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Teaching Materials

Recommendations for Teaching During a Health Crisis (Flu Outbreak)

This page provides recommendations for ways you can prepare to minimize interruption to your classes during an extended emergency. You may find the following steps and webpage links useful during high absentee periods to help students keep up-to-date with class requirements when attendance is medically discouraged. Faculty members unable to come to campus may choose to continue a class using email, Stellar, OCW, or other online delivery methods.

Planning Considerations for Faculty

  1. Consider a class communications strategy for implementation during a flu outbreak, including communications with other instructors and TAs. It may be useful to explain on your syllabus how you will proceed with teaching in times of high absenteeism. Even if you don't specify plans, explain on the syllabus how you will inform students if you need to make unanticipated changes in the course.
    • Post the syllabus on a class Stellar site and update as necessary.
    • Utilize Stellar's Announcements feature to notify students when changes occur.
    • (With permission) facilitate distribution of student contact information (email addresses) to enable sharing of class notes or other information.
    • Consider dedicating a portion of office hours to being available "online" for student questions.
  2. Consider options to help students continue work even if they cannot come to class. Plan for alternatives to laboratory sessions.

    Keep the Class Going

    • Post readings, PowerPoint slides, lecture notes, and assignments online for each class session. Consider enabling course Wikis through Stellar.
    • Offer online exams when appropriate. Email or post exams online with exact start/stop time/date deadlines and information on academic integrity.

    Conduct Online Discussions

    • Use Stellar's Discussion Boards to discuss class topics or in place of a class session, if appropriate.

    Utilize tools for Collaboration

    • Offer students online tools for group work such as Google Docs or the comment feature in Stellar so students can share ideas about one another's work.
    • Use Instant Messenger or video chat (AIM, GoogleTalk, iChat, Skype, etc.) to communicate one-on-one.
  3. Be prepared to answer student inquires about missing class and making up work. Consider flexible class policies that will treat all students equitably and be feasible for accommodating a large number of requests.
  4. Additional links you may find useful:

Tips for Online Teaching

  1. Course Management Software (e.g. Stellar)
    • Identify which features (tools) you will use and what teaching purpose they will serve.
    • Start by using a few features and then add more complex tools.
    • Utilize IS&T Support Services (http://ist.mit.edu/support) and the "Stellar Help" database from the navigation bar within the Stellar site.
  2. Organizing Discussions Online (using Stellar discussion boards or other tools)
    • Define clear goals for discussions and expectations of students.
    • Design questions that are appropriate for the format.
    • Organize discussions by topic and category.
    • Establish clear expectations for assessing student performance.
    • Specify discussion closing times.
    • After the discussion is closed, summarize the main points students should have learned and/or post follow-up questions.
  3. Assessment and Feedback on Student Learning
    • Regularly solicit feedback from students about their learning. (e.g. mud cards)
    • Provide formative feedback to students on their assignments and on their progress using Stellar's "Comment" feature or by posting or sending commented documents back to students via email.
    • Consider posting or sending commented documents back to students via email.
    • Incorporate ways for students to access their grades online. The "Gradebook" tool in Stellar may be useful.
  4. Problem Sets
    • Students may be able to submit their scanned p-sets to you electronically. Consider scanning and posting solutions.
  5. Guidelines for Faculty to Give Students for Participation Online
      Students should be careful to:
    • Use friendly but formal language appropriate for class.
    • Remember the goals for discussion and stay on topic; let others know when starting a new topic.
    • Respect privacy; get permission before forwarding others' messages.
    • Use humor, sarcasm, and irony sparingly because the absence of face-to-face cues may cause misunderstanding.
    • Think before responding and avoid impulsive statements.
    • Respect differences in opinions and the diversity of the group.

Adapted by the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning at the University of Michigan from Zhu and Kaplan (2006). Technology and teaching. In W. J. McKeachie & M. Svinicki (Eds.), McKeachie’s teaching tips: Strategies, research and theory for college and university teachers (pp. 229-251). New York: Houghton Mifflin.

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