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5 Ideas for Checking In with Your Students

The lack of face to face connection that comes with remote teaching can be felt by instructors and students alike. Last week as the Spring term began, we heard many faculty members talk  about how much they miss eye contact and the opportunity for hallway conversations. We’ve compiled suggestions on how to check in with your students during remote teaching and learning this Spring.

Please contact the ITC Learning Design Team if you have questions about any of these suggestions.

1. Conduct Periodic Check-ins with Your Students 

Many faculty survey students around midterm to hear how the course is going, but remote teaching might offer the opportunity to run this type of check in a little more often. 

How to Survey Your Students:

  • Concerns and Contentments - Which aspects of remote teaching and learning are students still concerned about and what are they content with so far? Consider using a Google form, Canvas or Qualtrics survey to gather a little information. Alberto Quattrini Li (Computer Science at Dartmouth) and TA Monika Roznere have created an early days survey to check in with his students. (You can copy and modify the survey for your own needs if you’d like.) Canvas allows you to give credit for surveys.  Some things to consider asking about are time commitment, difficulty, participation, instructor availability, and engagement with classmates.
  • For a simple formula, you could try KSS; what to Keep, Stop and Start doing in class.
    • Ask students to reflect on what you as the instructor and they as the student should keep, stop, or start doing.
    • It’s important to report back to students about themes you notice in their responses, providing students a further opportunity to experience the course with their peers and feel that their ideas are heard.
  • Positive/Change Feedback - This is a simple two-question feedback survey that you can use as often as every meeting or each week. Set up a Canvas page with two sections - a positive (+) and change (Δ). Set the page so that both Students and Teachers can edit, and invite students to respond. Click “Page history” to see who wrote which idea. You could also ask for the same information via an anonymous feedback form.

2. Utilize Low-Stakes Quizzes and Writing as Assessment Tools

Draft a Short Quiz to Promote Learning - Low-stakes quizzes can be a great way to help students with retrieval practice. They can give the teacher and learner quick feedback about learning.

Reading Responses Before Discussions - Consider developing questions that pair with a course reading, and have your students share them in a Canvas discussion or assignment before a live discussion. Reading responses can be helpful opportunities to support students’ critical reading abilities as well as other target skills within a discipline. 

3. Introduce or Increase Opportunities for Engagement and Community in the Course.

Using Canvas Discussions - Consider adding a Canvas Discussion to your course if you haven’t already. If you’re looking for ideas, check out our guide.

Virtual Office Hours - Not all of your students may be able to join synchronous online office hours over Zoom, but for those who can, you may want to consider offering some “drop-in” office hours. You could set some expectations ahead of time: Can students come and go to listen in?  Will you use the Zoom waiting room feature and meet with students one-on-one? Should they have specific questions about content? Can they talk about how the term is going more generally? 

Try Social Annotation on a Course Reading or Website - Hypothesis is one tool that can be used for group reading and annotation. Collaborative annotation engages students more deeply in course readings and gives teachers a view into how students are reading.

4. Utilize Page View Data Tools for Early Insight

Without having the physical classroom space to interact with students, page view and video viewing data may provide insight into how students are interacting with your course content online. While we caution against relying on these data for precise information about how students are engaged in your course, they may provide early indicators of areas where students are struggling. 

Canvas Page View Data - To get a sense of how students are using your Canvas site, you have a few options. On the right side of your Course Home Page, you will see a “View Course Analytics” button. This gives you an overview of the activity, assignment submissions, and grades of everyone in your Canvas course. Below this, you’ll also see a list of your students and their page views. We caution against relying heavily on these data (a “page view” means different things depending on the setup of your course), but this may give you insight about which students might need attention.

Canvas Access Reports - If you are concerned about a particular student’s engagement with course content, you can see more about their interactions on the Canvas site by clicking their name and then clicking “Access Report.” The Access Report shows you where in your site an individual student is spending time. Bear in mind that a student may spend much more or less time on a particular item than you’d predict for any number of reasons, including leaving the tab open while doing other things or downloading files to read offline. 

Video Viewing Data - The video tools we have been recommending have analytics that will help you see if students are able to access and view your video. For example, to view the analytics on a particular TechSmith video, you can click the Analytics button within an individual video’s interface. 

These data can help you, but they do not give you a full picture of your students and their needs. We recommend combining this approach with any of the check-in strategies listed above. As always, if you are concerned about a student, you should contact the student directly and/or contact their Undergraduate Dean.  Remember that you can communicate concerns directly and confidentially to the Undergraduate Deans using the DSASA system within Banner.

5. Revisit classroom and academic norms and expectations.

Remote learning is a new experience for many students, and they may be looking for guidance. Take the time to develop or review community norms with your class, and reiterate often the class goals and expectations. Especially in a remote learning environment, it’s important for students to understand what is expected of them.

Read the Academic Honor Code with your class and discuss what it means in regards to remote learning.