This is what I told my students today:
I am fully aware that some of you may not have the ideal space or internet connection at home to participate in a remote class to the extent you might wish. I am committed to working with you all as we take these precautionary steps.
While we should certainly draw on experience from teaching online classes, we also know that the context for this change is different. We need to recognize the suddenness of the emergency, the new burdens on students, and the embodied and socially-embedded environments in which many students may find themselves while told to take their classes online.
While some may have been attentive for the last couple months, this transition is sudden. We should be careful when communicating new expectations to students that we recognize and acknowledge this is a new burden and that the transition is taking place amidst other new expenditures as students take care of their families and heed recommendations from public health authorities.
We know that students will need to find physical space to connect to the internet. For us in the Bay Area, this new public health crisis is growing on the backdrop of vast inequalities and a housing crisis. We cannot expect that our students all have ready access to a quiet and undisturbed space for synchronous instruction.
Our students are also socially embedded. The use of their home for online learning may be disrupted by roommates or family members. They may find themselves “doing child care, elder care, catching up on their own care”.
We should take particular note that messaging on this transition does not further stress or burden our students.
Our students did not opt into and prepare themselves, their homes, or their family or roommates to take online classes. Even if they had, the background context is shifting as some employers are asking employees to work from home, some schools are closing, and immunosuppressed or older populations change their daily patterns. Many prep guides and suggestions for how to switch to remote instruction being shared online right now, while great on their own, are missing the larger embodied and social context.