Pandemic-gogy: Guidelines for Teaching Amidst COVID-19

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

Andrew Sage Mendez-McLeish, M.Ed.

Photo Credit: Frank Romero

1) Less is more*. Resist adding to your course, students will crash and burn. If you’ve already added things and you’re getting push back, admit you were wrong (this builds rapport with students) and ease off.

2) Let students work together. They might not be writing as much, but the conversations they’ll have about material will be much better digested right now.

3) Remember some students are not tech savvy, and even if they are, that 1-3 minute video you asked them to produce can take 6 hrs-5 days depending on the criteria and the mental capacity of the student.

4) Give students choice in their projects, but be clear on choices. ONE of the choices can be “be creative” with guidelines of what needs to be included. Most students flail without parameters.

5) Brains can’t think when they’re scared. Don’t underestimate fear as an enemy of learning. If students are telling you it’s not working, or it’s too much, IT IS. Thank them for their honesty and input. Admit your expectations are too high for their capacity amidst global trauma. If they aren't saying anything, ask. Provide a channel for honest feedback. Adjust accordingly.

6) Please do not say, create calculus, or be as creative as possible. Give students a list of what to do. Give them an assignment that looks like a worksheet to make sure they get everything you want. This is not lowering the bar, its creating rigor but giving students a framework to be creative from.

7) Emergency remote learning is NOT an online class, do not conflate the two (see article below).

8) Students picked a face-to-face class for a reason, and many are ill prepared to work in this way, especially when their brains are not optimized to learn, see number 5.

9) Use video conferencing intentionally and sparingly. Some students are staring at screens for nine hours a day without even getting to their homework.

10) Screens are much more exhausting than in-person learning. Consider checking in emotionally, doing announcements, and maybe introducing a concept that is no more than 30 minutes. Thirty minutes to an hour is the typical length of a regularly watched tv show, and is easily digestible and leaves time for homework/group work. Think of how tired you would be if you watched 2-3 movies a day for five days. If you hate those staff meetings via video conferencing, and you’re doing 9 hours of zoom classes a day, consider how long this is sustainable for you. Reducing the load works for everyone.

Lastly, creatively adjust what a good course means to you. Good is your students feeling safe enough with you to ask for help. Good is listening to your students and adjusting to meet their needs. Good is giving everyone the bare minimum of work so they can sleep, exercise, and take care of their families—which can increase students ability to learn.


The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning

Teaching Through a Pandemic: A Mindset for This Moment

How (Not) to Evaluate Teaching During a Pandemic

Please Do a Bad Job of Putting Your Courses Online

Nine Strategies for Effective Online Learning

'Panic-gogy': Teaching Online Classes During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Time on Task in Online Courses

Without A Classroom Virtual Conference

Academic Guidance for Faculty for Continuing the Semester (Georgia Tech)

*Thanks, Kelly Rae Kramer, for this insight.

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