Instructional Continuity for Fall 2021

sometimes there's just a rain of frogs, you know?

Students, faculty, and staff working closely together in a face-to-face setting is a centerpiece of the teaching and learning environment at Pomona College. Occasionally circumstances arise that prevent students or faculty members from being in the classroom and so, as we move forward to a safe return to campus this Fall Semester, our goal is to leverage lessons learned from this past year and a half of teaching online in order to be better prepared for any possible disruptions.

Whether you’re a new or returning member of the Pomona community, this guide is designed to provide information on available resources, and how the resources might be used. The information presented is taken from research-based practices as well as from the insights of our own faculty and students from the 2020-21 academic year. 

General Design Ideas

As you make those last tweaks to the design of your course, here are a few things to keep in mind…

  • Build in flexibility so that it is easier to accommodate any needs which might arise
  • Consider designing into your course hybrid aspects such as specific online class sessions and meaningful asynchronous participation opportunities
  • Provide options for student assignments, such as a video presentation versus written text or allowing students the option of completing two smaller assignments versus one larger one
  • Check in with your students often and keep lines of communication open in various ways 
  • Emphasize community building and sense of belonging as we come back together after a long time apart
  • Connect students with campus resources so they know where to seek and find help, including under which circumstances isolation or quarantine is necessary.
  • Consider including a COVID Community Safety Awareness Statement in your syllabus

Options for Instructional Spaces and Modes 

Per the FAQs from the Dean’s Office, below are some options for your consideration.

  • In-person teaching in the classroom on campus
  • In-person teaching in newly added outdoor classrooms  (Discuss this option with your departmental Chair)
  • Remote teaching (while courses will be primarily in-person, designing meaningful online aspects is permitted)

*Be sure to also review a note on Covid Safety Practices by David Tanenbaum.

Dealing with Student Absences

Per the FAQs from the Dean’s Office, there is no expectation for simultaneously teaching students both inside and outside the classroom, however, each instructor is encouraged to manage student absence in the way they deem appropriate. If, as the semester progresses, you have a large number or a constant trickle of students out of the classroom, you may want to consider adjustments such as these…

  • Ensure all students have access to all required materials. Though it may benefit students who miss class the most, a practice of posting your lecture notes, recordings, handouts, and/or slides to one centralized location such as Sakai, helps students stay organized and on track. Whenever possible, clearly articulate expectations so that students will know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. 
  • Provide asynchronous opportunities for students to engage with the course material and peers whether they’re able to be physically present or not. You might incorporate the Forums tool within Sakai to foster asynchronous class discussions, have students complete  “take-home” Sakai quizzes, or assign small group work in Box.
  • Consider meeting with students who are absent from class for synchronous office hours via Zoom or Slack. Once you you have a better understanding of how long they will be out, you may be able to provide solutions to meet their needs.
  • Consider providing multiple lower stakes assessments and scaffolding course projects, so that students have multiple opportunities to get feedback, make corrections, and earn points.
  • Be flexible where appropriate. This may mean being open to deadline extensions or allowing alternative assignments. Keeping a focus on your learning goals will help you decide which course requirements are most essential for students to meet.
  • If you have concerns that students do not have the technology or familiarity with any of the tools you are deploying, please don’t hesitate to reach out to ITS via servicedesk@pomona.edu

Tools to Consider

Whether planning ahead or making adjustments on the fly, keep these tools in mind…

Tool

Zoom

Why?

  • As a way to increase access, faculty might consider offering virtual office hours as well as f2f office hours
  • As the medium for those occasional and designed ahead of time online aspects 
  • If in-person learning is not possible, faculty can hold class online in real-time
  • Students can use Zoom’s breakout rooms feature to work on group assignments

  • Faculty can record lecture videos and ask students to watch them in advance 
  • They can also record mini-tutorials that augment/clarify something discussed in class or create brief video announcements
  • Built-in features provide ways to create interactions and engagement by using polling and quiz questions within a video
  • Students can also create videos for media presentations and other assignments

  • Both faculty and students can use Slack as an additional mode of communication to help build community
  • Similar to texting, it’s best used for less formal communication and includes built-in features such as emojis, GIFs, video, audio and web links to facilitate quick communication
  • Faculty can create different channels dedicated for specific purposes, such as class discussions, general questions, and other student assignments

  • Faculty can house course materials, such as the syllabus, readings, lectures, assignments and grades in Sakai
  • Students are now accustomed to using Sakai and prefer one centralized place to access coursework
  • Sakai is integrated with many other tools, such as Hypothesis, Video47, Gradescope, and more enabling seamless access

The full list of tools supported by ITS can be found at RITG Tools and the list of upcoming training sessions can be found at RITG Events.

Getting Help

If you need more information about particular tools or ideas presented here, ITS Staff is available to answer your questions and meet you for a consultation. Let us know by submitting a request for a consultation.  

Learn More

Below are resources collected from our own community on the lessons we’ve learned from pandemic teaching and learning. These resources may help your planning and tweaking of your Fall course or help you respond to unexpected events as the semester unfolds.