Student working online

As we get ready to teach online through the end of the semester, our students can benefit from strategies designed to promote engagement and build community. As a start, consult CETL’s resources on moving your course online along with the UWEX COVID-19 Resource Website, which contains resources and tips for successful online teaching. In addition, these methods can make a difference:

  • Communicate in multiple formats. In addition to course email, Canvas announcements, and discussion forum, consider adding elements for multimodal communication with audio and video components and synchronous or asynchronous chatting and messaging. Explanatory videos, screencasts, and PowerPoints with voiceover are helpful to students. Microsoft Teams, which is available to all UWM staff and students, allows chats, co-authoring, and video- and audio-conferencing. Virtual office hours can work well in Teams. 
  • Establish how you will communicate. In your kickoff message, explain how you have adapted the course content and delivery for the online medium. Let students know which channels of communication you have chosen and stick with them throughout the semester. Also, indicate where and when students can expect updates, and when they can expect to get responses to emails and messages from you. Explain how your office hours will work. Post all of the above information prominently on your Canvas site.
  • Build in frequent small assignments. To keep students engaged and active, build in weekly low-stakes exercises. These can be individual or group tasks; the key is to keep students engaged with the materials, you, and each other, helping to build motivation and knowledge retention. Develop clear and concise prompts that directly point to learning outcomes,
  • Encourage accountability. To help students understand what being successful in an online format entails, share the message from CETL How to Be a Successful Online Student. Contact students who don’t log in to Canvas for a certain number of days or don’t complete an exercise or assignment on time. Remind students they’re not alone by checking in with them periodically. Consider adding self-assessment opportunities such as surveys. Within Modules on Canvas, you can view the progress of your students and see how they are progressing through the course.
  • Provide timely and useful feedback. Providing substantive and frequent feedback on students’ performance keeps them engaged in the learning process. Send assessment feedback on one assignment before asking students to move on to the next assignment. Be available and provide timely responses to emails, messages, and discussion posts to keep students on track for their assignments. (Timely responses to emails and messages can be roughly defined as 24 hours during the week and 48 hours on weekends.) A five-minute call or chat may also help alleviate fears or confusion. With Collaborate Ultra, which can be enabled on Canvas, you can also set up synchronous videoconferencing.
  • Improve course accessibility for all. Design course materials and assignments that don’t create barriers to learning and don’t ask students to engage in activities that are unsafe or inaccessible. Steps toward accessibility improvement of course materials are a good practice for educators in general. Follow ARC guidelines for accommodating students with disabilities.