With the rapid changes we are experiencing on campus, students are likely to be disoriented and confused. It is also to be expected that you, as their instructor, are feeling much the same.
Below are seven quick tips to help as you bridge the gap from the classroom to remote learning.
Tip 1: Access Canvas often. Daily is best
Best practice for teaching a remote course is daily access for the course instructor and students. For a course that was previously face-to-face, you and the students may be used to only “seeing” each other twice a week. As a remote instructor, you too will need to be accessing the Canvas course site daily to manage the course and help students to adjust.
Pro tip: Advise students to check Canvas daily during the week! In the remote environment, gaps in course access often lead to missing assignments and student retention issues later in the course.
Tip 2: Communicate and keep your students informed
It is very likely your method of communication with students and the amount of communication you do with these students will change due to these transitions. You may have previously waited to give students updates in class, but those time restraints are now gone and it is best to update students early and often. Consider sending a Canvas announcement with course information on Sunday evenings to outline student tasks for the week. You can adjust your course homepage to show announcements at the top of the page.
Pro tip: Use multiple channels of communication to avoid students saying they didn’t know. Consider using Canvas messages along with a course announcement or email.
Tip 3: State your communication and interaction expectations
Students are used to seeing you in class and in the hallway. How will they see you now? Advise students on how to best contact you. Do you prefer they email you? Are you OK with text messages? Do you plan to use Zoom to host office hours? Don’t forget about peer-to-peer interactions as well. If you are adding discussion boards to a course as part of a new graded assignment, what are the expectations for reading and replies?
Pro tip: Use rubrics to explicitly outline expectations for assignments and online interactions. Reach out to your Instructional Designer for rubric ideas and tips!
Tip 4: Create a “General Course Questions” discussion board forum
Your students are likely to have a lot of questions in the transitional period. Many of them will have the same question. Encourage your students to check the “General Course Questions” discussion board for the answer to their question. If they don’t see it, they should post their question to the forum. This way all students can benefit from your exchange and all students receive the same information.
Pro tip: Subscribe to the “General Course Questions” discussion board forum. You will receive an email when a student posts a question.
Tip 5: Use Canvas Assignments and Gradebook
You may have used paper assignments or in-class writing before, but now students will need to submit all of their work to you online. You can still use many of the same types of assignments! To ensure you can properly track assignments, you should avoid having students email you their work. Instead, use Canvas assignments for submissions.
Pro tip: Set aside time each week to grade online assignments, ideally within a day or two of the assignment due date.
Use the “Message Students Who” option in SpeedGrader to communicate with students who are missing an assignment or who did really well. Sending kudos is a great way to interact!
Tip 6: Develop a consistent routine
Instructors build off of the built-in routine of face-to-face courses. For instance, you meet your students at consistent times and days, or assignments are typically due on one of the days you meet. Create a consistent schedule of days and times you will engage with your remote students and course, AND a consistent day and time assignments are due. It is important to create as much of a routine for yourself as possible. This will help meet student expectations and reduce your stress.
Pro tip: Be careful to take time to refresh and refuel yourself! Some instructors do not prefer the appearance of constant availability in a remote environment. If you plan to be away for a weekend, let your students know by posting a course announcement.
Tip 7: Post a link to the Canvas Student Guide
You and your students may be using unfamiliar Canvas tools and functions. Providing students a link to the Canvas Student Guide within your course site will give them easy access to a multitude of “How to” documents. Encourage your students to reference the Canvas Student Guide before emailing you with questions. Or if you are using a new tool, within the description of the assignment reference students back to the Canvas Student Guide in the course site. Better yet, locate the specific guides that would help a student. For example, How to Submit an Online Assignment in Canvas.