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Remote Teaching: Small Changes that Make a Big Difference for Students

Learn how to delete or reduce coursework without affecting the course outcomes.

Suggestion #5: Delete or reduce one thing each week.

Before I provide more detail on what it means to delete or reduce, I want to clarify one thing. I developed these suggestions in response to what students told us about the challenges they are facing, the things we could do to help them, and the most helpful things their instructors have done thus far. The survey responses are not a litany of complaints; many students based their suggestions on what is working well and what they have really appreciated.
So it’s clear that many of you were doing these things well before we surveyed students.

Others have gone above and beyond these suggestions. Everyone has put untold amounts of time and effort into making the best of what often felt like an impossible transition. I thought of you when I read an article on How (Not) to Evaluate Teaching During a Pandemic:

“That nearly all instructors managed to make this shift — to learn new technologies, redesign courses, write new assessments, procure equipment (like home-document cameras and tablets), connect with colleagues with similar instructional challenges, and just plain finish the term (and at universities, like mine, on the quarter system, start another one), while also dealing with the stresses of their own life, health, and family under Covid-19 — is nothing short of miraculous.”

In other words, you are miracle-workers! Even if your students can’t see all the things you’re doing behind the scenes, we know how much you have contributed to making this transition possible. There’s a reason that teaching has been identified as one of the biggest challenges in our faculty survey, tied with “worry about friends/family.” It’s requiring so much of us.

My last suggestion is given in the spirit of recognizing and reducing that labor. By deleting or reducing one thing each week, you are focusing on the essentials and helping everyone – students and instructors – avoid (further) burnout as we move toward finals. The scope of this reduction is entirely up to you.


You could...

  • make discussion board posts optional the week a major assignment is due
  • you could opt to award points for posts on a credit/no-credit basis
  • you could remove some questions from a homework assignment
  • reduce the number of readings you expect students to complete
  • shorten a lecture you are recording.

In my graduate research methods course, I’ve dropped one part of an exam that was supposed to have a written and oral component. I decided it was more important to give them a week to get their own classes online.

Look at your course objectives and then look at your learning and grading tasks for next week. What is one thing you could take out or scale back while still achieving your goals for this unit? Remove or reduce it, using next Monday’s “To-Do” list email as an opportunity
to tell your students you want to help them focus on their major assignments. If it reduces the amount of time you would be spending on prep or grading, consider this essential self-care.




** Tips and suggestions provided by Dr. Carrie Anne Platt, associate director College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

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