10 A culture of care
Consider how the pandemic affects students
What an anxious moment we are all surviving together. When designing a course for remote instruction, flexibility is important. In this pandemic situation, students have not CHOSEN to take a . They are being required to take courses remotely and may not even have taken an before. Even if they had made that choice, a pandemic is not the ideal circumstance in which to begin that experience.
Students will not have equitable access to essential tools and materials for an online course. For example, students may: (i) not have a printer, (ii) have poor or no wifi, (iii) not have a calm place to work, (iv) not have a suitable device, (v) health (their own or family members’), or (vi) may be working in a different time zone, be working for a family business, or have other responsibilities that take time away from their studies.
It is easy to imagine myriad ways in student identity could line up with challenges they will experience as remote learners. Remember also that intersectionality (belonging to more than one group that traditional experiences obstacles to full participation) makes potential challenges more complex and hard to fully address in advance.
We suggest simply addressing this issue at the outset of the course, and acknowledging the circumstances in which we all find ourselves (students, professors, TAs). We share the goal of trying to include everyone, regardless of their circumstances. Including everyone with reasonably similar effectiveness will simply require a bit of extra care and patience. This does not imply discarding academic standards, but does imply applying them thoughtfully in an individual way wherever practical.
To address potential issues, you can ask students what tools they have available to they, for example, by copying this questionnaire (adapt as desired). Using asynchronous options is one way to allow for greater flexibility in the course. There are also lower bandwidth alternatives to common tools that you may wish to explore.
Student can be referred to TRU’s Academic Support Services, and Accessibility Services. Educators should add an accommodation statement to their syllabi.
Remember how the pandemic affects you
Students are not the only ones who have or will experience serious challenges. Professors and TAs are subject to all of the same constraints. Pressures could even be greater under some circumstances.
Be kind to yourself and forgiving of colleagues. We suggest giving yourself extra time to get things done if you find yourself managing many obligations. If colleagues appear to breeze through some of the challenges that take you longer, maybe they do not have children, or their children are grown, or… just, be kind.
Strategies for Reinforcing Care and Community
Stress levels for everyone are extremely high right now, and the uncertainty around us doesn’t help. But there are strategies for reinforcing the care and community you have already established in your face-to-face classes, even as we move online.
- Remind students of your presence. Often. Whether through short video blogs, regular and predictable email responses, or remaining present in discussion forums, students will be reassured by your continue participation in their classwork.
- Be flexible, humane, and kind. Students will be dealing with a lot of additional external stressors during this time. Consider relaxing your approach to deadlines and late penalties in the coming days. Remember that the authorities ask that we not tax the health care system, so it may not be appropriate to require a doctor’s note for missed work due to illness.
- Seek support. Our Moodle resource has a faculty support forum, and the Learning Technology and Innovation team is here to provide support for all your questions about teaching online. The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching and the Instructional Designers in Open Learning are all community resources for you to draw on. Let us help.
Some additional ways to demonstrate care (all resources can be reused and shared, with attribution):
- Maha Bali’s OLC Innovate 2020 Virtual Conference Keynote “Centering a Critical Curriculum of Care During Crises” is particularly relevant.
- West Virginia University Press Teaching & Learning Series Pedagogies of Care: Open Resources for Student-Centered & Adaptive Strategies in the New Higher-Ed Landscape is a collection of videos, audio podcasts, interviews, infographics and articles focused on design, teaching, collaborative practices and assessment.
- Aimi Hamraie’s Accessible Teaching in the Time of COVID-19 explores how to best serve all students in this moment.
- Danya Glabau has produced a thorough questionnaire to evaluate student capacity for online learning within a specific class.
- Caleb McDaniel and Jenifer Brattner offer tips and ideas to help students who have never learned online before make the most of the rest of this semester.
- Torrey Trust’s Teaching Remotely in Times of Need is incredibly thoughtful (and we’re especially fans of Slide #24).
“ is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.” – UC Davis
“…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
– The World Health Organization
“a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.”
– The National Wellness Institute
To support students’ wellness, you can suggest that they:
Visit TRU Services
- Counselling Services offers academic, career and personal counselling and now offers virtual appointments.
- Health & Wellness support is also available, including a Medical Clinic, Wellness Centre, and a Multi-Faith Chaplaincy.
- Career & Experiential Learning continues to offer work study and career planning and development support.
- Academic Supports provide many tools and resources, including advising and a variety of learning supports, including:
- The Writing Centre helps with grammar, essay structure, integrating resources, citation and much more through synchronous and asynchronous appointments.
- The Math Help Centre can also provide assistance.
Consult external resources
- Consult resources on staying emotionally healthy during a pandemic, such as:
- “How to Stay Emotionally Healthy During the Coronavirus Outbreak” by Jamie D. Aten, in Psychology Today, Mar 2020.
How and when to provide suggestions and resources
There are no rules for this but some ideas include:
- Sending periodic Moodle announcements, which can be set up in advance.
- Short weekly video overviews can be useful to students and help them focus on the week’s tasks.
- You can put resources links like the ones above in a Resources section in Moodle.
The next chapter focused on ways to help your students become better online learners.
A normally face-to-face course that is given a distance during time of an emergency (e.g., COVID-19 pandemic) to ensure teaching continuity. Typically given through online/digital methods. Neither students nor instructors are making the choice to give the course in this way and so considerations and flexibility should be given to the fact that neither is optimally equipped to do so.
A course carefully designed by a team of experts (e.g., course professor, instructional designer, graphic designer) that takes time (months to years!), money, and resources to design and develop effectively. Professors and students CHOOSE to teach/learn in this format.
"Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth." - UC Davis
"...a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
- The World Health Organization
"a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential."
- The National Wellness Institute