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Moving Online: Quick Tips

Notre Dame announced last week that due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases on campus it would move all undergraduate instruction online at least until September 2. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Please be kind to yourself, your students, and your instructor this week; it’s a stressful time for everyone. 

What follows are a few things you can do to make the next few weeks (or more) of online instruction better for yourself and your students. 

Clearly communicate expectations: Transparent communication is critical in the online environment. Hopefully, if you’re a TA, you’ve already communicated with your professor about new expectations for your online course and clearly conveyed that information to students. But don’t stop there: be more diligent than usual in reminding students about changes to course procedures, assignment deadlines, and the time and (virtual) place of your office hours. Their minds, like yours, are probably in a hundred places at once right now, and they’ll almost certainly appreciate these reminders.

Check in (and adjust) often: Students, like instructors, are facing unprecedented challenges this semester. So, while it’s important to communicate your expectations to them, it’s also important to check in with students to gauge their current needs. Remember, many students are sick, quarantined, or otherwise distressed; nearly all of them are more stressed than usual. Assess their needs frequently and make appropriate accommodations. Try to remain empathetic and flexible for the next few weeks. The mental and physical health of you and your students should come first. 

Facilitate community building and active learning: In last week’s blog post, Alex Oxner, Assistant Program Director for Inclusive Pedagogy the Kaneb Center, wrote that within the first days of class, “It is crucial that instructors work to generate support systems among their students.” These support systems are more important than ever when classes move online. Make sure you’re taking advantage of online tools to help students build a class community and engage in active learning practices. If your class is primarily asynchronous, consider creating a student discussion board or small study groups. If class is conducted synchronously, make use of the breakout rooms on Zoom to help students connect with one another. 

Use your resources: The Kaneb Center has a number of resources available to support (emergency) online teaching. To start, you can consult this Checklist of Key Steps for Teaching Online, this ND Learning article on Effective Online Teaching, and the Resilient Teaching website.

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