Dear UJ Academic
We trust you are well. In preparation for the start of Term 2, we would like to share the following important information with you. We reminded UJ students yesterday that all teaching and learning will be entirely online, that Term 2 starts on 20 April, and that we will follow the regular timetable.
Please communicate to students how you plan to use the scheduled periods on the timetable and remind them what activities you will do and when assignments are due. Post and distribute a short one-page version of your learning guide with activities and due dates. We asked students to regularly visit Blackboard and look at their emails for guidance from you about what you expect from them. You can make sure students are up to date with activities by enabling the “To do”, “What’s New” and “My Tasks” tools on your module homepage. This will enable them to receive automatic reminders.
Consider a discussion forum in your module. Tutors can play a crucial role to help you manage discussions and help to create an online presence where students can feel that they are part of a group that is learning together. Discuss the tutors’ roles and responsibilities in online teaching with them.
Consultation times should be clearly communicated. Announcements on Blackboard, WhatsApp groups, emails, voice mails, and online discussion forums are examples of how you and students can stay in touch.
Students are very anxious about assessments. It is vital that you clearly communicate the types of assessment you will use, the dates of such assessments and where you will require them to complete assessments (e.g. on Blackboard). Think about the types of devices students will use to do their assessments (30% do not have a laptop/desktop). Create “windows” of opportunity for students to start and submit an assessment, because some will have to find a good place to complete the task or a time when there is electricity or connectivity. Allow students additional opportunities and start with small assessments to make sure everyone knows how to use their technology.
We recommend that you ease into the online learning environment next week and the week after so that you and students can iron out technical difficulties and establish a teaching and learning routine. Avoid high-stakes, challenging or lengthy assessments during the first two weeks of the term. Flexibility will be critical – things do not always work out as planned.
We strongly advise against long voiced-over PowerPoints or videos – stay between 3 and 6 minutes so that students with low connectivity will be able to participate with little frustration. Participation in live Bb Collaborate, Teams or Zoom lectures will be very difficult for most students – rather use pre-recorded short audio clips to stimulate learning.
If you have technical difficulties with Blackboard, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and if students have technical problems they can email email@example.com
Prof. Kinta Burger
17 April 2020