This webpage offers some suggestions for Whitman faculty as they transition to online classes after spring break.  While this process will certainly feel unfamiliar to many faculty, we hope that the overview below will provide some useful tips and links as we endeavor to create an inclusive and accessible online learning environment. Above all, simplicity, flexibility, patience, and open and clear communication are important as we try to maintain a focus on our course learning goals and outcomes for students.

Overview 

Whitman College is committed to the education of all qualified stu­dents, regardless of disability status. The American with Disabilities Act and subsequent updates to that legislation require that the College ensures that all pro­grams and services provided by the College, including those offered through electronic formats and technology, are genuinely accessible and offered to all qualified students. It is important that we make every effort to be inclusive in designing online content and to center accessibility in our online pedagogy.

Preparation

Books

With our transition to online learning, some students will lose access to course materials. We’ve partnered with our digital course materials provider, VitalSource, and leading publishers, to launch VitalSource Helps, a program that provides access to ebooks to all Whitman students through May 25th. Students may begin accessing these materials today at bookshelf.vitalsource.com.

  • Further information is available including answers to frequently asked questions for students and publishers.

Documents

With the switch to remote learning, creating accessible documents takes on additional importance, not just for students with print or visual disabilities. As some students may not have the ability to print their course materials, files that display incorrectly (tilted 90° for example) or are difficult to read due to underlines/marginal notes, or other visual “noise”, will be challenging for many. This most commonly comes up with PDFs. 

Whenever possible, purchase an optimized PDF from a publisher or use a link to Penrose Library’s holdings (especially for journal articles). If you have a scanned copy, it is likely not accessible (i.e. it will be saved as an image and a screen reader won’t “see” that there is text to read out loud). A quick way to check your document is to try to select text in your PDF. If you are unable to do so, the PDF has been saved as an image and you should send the file to Antonia Keithahn in the ARC to be converted as soon as possible. You can test your PDF’s readability by uploading it to naturalreaders.com and have it attempt to read your PDF.  If you are unsure for any reason, please send the document to Antonia at keithaam@whitman.edu and she can do an accessibility check.

Videos 

  • All audio recordings should be accompanied by transcripts;

  • All videos, films, YouTube, etc should be accompanied by either transcripts or be appropriately captioned;

  • All recorded lectures should be captioned or accompanied by a transcript; Google Meet and Zoom have built-in captioning functionality. 

PowerPoints/Slides

It is important that the information you are giving in the classroom is presented in a written format in addition to spoken. This can be done either by including all relevant information on the slide, or including the lecture notes in the Notes section underneath each slide. Microsoft has identified recommended accessible templates, and WebAIM has some great general information regarding accessibility, including a color contrast checker

Technology

Resources

All new content should be designed with the above accessibility requirements in mind. Please contact Antonia Keithahn in the ARC if you have specific questions about document or video accessibility. 

For existing content, ARC staff and appointed student workers will work with you to remediate course content as well as we are able. Please do not feel that you are alone in this effort. 

Accessible teaching in the time of COVID-19 (Mapping Access blog)

Inclusive approaches to supporting students during times of disruption (Brown University)

An equitable transition to online learning - flexibility, low bandwidth, cell phones, and more (Pedagogy Playground blog) 

8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Overview 

As instructors make the switch to online learning, they have two options to facilitate classroom learning: Synchronous and Asynchronous.   Synchronous learning means that instructors and students get together online at the same time. Asynchronous learning means that instructors and students are not bound by time and learning can take place offline or online.  

Instructors should think first and foremost about access and barriers to learning as they decide whether to engage with their students synchronously or asynchronously.  Instructors may also take course content or material into consideration when making these choices.  

The following are examples of advantages and disadvantages related to synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning:

Synchronous Teaching and Learning - Advantages 

  • Immediate personal engagement between students and instructors; this may decrease feelings of isolation and increase sense of community 
  • More responsive (visual and auditory) exchanges between class participants; this may decrease miscommunication and misunderstanding 

Synchronous Teaching and Learning -Disadvantages 

  • Presents challenges to finding shared times for class participants
  • Technical challenges with internet access and wifi networks 

Asynchronous Teaching and Learning - Advantages 

  • Greater flexibility with time which may allow for greater access across students
  • Archiving materials may allow for greater access across students  
  • Students may have more time to engage with the course material

Asynchronous Teaching and Learning - Disadvantages 

  • Potential for misunderstanding and miscommunication regarding course materials and interactions without a real-time learning environment
  • Participants may feel increased social isolation and less satisfaction with interactions among students and instructors.  

Resources

Preparing for Alternative Course Delivery During COVID-19 (Cornell University)

Synchronous or Asynchronous Learning Sessions? (University of Tennessee, Chattanooga)

Overview

As you transition to an online learning environment, it is important that you have a course site that everyone can access where materials such as syllabi, schedules, and a list of required resources are readily available (i.e. in your Canvas course site, in a shared Google Drive, etc).   Once you have a course site set up, be sure to schedule a run-through of these materials with your class. When and how you do this will depend on whether your courses are synchronous (e.g. a Google Meet or Zoom session) or asynchronous (e.g. as a set of instructions sent to your students on what they will need to do, how, and at what times).  A run-through will allow everyone to begin to get used to the technology as a group and review your course expectations. Be sure to create time and space for questions and adjustments. Do not be afraid to experiment with your students to discover what works well for you and your class.

