Getting Started

While many online experiences are designed for a seminar-type delivery, we must also consider how to create studio-like experiences in the context of the Sam Fox School pedagogy and culture. When moving a class to an online-only format consider the following.

Identify plans early: Consider addressing emergencies and expectations up front in your syllabus, so students know what will happen if classes are cancelled, including procedures you will implement. Consider doing this each semester, so you are ready in case of an emergency.

Get details about the closure or event: Campus closures or emergencies will be reported at WU’s emergency management homepage, so that is a good place to look for information, including estimates of how long you may need to teach your course online. 

Studio versus seminar: A studio class and a seminar class have different requirements. For a studio think through what you can realistically move to an online experience using readings, videos, and other activities that do not require a group-based experience. Can you have a live feed for impromptu review? How might you replace material and physical kinds of experiences? These experiences may be a challenge to deliver, but you may be able to find resources online that can provide a similar learning experience for a short period of time. 

Online learning takes more time: Delivery of information in a studio setting is much faster than online. Critique is also much faster, given the in-person experience. Consider the time it will take to write content for your students and also to read what they send you. Online experiences can take much longer to curate and manage. Make sure to plan extra time for the exchange of ideas, some of which may also occur as asynchronous exchanges. Consider creating smaller work groups among students for peer-to-peer review and feedback outside of one or two weekly meetings that mirror the studio environment. 

Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don’t have a plan in place yet, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming and what your expectations are for checking email or Canvas so you can get them more details soon. 

Consider realistic goals for continuing instruction: What do you think you can realistically accomplish during this time period? Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? Do you just want to keep them engaged with the course content somehow?

Review your course schedule to determine priorities: Identify your priorities during the disruption—providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself a little flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than you think.

Review your syllabus for points that must change: What will have to temporarily change in your syllabus (policies, due dates, assignments, etc.)? Since students will also be thrown off by the changes, they will appreciate details whenever you can provide them. Having one central place for all to reference—such as in Canvas or a Box file—is helpful and eliminates redundant email communication. Ensure any change you make aligns with Sam Fox School policies set forth by the Registrar’s Office.

Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: When possible, try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. If a closure is caused by a local crisis, it may already be taxing everyone’s mental and emotional energy; introducing a lot of new tools and approaches may leave even less energy and attention for learning.

Identify your new expectations for students: You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.

Create a more detailed communications plan: Once you have more details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with more information about how they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). A useful communication plan also lets students know how soon they can expect a reply. They will have many questions, so try to figure out how you want to manage that.

Consider students’ technical limitations: While we live in an era that suggests our students are very familiar with a number of technologies, you may still need to provide more details and support to your students. To help, encourage peer learning of the tools and possibly appoint one student in the class who might help others with technical issues. 

Technology access is not equal for all users: Not everyone may have access to high-speed internet connections the way they do when they’re on campus. Some users may also have limited access to computers equipped with all the software tools needed for online collaboration. Make sure to check with your class to make sure you have the right accommodations to support each student. If you do not have the answer make sure to reach out for guidance. 

Synchronous versus asynchronous experiences: Studio-based instruction is different than seminars that are more portable to an online experience. Consider how you might use video and/or live feeds for students to be able to interact with you during studio times. Equipment, space, and materials may not be fully available, but you may be able to still meet with students at designated times, or post videos for everyone to access outside of class. 

Consider planning for diverse locations: Not everyone may be in a location that has all the resources for online learning; these places may include hospitals or temporary spaces. Consider what accommodations you can make for completing work at a later time, or simplifying the requirement while still making sure the content is delivered and learning is happening.