Staying home doesn’t mean going it alone
Like many others, you’re going through the experience of having your home become your office and classroom. Your students are facing just as much — if not more — of an abrupt transition. That’s why it’s important to talk to them about getting the course support they need during this disruption to their education. In addition, learning to seek out support is a valuable skill in and of itself, and can help students succeed in both college and their careers.
Searching for a new normal
Since mid-March, service providers and instructors around the world have been in emergency mode, establishing workable course delivery and an educational presence online for all classes in response to the coronavirus.
Now that we’re solidly in the midst of this large-scale transition to remote teaching and learning, we’re looking ahead in search of a new normal. Summer and fall sessions seem likely to introduce an entirely new set of considerations rather than a return to the educational practices we were recently forced to abandon. Quite apart from merely delivering courses online, schools must be ready to provide a quick transition to online courses that offer reliable course navigation, equitable access, support for learners with disabilities, and academic integrity.
The one constant is that students will need support as education, by necessity, becomes increasingly nimble and remote. We only need to look back 15 years for a parallel of our current challenge.
The lessons we’ve learned
In 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, approximately 100,000 students were displaced from their colleges and universities. Many never returned to their campuses. Today we’re facing the same type of disruption, albeit on a much grander scale.
Andre Perry, fellow at the Brookings Institution, was a professor at the University of New Orleans during Katrina. He urges repeated, proactive contact with students — especially in the early stages of such a disruption to their education — and stresses the obligation of faculty to maintain the student-teacher connection.
Research shows that a key role in students’ retention is their relationships with professors. Perry fears that if those relationships weaken or lapse during this disruption, “we may collectively lose thousands of students across the country.”
One valuable tip for supporting students during a transition to remote learning is that educators provide an asynchronous approach to classes. While the routine of a regularly scheduled class might seem to offer consistency and a semblance of normalcy for learners, there are clear challenges. Many have work and/or family obligations, inadequate technology and internet access, and time zone considerations that put them at a disadvantage.
For schools that require a synchronous approach, educators should accommodate students who can’t join the session as scheduled. Recorded lectures are recommended so that they have the same opportunity to listen, and then participate in discussion in the classes they can attend.
According to Christopher Heard, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Pepperdine University, “The key is to keep students feeling like a class, rather than scattered individuals.”
“Although challenging, it’s important that students don’t see this period as a gap in their education or as an impossible obstacle in their studies. Pearson employees and Smarthinking tutors are familiar with using technology to support students digitally, and they’re willing and able to help students who may find the new, online-only environment challenging or intimidating.” — Michael Goodfellow, Sr. Lead Writing Tutor
How else can online tutoring support your virtual classroom?
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Phil Hill, “Revised Outlook for Higher Ed’s Online Response to COVID-19,” Phil on EdTech, March 30, 2020.
Kelly Field, “10 Tips to Support Students in a Stressful Shift to Online Learning,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 30, 2020.
Beth McMurtrie, “How to Help Struggling Students Succeed Online,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 26, 2020.
About the author
Karen Sanders, MS is the Executive Director for STEM & Program Development at Smarthinking. Having trained as a biologist and geneticist, Karen Sanders has more than 20 years of experience managing web-based operations teams in education and the life sciences, with a special focus on customer service, implementation, training, and ongoing quality control. Karen earned an MS in Genetics from The George Washington University and a BS in Biology from The University of Scranton.
Smarthinking combines 24×7 academic support in core subject areas, professional guidance for improving students’ writing, and actionable data that help administrators and faculty optimize their engagement strategy with students. This personalized support helps students grow their confidence, build on their skills, and improve engagement, retention, and completion rates.