Center for Teaching Update, March 30, 2020

From: “Victoria Russell (vrussel3)” <>
Date: Monday, March 30, 2020 at 12:19 PM
To: “Victoria Russell (vrussel3)” <>
Subject: Center for Teaching Update: Events and Resources

Hi, everyone,

We’re reaching out to update you about Center programming available this week and additional resources.

  • ‘Knotty Problem’ Zoom Meet-Ups: The Center will have open ‘Knotty Problem’ Zoom Meet-Ups this week on Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon. Bring your questions or just join to see friendly faces and catch up! Please note: meetings will NOT be recorded. If you would like to see alternate days and times for meet-ups, please contact Center for Teaching staff. Zoom links are embedded in the meeting information below–just click to join!
  • Canvas Tours: With the move to emergency remote teaching, several faculty are using Canvas for the first time or in more extensive ways than before. The Center for Teaching has provided a limited number of ‘tours’ using staff members’ sites to demonstrate setting up discussion boards and organizing information. Canvas Tours are available on the Center for Teaching YouTube channel. Please reach out if you would like to see specific tours added to the playlist!
  • Keep It Simple, Keep It Supportive: As we’re entering week 3 of remote teaching, our community continues to flex and adapt to the changes around us. It can be challenging to process, understand, and remember information in both our professional/learning and personal lives. Choices we make as instructors can help to minimize the overall stress and anxiety students are experiencing–not to mention, they can also help us manage intensive workloads. As you reflect on your remote teaching so far, consider the following ideas:
    • What is real now? Check in with your students and ‘resurvey’ their connections to our community. This is more than bandwidth access. Personal environments are in flux and the realities of multiple people sharing space and equipment may challenge learning. Increased care of family members, home responsibilities, and personal pressures may also influence what students can reasonably accomplish. Know your students’ stories to help guide your instructional decisions.
    • Purposeful communication. Feeling overwhelmed by your inbox lately and juggling multiple remote classes? Our students feel it too! Consider a weekly announcement of course expectations and necessary assignments versus multiple emails during the week. It is easier for students if they know that course information will be posted, communicated, or pinned on a specific day and time in a central location. It’s also easier for them to retrieve that information during the week.
    • Build in routines. If you are using synchronous meetings, schedule them during regular class times and, if possible, on the same class session each week (e.g. synchronous meet-up is always at the regular class time of 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday). Schedule due dates for the same day and time, even if assignments are not given weekly. Where we are carefully choosing to use specific time constraints, consistent and routine scheduling builds in predictability for students and can help them negotiate online access or ‘quiet times’ with people in shared spaces. Provide alternatives if students face challenges with synchronous or time-specific requirements.
    • Weigh ‘important’ against ‘reasonable’. Remember the ‘Rules of 2’ we recommended a couple of weeks ago as a way to reflect on the value of ideas and experiences for your remote classes? Take time to revisit ideas and experiences identified as ‘important’ or ‘central’ to your class and weigh them against what is now reasonable. What is troublingly complicated to design in a remote teaching situation is usually doubly confusing for our students to process. Brainstorm alternatives with colleagues or Center for Teaching staff–see the Zoom meetings above as one resource!
    • Promote and model support. While a variety of supports are available, students may not be using them fully. Information may be buried in email avalanches and some students may hesitate to reach out to others, thinking they are ‘too busy,’ ‘overwhelmed,’ or ‘dealing with their own stress.’ Promote and normalize support connections for students. Share how you are using supports and your ability to be a support to students. Prominently promote the following units that are serving students remotely:

We remain available as a support to YOU! We continue to offer consultations via email, phone, and video conferencing. If there are resources you would like us to develop, please reach out to discuss what you need.

All our best,

Caitie, Victoria, and Melissa


Dr. Victoria Russell
Associate Director-Center for Teaching

University of Mary Washington

Twitter: @techtweed