This year, all of us at the UW have the opportunity to leverage aspects of what we have learned about remote instruction since spring 2020 to help create exceptional learning experiences for our students. Decisions regarding instruction for 2021-22 will continue to be guided by the UW’s shared values of access and excellence, as well as the expectation of reasonable faculty workloads. The governor’s recommendations for higher education, and advice from public health experts, will continue to guide the University’s operational and policy decisions.
Guidance on developing flexible, learner-centered courses in 2021-22
In engaging the recommendations on this page, instructors are encouraged to:
- Build on familiar techniques, technologies, and the experience gained since spring 2020;
- Maintain instructional continuity for students in case barriers to in-person instruction occur; and
- Address access and equity for all students.
- Consider ways to support students who need to participate remotely. In addition to COVID-related issues, students may need to study remotely because of illness or other reasons. Consider how you can facilitate learning for these students, and be sure to include clear instructions regarding absences in the course syllabus and Canvas site. This approach also helps promote instructional continuity should we need to temporarily shift to remote teaching during the quarter.
- For critical in-person exercises, activities, and assessments, determine how a remote student can still meet the course learning goals:
- Consider posting digital versions of course materials shared during in-person sessions before — or soon after — the class session.
- Consider using discussion boards or group assignments to create opportunities for remote students to explore course concepts, discuss questions, and receive feedback with their classmates.
- Consider holding optional online student office hours or review sessions, or use a mixture of in-person and online modalities.
- Consider the information available on the UW’s Teaching Remotely site that explores additional assessment strategies.
- Consider recording class sessions (where appropriate), and making them available online (i.e., using Panopto or other UW-supported technologies).
- Avoid conducting live active-learning activities or discussions simultaneously with both in-person and online students, unless you have been trained in this approach and have appropriate support in place. Referred to as “hybrid-flexible,” “hyflex” or “blended synchronous,” this approach is complicated, requiring extensive instructor preparation, staff support, advanced classroom technology that isn’t available in all classrooms, and trained TAs for each class session.
- Consider incorporating evidence-based pedagogies in your course that support both remote and in-person students. For example, consider “flipping” part or all of your course by presenting course content outside of scheduled class time through videos, readings, and materials that students can access independently. In-person or synchronous class sessions can then focus on helping students apply concepts and engage the subject matter. This approach makes it easier to plan learning experiences for in-person and remote learners that are similar without preparing two separate versions of your course.
- Design your course with accessibility in mind. Refer to the UW Accessible Technology page to get started.
The recommendations above reflect input from faculty, academic leadership, and instructional support groups, who hold as imperative the rights and responsibilities of faculty and students, and particularly acknowledge that:
- Academic units are responsible for their instructional programs. What constitutes pedagogical excellence is determined by the practices and norms of each department, program, or school.
- Students have a right to an excellent education, as well as the responsibility to participate in the course according to the standards set out in the course syllabi.
- The University is responsible for supporting teaching and learning.
As pandemic restrictions continue to evolve, the UW encourages instructors to continue to consider how to support students who need to, for specific reasons (e.g., personal health), study remotely. Instructors are not expected to develop two versions of the same course.
As there is no one-size-fits-all approach to course construction and delivery, the University encourages instructors to check with your campus and school/college for the latest information on health and safety, and consult with your department chairs/deans for department-specific advice on course development, distance learning policies and classroom safety guidelines.
If you would like help developing or adapting assignments and course materials that help foster learner engagement in your in-person, hybrid, remote, or online course, please feel free to connect with the UW’s instructional support teams.