Instructional Continuity During Disruption

In the event of an emergency situation caused by any number of factors, your ability to continue your class in the manner that you planned may be impacted. This resource page helps you find alternatives for these situations. Please contact leds@skidmore.edu for help and additional information.

How can we help students who do not have internet access?

The first question to ask is, where is the student physically located?
  • If the student is in an area that does not have reliable internet but a strong cell phone signal then a hot spot from one of the cell phone providers is the best route for them.
  • If the student has spotty cell reception or less than 4gLTE and additionally does not have internet at home there is not much that the student can do cost effectively, satellite hot spots range from $500 to $1500 before the service charges.

If it is a matter of the costs associated with high speed internet for a family, depending on which region the student is from the local ISP may be offering discounts to help ease the challenges with COVID-19. Here are a few examples:

 

Comcast Internet Essentials

“Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, Comcast is offering 2 months free to new Internet Essentials customers in response to recent and anticipated emergency measures associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Source: https://www.internetessentials.com/covid19

Charter Spectrum Broadband

“Charter will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrumbroadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.”

Source: https://corporate.charter.com/newsroom/charter-to-offer-free-access-to-spectrum-broadband-and-wifi-for-60-days-for-new-K12-and-college-student-households-and-more

 

General Preparation and Planning Tips

  • Download student contact information: Retrieve¬†from the Student Records and Advising Portal should you need to get in touch with your students. This will provide a list of emails and a good place to send a class email from. (If you have never done this before, go to Student RecordsClass Lists – find your class, and then click on Send Email.
  • Share your contact information: Send your students a welcome email that includes your contact information, and also post this information on Blackboard .
  • Remind students to download or print a copy of the syllabus.
  • Create back ups: Back up copies of any prepared teaching materials in case you are unable to access the files on the Skidmore College network.
  • Provide your “Contingency Plan for Instruction”:¬†Include information¬†that lays out class and college policies related to COVID-19, and expectations regarding course participation.¬† For example:
    • consider linking to Skidmore’s COVID-19 website, where guidance¬†is updated regularly:¬†https://www.skidmore.edu/covid19/index.php
      • Tip! Faculty should review the “Course and Classroom Policies” section on attendance in the Faculty Handbook.¬†
    • message about online components that will be used (e.g., Blackboard, Zoom meetings, Microsoft Teams, etc).¬†
      • Important! Synchronous learning is the strongly preferred option of the College. You can include asynchronous learning components, like pre-recorded videos, online discussion forums/quizzes, etc.,¬†that compliment¬†and support¬†the synchronous learning in a class. However, emphasize synchronous activities as much as possible.
    • expectations around participation with synchronous and asynchronous online components

Implementing your Instructional Continuity Plan

 

  • Get details about the closure or event: Campus closures or emergencies will be reported via the Skidmore Urgent Notification System (SUNS). In addition, you can get communications from the¬†College about the current Coronavirus on the Skidmore College Website. These are the best locations to look for information, including estimates of how long you may need to teach your course remotely. You can check the IT Homepage¬†and/or contact the IT Help Desk (518-580-5900)¬†for information about the current availability of IT services.
  • Check with your department chair: Your department may issue more details about the situation and guidelines about their expectations for classes. Chairs may want the department’s classes handled in similar ways, so check with your Chair before doing too much planning.
  • Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don’t have a plan in place yet, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming and what your expectations are for checking email or Blackboard¬†(Skidmore’s learning management system), so you can get them more details soon.
  • IMPORTANT:
    • Consider realistic goals for continuing instruction: What do you think you can realistically accomplish during this time period? Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? Do you just want to keep them engaged with the course content somehow?
    • Review your course schedule to determine priorities: Identify your priorities during the disruption‚Äîproviding lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself a little flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than you think.
    • Review your syllabus for points that must change: What will have to temporarily change in your syllabus (policies, due dates, assignments, etc.)? Since students will also be thrown off by the changes, they will appreciate details whenever you can provide them.
  • Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. If a closure is caused by a local crisis, it may be already taxing everyone’s mental and emotional energy; introducing a lot of new tools and approaches may leave even less energy and attention for learning.
  • Identify your new expectations for students: You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness,¬†lack of power/internet connections, or access to resources (like specialty software only available on campus machines). Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.
  • Create a more detailed communications plan: Once you have more details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). A useful communication plan also lets students know how soon they can expect a reply. They will have many questions, so try to figure out how you want to manage that.

