Communicating to Students about Coronavirus Course Changes

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Star Wars –> great leadership motivators!

Students are experiencing anxiety about course changes and relocating away from their campus homes as anxious faculty rush to put course content online.  We are the leaders to their future, and we can do a lot to reduce their stress. Beyond basic college student challenges, they now worry about how to learn online, how this will affect their grades, how they will finish group work and/or labs, and many also worry about meeting basic needs such as food, bills, and childcare or a quiet place to study.  Everything they’ve invested in their future changed direction in the blink of an eye.  

Things you can communicate to students to reduce course stress:

Tell them you have a plan.  Students are looking to you for leadership. They don’t expect you to know everything right now, but they need to hear your plan to move forward.  “I’m taking this week to reorganize our course for online delivery.  I’ll send everyone an announcement by Friday with details. In the meantime, please review the readings already scheduled for this week and use the rest of the time for your own adjustments.”

We’re going to make it work:  Let them know you are invested in their future, and you’re still there for them.  Remind students the situation is fluid but you will be communicating regularly. Ask for their ideas, too–we are all in this together.  “I know this is a huge change for all of us…” 

Keep it short and sweet:  Use the Announcements feature in Canvas, so they can find your message easily amidst the deluge.  Think of your announcements as a Facebook post–short, engaging, to the point, with extra information shared via images or links.  

Adjust deadlines and late policies:  Where possible, give students extra time and change your late work policy accordingly so they are more likely to be successful in adapting to online. Many of them had to move out this week and readjust to new living situations, and need extra time. 

Offer options:  Some of your assignments may be difficult or no longer possible for students. “I know the ___ assignment is coming up.  For those of you who don’t have access to _____, you can complete an alternate assignment shared here, or suggest your own option from our course content…” 

Focus on benefits:  You can attend class via zoom from the comfort of your own home.  Since not all of you have the library materials available, we’ll be using online current events and YouTube videos to learn more about ______. 

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