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Teaching and Learning Committee - Online Teaching Toolkit

Image of tools with blue background and the words "Uncomfortable Teaching Requests"

As we reopen, classes are likely going to be experimenting with different modalities.  Some may continue to be fully remote, some may be in-person, and others may be hybrid.  If you are asked to teach for a course modality that you are uncomfortable with, you can use these phrases to help you with the interaction, offer alternatives, or simply refuse the request.  

  • "I can cover this topic better in a virtual/physical environment."  If asked to work in a modality that is not conducive to your lesson, you can offer to switch to a different modality.
  • "Virtual/asynchronous instruction allows our services to be more accessible to those students who are not able to be on campus." While it's true that the virtual environment is not accessible to all students, asynchronous options can typically accommodate those students.
  • "Our library spaces are too small to accommodate appropriate social distancing." You do not need to estimate how many students could safely fit, as this may invite pushback. 
  • "I'm only working remotely right now/ on the day you requested." You can use this language if asked to teach in a non-library classroom space that you are uncomfortable with. Even if you're not actually working from home, this makes it clear you won't be doing any in-person teaching. 
  • Make it clear that your expertise and teaching is still accessible! Virtual consultations are an effective way to work with students remotely. If instructors are concerned that students won't take advantage of the opportunity, suggest requiring groups/individuals meet with you at least once during the semester. (Of course, be mindful of how many students there are and how much time you have to dedicate). See the teaching options page for more ideas. 

For more inspiration, review the internal reasons below for all-virtual instruction.  

  • Provide equally excellent service and a consistent learning experience for students who are able to attend in-person classes, and those who, for medical or logistical reasons, are not able to be on campus.
  • Develop our team’s expertise in teaching online, and develop materials that can be used in online, hybrid and in-person teaching in post-pandemic semesters.
  • Avoid seating students in library classrooms, which are too small, in most cases, to ensure appropriate social distancing.
  • Allow our classroom spaces to be repurposed temporarily to accommodate staff or students who require access to software or materials while remaining at a safe distance from others.
  • Keep our teaching team safe.

Refusing Teaching Requests

Cases may arise where you have to refuse a teaching request due to reasons like access to materials or how much lead time you're given. Remember that adapting learning to online and creating asynchronous materials will take time (longer if you're doing it for the first time), and you may not be able to teach as many classes as you usually do. Setting healthy boundaries will keep you from being overwhelmed and give you more time to create better learning experiences for each of your students. Here are some talking points you can use:

  • "I don't teach synchronous sessions without the instructor present because questions often arise that I can't answer."  If time allows, you can add, "I'd be happy to design an asynchronous activity if you can't be present."
  • "Unfortunately, I'm all booked up with teaching for this semester. We're at capacity given our move to all-virtual teaching. Next semester, reaching out to me as early as possible increases the likelihood that I'll be available." - Encourage instructors to contact you ASAP in the future. 
  • "I won't be able to create an effective learning experience for your students in only one week." OR "Unfortunately, I need at least two weeks notice to put together a good Zoom session/learning experience." - Any online learning materials, whether synchronous Zoom sessions or Canvas modules, take time to develop. If you have the time, feel free to offer asynchronous options (bonus points if they're already made and it's just a quick share!).
  • "There's really no way to lead a good lesson on [Special Collections, archives, art, etc.] in an online environment. We are working on ways we can teach [Special Collections, archives, art, etc.] virtually, but that won't be ready in time for your class. I'm happy to discuss ideas or alternatives with you."