There are many things to do, but what needs your attention right away? Before diving into the details of making a new plan to modify your course, consider these first steps:
Send an encouraging message to students
During this time of transition, students will likely be looking to us for support as they may be experiencing anxiety and worry. Reach out as soon as possible, even if you haven't yet formulated the microlevel details of your plan. Use the same communication channels to avoid confusion (e.g., always use the class email list or always use Canvas announcements to send messages to students). Share your expectations for checking messages from you. Let them know how they can contact you and how soon they can expect a reply.
Students will understandably have many questions, so your communication clarity can help ease worries. In our Early Alerts page, we reference some communication strategies for crafting messages when we have difficult news to share (Walton & Brady, 2019). Need some inspiration or want to share your strategies for encouraging students; let's crowdsource ideas together.
Establish priorities in your course schedule
Ask yourself what can realistically be accomplished during this time period and what is more important? Will you be able to keep your original course syllabus, schedule and assignments? It’s okay if not; give yourself permission to make changes and allow for flexibility in the schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than expected. Faculty are within their rights to change their syllabus, so long as students are notified (include revision dates) about new required elements (e.g., due dates, methods of evaluation, course requirements, grading criteria; CSUN Syllabus Policy). Acceptance that the course may not unfold as you had originally planned may allow you to manage the moment more easily. On our page covering planning for teaching remotely, you will notice that there is a spectrum of decisions you will need to make pending your time and skillsets.
Review your course policies
Consider if course expectations now need to be modified (e.g., late work, course engagement, online etiquette expectations). For instance, if you originally allocated points for in-class participation & engagement, how will those points be earned (or will you drop that expectation)? Or if you decide to give “take-home” exams, consider explicitly operationalizing the more grey areas of academic integrity (e.g., is working with a classmate to formulate responses considered cheating in your course). As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students' ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members.
Stay conscious about equity as you make decisions
Before you finalize decisions, especially ones with higher stakes (e.g., decisions with course points attached), ask yourself will this decision inadvertently advantage some and disadvantage others? Will everyone be able to access the changes I make to my course curriculum in an equitable and fair manner? Keep in mind, some students may not have access to the Internet when not on campus, others may be differently-abled and are supported by DRES or the NCOD. What accommodations can be made for equitable outcomes? Can I draw from Universal Design Principles strategically? Expect that you will need to make accommodations and error on the side of trusting students if they tell you they can’t do something.
Be kind to yourself
Faculty who care deeply about our students can give so much that self-care, which enables us to remain calm and offer empathy and understanding, is forgotten. This is akin to the airlines suggesting that parents put their own oxygen mask on first, then they are best able to assist others. In this moment, what will help you stay balanced and connected to your support networks (e.g., loved ones, family, friends, health care providers, counselors, trusted colleagues). Did you know all CSUN employees and their dependents can receive counseling and other resources through EAP’s Life Matters? Remember that you are valued by CSUN and you will navigate this moment the best way you know how.