A sincere note from faculty to faculty

Contributed by Developmental English Faculty, Paula Khalaf

Everyone’s life is chaotic right now. I just want to briefly share one student’s story—hopefully to create some empathy for all students and instructors as they plan the remainder of the semester.

Emily has two young children, one of whom has special needs. She is home with both of them 24/7. Besides taking care of their basic needs of food and shelter, she has had to arrange speech therapy online for her daughter which requires using the only computer they have in the household. She also has to make sure both children keep up with their lessons—which requires the one computer they have. Emily stays up late at night while her children sleep—and don’t need access to the computer—to keep up with her math class that has moved from in-person to online. She says her instructor asked her to be online for a WebEx at a specific time next week. Emily’s concern: “I don’t even know what a WebEx is.”

My point is—everyone’s life is different right now. I am sure we have instructors experiencing many challenges that my student Emily is facing. I struggle to keep my head above water with cooking, cleaning, getting groceries to my parents, and trying to work from home-and I don’t have young children. This unprecedented situation requires instructors to rethink how to meet the course learning outcomes. That may mean that some assignments are completely transformed into something else—or even some that are just left in the dust. I am starting with—what is the minimum I need my students to do in order to master the course learning outcomes? How best can I communicate with them—phone, Zoom, WebEx? I can’t teach myself all of the technology quickly, nor can my students master it in addition to everything else going on in their lives right now.

Thank you for listening!


A Note from Professional Development:

Check out this article on one faculty member’s perspective on the situation that we are in today.

The volume of information that is being sent and received can be overwhelming.  Please refer to the Resources Page for more information.  While your transitioned course may not be perfect, your students need a quality, flexible course.  The greater message from LSC to all students is: “As we move closer to opening campus and resuming all classes April 13, we are going to be supportive and understanding in all that you’re dealing with. We’re here for you.”

Ask any questions you may have!

First day nuggets

Amanda Griffin, M.Ed – Trainer, Professional Development with contributions from Dr. Pamela Auburn – Faculty, Chemistry

Welcome back to our returning UP family members, and welcome home to newcomers like me! As we begin the semester, I am sharing nuggets of wisdom on how to start strong on the first day from our very own Dr. Pamela Auburn, Professor of Chemistry and Lead Faculty.

“By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn.” ―Latin Proverb

The first day of class is a one-time opportunity to build community in your classroom and set the stage for active learning. You can give students a taste of the engaging intellectual journey they will undertake in the coming semester by sending them an email before the first day welcoming them to class, introducing yourself, and providing a copy of your syllabus.

Create an agenda. This will show students you are prepared. Have a slide with the agenda or post it on the whiteboard.  Incorporate tasks to peak student curiosity and build community.

Welcome students. Data indicates that students learn better when you know their names. Of course this will not happen on day one, but you can start by welcoming students as they walk through the door. Allow students an opportunity to introduce themselves during class. An icebreaker activity wherein students pair off and introduce each other can help foster community (be sure to offer some structured questions to guide the introductions).

The syllabus. It is critical for students to understand your class structure and assignments, but reading through the syllabus word-for-word only puts everyone involved to sleep. Instead, consider a syllabus investigation activity. First, have students mark what they think are the five most important items on your syllabus. Then, have them form groups of 3-4 to share and compare. Lastly, have a spokesperson from each group ask questions about the syllabus.  Be sure to explain how the course activities are connected to learning outcomes.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ―Maya Angelou

Build Community. You want to set the stage for two-way communication in your class. You might consider a reciprocal interview: allowing students to ask you questions pertaining to your expectations, course content, and goals for the class, then asking them similar questions. I always find it informative to ask students what excites them or frightens them about the class or what questions they hope to get answered. By asking these types of questions, you show students you value their input, and the answers to these questions can help you build relevant content applications.

In online courses, you may wish to create a discussion forum that allows students to introduce themselves (this could even be your first graded activity for ODR purposes!). While none of this is required, these prompts may help you to get started:

  • In this class, I would like to learn more about _____.
  • As a member of an online group, I would like other to know _____.
  • In the future I plan to _____.
  • My biggest challenge is _____.
  • My secret indulgence is _____.
  • I am most proud of _____.

You may also suggest that students post an appropriate photo as either a .jpg or .png attachment. This dual-purpose discussion helps to build community in the online classroom while teaching the instructor a lot about their students. It is possible to use this information to better connect and incorporate relevant content. To get the conversation started, post about yourself first!

A Few Pointers:

  • ​If you have the opportunity, visit your classroom before day one. Look at the setup and consider what activities might work best there.
  • Check out the technology – make sure it is working and you know how to use it (it is always good to have a low-tech back up plan).
  • Post your syllabus on D2L.
  • For the first day you cannot overdress but you can underdress. Set a professional tone early; you can ease up a bit later.