Please find Muhlenberg College’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and resources at this site:
As we all work together to adapt courses for remote delivery, there may be some misperception that the best solution is to shift to synchronous Zoom conferences during regularly scheduled class time. While this may work in some cases, it is not the universal ideal. We wish to emphasize asynchronous formats as you rethink your syllabus. Students now need flexibility in their schedules and the more things we can do that are unbounded from a regular course schedule, the easier it will be for students to manage this new reality.
A general rule is keep it simple. Choose tools that are already in use by both you and your students. You do not need lots of bells and whistles to be effective, nor do you need to introduce several new software tools or online platforms. Select technologies that will support two, maybe three particular and indispensable learning goals. If you are considering attempting something new with respect to instructional technology, prioritize those tools that help you maintain social connection and facilitate student to student engagement.
Email should be considered a vital and useful conduit for engagement. We recommend reminding students that all communications go through Muhlenberg email (@muhlenberg.edu). Please reiterate this during any online (zoom) meetings and other virtual communication you have with your classes.
Peer learning and peer support is a core institutional value, and is evident throughout Muhlenberg’s academic, student support, and faculty/staff support endeavors. As we work through this moment, please reach out to the Faculty Digital Fellows as a trusted and knowledgeable resource for moving your courses online.
Additionally, please consider these recommendations sent by Mark Sciutto on behalf of Muhlenberg College Center for Teaching and Learning (MCTL):
Be authentic. A lot of what we are going to have to do in the weeks ahead is going to involve digital tools. We are really lucky to have an amazing group of colleagues who spend so much of their time thinking about how to incorporate digital learning pedagogies into our classes. By all means, take advantage of their generosity and expertise by attending some of the training sessions. However, we all teach in very different ways. Whatever approaches you explore, consider how well they align with who you are as a teacher. If you are very tech-savvy, then let that guide you. If you are a tech-novice, then find the simplest and most accessible ways of addressing the move to remote learning. Whatever you decide to do is more likely to be effective if it is better aligned with your approach up until this point.
Be predictable. So much is uncertain for us and for our students. Perhaps the best thing we can do right now is to provide some degree of predictability. Over the next few weeks, the changes we make to our classes may matter less than the degree to which we can reduce students’ uncertainty about what is coming. As much as it feels like we must have it all figured out, it may help to think one week at a time. Providing a clear method of communicating what is coming “this week” might go a long way in helping students feel “ready”. It may also reduce our own pressure to find a solution for the rest of the semester. In reality, we are all going to have to adjust things as we go anyway.
Be clear. We are each going to have to change our course process, our grading scheme, or even some of our learning objectives. This is ok and students will generally be ok with this if the changes are clearly articulated. Syllabi are not binding legal contracts and can (should?) be modified. Most of us are going to need to reweight, move, or eliminate course components. At the point when you know how you are going to do this, make the changes and the rationale visible to the students. This is no different than what we normally do, but we are simply doing it mid-semester. For the same reasons that we review syllabi in the first week, a clear discussion of what you are doing and why can go a long way.
Be compassionate. This is going to be a challenging time for everyone involved. Showing compassion toward our students and toward ourselves is critical at a time like this. Things will go wrong and we will each have to adapt along the way. Those adaptations get much more difficult when we don’t actively show compassion. This can take many forms, but it doesn’t mean “anything goes.” It simply means keeping the learning objectives and personal development of our students at the focus of our attention.
These four affirmations, and support from colleagues, will help us continue to teach and learn in this moment. The pages provided here will direct you to the things we expect you need as you get started. Much of this material is gleaned from other openly-licensed work produced to address educational continuity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many useful articles and guides available on our Resources page, and more will be collected in the coming days and weeks. For general attribution of openly licensed materials, please see our Credits page.