Creating Community IV: Access and Culture

Taking a step back from collaborative exercises and assignments, and in line with Simon’s recent post:

If students are to develop a sense of community in a course, they have to know how to access it and they need to be aware of its cultural norms. For us, both are obvious, because we designed the course. For students, neither might be immediately apparent. Since I’m teaching fully online, partially synchronous undergraduate courses for the first time this fall, I decided to create a pre-semester checklist to inform students about basic technological requirements and behavioral expectations. A template for you to use to create your own checklist is below. A specific example of what I’ll be sending students is here. Feel free to use both. As usual, the views expressed herein are my own and not those of my university; your needs may differ.

Pre-Semester Course Checklist

Information that should be communicated to students before the semester begins:

  1. Where can students find course materials, such as the syllabus and directions for assignments?
  2. Will class meet only in a physical classroom, both in-classroom and online, or only online?
  3. What technology platforms will students need to know how to use?
  4. How will remote students connect to class? What steps do they need to take to connect?
  5. Will class sessions be recorded? If so, how can students access these recordings?
  6. Encourage students to use technologies required for the course before the semester begins. If possible, schedule a few brief practice sessions so that students can begin familiarizing themselves with the course’s technological prerequisites.
  7. Remind students to contact the university help desk for answers to technology-related questions and provide contact information.
  8. What are your expectations, in terms of privacy, etiquette, and participation, for student-student and student-instructor interaction in the course?
  9. How can students contact you outside of class times?
  10. What do students need to know about how they can make the course a productive learning experience? What are their responsibilities as learners?

One Reply to “Creating Community IV: Access and Culture”

  1. Thank you for sharing this! It’s quite generous of you to share your template. I am working on similar materials for my course.

    I want to share a couple of things I have encountered since transitioning to online teaching this spring:

    1. Not all computers are powerful enough to handle virtual backgrounds in Zoom. My beloved 2015 MacBook Air could do anything I needed it to, but it didn’t have the power to show a virtual background in Zoom. If you have students who might be using hand-me-down computers, this is something to consider. (There was a post on The Conversation recently providing other reasons not to require students to have their cameras on as well, since students may be living in situations they can’t control, and there may be very distracting things happening in the background.)

    2. Some of the virtual backgrounds may flicker depending on the colors and surroundings. I have a colleague with epilepsy who is very sensitive to these kinds of visual stimuli, and we have been asked not to use them so that this person is not affected.

    I hope your semester goes smoothly! Best wishes!

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