During our sudden move to remote emergency teaching due to COVID-19, we would like to encourage you to consider incorporating asynchronous elements in your courses to better serve students. See this comparison of asynchronous vs. synchronous learning.There is strong evidence than asynchronous learning modalities have been used effectively to build quality online experiences and are less resource intensive than synchronous activities. 

This is a time when you and your students might feel anxious about the rest of the semester. Your students did not sign up for an online class and so may not have prepared themselves with the hardware, software, or internet access needed to participate in activities that require a lot of technology services such as timed tests or live video calls from BlueJeans, Google Meet, and other services you may be using on your own. Additionally, everyone using internet resources will add an extra burden to those resources. Consider the following points:

  • Early reports from University of Washington (one of the first states to close schools due to COVID-19) are finding many accounts of students who are struggling with internet access. This may be due to the “last mile” of access - meaning that whole families are now at home sharing one internet connection and everyone is trying to connect at the same time.
  • Some synchronous video providers have reported, at times, struggling to keep up with the increasing demand on their services. Ann Arbor has shared that BlueJeans traffic has quadrupled since 3/12/2020 and while we have not heard about a dip in the level of service, overtaxing these resources is a possibility.
  • Some students are simply unprepared for this kind of learning as they did not enroll in this kind of course - they do not have access to all of the technology needed to participate in synchronous video calls (high speed connection, computer, headset, speakers, camera, microphone, an environment that is conducive to listening and speaking).
  • Timed tests may not be equitable

Some alternatives that you may want to consider include lower bandwidth digital pedagogies like asynchronous modalities as well as more conservative use when you do use technologies that require more bandwidth. By considering the best affordances of these technologies and balancing them with the realities of the access limitations that our students may be facing we can hope to provide an equitable experience for all students. Consider these points:

  • Don’t rely solely on synchronous video calls to deliver content and hear from students. Mix this up with asynchronous and/or limit your use of the synchronous modality

  • Holding a 3hr video call where you lecture to the students while they sit in their homes holding up bandwidth for the whole house may not be best practice. Consider providing the slides and lecture notes as downloads from Canvas or even in an email attachment beforehand and then:

    • Open a Canvas discussion board for reflection posts on the material or even ask them to email you responses/reflections
    • If you want to hold a video call session maybe it is just a ½ an hour call just to answer questions
    • If you do not need student interaction but you would still like to talk to your students consider recording shorter videos, or even just audio, that students can play or download.
  • If you must use synchronous video calls 
    • Do not require students to come to them
    • Record them so that students can watch them when they do have access
    • Allow students to download them in case they need to watch them offline
    • Have students shut off their video to conserve bandwidth 
    • Accept/pay attention to the questions and interactions in the text chat; this may be the only way some students can participate
    • Hold them for short lectures or question and answer touch base sessions
Remember the following tools and how they can be used:
  • Asynchronous delivery of materials and discussions in Canvas
  • Use Kaltura Capture or BlueJeans to record audio or video that students can watch or download on their own schedule
  • If you do need to use synchronous video, BlueJeans or Canvas Conferences can easily record whereas Google’s Hangouts Meet may be better for one off meetings as recording is not as easy.
Consider these other resources:

Hub for Teaching & Learning Resources

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