We are all hopeful that IU can control COVID-19 spikes and we are able to keep on-campus instruction going until Thanksgiving. But with so many COVID-related challenges out there, it is important that we are all prepared to pivot to remote instruction, just in case. Whether you are preparing for a full campus shutdown or one for just your class due to high levels of infection or precautionary quarantine, we have some suggestions to help you prepare a “pivot plan.”
Have a plan documented and share it now
Many instructors are used to adjusting their teaching plans on the fly, although this might be a good time to make plans for those adjustment in advance. Figure out now what you will do with different aspects of your course if you have to pivot to remote instruction.
- Will you move live lectures and discussions to Zoom?
- Will you shift any content delivery to recordings in Kaltura?
- Will you shift any discussions to the Canvas Discussions tool?
- What will happen to group projects?
- Will you implement increased online office hours or group check-in meetings?
- Do you have any backup plans in case one of the major services goes down? This can be alternative technologies or just a logistical plan for what happens if you cannot meet live or access recordings.
Sharing these plans now—or at least tentative plans—can help your students make the move more comfortable and confidently.
Review your course schedule and determine priorities
You may lose some time in a pivot to remote teaching, and students may be upended—physically, mentally, and emotionally—in the process, so be ready to review and prioritize content and activities in your class. We learned from last spring that trying to fit all content into a shortened semester just didn’t work out well. So, consider what is most important to meet the larger course outcomes and what can be set aside.
Understand students’ technology access
Understand now what technology your students have access to, as well as what they think they might have should they lose access to campus resources. Make sure your plans take their technology access into account when planning class meetings, activities, and assessments. A short technology survey can get you that information early in the semester. [IUB has made a few of these available in Commons; see below for instructions.]
Clarify your new expectations for students
You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including attendance, participation, communication, and deadlines. Some of these elements change naturally in remote settings, and some will have to change during this sudden shift online. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness, technology limitations, access to study/meeting space, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations flexibly and equitably.
Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students
Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and adopt new tools only when absolutely necessary to meet course goals. This continuing crisis is already taxing everyone’s mental and emotional energy, and introducing a lot of new tools and approaches may leave even less energy and attention for learning. If you do need to pick new tools and approaches, give yourself and your students time to practice with them in lower-stakes situations where a few mistakes don’t matter so much.
After early-semester problems with Zoom and Kaltura, some instructors are exploring options like Microsoft Teams or Google Meet as backups. In addition to the “new tools stress” noted above, realize backup solutions sometimes lack the security of our primary systems, so be cautious in using them, and only do so on a temporary basis. You can keep up to date on technology outages on the Status.IU page.
How will your class regroup?
Ever have your class disrupted by a fire alarm? Sometimes you need to take time to check in with everyone, regroup, and take a collective breath before you move on. Be ready to do that in your first class meeting after you pivot online. What strategies might you have for restarting in a compassionate way—acknowledging their challenges and setting a new direction together? Community and support will be even more vital to their success in a pivot.
Think about the technology YOU need to work remotely
Many of you may already be set up to teach from home, but if you were relying on teaching from an on-campus classroom, you may need some additional technology at home. Some suggestions:
- Webcam: Whether built into your computer or plugged in, you will need a good webcam for both live class meetings and recordings.
- Headset microphone: While many computers have built-in microphones, a mid-range headset can make your voice clearer to students. Make sure you get a model with a noise-cancelling microphone and the right connections for your computer. Example: Logitech H390.
- External monitor: Seeing multiple students in Zoom can be tough on a laptop monitor, so consider asking your department for a larger—or second—monitor.
- Document camera: If you use a whiteboard a lot, or if you need to show physical objects, a document camera can come in handy. These can be pretty expensive and hard to find right now, so ask early if you think you really need one. You can also use Google Jamboard on an iPad, or consider alternatives using smartphones, including sharing your iPhone/iPad screen via AirPlay or connecting your phone as a separate Zoom participant: https://kb.iu.edu/d/bgbc.
Technology purchases like these typically happen at the departmental level, so touch base with them now regarding purchases, since some of this equipment is hard to come by.
We hope these plans aren’t necessary, but having one in place will keep your semester on track in case of an emergency… and they may help you and your students transition to post-Thanksgiving learning online.
What some IUB faculty members are doing to prepare
Below, two IUB faculty members share their experiences from last spring that are impacting how they prepare for a possible pivot this fall.
When we are face-to-face with our students, we communicate in so many different ways: body language, tone of voice, eye contact, where we stand in the room. But in the online era, many of those forms are lost. How do we make up for that? One action I have resolved to take for fall is to share a 2-3 minute check-in video with my students each week, talking about where we are and where we are going in the course. The literature says that students often feel much more isolated and alone in online courses, so we should be in contact with them (as a group and individually) as much as we can.
— Cody Kirkpatrick, Dept. of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
When I moved to remote teaching in the spring, I realized that I had to rethink my final assignments for both classes. My undergraduate students were to make an in-class group presentation and my graduate students were to take individual oral exams in the format of a mock interview. For my undergraduates, I gave them the option of working individually or remotely in a group to prepare and submit a power point presentation. I did not require them to record the presentation. For my graduate students, I gave them the option of still doing the mock interview by phone or zoom or submitting written responses instead.
— Julia Fox, The Media School
Instructions for importing student tech surveys from Canvas Commons
- Log into IU Canvas
- Click on the Commons link in the left menu bar
- Click on the Filter button, and then under “Shared with,” select Indiana University
- Search for “survey” and change the search option to “Latest”
Near the top of the results, you will see:
- Start of Semester Survey
- IU Student Technology Survey
- (there is a third result there, too—a similar survey developed for language classes at IUB)
- Open the desired survey and click the “Import/Download” button, and select the destination course.
See this page for more information on importing items into a course: https://community.canvaslms.com/t5/Commons/How-do-I-import-and-view-a-Commons-resource-in-Canvas/ta-p/1808