sign a waiver with me, you can do this.
I want to make sure you are aware that there are many support services available to you for free on campus. The links in your syllabus for more information about tutoring, success coaching, personal counseling, and skills workshops will give you details about how to access this assistance. I strongly encourage all students to utilize these resources early and often. If you set them up now, they will be in place if you do get into a tough spot and they really do make a difference. Learning to utilize resources is an important life skill, so I encourage you to start now.
Finally, I want to touch on how to monitor your grade in this class. Self-monitoring your progress in your classes helps you with accountability and staying on top of things. You should have some awareness of your course grade during the semester. (explain how to do this for your class here).”
- Be honest and transparent about how quickly students can expect you to respond to their emails. Many students have reported stress if they do not hear back the same day and so letting them know this does not mean you are ignoring them can help reassure them that you will help them, but it may take a little longer than they expect as everyone is stretched thin during the transition.
- Faculty have discretion over their classes and are allowed to make changes to accommodate student requests and needs if they think this is necessary or helpful. You do not need permission to make modifications to help students, such as giving extensions or excusing absences. Faculty have control over their classes and decisions about making modifications.
- As always, all instructors may learn about inclusive and universal design strategies and find tips to use in class.
These tips were prepared by the Accessibility Standards Committee, made up of students, faculty, and staff.