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Flexibility, Accessibility and Compassion 

As we prepare for a mostly remote teaching and learning experience this semester, we encourage faculty and students to keep these three keys to success in mind: 

Be flexible. 

We know the courses with the most success were those that provided students with flexibility. Flexible deadlines, flexible attendance policies and alternatives for giving and receiving information and assignments were key to students having a good experience in a remote environment.  

Consider allowing students some additional time to make-up or catch up on assignments. This doesn’t compromise the integrity of your course, but does provide those students who have extra responsibilities, a little extra time to be successful. 

"Use revision! Allow students to revise their work for an increase in their grade on the assignment. We all learn from doing, so the more a student is allowed to correct their mistakes, the more they will get out of the course, especially at a time they have limited access to their professors!"
Dixie Shaw-Tillmon
UTSA Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars - Lecturer III, The Writing Program
Ensure access. 

One of the most important aspects of an online course is ensuring all students can access the material. All sections of your course need to be compliant with ADA standards, accessible on a mobile device, and have different versions of materials for students with different needs.  

Whenever possible, don’t require attendance at live sessions. Always provide an alternative online option for students who cannot make a live session. At the beginning of the semester review the FERPA content & release decision tree to ensure proper the documentation is in place to host and record the session(s). Then provide students a link of the recording to view and assign a reflection or quiz if you want to ensure students are watching and learning the information provided in the live session. 

Review the Essentials of Accessibility and provide multiple modalities for instructions and assignment submissions whenever possible. For instance, provide an accessible PDF version of a document, along with the accessible Microsoft Word version, run through the Microsoft Accessibility Checker. Create a video and provide the transcript. Allow students to submit documents in various forms (I.e. PDF, video, audio, or text within the Blackboard submission area). Need more guidance? Check in with our Digital Accessibility Specialists every Friday, 11am-12pm, during their virtual office hours or email them at digitalaccessibility@utsa.edu.

Review your course on a mobile device. Make sure you can view, read, and submit from the mobile device. This assures that students without WIFI access or a laptop can fully participate.  

Remember the Rule of Three: Important course information such as assignments, readings, and due dates should be in three places within your course. This may be (1) the syllabus, (2) the module, or (3) weekly announcement you send students to remind them of what’s coming up and what to expect.

Practice compassion.  

In every situation, put yourself in the student’s place and be compassionate. This transition has been difficult for many, and simply listening to students and trying to understand what they are going through will go a long way to ensuring success for both students and faculty.  

"Last semester some of my students expressed concern about anxiety and their mental health. They felt alone, overwhelmed, and worried about the future in the midst of the pandemic. Additionally, many felt alienated in an asynchronous environment and felt the need to make connections with other students. To create a sense of community with them, I scheduled traditional online office hours with individual appointments. In addition I invited students to participate in a voluntary group-setting office hour with myself and their peers. In this casual format we discussed current events, concerns about coursework, and UTSA resources available to students. This proved beneficial as students would talk about how they were able to navigate challenges because of the resources available to them through UTSA. Like all faculty, I do provide a resource page in all of my syllabi, but when students hear from each other about how to actualize these resources, they build essential tools for networking and utilizing the support available to them. What I found is tha​t in a group setting, when students are able to offer first-hand feedback about their success due to university support, it reinforces to them that their institution cares about their success. At the end of the semester, many students expressed their appreciation of the opportunity to share their thoughts, build community, and realize that they were not alone. The total number of hours spent on my part did not exceed what I would have put forth in regular face-to-face office hours."
Deb Moon Wagner
UTSA Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars - Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology

Let’s work together to help students create their own bold futures!  

Don’t forget to join Academic Innovation’s Upcoming Webinars, Virtual Q&A sessions, or contact us at academicinnovation@utsa.edu – 210-458-4520. We’re here to help! 
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