Together As Buckeyes, instructors and students have been adjusting to new teaching and learning situations. During this time, it’s important to keep student success top of mind, by reducing stress and building connection, creating inclusive learning spaces and integrating resources and pathways for support.
According to a university-wide COVID-19 survey conducted in Spring 2020, instructors and students faced a variety of challenges: transitioning to new technology, struggling to stay connected, food insecurity, loss of income and mental health concerns. Existing challenges were also amplified for our most vulnerable populations, and some students have been facing gaps in their basic needs.
Additionally, as the world takes a stand on racial injustice and pushes to elevate diverse voices, there comes an opportunity to create learning environments that are more inclusive and welcoming and that honor the diverse needs and preferences of students.
In order to face these challenges, Ohio State is encouraging instructors to implement a few simple measures to support student success. Review the suggestions on this page for easy ways to lessen stress, build connection, welcome your students and guide them to the resources they may need throughout the semester.
Learn how to focus on student success during the semester.
Reduce stress and build connection
There are a few simple ways to reduce stress for students by removing unnecessary barriers and creating opportunities for students to engage with you and their classmates, and to feel part of a community.
Here are some strategies you can incorporate during the semester:
- Adjust your expectations for success. Success in 2020 or 2021 may not be what success looked like in 2018—and that's OK. Review these tips for setting realistic expectations for the semester, provided by the Office of Student Academic Success, the Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning, the Office of Student Life and the Office of Distance Education and eLearning.
- Create a course communication plan. Tell your students in the syllabus how you plan to communicate with them and how they can communicate with you and each other. Whether you're using discussion boards, Zoom, announcements or email try incorporating detailed language in the syllabus to set expectations from the start. Use the ODEE Syllabus Template for sample language you can customize.
- But don't overdo it! Students often report Carmen notification fatigue in the middle of a semester. Be sure you plan for silent days as well so students can focus on more in-depth tasks and assignments.
- Consider a mid-semester survey to assess how your students are doing. Do they have the tools they need to be successful? What is causing them stress right now? What can you as the instructor do to support their academic success?
- Be sure to connect assignments to learning objectives. Students are often overwhelmed with assignments in the middle of the semester. Make sure students understand what knowledge they are gaining or what skills they are learning by completing your assignments so they don't feel like busy work.
Students share their experiences in courses where the intructors helped reduce stress and build connection. Small changes like providing feedback outside of class and facilitating small group discussions can make a big difference.
An inclusive classroom experience is built on understanding, flexibility, respect and appreciation. Listen as students share their experiences with the inclusive classes that helped them succeed.
Create inclusive learning spaces, wherever and however they occur
Make your course a welcoming and supportive space
Try the following throughout the semester:
- Develop a statement of support for your course that reflects your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (e.g. encouraging diversity of thought, wanting your course to be a safe space).
- The Office of Undergraduate Education has a diversity statement you can borrow or adapt to make it your own.
- Make your course more personal by enabling NameCoach, which allows you and your students to record the pronunciation of your names. You can also encourage students to include their pronouns directly in Canvas. If they choose to do so, their pronouns will appear alongside their name in places like People and Discussions.
- Build a sense of camaraderie in your online or hybrid course by being open, creating opportunities to connect and establishing feedback channels.
- Instructors and students alike are reporting fatigue with the number of Zoom meetings. To ease that feeling of burnout, consider some of the following options to lessen the amount of time you and your students sit in front of a webcam:
- Make your Zoom meetings shorter or less frequent if there are portions of your lecture that you could record in Zoom and share in Carmen. This allows students to watch on their own time and can lessen the burden on your students in varying time zones.
- Turn a planned live discussion into an asynchronous discussion board in Carmen, where you can ask all students to participate and provide substantive, well-reasoned perspectives or arguments.
- Make a planned Zoom meeting optional during a week of review or assignment preparation. Encourage students to log in for consultation on class projects or an "Ask Me Anything" question-and-answer session for an upcoming assessment.
Integrate resources and pathways for support
Help get students to resources when they need them. You can make a powerful difference for students by integrating pathways for support directly in your courses.
Here are a few ways to achieve this throughout the semester:
- If your students don't have the technology they need for their classes, the Keep Learning site provides guidance on accessing and acquiring technology devices.
- If students have back-to-back online and in-person classes and need a drop-in space to attend their online class, the Drop-In Spaces page can help them find available rooms with limited, physically distanced seating.
- Integrate a module supporting students in holistic online learning best practices.
- When students have questions about using learning tools available to them at Ohio State, the Digital Flagship resources page can help them find answers. Among the resources are a comprehensive technology handbook and a peer-to-peer tech tutoring service to guide students through using CarmenCanvas, iPads, Microsoft Office 365 and more.
Students appreciate having access to resources that help them succeed, including supplemental materials, skill development opportunities and clear expectations for what's coming in their course.