IMPORTANT ISSUES TO ADDRESS
The following advice builds on the research by Zane Berge on instructor roles in online courses.
- Express empathy, and consider having a way for students to briefly connect with you and one another to lessen social isolation.
- Have a plan for facilitating and promoting the kinds of student interactions you need to facilitate learning. Equally important, have a plan for how you will address interactions that do not meet your expectations or that are disruptive to student learning.
- Remind students that they will need to have patience during this period of remote instruction. They will experience problems and obstacles and it will help them to know that you understand and expect that, as well.
- Ask students whether they have an appropriate physical location in which to work.
- Campus-supported learning technology vendors have expressed confidence in handling the volume of learners, but these are unprecedented times. Have a back-up plan of what you will do if the technologies you are using are overwhelmed by demand and use.
- Communicate with students the tools you are using in your course and how students are to interact with the course content, with you, and with each other.
- Ask students whether they have the technology and infrastructure to complete the tasks.
- If you are planning synchronous activities, identify whether there are students in different timezones who need accommodations. Consider recording interactive sessions for those who cannot meet at scheduled times.
- If you are using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, make sure students’ computers are configured appropriately before their first session.
- Keep activities as simple as possible if you are using technology for the first time. Consider creating a no-stakes activity first to get students comfortable with using new tools and solutions.
- Continue to focus on your identified course learning outcomes as a guide for everything you are doing. As you are planning and facilitating activities, think about different kinds of feedback you could provide to support these outcomes.
- Consider students and instructor workload. What’s the best use of time — producing/viewing online lectures, or other ways of presenting content (e.g. text with graphics, existing videos, etc.)
- Communicate new course timelines and expectations.
- Let students know when and how you are available and what your response rate to questions will be.
- Communicate expectations on online behaviors, academic integrity, and other netiquette as necessary.
- Discuss any changes to grading that have made.
- Remember that there is no such thing as overcommunicating during this time of remote instruction. Repeat important messages and directions in video, text, email, and announcement. Students will be focusing on different communication tools, so they won’t notice the duplicative communication approaches you use.
As course delivery models and expectations have changed dramatically, it is important to be aware of signs that might reveal problems students are having in your course. Let your students know that you are watching for the following behaviors and provide guidance for what they can do if they find themselves in these situations:
Students are not contributing to conversations or activities.
With all that is going on, it might be hard to keep track of the contribution levels for every student. In this first week, however, let students know that you are checking participation levels as a sign that students are able to participate, complete, and succeed in activities you have planned.
Student participation drops off.
You might find that students start the week at acceptable levels but participation starts to drop off as the week goes on. This could be a sign that students are experiencing pedagogical/technical challenges that they don’t know how to address. Consider providing a quick check-in with students (Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down) periodically.
Student performance drops off.
You have had to alter the way in which you support students learning. As you ask students to demonstrate learning in this new environment, you may find students are performing at different levels than you expected. Let students know that you will be monitoring activities for overall performance and will make changes if necessary.
STUDENT SUPPORT RESOURCES
- Contact DoIT Help Desk to address any technical configuration issues
608 264-HELP – https://kb.wisc.edu/helpdesk/
- Technology for learning remotely
- Send students to the Getting Started with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra resource before your first class.
- Ask students to contact DoIT Help Desk to address any technical issues before your first class.
608 264-HELP – https://kb.wisc.edu/helpdesk/
- Direct students to the Tips for Learning Remotely site for helpful suggestions.
- Remind students of when and how they should communicate course-related problems.
- Remind students of the variety of student-facing resources on the COVID-19 student site.
- If students have larger concerns about the course, they can contact the Dean of Students Office.
- If students are experiencing accessibility issues, they should contact the McBurney Disability Resource Center.
Health and Well-Being
- If they are feeling overwhelmed, they should review the resources found on the COVID-19 Student Site.
Berge, Zane. (1995). “The Role of the Online Instructor/Facilitator: Recommendations from the Field.”Educational Technology,35(1): 22-30.