Student Conditions and Access in the Online Pivot

It’s been just over a week since I posted a short piece on how to teach online with email and a smartphone and what a week it’s been. There’s continued to be great support and resources being shared and some of us are settling into a new reality. I’m encouraged by the emphasis on care and flexibility, and in reflecting on all that has gone on this week I think the first task in moving online is not deciding what technology to move to but what kind of access and conditions your students have in their new reality and take it from there. It’s a bit late for some educators who’ve already made videos and scheduled Zoom sessions, but I’m putting this out there in the event that there are some that are still in the early stages of wrapping their heads around their pivot.

Depending on how many students you have, this could be a short email or a poll. Google forms are a quick and easy way to do this but you won’t want students to identify themselves in the form for FIPPA/privacy reasons. This is what I would ask:

  1. Do you have access to reliable internet that still allows for social distancing?
  2. What device will you be using to complete the course?
  3. Are their any non-course related conditions that will affect your ability to participate in the course during this time: eg. food/job insecurity, housing insecurity, family member care/responsibilities, distance from family, resident/visa status in Canada?
  4. Do you have a reliable support network for the next 1-3 months while you self-isolate? 

(I love what Arley McNeney shared on Twitter about reaching out to students to see how they are doing via email merge. She lays it out step by step. .)

A note about technology: I have a colleagued who did her research on the evaluation of ed tech implementations and their impact on teaching and learning. She learned that ed tech implementations were more successful when they had a smaller distance from usual practice. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the mad rush to Zoom and web conferencing as a replacement for f2f. On the one hand, this feels like a smaller distance from practice, and certainly is the best substitute for being in the same room as our students. But depending on the particular circumstances of your students it might not be the right tool for right now. (I say this as my partner is unable to get through to our internet provider to find out why our 5G has been so glitchy and I prepare to do a webconferencing session in an hour.)

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