Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

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Tips for Planning Fall 2021 Teaching and Learning

Mon Aug 16, 2021 at 07:00 AM

While this is not necessarily a comprehensive list, it can provide a structure for many of the planning items to attend to for fall 2021. Make a copy of this checklist, and add additional notes and items specific to your needs.

After more than a year of teaching during a pandemic, we hope fall 2021 brings some public health improvements compared to last fall. We have also learned many lessons during the pandemic that can help us provide a positive experience for our students. Nevertheless, as we are still teaching during a pandemic, we recommend the following preparations to plan for a flexible semester and to make room for the joy of teaching and learning. We have provided some actionable items below. For more information see the Toward Post-Pandemic: Teaching Considerations document and Toward Post-COVID Teaching webpage.

  • Plan upcoming courses by reflecting on the most recent semester. The Reflecting on the Semester Teaching Tip provides a basic approach to reflecting on the semester based on a variety of data, along with links to reflection models for continuous improvement and for other purposes. Consider what practices are worth continuing as we are still teaching in uncertain times. Two articles may provide a jumping point for planning for this semester: How to Prepare for the Next Phase of Hybrid Teaching (Chronicle of Higher Education) and 4 Pandemic Teaching Strategies to Keep (Inside Higher Ed).
  • Confirm current university decisions influencing instruction, and check for timely updates. Save email announcements that come from Academic Affairs, check the Academic Experiences page, or contact your department chair. If outstanding issues remain, go to the Academic Affairs Guidance and Updates for Faculty eSpace for resources and to ask questions.
  • Follow the set teaching schedule. All courses have been assigned an instruction mode. Work closely with your department chair or program coordinator to confirm your schedule. Please ensure that you follow this schedule and format. If you are teaching “in-person” you need to be meeting only at the times set for the in-person sessions. If you are teaching a combination of in-person and online, clearly identify in your syllabus the dates and times that you will be meeting in-person and follow that schedule. As this is a confusing time for students, also talk through scheduling and expectations often in the first weeks of the semester. 
  • Use the syllabus to help guide decisions. The OU Syllabus Resources page includes an updated syllabus template with COVID-related links and language. Updates for Fall 2021 include a new excused absence form and continued pandemic-conscious flexibility recommendations.
  • Keep it simple and minimal. Preparing for an uncertain semester with novel challenges means instructors and students alike will be navigating new procedures. Keeping course activities, structure, and workload simple and minimal will help everyone focus mental energy on the core learning of the course.
  • Check out your classrooms ahead of time. If you are teaching on campus, visit your classrooms to see what technology, programs, and furniture setup you’ll be working with. Many general purpose rooms will be updated with new technology to aid livestreaming and recording. See CSITS’s website for programs available in general purpose classrooms.
  • Plan for uncertainty, with remote options for some or all students. Students may need to quarantine or care for dependents who are quarantined, among other life responsibilities and challenges. Consider what options students have when they cannot attend a class session, whether that involves livestreaming and recording class sessions, offering adjacent asynchronous options, or overall practicing flexibility and compassion for students. It may be most manageable to identify the main activities of your course and determine a flexible option for students to achieve these activity goals. 
  • Plan your technology needs at home. If you are teaching some sessions online or want to plan for potentially teaching from home, see if the Classroom in a Box would be helpful to you, which includes document cameras, microphones, web cameras, annotation panels, and laptops. Email [email protected] to reserve your equipment.
  • Set up your Moodle course. Moodle courses are available to faculty one month before the first day of a semester. Whether teaching online or f2f, use Moodle to house documents, a forum for student questions and class communications, and provide assignments and activities as needed. See the Moodle Help Library to explore more options, and get more e-LIS support through their Support Portal (live chat, phone, or online), workshops and one-on-one appointments. Even if you have some experience with Moodle, strolling through the new Self-Paced Online Teaching eSpace can help you reflect on and think about getting the most out of your Moodle space.
  • Get an early idea of who your students are. Asking students to fill out a simple form will help you move from hypothetical situations to working with the students you have. Knowing their technology/internet access, schedules, interests, experiences, and concerns will better help you anticipate barriers and opportunities. This Preparing for the Semester Google Form can serve as a model you can use and adapt.
  • Have a plan for your own care and flexibility. If you anticipate challenges during the ongoing pandemic, consider where you can build in flexibility for yourself in your teaching and other responsibilities. Remember the offices on campus that can help plan and adjust to the unexpected.

View a Google Doc version of this teaching tip

Written by Christina Moore and Judy Ableser, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NCView all CETL Weekly Teaching Tips. Follow these and more on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.