Planning a Successful Transition to Teach Remotely in an Emergency

Planning a Successful Transition to Teach Remotely in an Emergency

Here are some good practices to consider and tips about going online in a hurry (Chronicle of Higher Education, M.D.Miller, March 9, 2020):

Review Course Content and Assignments for the Coming Weeks: Will students be expected to adhere to the original schedule of assignments on the syllabus? If there are group projects planned, will these stay in place? How you modify the course may depend upon the duration of the interruption, but unfortunately this may not be known early on. Inform students about any changes or interruptions promptly. Students may not know what your expectations are in terms of their current responsibilities. Initial messages should reassure the students that they will not be held accountable for unavoidable consequences of the interruption, and that flexibility and accessibility will be part of any solution. 

Communicate proactively:  Develop a communication plan and share it with your students. You may want to consider: 

  • How you will communicate with your students:  It is advisable to craft a group email and send it to your students in the event of a disruption. This can be done easily through Blackboard. Each of your courses has a separate Blackboard page that you can access through Your Blackboard course site will enable you to send emails to the entire class. Quickly is a productivity integration for Blackboard that allows you to post announcements and send emails to multiple courses at once. You will also want to consider whether you will communicate synchronously (in real time), asynchronously (with a delay), or with a combination of both depending upon your needs. 
  • How often you will communicate with your students: Managing your communication load will be important as students may begin individually reaching out to you. It is important at the outset to let students know how quickly they can expect a response. In a crisis situation, students may grow anxious if they don’t hear back immediately. You may want to Setup an Automatic Reply for your email  that reassures the students that you have received their message and you will get back to them in whatever span of time you deem realistic and appropriate for your capacity and their needs. 
  • How your students will communicate with you: While most students at the outset of an interruption will reach out via email, you may want to identify an alternative solution that will make managing messages easier. Your Blackboard course site has a Discussion Board to which all of your students have access. The Discussion Board will allow your students to post comments and questions all in one place. This will eliminate the need for you to wade through a mass of emails from large numbers of students. Since all of the students in a class have access to the discussion board, you can create a Frequently Asked Questions forum which should reduce the need for you to respond to similar questions repeatedly. 
  • How your students will communicate with each other: In some cases, your students may have established working groups that they will want to continue. The Discussion Board will also enable students to communicate asynchronously by posting messages to each other. You will want to establish some communication guidelines for these discussion forums so that your expectations for appropriate communication are clear. Students can also create their own “Team” in Office 365 and invite their peers. This gives them access to shared files, video conference capabilities, and more. No faculty setup or involvement is required.

How to communicate synchronously for virtual classes or office hours: Online synchronous communications can be managed through various web conferencing solutions. GoToMeeting and Zoom are academically focused platforms for synchronous video conferencing which allow you to remotely host a class live. This method allows you to teach at your normally scheduled class time with less adjustment to your plans. To participate successfully in an online synchronous session, students will need Internet access with sufficient bandwidth and the requisite technical ability. Some of your students may live in different time zones so this is something to consider as well. The same GoToMeeting and Zoom tools you can use for live lecturing are also useful for 1-1 connection with your students without exposing your home or cell phone numbers. Consider open drop-in during your normal office hours or allow students to request a specific time.