Making Teaching Manageable in Spring 2021
Students aren’t the only people who find remote and hybrid learning challenging at times; we’ve heard from many faculty about the considerable extra work and attention they’ve been pouring into their courses in order to facilitate good virtual experiences for their students.
Given how much effort we’re already putting in, it can be hard to hear from students that they need still more adjustments in order to make their spring courses more manageable than their fall ones were. Luckily, however, many adjustments can make courses less overwhelming for both students and faculty:
Reduce coverage: If you cover more material than students can retain, it isn’t actually being covered. And so, in a time as difficult as the one we’re in, we’re recommending reducing the scope of what you’re attempting to teach (see our Modulating Spring 2021 page). And of course doing so not only makes it easier for students to learn the essential material; it also takes pressure off of you to somehow fit everything in.
Don’t add extra work: Some students were in courses where asynchronous activities (e.g., discussion boards) were added to courses without reducing synchronous class time. This creates extra work for faculty, too (e.g., monitoring and responding to discussion boards). So, avoiding extra work (or only adding work in one place when you’ve reduced it elsewhere) is healthier for all involved.
Keep to time limits: Many students experienced classes that went past their scheduled end and cut into breaks between activities—breaks that are important for both learners and teachers. Sticking to your scheduled time gives everybody the opportunity to take a much-needed breather after class.
Implement soft breaks: In our resource on soft breaks, we suggest designating certain points in the semester where you cancel class and/or reduce the workload. We also recommend breaks in the middle of synchronous class sessions, ideally ones where students are encouraged to get off Zoom. All of these suggestions ease responsibilities not only for students but for faculty as well.
Be flexible: Allowing students some flexibility on due dates for assignments can also make the instructor’s life easier by somewhat spreading out grading.
Grade differently: Grading can be one of the most time-consuming and difficult aspects of teaching. But in our resource on alternative approaches to grading, we describe two ways to take the pressure off of letter grades. This reduction in pressure can apply to both students and instructors, particularly in the case of ungrading, where you give students feedback rather than grades.
The great news is that making spring a manageable experience isn’t a zero-sum game. Implementing some of the ideas above can do everyone a lot of good.