As most of you are aware, all schools in Florida are currently closed, so faculty and students who are parents have lost the structure that supported their academic lives. Teaching and learning with restless children at home will be exceptionally challenging.
For many of us, continuing to teach synchronously at a distance may be impossible. Keeping to our scheduled class times may be difficult for many students as well, whether they’ve moved back to distant time zones or to child-care and other responsibilities with their families. Even if you’re able to hold class at its usual time, rigid requirements for remote attendance will be unfair, since many students may find themselves unable to join you, and will need recorded versions of class activities.
Although we’re all doing our best to salvage the semester for our students, an abrupt change in format amid a public health crisis obviously doesn’t provide good conditions for learning. If you’re able, please consider minimizing new content as much as possible, while still focusing on your course goals. Even in the best of times, students can lose focus over spring break, but under the current stressful conditions, it will be remarkable if students remember much of anything from the first half of the term. When we start teaching remotely next week, we will need to find ways for students to interact with each other, and to put their thinking into words, whether written or spoken. Our most important task will be to re-establish community; the next will be to stimulate students’ memories and their reasoning with good questions and prompts.
If you’re not able to “meet” your class through a web conference, you have lots of other options. You can record greetings or mini-lectures; you can ask questions that guide students through the thinking you want them to do—reflection, connection, analysis, and so forth; students can write, they can take quizzes; they can discuss in small groups, review each other’s work, etc. There are lots of ways to keep students active and help them feel connected, even without a synchronous meeting. Your students may enjoy making short selfie videos and responding to each other using Flipgrid.
As we navigate these new teaching worlds, there’s a wealth of great advice to guide us. Vanessa Dennen, Professor of Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies in FSU’s College of Education, has developed this incredible resource. Educators across the country have collaborated on this collection. And here’s a course interactions resource, sorted by types of interactions you can facilitate remotely. The Office of Distance Learning has also created an Emergency Online Instruction resource page where you can learn more about converting your courses into an online format using technologies that are free to you and your students, and are supported by FSU.
The Center for the Advancement of Teaching is here to support you, so please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll meet with you by phone, Zoom, or another method of your preference.
We honor your dedication in these difficult times, and we hope you are able to treat yourselves with the same patience and compassion you offer your students.
Thank you for all you do,
Director, Center for the Advancement of Teaching