An Introduction to Online Higher EducationSuzanne Shaffer
Just a few weeks ago, when I met in person with my students, I mentioned what I thought would be only possible measures that would go into effect should we need to move our course online.
The discussion, unfortunately, was minimal. “How could we possibly make such drastic changes?” I thought at the time. Now I know that my university, like most others, will not be returning to a face-to-face class format until summer term at the earliest.
These indeed are unprecedented times and I must confess, as a parent and an educator, I don’t have all the answers. It seems each day that institutions change their recommendations about what both students and faculty need to be doing to keep some sense of normalcy during very abnormal times.
Because I am on the front lines of working directly with students, I want to share some strategies for staying connected with professors so that your student can make the most of what is a remarkable (if temporary) shift in higher education.
As we were transitioning to fully online classes, but were still working on campus, I watched a student’s eyes get big as her professor sent her several emails within a few minutes.
When I asked her what was wrong, she replied, “It's just so overwhelming. All my professors are updating their courses and I keep getting emails about each change.”
Your student’s professors will be reaching out, perhaps many times, to provide updates and information. In some cases, this will feel like “information overload” and be very stressful.
The goal is to take it one day at a time and read everything the institution or professors send. As we all get into a rhythm, it will be easier to manage.
If your student hasn't yet checked in personally with professors, encourage them to do so. Some professors are chatting or video-calling students individually to ensure that they are doing okay.
If the professor offers synchronous instruction or office hours, suggest that your student participate if possible. Just seeing our students’ faces can make us feel better and I am sure students often feel the same way.
Professors realize that your student’s life has been turned upside down. Ask your student to share their living and working situation so that professors can make accommodations if needed.
One of my students had to pick up extra shifts at a job, so his availability to join our class online changed. Another student had to move back home where her internet access is limited. This kind of information allows me to make changes to the course requirements that can help them stay on track.
Now more than ever your student needs to get a planner, preferably a large one that can be hung on a wall or accessed easily. If needed, help them organize their tasks each day and create a “to do” list.
These are old-fashioned organizational strategies. Students should also be monitoring their grades as they work through the rest of the semester.
Just as students in face-to-face classes should be reviewing their graded work and asking questions about what they can do next time, this new environment makes it more imperative that your student get immediate feedback.
Things won't always go well. There will be challenges in the next weeks. Remind your student to practice patience and kindness when communicating and completing work. I can attest that professors want your student to succeed and are doing their best to make this happen.
Finally, your student should balance their online academic work with caring for themselves. Take frequent breaks, get fresh air and exercise, do something enjoyable, or spend time relaxing at an appropriate social distance from others.