Most importantly, try to recognize and accept that there will be stops and starts and glitches.  Patience for yourself and for your students is going to be very important. Stay focused as much as you can on being flexible while trying as much as you can to stick to your course learning goals and outcomes.  

Preparation

Determine which course materials will need to be made available on your course site.  Next, determine the course site platform you are going to use (e.g. Canvas, Google Drive).  If your online learning requires specific equipment, test your equipment and have your students test their equipment.  This can include such things as:

  • Do you have headphones and do they work?  
  • Do you have a webcam either in your computer or as one you plug in?
  • Do you have a microphone and does it work (this may be in your webcam)?  
  • Do you know where you need to plug things into your computer?  

When you are ready with your technology, set up your first online session (synchronous or asynchronous) with your students.  Be sure that you send them the appropriate information regarding time and any kind of invitation they would need to your online meeting.  

Technologies

Overview

It is important to establish some kind “home base” platform for sharing course materials (e.g. syllabi, readings, audio files, video files, etc.) with your students.  Google Drive and Canvas are two options. If you are not used to teaching with these tools, please take the time to become more familiar with these options. Point people available to you include WCTS liaisons in your Divisions (Ables, Lubbers, Sprunger), Division Chairs, and your fellow faculty colleagues, and Division Assistants.  

Preparations

Be sure to take an inventory of materials that students will need to access remotely.  This inventory should be reflected in any updated syllabi, which should be shared electronically via Google Drive or Canvas. If you plan to share PDFs for assigned readings, these will need to be accessible with readable text.  Please see the “Accessibility and Inclusivity” section of this page for more information.  

You can also reach out to the Penrose Library staff to help you with accessing library materials electronically  for your class.  

Technology

Resources




Overview

Real-time (synchronous) lectures can provide the opportunity for students and instructors to interact and foster immediate engagement, community, and mitigate feelings of isolation.  Lectures with Q&A also allow for multiple ways of interacting between professors and students and between and among students. 

Pre-recorded lectures allow for instructors who are not comfortable with lecturing live with technology to teach asynchronously and provide the opportunity for students to access videos at their convenience.  

Preparations

As you prepare to lecture synchronously with Google Meet or Zoom, make a plan of how you will use visual aids such as slides shared from your screen.  Also make a plan for how you want students to participate during your lectures and whether you want to record your synchronous lectures so that participants can access your lectures at any time.  Important questions to consider are whether or not you want students to type in questions into a chat function, whether or not you want students to be able to verbalize their questions, or if you want students to be able to do both. Your plan and expectations for student communication during lectures should be clearly communicated to your class in advance of each lecture. 

You may also want to think about whether or not you want to record your lectures (asynchronous learning) to make them available to students after class. If you want to record your lectures, be sure you are familiar with how to do this with the online platform you choose.  You will need to determine where you will store your pre-recorded videos and how you will make these available to students. Uploading videos to YouTube allows instructors to take advantage of automatic closed-captioning.  

It is important to give students direction and expectations regarding how they should engage with a recorded lecture as it relates to their learning.  For example, you might want to set up a Canvas discussion board with specific questions or quiz students on the material in your lectures.

Finally, if you choose to record lectures or classes while engaged in synchronous lecturing or teaching, you may do so as long as you make a statement, up-front, that the class is being recorded.  Subsequent to this statement, an instructor can assume that any participant who chooses to converse during a class is aware that the class is being recorded. Instructors may then use a Google Drive folder to store recordings and allow the “share” settings to block viewers from downloading files.  Instructions can be found by accessing Stop, Limit or Change Sharing in Google.   Instructors can also add a URL link in Canvas or use Canvas’ Google Drive integration.  These practices are consistent with Washington State privacy laws pertaining to in-class recordings - you may contact Antonia Keithahn (keithaam@whitman.edu) if you have any questions.   

Technology

  • Canvas
  • Google Meet
  • Zoom 

Resources 

Overview 

Instructors can use online tools and platforms to support students and provide ongoing feedback about their progress and their work.  Tools such as Google Docs and Canvas allow for multiple ways of giving feedback on student work and progress. Google Meet or Zoom can be used to hold virtual office hours.  If you have questions about your options with these tools or how to use them, please contact canvas_help@whitman.edu

Preparations 

Think about what kinds of feedback will be helpful to students at different stages of their on-line learning.  Will a short real-time conversation be helpful at certain points and for certain students while written feedback may be useful at other points and for certain students.  Use some kind of on-line calendar like Google Calendar to create appointment slots where students sign up for specific meeting times. If you are working with documents to provide feedback, create individually shared folders for each student for privacy.  

Technology 

Resources 

Overview

Instructors will need to decide whether or not online discussions will take place synchronously or asynchronously and should continue to make these decisions with access and inclusivity at the forefront.  

