10 Tips to Support Students in a Stressful Shift to Online Learning

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 Staying connected to students and cultivating a sense of community are harder at a distance than in a classroom. But those goals are not impossible.

Following are 10 tips, drawn from experts on the ground, to support students at a time of crisis through the transition to remote learning. Each can make a difference:

1. Survey students about tools and platforms. Find out which technologies they have access to and are comfortable using.

2. Co-construct your class. Giving students some control over their learning can help combat feelings of helplessness in the current circumstances

3. Favor asynchronous approaches. Many colleges that have moved classes online are continuing to hold them at their regularly scheduled times. While that may provide consistency for students, it puts at a disadvantage those who have to work, take care of family members, or share a computer. Requiring students to sign on at a particular time can compound the stress of the switch to remote learning.

4. Go low-tech and mobile-friendly. Be sensitive to students with limited data plans or weak Wi-Fi. Choose open textbooks that enable downloads over programs that require constant connectivity.

5. Temper your expectations. That goes for both your students and you. Everyone is dealing with a lot right now. With students, be flexible with deadlines, offer alternatives if someone can’t complete a particular assignment, and don’t assign high-stakes tests on a new platform. Be sensitive to the additional responsibilities students may be expected to assume, such as taking care of younger siblings.

6. Share your story. Telling students how your life has been disrupted by the coronavirus, and inviting them to do the same, can create a sense of togetherness and community.

7. Offer support and resources. Many of your students are dealing with depression and anxiety right now. For students with existing mental-health conditions, or housing or food insecurity, those struggles could become acute.

8. Create opportunities for students to process the moment. Use coursework, where possible, to get students talking and reflecting on the challenges presented by the pandemic.

9. Don’t forget about students with disabilities. With the shift to online learning, some students will require different accommodations than they had in a face-to-face class; others will need accommodations for the first time. Here are some helpful resources to make your course materials accessible.

10.  Assign self-care, and model it. Start a lecture with a mindful moment, or share a meditation exercise with your students.

 Read the full story to learn more, visit The Chronicle of Higher Education.