Preparing to start the semester online

While knowing that most of the semester will be taught in-person does give you some flexibility, it is still a good idea to plan your approach for online instruction even for this brief transitional period. Doing so will help keep students engaged upon the return to in-person instruction. This is particularly true as courses are starting out online.

Students again face a wide range of challenges in starting the semester. Letting them know you understand their struggles can help set a positive tone in your class. The new campus mental health website can help direct students in need to important Cornell resources

These are some strategies to help provide a consistent learning experience throughout the transitional period.

Before the first day of class

  • Communicate in advance: Tell students the formats and platforms you will use for the first two weeks of instruction in your class (e.g. via Zoom, Teams, etc.). Students may experience different forms of online instruction across their classes. If you are recording class sessions, let students know they are being recorded and where the recordings will be posted in Canvas.
  • Send a start-of-semester survey: Find out about your students early on to identify learning gaps and barriers before the experience begins. This will show your concern about their well-being and learning, and can serve to guide your semester planning. Follow up with at-risk students (please feel free to adapt this sample survey to your teaching needs).
  • Build out the class schedule: Clearly identify in your syllabus when and where in-person instruction will resume.
  • Prepare your Canvas course:
    • Schedule online lectures in Canvas using Zoom.
    • Remember to publish both course content and the course as a whole in Canvas.
    • Communication to students through Canvas will only be delivered to students when the course is published and available to students (the default course availability date is January 21, 2022).
    • Be sure to test your course by using the student view.

First week

  • Communicate clearly and consistently: Repeat essential information to students early and often. At the beginning of class, clearly state how you will communicate with them and how they should communicate with you. If you plan to use Canvas announcements, tell your students that this will be your primary means of communicating with the class. A good practice is to make not only an initial announcement but also a reminder; especially if you need to make changes to the schedule or assignments. For critically important announcements, it is a good idea to post an announcement and reinforce that same announcement via email or another communication mode. Include contact information for yourself and your TAs in your syllabus.
  • Establish expectations: It is a good idea to do this for both the online portion of the class as well as for the in-person portion. Repeat these expectations at the beginning of in-person instruction. Include guidelines for how students should interact with one another both in-person and online, as well as how they can be successful in your class. Be sure to identify both online and in-person course expectations in your syllabus.
  • Build community and belonging early in your course and develop your instructor presence. These help build a sense of connection, which can help prevent students from feeling isolated. Make yourself and TAs available and approachable to students. Provide opportunities for student interaction even during the brief online instruction period. Collaborative activities and icebreakers allow students to get to know each other and build connections.
  • Consider using breakout rooms, Zoom polling, or Poll Everywhere to encourage participation during the online instruction period.

Second Week

  • Help transition your students to an in-person format: Clearly identify your meeting location, and note any differences in expectations for successful participation.
  • Remind students of COVID protocols to prepare them for returning to the classroom.
  • Check-in with students often to see what is working or not, and modify the course based on their feedback. You can check in verbally during class or by using a classroom poll,  discussion board, or having TAs meet regularly with designated groups. You can also use Canvas Quizzes for low-stakes assessments or surveys

Please visit our online drop-in sessions or contact the Center with any questions.