Tools like Webex and Big Blue Button make it possible to provide real-time synchronous instruction, even while everyone is confined to their homes. This can provide students and faculty alike with an invaluable sense of connection, continuity, and structure in the face of a traumatic and rapidly changing experience.
However, feedback from Rutgers students about the diverse situations they find themselves in has made it clear many students face obstacles to participating in remote synchronous instruction. Many of our students:
- Are now confined to households that lack the bandwidth or computer equipment needed to participate in real-time video instruction.
- Must share their internet connections, computer equipment, or study space with other members of the family.
- Are managing an overwhelming set of competing pressures and stresses, including working—sometimes at risk to themselves—caring for children, caring for sick relatives, and caring for themselves.
- Have returned to their homes in distant time zones. This particularly affects international students; for an international student who has returned to Beijing, for instance, a 3:20 PM course would meet at 3:20 AM.
Any of these factors can make it difficult or impossible for a student to participate in a synchronous course that requires participating at a specific time.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to create a sense of connection and engagement in an asynchronous course!
Forge connections in an asynchronous course
Many of these suggestions are drawn from contributions to the “What We’re Learning About Teaching Through an Emergency” SAS discussion forum. Please visit and share your tips!
Making Synchronous Courses Accessible
Real-time sessions with students still provide a number of benefits, including combatting the stresses of social isolation and helping students to structure their days. If your course includes mandatory synchronous sessions, the tips below will help you to get the most out of those sessions while accommodating students who encounter the obstacles described above.
For more suggestions about building community, engagement, and presence in the online environment, see these resources:
- Faculty Focus: A Checklist for Building Community in the College Classroom
- How to Reconnect With Students and Strengthen Your Remote Course
Regular instructor announcements: posting announcements on a predictable schedule (for instance, every Monday afternoon) is a way to provide students with important information and demonstrate that you’re present and engaged in the class.