From snow days to conferences to preventative health and safety measures, there are a number of reasons why you might consider implementing a technological strategy to help support both anticipated and unanticipated disruptions of your regularly scheduled courses. Implementing educational technology requires thought and planning - so let's get started!
Interested in more information around general academic continuity policies and guidelines? See:
- Office of the Vice-Provost, Academic Programs (updated January 29, 2020)'s Supporting Course Resiliency: Best Practices for Teaching Staff
- Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI)'s Continuity Planning
- University of Toronto Mississauga - Office of the Vice Principle Academic and Dean's Academic Continuity and Continuity Planning Tip Sheet for Instructors
Before you begin your technical implementation...
- Consider institutional policy. When making a change to an in progress course, you'll want to ensure compliance with published best practices. For a collection of resources, see CTSI's Grading Practices and Policies at the University of Toronto. Just because it is possible to do something technically, does not mean that you should; there might be compelling reasons why you would decide not to do so. Or, if you are making a change, there might be specific processes for you to incorporate to make that change. For FASE-specific resources, visit the faculty & staff Intranet for Instructor Guides, Tools, & Resources (requires login).
- Make sure you have enough time to get it done. When implementing technology, the trick is often not the technology itself but the administration of it. Any time you implement something new, consider how it will affect you, your teaching team, and your students in terms of increased workload, stress, and technical ability. Before you select a solution, make sure that you've allocated enough time (and then double it!) to explore, test, implement, and support your solution.
- Proactively establish your support model. Take advantage of the support around you, especially if you are doing something for the first time. Is there someone else who you can loop in to help you? This could be the company that built the tool you will be using or your local EdTech Office (e.g. FASE's Education Technology Office). As they say, if something can go wrong...it will and it's always going serve you well if the people you will be leaning on when things go wrong are already aware of your project and what you're trying to achieve.
- Don't sacrifice your learning outcomes for the solution. When pivoting, there is some flexibility required. But, keep your goals in mind - there are often technical solutions that will help you achieve them. Do you want real-time interaction with your students? You could try a webinar. Do you want self-managed and ongoing conversation? You could set up a discussion board. Do you want to collaboratively build a new resource? You could enable editable "wiki" pages in Quercus.
- Scaffold contingency planning in your course before it is needed. Don't wait for an emergency situation - if you know that you'll lean on a specific tool if and when needed, begin communicating around how that tool will be used early in your course. You could share an announcement (or create a page) that details what your plan is, should a need come up. Even better would be to try using it; not only does that give you some valuable experience testing the option, your students will begin to familiarize themselves with it too. This will help students understand what is coming and reduce stress should something happen.
Questions to ask yourself:
- How much lead time do you have? Reacting with advance notice (e.g. attending a conference) or no notice (e.g. snow day) implies very different solutions. The solution you select if you have an hour, a day, or a month, will vary widely. Pick the one that you can implement well, even if it is simple; don't pick the one that only half works and is stressful for everyone.
- Do you have a budget? The recommendation is to use institutionally licensed and vetted tools (see ACT's EdTech Catalogue). If this is not possible, you'll want to establish any payment processes well before the solution is required.
- Have you communicated your plan to your students? Regular communication will establish a routine of how and when you'll share important new, changes, and updates with your class. By using a consistent method, you'll ensure that students are confident in knowing that if anything comes up, they'll know where to go to get reliable and authoritative information from you.
If you have questions or would like further support, please contact the Education Technology Office to schedule a 1-1 session in person, over the phone, or online.
Instructors are encouraged to use Quercus and educational technologies in the Academic Toolbox to support teaching activities. You can explore the full list of educational technologies that have passed U of T's security audit and are approved for use within courses (see ACT's EdTech Catalogue). The goal is to avoid using applications that require students to have a separate user account and/or requires them to share personal information in a way that they might not be comfortable with (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms).