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Tips for Minimizing Flu-Related Disruptions to Your Courses

Outbreaks of the flu disrupt course continuity pretty much every term at Dartmouth. DCAL and Academic Computing can help you plan ahead, minimize disruptions as they occur, and keep you and your students actively engaged in your courses even if they (or you) must be absent from class. Most of the steps and strategies we recommend here are just good practices at any time, but you may find some especially valuable in the event of a flu outbreak. Remember: the wonderful work you do building a learning community in your class cannot be reproduced online, but it just might be better than nothing!

Plan now

  • Post as much of your course content as you can on Blackboard. When the syllabus, assignments, readings, presentations, videos, surveys, even quizzes and tests are on BlackBoard, your students have access to them—can even participate actively—from almost anywhere.
  • Establish a communication strategy for you and your students. Blackboard's e-mail function can keep track of who is enrolled in your course and it gets updated very frequently.
  • Review your policies on absences and late work now.  Are they clear? Are they reasonable and enforceable even if we get a larger than normal flu outbreak?
  • Remind students to stay in touch with you when they are absent.
  • Plan ahead for recording lectures and class discussions using Camtasia Relay or iPods - Curricular Computing can help you get started.
  • Browse the web for content related to your courses; you'll be surprised what's out there!
  • Set up electronic reserves through the library so your students can get assigned reading electronically.

When they are absent

If you put these tools to use from the beginning of your course, everyone will be ready to stay engaged when absences escalate.

  • Set up Discussion Boards, Wikis or Blogs and assign students to post to them regularly. If they must miss class, they are already used to staying engaged using these tools.
  • Arrange to receive student work electronically. There are lots of ways to do this besides e-mail enclosures, including postings to discussion boards and Blackboard's Assignment feature.
  • Use online tools to comment, grade and return assignments. This is healthier and more convenient for everyone, but it is also green practice and helps you keep a record of your students' work.
  • Google Docs allows students to share documents online and work on them together from remote locations.
  • Stay available for audio/video chats during office hours using Google Talk, iChat, Skype, or simply AIM instant messaging.

When you are absent

  • Hold class discussion on a Blackboard Blog.
  • Record lectures along with your presentation slides using Camtasia Relay.
  • Hold online seminars with Adobe Connect.
  • Have the class work together online to construct a course-related Wiki or a Google Doc presentation. Think how much they'll learn if they have to write the lecture or lead the discussion!

Most important

Articulate as clearly as you can the learning goals for your course and ask students to do the same. Post these goals (yours and theirs) prominently on the course Blackboard site, perhaps as a Permanent Announcement. With these goals clearly in mind, students can do a lot of learning on their own; without them they will be lost without you.

For more information and tips, see the Resources page on this website. E-mail DCAL for a one-on-one consultation.

Last Updated: 3/6/13