Guide To Teaching and Learning

Preparing for 2021-2022

Intentional Course Design

The use of intentional online strategies can support student learning and engagement. Faculty may design their course to have occasional individual class sessions meet online where appropriate to the learning outcomes and pedagogy (e.g., synchronously via Zoom or asynchronously via Canvas) but faculty do not have permission to switch their in-person courses to fully online for a portion of the semester. In some colleges, the use of online (Zoom, Canvas) teaching as a substitute for an in-person class may require approval from your dean’s office or academic program. More suggestions and recommendations are available here. And before sure to prepare in advance in the event you can’t get into the building in time for class.

Supporting Absent Students

Students who are absent because of the above circumstances should be supported in the same ways as before the pandemic, but we anticipate continued high levels of mental health and Covid-related issues that prevent attendance. Here is additional guidance about ways to support all students, not just absent students, through the use of technology/online teaching strategies.  

In Fall 2021, some students came to expect that they could join in-person classes via Zoom, which was often inappropriate for pedagogical and technological reasons. Further, while this option may be appropriate for select content and pedagogical approaches, the majority of New School courses are not appropriate for a ‘Zoom-in’ option. Providing alternative means of participation for absent students is encouraged. Faculty are not expected to ‘zoom in’ absent students to in-person classes.

Above all, faculty should clearly communicate their plan for supporting absent students and make clear their rationale for their decisions; it’s important that students know from the start what is and is not possible and why

Prepare Your Class for the Unexpected 

We are in complicated times. Faculty can best prepare for the unexpected:

  • Activate your courses in Canvas. 
  • Put as much course content into Canvas as possible (if you taught the course online last year, you can simply copy the content over to this semester).
  • Create an announcement telling students how you will notify them if you’re unable to get to a physical classroom in time for the class meeting. Canvas can be used to message all registered students and is a recommended communication strategy.
  • Include in the announcement how students should notify you if they cannot get to class.
  • Download the Canvas Teacher app to your phone. It will enable you to send a message to all students registered for your class. Here’s guidance on communicating via Canvas.
  • Review Spring 2022 Policies and Guidance.

Use Canvas for Course Content

Placing course content such as readings, recorded lectures and demonstrations, discussions and student work in Canvas allows in-person meetings to focus on group work, further exploration of topics, and other activities that deepen students’ understanding and experiences rather than on content delivery. In addition, it ensures a back up plan should in-person instruction need to shift because of faculty or student illness or in the event of a temporary return to online learning. Importantly, using Canvas promotes equitable teaching and learning. Faculty noted that students seemed to communicate and participate via Canvas during online learning. Online discussion allows students to communicate in ways they may be reluctant to in in-person classrooms. It’s also more equitable for English language learners.

Prepare in advance for the prospect that you can’t get into a building for your scheduled class:

  • All changes to class meetings should be posted in “Announcements” in Canvas. This video outlines how to send students a note via Announcements.
  • Clearly communicate to students that you will notify them if you are unable to make it to a physical classroom in time for the class meeting. Here’s guidance on communicating via Canvas.
    • Sample language to prep your students in case you can’t get to class: “If you’re in our physical classroom and I haven’t arrived by 10 minutes after the start time, check Canvas Announcements.” 
    • Sample language if you can’t get in: “I’m unable to get into the building. I’ll post in ‘Announcements’ in Canvas shortly with information about our back up plan.”
  • Remind students they should check Canvas “Announcements”. Students should set their preferences to ‘send an alert’ and or physically check the Canvas portal.
  • Clearly communicate to students in advance what the back up plan will be for any day’s class in the event you are unable to make it to the class that day. 
  • Consider designating a few students who will be responsible for remembering to checking ‘Announcement’ from you.
  • Make up the missed class: The class should be re-scheduled for in person or Zoom or content should be delivered via Canvas. The back-up plan should not be to hold the class in that moment synchronously via Zoom. 

If it happens to you:

  • Don’t try to hold your class in the moment.
  • Hopefully you’ve prepared a communication plan that you can deploy.
  • You’re going to teach your class, just perhaps not the way you planned for that day, using one of the three options: 
    • re-schedule for in person; 
    • re-schedule via Zoom; 
    • deliver content and experience via Canvas or other asynchronous options.

If you know in advance that you won’t be able to meet your scheduled in-person class, for instance, if you find out two days before your scheduled class that you’ve had a positive Covid test:

  • Clearly communicate to students how you will notify them if you know you will be unable to make it to class. Canvas can be used to post in “Announcements” and is a recommended communication strategy.
  • Clearly communicate to students in advance what the back-up plan will be for a day’s class in the event they will be unable to attend in person. 
  • Plan to deliver course content via Canvas, Zoom or find an alternate meeting time. 
  • If students know in advance that the class session will be held synchronously via Zoom, students can be advised on that scheduled day to be sure they have a laptop; they can meet the class in the classroom if they need space or elsewhere that is relatively private.
  • Be sure you’ve been in touch with your program director/dean’s office per normal protocols as appropriate.

Bring Online Tools into the In-Person Classroom

During remote and online teaching, many faculty noticed an increase in student participation, especially among students who are English language learners and those who tend to be quiet in in-person classrooms. Zoom chat, shared google docs and tools such as Mural and Miro deepen learning, promote engagement and create more equitable learning environments. Faculty should consider asking students to bring their devices: laptops, tablets or even their phones for classroom use. The communication and discussion tools that were used for online teaching will also aid in addressing concerns about being able to understand each other while wearing masks in the classroom. Tools can also be used to get real-time feedback about what is working and where students are struggling. And of course, it builds community.

Faculty can create a Zoom room (if the class is large, there may be connectivity issues using Wifi in the classroom) or a shared google doc and have everyone log in. In the same way as they did online, students can post additional observations and questions to it during class discussions,  lectures and demonstrations. A student monitor can be designated to monitor the ‘chat’ so the faculty member doesn’t need to pay close attention to what is posted. Mural and Miro can function as they did in online courses. Students may join from their individual devices or the tool can be projected for the room.

  • For open chat, clarification questions and student responses to discussion prompts, some tools include Zoom chat, Canvas discussion, Google Docs, Menti, Mural, Miro and Padlet
  • For polling and comprehension checks: some tools include Menti, Poll Everywhere and Google Forms

When using these tools in class:

  • Set clear guidelines for what the tool is to be used for and how 
  • Determine expectations for participation using the tool and its relation to speaking in class
  • Define expectations for student behavior, e.g. only what is appropriate to speak in class is appropriate to write in the tool
  • Designate a student to monitor the posts and determine how they will call your attention to certain activity 

Some faculty have ‘no devices’ policies out of concern that students will be shopping during class. Some students may also be distracted by other students using their devices. A class discussion about appropriate use of devices during class time can be held as part of establishing community or discussion agreements for the class to define what is and is not acceptable usage and to establish the consequences for failing to abide by those agreements.

Taking a Trauma-Informed Approach

While many will be excited to return to in-person learning, we’ve all been traumatized by the pandemic and all that we have been through. Some people have lost many family members and friends and we can’t know what anyone else may be feeling. While we’ll be eager to begin the semester, students–and faculty–may not have the mental and emotional stamina to support a full plunge into the syllabus. Because of late-arriving students and the challenges of testing, vaccinations and building access, faculty are encouraged to use some class time to address the transition to in-person learning, community, and connection. Faculty and student experiences during the pandemic will have varied widely; some may want to reflect on where they have been and what they have learned. In addition to whatever content they want to introduce, faculty may wish to hold space for conversations, reflections, and aspirations. More information on a trauma-informed approach to teaching is available here.

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