No matter how you are delivering your course, whether it's mostly face-to-face, fully online, or a blend of the two, creating a consistent, organized, and transparent course experience for students is of utmost importance.
Faculty individuality remains a critical piece of a successful course but based upon learning best practices and feedback collected from UD students, you are asked to abide by the following guidelines as you prepare for and deliver courses this year.
- Maintain an Isidore course site
- Organize & structure course content into weekly modules using the provided templated pages in the Lessons tool.
- Communicate regularly with students including important course dates and personal individualized messages.
- Create a learning environment that fosters flexibility, compassion, and understanding
- Offer weekly opportunities for live engagement including synchronous class activities and virtual office hours.
- Maintain a course Gradebook and provide timely feedback
- Add all important class dates to the Calendar tool
1.Maintain an Isidore course site
All faculty are asked to maintain an Isidore course site for each of the courses they will be teaching. Having one central location for all course information and activities helps reduce students' cognitive load as they attempt to access and complete coursework. This also ensures that faculty and students have on-campus support for all of their courses.
Spring sites are not automatically being created for courses in the spring but the The Office of eLearning has created a Spring 2021 Template site (just like the Fall 2020 template site) that faculty can use.
The template site will help faculty easily maintain a consistent and organized course presence. The template includes important components that encourage student success and improve student satisfaction.
Each template site includes a new Homepage Builder tool that allows instructors to enter standard information for their course, such as meeting times, course description, syllabus, and schedule. The tool creates a standardized homepage that displays important class information to students and creates a consistent experience across all course sites.
2.Organize & structure course content into weekly modules
Organization and consistency are absolutely critical components of any learning environment. We ask that you break your course into weekly sections using the pre-built template set up in the course Lessons tool. Each weekly module should include a checklist of tasks, learning outcomes, important deadlines, and resources. This approach helps students clearly understand everything that is expected each week in the course and gives them access to any necessary resources in a central place. In addition, you should always strive to provide clear and detailed directions for all assignments and activities.
We also recommend setting up no more than 2 due dates per module. Try to establish consistency with your due dates so items aren’t due at 5 PM on a Wednesday one week, then at 8:30 PM on a Friday the next week.
3.Communicate regularly with students
Staying in regular contact with your students helps them understand that you care about their success in the course and keeps them engaged.
Consider sending out weekly announcements via the Announcements tool in Isidore to students in your classes. These messages can help focus the students by reminding them of upcoming assignments, provide additional context for course work, and offer avenues for them to get assistance such as weekly office hours. Using the Announcements tool will help you and your students keep track of the communications. Students have been clear through surveys that the Announcements tool is their preferred method as opposed to simply relying on email.
If you notice an individual student struggling or not turning in work, send them a personal message letting them know your concern and asking them how you can help them succeed.
End your messages with an “open door” by letting students know how to reach you if they have questions or concerns.
4.Create a learning environment that fosters flexibility, compassion, and understanding
Flexibility should be approached in two ways. First, you should be flexible in your expectations of students. Second, you must also be flexible in your approaches to delivering content, creating engagement opportunities, and building your assessments to properly gauge student learning while making cheating less likely or desirable.
Flexible expectations of students
Begin the semester with a plan and set schedule for your class so your students know exactly what is due and when, but keep in mind that some students will need additional assistance, assignment extensions, and grace as they potentially take on a full online class load this term and combat the additional health concerns, stress, and uncertainty the pandemic has created. While this may not be ideal, instructors must be prepared to accommodate students and adjust our intended class schedule if necessary.
Flexible course delivery
Flexibility in course delivery means that each course learning goal (supported by lectures, activity, assessments, etc.) should be laid out and examined to see what approach or mode would work best to achieve the desired outcome. Some pieces like class discussions will likely work best as synchronous activities that faculty can deliver in a classroom or through a live Zoom session while other pieces like a content-heavy lecture may be better suited for asynchronous delivery through a pre-recorded lecture that students can watch on their own.
Faculty are encouraged to plan Primary and Secondary delivery options when examining their course and its content. Example: A faculty member may decide that one of their particularly difficult lectures would best work as a synchronous activity because it will be important for them to gauge the student’s comprehension as they go through it. The primary mode for delivery during planning may be to deliver this lecture synchronously, in-person. The secondary mode, if needed to support some/all remote students, would be to host a live Zoom session where students turn on their webcams and are asked questions throughout.
Finally, it’s worth noting that not all students learn the same way so it will be important to use a variety of approaches at times for different course components. For instance, some students may wish to watch pre-recorded lecture videos, while others may want to participate in a ‘live’ class session via Zoom. Flexibility in assessments might mean diversifying your assessment approach. You might ask students to choose their preference for a given assessment - a project and presentation, an online exam, or a written research paper.
5.Offer weekly opportunities for live engagement
One of the things that students missed most about being on campus in the spring was the opportunity to connect with their faculty members. Asynchronous activities and pre-recorded video lectures can be helpful to students, but students also need and appreciate the opportunity to see and talk with instructors on a regular basis. These opportunities foster learning and also help students understand that you care about them and are available to help.
While some classes will be delivered live in-person or via Zoom, this likely won’t be the case for all. This means that virtual office hours and other engaging online class opportunities weekly through a tool like Zoom should be provided to help students feel connected to the course and the instructor. Some students may still be self-conscious about joining one-on-one Zoom sessions, so consider offering an incentive for them to join you (e.g. “guaranteed improvement in writing assignment grade after meeting with me”).
6.Maintain a course Gradebook and provide timely feedback
It is critically important that students understand how they’re performing in their classes. Lack of grade and assignment feedback can create ambiguity, stress, and frustration.
Students’ progress can also be impeded if they are not receiving feedback that allows them to learn from their mistakes. Quality feedback helps students understand what goals they’re working towards and is one of the most important functions that instructors can provide to students as they progress through a class.
There’s no one correct answer on feedback turnaround time. It depends on the class size, the assignment, and your own schedule. However, try to establish a reasonable feedback turnaround time policy in your syllabus so your students know what to expect. If you can’t maintain that policy, communicate with your students to let them know when they can expect feedback.
Add all grades to the Gradebook tool in Isidore so students have a centralized location for their grades and feedback. This will help them understand early on if they need to work harder or reach out for assistance.
7.Add important class dates to the Calendar tool
Students have repeatedly and adamantly told us over the years how important the Calendar tool in Isidore is to them as they juggle multiple classes and due dates. Adding important class dates and due dates to the Calendar tool helps students stay on top of their work. It may seem like a simple thing but making sure all of your class due dates are added to the Calendar tool in your site is a great way to keep your students on track in your courses.
To facilitate adding class dates to the Calendar tool, we recommend using existing Isidore tools like Assignments, Tests & Quizzes, and Forums. These tools are configured to automatically send due dates to the Calendar tool, minimizing the number of dates you have to manually add yourself.
Here are some other dates you might add to the Calendar:
- Virtual office hours
- Live class sessions
- Drop without record date
- Drop with a ‘W’ date
- Final exam date