Today I taught my first online class due to COVID-19. This was an 11 person discussion based class and one student presented. Class went very well and the discussion was smooth. For each discussion question I called on three students and asked one of them to be the first to respond to the question. We also did a quick check-in at the beginning with students taking turns sharing how they’re doing, and a check-out at the end with the same process. The check-in and check-out was very helpful in creating a sense of community in a new, digital space and surfacing issues or questions. I want to share two resources I learned about today. The first is this amazing Google doc that is being circulated. The second is Prof. Aimi Hamraie’s guidelines for accessible remote teaching.

Below is a copy of the check in questionnaire from those guidelines:

Use a questionnaire to check in with students

Sample questions:

    1. Do you have reliable internet and a computer at home in case we need to shift online? Does your computer have a camera in case we need to do Zoom or another video conferencing option?

    2. Do you have any accessibility requests for me regarding online teaching (for example, readings available in a different format, transcription of conversations, specific approaches to discussion boards, or a preference of video discussion vs. discussion boards)?

    3. Please let me know if you need help accessing any resources, including basic needs (food, shelter, medical care), psychological care and counseling, childcare, a ride, or access to technology.

For a more in-depth survey, Lauren Cagle has shared hers at this Google Doc.

Checking in about new accessibility needs

Check in with your students about their access needs around online material. They may have not disclosed these previously if the course was primarily in person. They may need screen reader access, reduced screen time, live transcription, or other measures.

Consider reducing screen time for folks who get migraines or have other issues (I ration my screen time to 1-2 hours per day max). Making text available for printing out, or making it possible to participate in Zoom calls with voice only and no image can help reduce problems.

Check in about internet access and tech availability

Ask about internet connection availability and available technology. Do not assume everyone has access to fast internet or cameras for livestreaming. Plan for the failures of livestreaming.

Check in about well-being and basic needs

As your students if they are having trouble accessing housing, food, water, health care, mental health care, or other necessary resources. Class cancelations put housing-insecure students at risk.

Conduct a syllabus hack-a-thon or design charrette

Distribute mid-semester course evaluations. Ask students to collaborate in small groups (accessed digitally) to participate in hacking and tinkering with the educational process. Use the opportunity for course redesign to teach them valuable lessons related to your topic.

Build solidarity, mutual aid, and feelings of connection

Build in elements of pleasure and connection to counteract social isolation. Begin class by asking how everyone is doing. Encourage them to check in on each other.


Take care!



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