Regarding synchronous discussions, platforms such as Google Meet and Zoom allow for real-time discussions to take place with relative ease.  The way in which you moderate/guide these discussions will differ from in-person discussions.  (See the “What is online etiquette?” section of the Online Learning Resources for Students to learn what we are suggesting to students as a baseline for interaction.) Using the Chat feature can be very helpful in these efforts.  Experimentation with your class can be very helpful in establishing the ground rules/practices for these discussions. Zoom includes a breakout room feature, which means that you can divide your class into smaller groups for a group activity and then reconvene as a larger group.  

For asynchronous discussions, discussion boards or forums also allow participants to engage with each other online without the constraints of time.  Discussion forums and boards are like an email discussion, but unlike email, all contributions to the discussion are collected, displayed and posted to a board.  Participants can engage in written online discussion with others at times that are convenient to individual users and can be accessed at any time via the internet and archived.   Asynchronous discussion boards and forums can be used by participants to share examples of their work with one another, engage in group work outside of class, and ask questions of one another and the instructor.  Good venues for these discussions include Google Docs, Canvas Discussions, and Wordpress for blogging.

Preparations

For synchronous discussions, be sure to spend time in class to get students familiar with using the video and audio controls in the platform of your choice.  Also spend some time developing norms regarding online discussion.

In general, plan how you want synchronous and asynchronous discussions to function and develop instructions and materials that will be clearly communicated to students and are easily retrievable.  Starting is advisable not only for accessibility reasons

Technology

Resources

Overview 

Screen sharing functions in Zoom and Google Meet allow students to share their screens and presentations in real time just as an instructor would.  In addition, Google Slides, PowerPoint and Adobe Spark allow students to collaborate on presentations as well as insert audio and video. BE AWARE that audio and video elements may not play smoothly or even at all depending on the internet connections you and your students have.

Preparations 

Provide examples of the kinds of presentations you expect students to produce.  Share your grading rubric in advance of presentations so that students know how you are assessing their work.  Plan and provide students opportunities to practice and get feedback, either with you or with each other. Ask your students to share their presentation materials (links, files, etc) with the whole class BEFORE the class happens.  Doing this helps ensure that everyone can see the presentation materials, even if their internet connection is bad.

Technology 

Resources 



Overview 

Instructors can create online homework assignments for students to submit individually or as a group.  Canvas and Google Drive are particularly helpful for keeping submissions organized, especially when submitting work via e-mail can often get misplaced or buried.  

Preparations 

Determine which of your assignments are currently available online and be sure that students have access to instructions and materials they need.  Choose a method to collect work, such as Canvas or a Google Drive folder. To the best that you can, stick with this method consistently throughout.  This will cut down on confusion. Also decide which format (e.g. Google Doc, PDF, etc.) you want students to use when submitting assignments. Finally, review your course schedule and due dates - have any dates changed and have you communicated these changes clearly and consistently to students?  

Technology 

Resources 

Canvas:

Google Drive:

Overview 

Instructors should exercise their best judgment about how to facilitate and proctor exams and other high-stakes assessments.  You may consider replacing exams with other kinds of assessments that don’t require proctoring and are easier to personalize. In the case of an exam that students are expected to take without assistance, please emphasize to your students that they should adhere to the student code of conduct.  

Preparations 

Determine a plan for which exams you want to deliver electronically.  Decide the timeframe that students have to complete exams (e.g. timed exam taking during a single session, downloadable and take-home exam with a specific due date, etc.)  Depending on the kinds of questions you are asking students to complete (e.g. multiple choice, essay questions, problem sets), some platforms may fit your needs better than others.  Canvas’ “Quizzes” tool can be used to generate tests and quizzes. Another Canvas option is to create a take home-style test using the Assignments tool

Technology 

Resources 

Assess student learning (scroll down this page to find it) (Indiana)

Assess student learning (Stanford)

Canvas (Instructure)< – they make Canvas

Overview

Some courses may need to allow students remote access to specialized software, such as ArcGIS, SPSS, or Adobe Suite, that would normally be accessed on campus computers.

Preparations

Determine if your students will need to access specialized software while they are off campus.  If so, you will need to provide a list of your students, the software they will need, and the operating system they will be using (Windows or Mac) to Technology Services (canvas_help@whitman.edu).  IT staff will work with you to determine the appropriate tools that your students will use for remote access. If there is high demand for software with limited licenses, we may need to implement a scheduling system for use of the software.

Resources

Whitman College Technology Services: canvas_help@whitman.edu

While physical access to Penrose Library and Northwest Archives are not available, the library staff has worked hard to make digital resources available for our students. See the Remote Access to Resources and Services website for information about online databases and digital resources to help you. Librarians are also available via email and chat to answer your questions. The chat function is staffed seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

You can also access full-text versions of in-copyright materials via HathiTrust and the National Emergency Library.

See this video to learn more about what virtual resources are available from Penrose Library.

Links

*Special thanks to Smith College for the inspiration and some content for this web page.*