Communicate with students
Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es) — whether a viral outbreak like COVID-19 or a crisis impacting all or part of campus. You’ll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations.
Keep these principles in mind:
- Communicate early and often: Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety and save you dealing with individual questions. Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren’t in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Don’t overload them with email, but consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in-class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand. For example, if the campus closure is extended for two more days, what will students need to know related to your course?
- Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email and how quickly they can expect your response. Let them know, too, if you are using the Canvas Inbox tool since they may need to update their notification preferences.
- Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider creating an information page in Canvas and then encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing you.
Distribute course materials and readings
You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more – or all – instruction online. In a pinch, providing some new readings and related assignments may be your best bet for keeping the intellectual momentum of the course moving.
Considerations when posting new course materials:
- Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in Canvas or another shared resource (e.g., Google Drive), be sure to let students know what you posted and where. You might even ask that they change their notification preferences to alert them when new materials are posted. For Canvas, refer them to How do I set my Canvas notification preferences as a student?
- Keep things accessible & mobile-friendly: In a crisis, many students may only have a mobile device available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats including PDFs and Canvas Pages. Consider saving other files in two formats, its original application format and a PDF. PDFs are easier to read on phones and tablets and keep the file size small, and the original file format often has application features that are helpful to students who use accessibility software. Also note that videos take lots of bandwidth, so only require them if you are confident students will have the network and computing resources to access them during the current situation.
- Zoom is an existing tool available to all instructors, staff, and students that can facilitate remote attendance. Instructors can use Zoom’s video conferencing to offer online sections and/or lectures, and using the ConferZoom tool is often the easiest way to do this. Zoom also allows you to record these sessions and share a link for viewing by your students. (Note: When setting up Zoom sessions, you should avoid making students use passcodes to connect to the session.)
(Source: Stanford University: https://teachanywhere.stanford.edu/best-practices )