Connect and check-in with learners regularly

Remote teaching and learning guidelines for USask instructors

The incidental social interaction and connection felt from being present in a room together is greatly diminished or lost in an online environment.  Being deliberate, consistent, and intentional with connecting and checking in can build a virtual community that enables learners to engage meaningfully with you, the course content and each other.

Key Points

Connect

  • Facilitate learning: Consider ways you can engage with your learners in the learning process (e.g. answer questions, discuss a topic, work through a problem/case, provide feedback). It is important that you interact with learners through your activity in the virtual space.  In considering how much time you dedicate to each course, think about the time you would be present for a face-to-face class (office hours, responding to student queries, providing feedback, etc.) as a minimum. If you are planning to require your students to use video cameras in your course, please review the USask guidelines.
  • Provide frequent, clear and consistent communication:  Provide clear directions to learners about your course and weekly expectations.  Prior to the first class, introduce yourself and identify first steps (e.g. click through the course, review the syllabus, calendarize assignments and assessments).  Start each week with a post listing the outcomes for the week, specific instructions related to learning activities, and reminders about tasks/assignments that need to be completed.  Explanations of why you are asking them to do certain activities will increase engagement (e.g. I am asking you to watch this video because…). Remember - clearly communicated expectations for learners will limit time spent clarifying and allow you to dedicate your time to supporting learning.
  • Set up virtual office hours provide regularly scheduled times for learners to connect with you synchronously individually or in groups to ask questions and receive support.

Check In

  • Ask for feedback:  An online environment does not always allow you to pick up the cues from learners (e.g. body language) that would be present in a F2F environment.  Create opportunities to hear from learners regularly.  Checking in both informs your teaching (and lets you make adjustments) and communicates that you are available for questions and support. This could be done via a short, anonymous survey, within Canvas, through mid-course SLEQ feedback, or via an open class discussion. See the USask approved technology tools listed by function on the LTE Tookit for more options. 
  • Check student engagement: Use Canvas analytics to determine if students are logging in regularly.  If someone is not, a quick email inviting them to re-engage can make a big difference to the likelihood of completion. These analytics can also show you where learners are spending their time and help you understand patterns of activity.

Tools

Class Communications at a Distance - tips & tools to make sure you’re keeping the communication lines open.

Building Community, Remotely - strategies for developing interaction, communication, and collaboration in your remote course

Establishing a healthy virtual learning community (VLC) - tips & tricks to help you facilitate your VLC using remote technology tools.

Review these netiquette tips to help your students understand the norms for remote learning.

Review the LTE Tookit for a listing of approved USask technology tools. 

  • Have students take a quiz in Canvas.
  • Plan for a mid-term course evaluation through SLEQ 
  • Create a discussion board for feedback or invite learners to email suggestions.  Emphasize how important feedback is to you and how you will use it, or learners may fear offending you and avoid participation.
  • For smaller courses, consider an online talking circle to check on learners’ wellbeing and build connection and community.

Learn More

A collection of resources designed to give you more information.