Due to a significant increase in positive COVID-19 cases on campus, in the region and nationally, classes will be held online for the first two weeks of the spring semester. In-person classes are scheduled to resume Monday, January 31.

We have compiled a collection of resources to help you begin the semester remotely and to help you transition back (again) to in-person teaching.  As you plan, remember central principles:

  1. Work to build connection and community in your classes
  2. Focus on class goals 
  3. Balance structure and flexibility in your course design
  4. Extend grace to students, and to yourself as we work through this disruption

Teaching & Learning Remotely

Teaching Through Disruptions
  • Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don’t have a plan in place yet, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming and what your expectations are for checking email or Canvas so you can get them more details soon.
  • Preview your course schedule to determine priorities: Identify your priorities during the disruption—providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc.
  • Think about what aspects of a course are essential and focus on those elements. Give yourself a little flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than you think.
  • If possible, pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. 
  • Clarify expectations for students including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.

Get more tips on Teaching through Disruption.

Re-thinking Course Design

Best Practices in Teaching Online

Review best practices for teaching online.

Construct your syllabus

Construct your syllabus using the WashU template (download available).

Adjust your Syllabus for COVID-19 as needed. What elements of a syllabus might grow in importance during this teaching and learning situation? What questions might you want to make sure you have answered in your syllabus related to these elements? 

Promote social connections 

Build a welcoming environment by creating opportunities for connection with you and their peers. Feeling social connection positively influences student motivation and persistence. Getting to know our students helps them feel valued and invested in the course. 

Communicate your attendance policy

Writing clear course attendance policies is always important, but it’s even more significant now because of the challenges created by COVID-19. Define your policy at the start of your course and to communicate it clearly to students:

What are your policies regarding students who become ill and/or need to quarantine? How will students who miss class be able to make things up? Does your attendance policy promote safe behaviors and encourage any students who become ill to stay home?

Welcoming Students on the First Day of Class

Beginning a semester online has special challenges, but a successful start is still possible via Zoom and Canvas. Even remote first-day activities can create a welcoming, inclusive classroom environment that will boost student’s sense of belonging and enhance their learning experience throughout the semester.

James Lang offers four key principles for the first day of class:

  1. Spark curiosity
  2. Build community
  3. Start learning
  4. Clarify expectations

Chrystal Wong shares a four-step plan for meeting a class via Zoom:

  1. Create a good impression
  2. Spotlight the course
  3. Generate guidelines
  4. End the class on a positive note

Eric Fournier adds four more points:

  1. Recognize the moment
  2. Consider Zooming from your scheduled classroom
  3. Model class expectations (writing classes write, discussion-based classes discuss, problem-based classes solve a problem, etc.)
  4. Use the entire class period
Using EdTech tools effectively

Leverage Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning

Logos of WashU EdTech Tools

Explore how to teach with WashU-licensed tools using our detailed EdTech guides. The guides include ideas for teaching with each tool as well as tutorials for how to use it.

Learn how to Construct Your Course Within Canvas to help students engage with materials and assignments in and out of class time. You can find resources for Canvas on the MyCanvas Faculty/Staff Support page.

Livestream from a WashU classroom

For faculty who are livestreaming their class from a pooled classroom, immediate classroom tech support is available by calling 610-935-6810 or emailing ctl@wustl.edu. You can also get help in recording your class by completing the request for classroom recording form

Sharing resources with your students

Engage with the CTL

Check out our upcoming workshops and events! Join us this semester for a set of virtual conversations and trainings that promote effective pedagogy and well-being for you and your students.

Schedule a Consultation

Meet with the CTL staff to discuss your goals and brainstorm how to design a class for this unique semester. We are happy to discuss any aspect of teaching with you, including these topics related to the remote start of the semester and return to fully in-person classrooms:

  • Redesigning courses and course materials for the remote and in-person environment (e.g. syllabi, assignments, grading criteria, attendance policies, Canvas course pages, etc.)
  • Strategies for engaging students and promoting classroom participation based on what worked well in your remote and in-person learning environments
  • Using technology effectively in both the remote and in-person teaching environment 
  • Keeping your course content and materials accessible and aligned with the principles of Universal Design for Learning, in all contexts

Let’s talk! Email us or schedule a consult with a CTL staff member.