By Jeff Schwartz, OTL Instructional Designer
With face-to-face (F2F) courses resuming this week, it’s hard not to feel uncertain about navigating this return to campus. The pandemic has been predictably unpredictable, which has made planning and teaching courses especially challenging. This blog collects a number of best practices that will help you and your students transition back to campus and weather the uncertain weeks and months ahead.
Be transparent. If it’s possible this week, find some time to acknowledge the stress and uncertainty of the last two weeks (not to mention the last two years). Let students know how you plan to conduct class going forward, as well as your policies for students who test positive for Covid-19 and need to qurantine. Give students time to share their questions, concerns, and comments. It may also be useful to acknowledge that things could change once again, and to explain your plan if there is a need to pivot back to remote learning. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage students to reach out to you if they have specific needs or concerns.
Post key course content, including the syllabus, assignments, and instructional materials, on Canvas. Uploading key course content on Canvas is required by DU’s Covid-19 Classroom Protocol. However, there are so many benefits to using Canvas that go beyond complying with DU protocols. Since Canvas is compatible with screenreaders, using Canvas’s pages, assignments, and discussions ensure that your course is accessible. Group work that starts in the classroom can continue online through Canvas’s Group feature; groups can be particularly beneficial in large-enrollment courses. And uploading readings, videos, and other instructional materials means that students can access these materials whenever necessary.
Ensure course content is accessible. Whether it’s the syllabus, PDFs, or videos, prioritizing the accessibility of your course content is beneficial to all students, not just those with specific disability accommodations. For instance, if your course includes recorded lectures or videos, make sure those videos are uploaded to the My Media page on Canvas. Videos uploaded through My Media auto-generate closed captioning, which you can easily edit. If you have questions or concerns about the accessibility of your course material, please reach out to Ellen Hogan (Ellen.Hogan@du.edu), the OTL’s Accessibility Technologist for Learning and Instruction.
Consider creating a mid-quarter survey. Asking for honest feedback from students about your teaching methods and your course not only helps facilitate a learner-centered classroom, it allows you to make improvements in real-time. Moreover, giving students a space to voice their opinions helps build rapport and lets them know you’re invested in their success. You can create a survey through the Classic Quizzes feature on Canvas, or by using Qualtrics, a free program available to all DU faculty and staff. Learn more about the pedagogy of mid-quarter surveys from the OTL’s blog post “Designing a Mid-Quarter Student Survey.”