I currently co-teach an online course. In terms of the delivery format and class structure, we did not have to make any changes as a result of COVID-19. However, we had to make some alterations to ensure our students learned while dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 on their lives in general and their education.
As a result of the extension of spring break, we missed one lesson week. Instead of pushing everything by one week, we made the contents of that week available to students, including a voluntary submission of deliverables planned for that week and kept the schedule as planned. We also encouraged students to read materials assigned for the week. Given that students, like their instructors, had to adjust to the new situation especially around mid-march, we did not receive any submission. In order to ensure that students read the material, we converted the main activity that had been assigned for that week to an assignment for bonus marks.
As part of the course, we had planned a mid-term survey to collect student feedback regarding the first half of the semester. When students came back from the extended spring break, we decided to include a question in the survey about what we can do to help them finish the semester at their normal performance level given the circumstances. Based on their feedback, we reduced the number of deliverables for weekly assessments, extended deadlines, focused on required readings only, and changed the format of the final project. However, we maintained the overall structure of the course to eliminate the need to familiarize themselves with a changed syllabus and course delivery. Our focus was to help them learn as much as possible while balancing the adjustments they have to make and the stress of keeping themselves safe from the threat of the virus.
We also changed the weekly office hours into a virtual, communal work hour that they can join via Zoom to do their own work in the virtual presence of classmates and instructors. Our hope for this was also to provide them with some form of virtual socializing. In the last two weeks since this particular change, no student has joined, but this will stay open until the end of the semester.
As a result of the modifications, they may end up doing fewer assessment activities and engaging with fewer course material than was initially planned. But given the circumstances, our priority is to help them learn as much as they can while focusing on their safety and well-being primarily. Having a little bit of extra time may contribute to doing just that.