Strategies for Remote Instruction 

As you make plans to teach your class remotely during an emergency, focus on what tasks you are trying to accomplish:

Communicate with students

How: LEDS/IT recommends using Blackboard when you need to communicate with your class. Alternatively, you can use standard Skidmore email to communicate with your students.

Tips:¬†Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es)‚Äîwhether a planned absence on your part, or because of a disruption impacting all or part of campus. You’ll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety, and save you dealing with individual questions.

Keep these principles in mind:

  • Communicate early and often: Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren’t in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Don’t swamp them with email, but consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand (for example, the campus closure is extended for two more days; what will students need to know related to your course?).
  • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email, and how quickly they can expect your response.
  • Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider creating a discussion forum in your Blackboard course and encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing you.

Distribute course materials and readings

How: Blackboard

Tips: You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more instruction online. In a pinch, providing some new readings and related assignments may be your best bet for keeping the intellectual momentum of the course moving.

Considerations when posting new course materials:

  • Make sure students know when new material is posted:¬†If you post new materials in Blackboard be sure to let students know what you posted and where. You might even ask that they change their notification settings in Blackboard¬†to alert them when new materials are posted.
  • Keep things phone friendly:¬†In a crisis, many students may only have a phone available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats, PDFs being the most common. Consider saving other files (for example, PowerPoint presentations) to PDFs, which are easier to read on phones and tablets, and keep the file size small. It is fairly easy to reduce the size of PDF files using Adobe Acrobat, and there are online tools that do the same thing (for example,¬†search Google for “PDF file size”). Videos take lots of bandwidth, so only require them if you are confident students will have access to them during the disruption.¬†You may also consider using Skidmore.box.com.

 

Deliver Lectures

How:  Live/Synchronous Instruction with Zoom + Pre-recorded lectures

Live/Synchronous Lectures: Zoom

Zoom is a video conferencing application where many individuals can join the same meeting and share audio and video. It also allows for screen sharing and presentation mode. There is also the option to record the session to your computer so that you can upload it to Blackboard for individuals to view on demand. Skidmore has an institutional license so users can immediately access the tool by going to https://skidmore.zoom.us and logging in using their Skidmore credentials.
NOTE: The standard license allows unlimited 1-to-1 meetings, but group meetings (3 or more participants) are limited to 40 minutes. For meetings with no time limits and up to 100 participants you will need a Pro/Licensed account. If you plan on hosting lectures/meetings on a regular basis over 40 minutes, please contact LEDS and request a Pro Account. Read Teaching with Zoom for more information and guidance.

Equipment you will need:

  • Device with a good Internet connection.
  • Headphones or earbuds (optional)
  • Microphone (if possible, a separate microphone can be better than your device’s built in)
  • Web camera (optional, preferred for face-to-face contact)

Tips:

  • Consider getting setup with an Zoom for a short test to see if it works for you BEFORE an emergency situation occurs.
  • Try to connect via a wired Ethernet jack (versus wireless¬†connection). This prevents WiFi dropouts and speed issues.
  • If connecting from a laptop, plug in the laptop wall power. Battery use can adversely affect video quality.
  • Test the connection before the call; this is strongly recommended: Go to the¬†Zoom Help Center¬†to test your audio or video connection.
  • Ensure that you have a camera, microphone, and headphones or speakers available. Earbuds or headphones are preferable to avoid audio feedback and echo. Most modern laptops and all-in-one desktops have a headphone jack, microphone, and speakers built in.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and how you appear visually:
    • Call from a quiet location with no background noise.
    • Close blinds on windows so that you are easier to see on video.
    • Wear neutral, solid-colored clothing. Avoid black, white, or striped clothing.
    • Be aware of your behavior. Because you are on a video conference, people can see what you are doing at all times.
  • Be aware that LEDS/IT cannot troubleshoot remote connections in non-Skidmore locations, because there are many equipment configurations and network connectivity options.
  • Send a note to students instructing them to follow all instructions in the video conferencing invitation and note important supplemental information, such as a backup phone number in case you are disconnected.
  • As host of a Zoom session, you can mute participants when their background noise becomes distracting.
  • Zoom has a breakout room feature that allows you to put students into small groups and then bring them back for large discussion.

[With appreciation, the above recommendations were compiled/modified from Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, the Indiana University, Teaching and Learning Center, and Union College, ITS.]

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