In last week’s post, I shared that during the first class in one of my courses I asked my students to respond to two prompts in the chat feature in Zoom.
- Name something your professors did in the spring that helped you succeed during the remote transition.
- Name something that your professors did in the spring that you found ineffective.
My goal for asking these questions wasn’t to spy on the instructional decisions of my colleagues. In fact, I specifically asked students to not identify professors by name but instead to focus on the practices that they found supportive or ineffective as students during the remote transition. Last week, I discussed the ineffective practices. This week, I focus on the practices that students felt helped them succeed.
Being flexible. While many of the students responded that they appreciated when their instructors provided clear deadlines and expectations, they also explained that appreciate the grace their professors showed during the transition to remote instruction. One student responded that he appreciated professors who “were more forgiving with due dates, so if it was due one week originally it would end up being allowed back to the week after just to make up for peoples now changed schedules.” Another wrote that several professors “loosened the schedule so people could work around their workplace and being home.” From an instructor perspective, it may be challenging to walk the fine line between giving clear deadlines and offering flexibility and grace, but it’s a practice that our students appreciate.
Being Present. I’ve written about the importance of teaching presence and immediacy in other posts (see Teaching Online? Consider Immediacy and New to Online Teaching? Be VOCAL). Looking over the student responses, it was clear that the students valued professors who made the effort to be present. One student wrote that he appreciated when professors “took time to make individual meetings to make sure we were doing okay.” Another shared that a professor held “did one-on-one zoom sessions with us whenever we had questions about an assignment that way he could help us all the way through.” While teaching presence can be shown through synchronous sessions, the students also valued professors who were demonstrated their presence in other ways. One student wrote how she appreciated professors who were “always checking email and willing to help with everything I needed.” Across the responses, it was clear that students value when their online instructors are present to assist with the challenges the face.
Providing Instructional Supports. While the remote transition was a chaotic time for professors and students alike, my students communicated that they appreciated when professors provided supports to help them stay on track. One student shared that his professor provided a “weekly checklist of what needed to get done.” Another wrote that his professor sent “a weekly overview in the beginning of the week.” While strategies like checklists and overviews may seem like simple practices, they help students self regulate and better stay on track with the learning expectations in courses. This is true during a global pandemic and during any type of instruction, both in online and face-to-face instruction.