Best Practices for Communicating with Students
- Communicate early, often, and with regularity. This allows students to prepare and manage their expectations, and instructors can always indicate if more concrete plans are forthcoming.
- Establish clear expectations around communication. Where should students expect communications from the instructor? (e.g., email, Canvas inbox, Canvas announcements, assignment feedback). When possible, it is best to keep communications to as few channels and locations as possible. In addition, how should students communicate with the instructor? What response time can students expect?
- Make communication efficient. Establishing a class FAQ page or other resource that archives useful information and answers to common questions. Instructors can consolidate updates, responses, and other information via “digest” format in emails on a regular basis (e.g., daily).
- Hold regular office hours virtually. Try to find times that reach the most students; this may involve alternating time slots. A variety of platforms can be used, from Canvas chat to Zoom conferencing. For the latter, a single conference room and stable link will serve for the remainder of the semester.
- Clarify where students can find readings, materials, and other resources such as the library, tutoring, and IT assistance. Consider providing files in multiple formats (if possible) to account for a variety of technological and access issues. Try to keep file sizes small. Students will access materials using a wide variety of devices with a wide variety of capabilities.
- Consider differences in time zones. Your students may be one, a few, or even several hours off of your schedule. Clarifying time zone will cut down on confusion over deadlines and meeting times. Moreover, how might students still have an equitable opportunity to reach the learning goals if their time zone presents a barrier to participation in synchronous and time-specific activities (e.g., Zoom discussion, timed exam)?
- Maintain the privacy of student information and education records. As we pivot to remote instruction and the widespread use of online platforms for teaching and communicating, it will be important to remain FERPA compliant. See this document for some best practices and further resources.
Best Practices for Technology Use
- Keep devices up to date. Install all software and hardware updates for your devices, especially for programs that you use when teaching (e.g., web browsers). Work with your department or college IT support to identify needs and follow through with updates.
- Consider alternate forms of content delivery and learning activities. Students may encounter issues with bandwidth, Internet access, device functionality, etc. When those issues arise, it is good to have a backup plan for how students can engage with the content or activities.
- Low-tech options work well in a pinch. Tablets, laptops, and webcams can record lectures with clear (enough) picture and audio. Even more, low-tech delivery helps students with barriers to access.
- Take advantage of cloud storage. Those who have not used the Microsoft Office365 (O365) apps via the web (or desktop apps) can log in with Link Blue credentials at http://office365.uky.edu. OneDrive provides helpful and secure cloud storage or backup for documents and more. Save backups for all important files and other assets for teaching.
- Take advantage of UK’s video hosting and proctoring options. In addition to Canvas and Zoom, UK has institutional access to YuJa, a video recording and hosting platform, as well as Respondus, which facilitates automated and secure remote proctoring of exams.
- Use secure channels if necessary. Those who will need to request VPN (virtual private network) access should familiarize themselves with the new request procedure. Log in to the https://ukam.uky.edu to make the request. Assistance is available from the ITS Service Desk at (859) 218-HELP (4357).
Best Practices for Accommodations
- Students with hearing impairments may need real time transcription due to the change in learning platform. If this is the case, you will be contacted by the DRC and/or the transcription vendor to set up the service. Click here for video tutorials on live auto-captioning options and adding captions to videos.
- Students with visual impairments benefit when instructors read aloud all text and provide a description of images used during a lecture. In addition, students benefit from clear, readable copies of course materials. If the class is synchronous, it's a good practice for people to identify themselves by name when they speak.
- The change to online testing can alter accommodation processes. Time- and place-based accommodations may be different in an online or remote scenario. Click here for a list of accommodations and instructional responsibilities.
- Students who require private or low-distraction settings may experience barriers accessing the appropriate learning environments with a good Internet connection. If this case should arise, students can contact their DRC consultant, or the instructor can contact the consultant listed in the accommodation letter.
- The sudden shift to 100% remote course delivery can be disorienting and challenging. Students may require additional accommodations due to this shift, and they may experience difficulties related to their well-being. Be kind and check in with students; make sure they know about UK's wellness resources.
- Anxiety can impact all aspects of attention. Consider building time and redundancy into the curriculum, assessments, and messaging to students. Strive for the greatest amount of transparency for course procedures and expectations.
The DRC will still be registering students who request accommodations. If a student needs accommodation, please direct them to the DRC website or email. If you have questions, please email the student's consultant noted in the letter of accommodation, call 859-257-2754, or send a message to DRC@uky.edu
Additional Instructional Scenarios
Courses involving clinical education, embedded learning, labs, practicum, internships, performance, service learning, and other formats may present additional challenges for moving to remote delivery. While aspects of experiential learning cannot be reproduced as such in a virtual environment, instructors can reflect on goals for student learning and how alternative delivery formats might move students in the right direction.
- Open access and proprietary software can provide simulations of lab environments and other experiential phenomena.
- Open access and instructor-generated data sets (as well as case studies broadly defined) can allow students to perform their own applications, analyses, and interpretations.
- Reflecting on previous experiences in an applied or situated learning scenario can allow students to evaluate meaningful concepts, methods, and other approaches.
- Some presentations and performances may be delivered via Zoom or other video capture platforms.
- Instructors may reflect on particular steps, concepts, methods, and challenges of experiential learning that can be targeted with an online assignment.