Important Faculty Message: Students and Remote Learning

Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 3:57pm

Dear Colleagues,

We hope this email finds you well and sheltering safely in place. We thank you for your care and concern for students during this pandemic, and we thank you for all you are doing to ensure that students successfully conclude a very difficult semester. As faculty, I am sharing the challenges you face in suddenly shifting to remote teaching.

As we head into the last few weeks of classes, I wanted to share some of the feedback we are getting from students and some tips for helping students succeed:

  1. Many students report that faculty are communicating regularly with their students about changes to the course schedule, assignments, deadlines, and new ways of communicating and sharing course material. Thank you!
  2. Some students report that faculty are asking students to print and mail assignments. Please do not ask your students to do this. Many do not have printers, stamps, or envelopes at home, and asking them to mail course assignments would likely lead to students having to violate shelter in place orders. In addition, with so many students having lost jobs or their parents having lost jobs, printing and mailing is an expense they can ill afford. If you like reading student work in paper rather than in electronic format, please print that work yourself. It is safer that way--receiving copies of student work through the mail may spread the coronavirus. You may also want to contact the Faculty Center to find ways to read student work electronically in ways that are more comfortable for you. If you are asking students to print as an accommodation for a disability, please contact Renee Senander in Human Resources (renee.senander@sonoma.edu) to request such accommodations.
  3. A common fallacy is that students have more time on their hands at home. Please be aware that students do not have more time in the pandemic--they likely have less. They are sharing computer time with multiple family members, they are taking care of and helping to homeschool siblings, they are taking care of ill loved ones, they may be taking chances with health to try to find work, and they are stressed out and distracted because of the situation.
  4. Some students report that faculty teaching asynchronously are requiring more work of students than the original syllabus required. Asynchronous learning does not necessarily require more or longer assignments. Please focus on ensuring students are doing a reasonable amount of work to meet the learning outcomes of the course. More assignments are not necessary. We strongly recommend consulting with the Faculty Center about how to create a manageable course load for an asynchronous class and checking in with your students about how they are perceiving their workload. It is possible to be rigorous AND reasonable, given the circumstances of people's lives in the pandemic.
  5. A kind word goes a long way. Everyone is struggling--make sure students know you care. Check in with them and see if there are things you could change that would help them learn better. Don't expect that they will learn as well or as much this semester. Consider how much is good enough and focus on getting that much accomplished. 
  6. There is a great faculty development opportunity coming up through the Faculty Center: Student Equity during Remote Teaching this Friday, April 10 from 11 a.m. to noon.

Thanks again for all your work as we continue teaching and learning this semester. We will all learn a great deal about our capacity for flexibility and endurance during these highly unusual circumstances. Take care of yourselves.

Best,

Michelle Jolly
Professor, History
Chair, University Standards

Karen Moranski
Senior AVP, Academic Programs

Deborah Roberts
AVP, Faculty Affairs