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First Steps for Moving a Class Online

GuidanceWhen moving your class online and teaching from somewhere other than your Columbia classroom, consider the following steps right away.

  1. Check with your department or school: Your department may issue more details about the situation and guidelines about their expectations for classes. Administrators may want to have many of the department’s classes handled in similar ways, so before doing too much planning, check with departmental leaders to get guidance.
  2. Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don’t yet have a plan in place, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming. Let them know what your expectations are for checking email or CourseWorks, so you can get them more details when available.
  3. Review your syllabus for things that must change: Identify what must temporarily change in your syllabus, such as policies on attendance, due dates, or assignments, and communicate those changes to students. Ensure any change you make aligns with Columbia policies set forth by the Registrar’s Office.
  4. Review your course goals and schedule to determine priorities: Identify your priorities during the disruption — what activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself flexibility in the schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than initially planned.
  5. Review and adjust your course policies as needed: You may need to be flexible with students who are working at a distance under certain circumstances. You may also need to adjust your policy on participation. Set clear participation expectations for your online classes, so that everyone in your class is working from a common set of expectations.
  6. Anticipate issues of access and inclusion, including digital accessibility: Think about how to maintain equal access to course materials, activities, and assignments for students with academic accommodations. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably. Keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet your expectations: factors such as illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. (See Accessibility in Teaching and Learning resource for more a more detailed guide).
  7. Create a more detailed communications plan: Once you have details about changes in the class, communicate them to students through multiple channels such as those in CourseWorks, email, etc. Also inform them how and when they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). Anticipating students will have questions, let them know how and when they can expect to receive a reply from you.
  8. Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider creating an information page in Canvas, and then encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing you.