Should an emergency occur that prevents you from coming to campus, or if the university closes, there are resources available that can support you in continuing to teach your classes.
A big part of making the transition to move your class online involves communication. Students should hear from you as soon as possible, letting them know the ways in which your class will now function. Let them know where they can find course communication, assignment instructions, information about online meetings, and technologies.
Send a Canvas Announcement
You can send students a message through the course announcements feature within your classes on Canvas. A few other options for messaging within Canvas are available. Announcements may also be sent using the Canvas Teacher app on a smartphone.
Connect via Remind
The Remind app and website is a way of reaching students via text message and is separate and apart from Canvas. It lets you send messages (including text, photos, and documents) to students, without them having your cell phone number. Students determine if they want messages to come in via the Remind app, or directly to their messages app.
The free Remind plan allows for up to 150 students in a class, with up to ten classes at once. You can archive older classes in order to free up spaces in their system to use to message your students. We do not subscribe to Remind as an institution, however. The information you set up on Remind does not sync with Canvas or our other systems.
Stay in Touch
Given the disruption that can occur in our lives when our campus shuts down, or in the case of another emergency situation that prevents us from holding regular classes, it is vital to regularly communicate with students. Plan on sending a few messages per week to provide updates on changes that may have occurred in the structure of the class, or regarding upcoming assignments and class events.
Consider continuing to have your classes meet at their regularly-scheduled times, but perhaps for shorter durations. If your class would typically have met for 50 minutes, three times per week, you may want to change the duration to be for 30 minutes, as an example.
Not all students will be able to attend class at the normal times, however. By recording your class sessions, you can make them available to those who were not able to participate in the live class.
Use Zoom for Class Sessions
The easiest way that can conduct live/synchronous sessions for your courses is through the use of Zoom. This web conferencing platform provides multiple ways to engage students. You can see everyone who is attending a Zoom session and can even use breakout rooms to get people discussing topics in smaller groups. Zoom has screen-sharing features that you can use to show a PowerPoint, video, or anything else that might appear on your computer screen to your students. You can also allow them to share what is on their screen to the rest of the class.
Vanguard does not have Zoom licenses for our entire community, but those who teach online do have paid accounts. However, the free Zoom account provides for many of the same features that you get with the paid version. That includes having up to 100 participants join a session, recording the session to your computer, and other group collaboration features.
Test this out now in departmental or one on one meetings with your students so you will be comfortable if the need arises for live class sessions.
Asynchronous (On Your Own Schedule) Content
One unique challenge that this specific type of instructional disruption poses is the fact that students may not be able to attend your courses live because of schedule or internet access constraints. The most efficient and effective way to address this challenge is to create instructional content in Canvas that can be accessed at a time that best fits the schedule of the individual students.
The easiest way to create instructional videos for use for the asynchronous courses is through the built-in Studio tool available in Canvas. Through this tool, you can record anything that is happening on your computer screen, your webcam, or a combination of both. Once your record these videos you also have the option to create graded video quizzes within the video itself to incentivize students to engage with the content you created.
Test this out now in your courses so you will be comfortable if the need arises for you to build these asynchronous sections.
Any disruption of this sort is going to require ongoing adjustments, as circumstances shift. Below are some ideas regarding additional considerations to use in supporting students and keeping classes going.
Be sure to made changes to your syllabi and let students know about the rationale behind the modifications. Remind them that the class disruptions are necessitating additional flexibility to still meet the learning goals of the class while providing for the needs of the students.
Hold Virtual Office Hours
Use Zoom to maintain office hours with some regularity. Make the shift in your office hours known to the students and give them opportunities to check in with you often.
Find Suitable Substitutions
If you run an in-person lab, look for virtual labs online, or make arrangements for other activities that can take the place of in-person labs. Substitute readings or other online materials in place of in-person class sessions and follow up with online discussions. Canvas has discussion boards that can be used for this purpose. FlipGrid is a video tool that “allows teachers to create ‘grids’ to facilitate video discussion.” It is highly mobile-friendly and easy for students to use.
Communicate Grades and Other Feedback on Canvas
Having students know where they stand in our classes, in terms of grades, is even more important than normal during a crisis. Use SpeedGrader to give students on assignments. Keep the gradebook updated in your class, so students are able to assess their progress.
Inform students that the What-if Grades feature in Canvas will let them approximate their assignment scores and project what their grades may be in the class, given different scenarios (e.g. “What happens if I get an 80% on the final? How would that impact my grade/score in the class?”).
We appreciate you reviewing this information and considering the ways in which we can adapt our teaching practices during times of disruption.