UTS is committed to ensuring that all students affected by the Australian Government’s travel restrictions can continue to engage in their studies. Although these students may be unable to travel to Australia to participate in on-campus classes, they can still be made to feel like valued members of the UTS community.

This post provides some strategies for ensuring that students who are studying in a fully online mode have a fulfilling learning experience and feel part of your subject’s learning community. You can facilitate this by fostering a sense of belonging, creating a sense of teacher presence, building a student community, and supporting students’ language and academic needs. 

Fostering belonging

When communicating via email, Canvas or UTSOnline, and/or in Microsoft Teams, acknowledge the challenges that students are facing at this time and the effects that this may have on their learning experience. 
Begin Autumn session with an online activity that encourages all students to introduce themselves and share their current situation. 
Facilitate the creation of student networks so that those unable to attend on-campus classes can share and discuss academic and personal information. 
Send personalised emails to students who are affected by the situation and assure them that you will offer the highest level of possible support. 

Teacher presence

Create a welcome message or short video, which introduces you and specifically addresses the challenges of the travel ban and how you intend to address these. 
Regularly post announcements and contribute to discussion activities addressing both academic questions and concerns emanating from the current situation. Note that email remains the mandated channel for all official communications. 
Clearly outline communication expectations and protocols at the start of the session. Tell students, for example, when and how you can be contacted, and when and how you will respond. 
Respond promptly and directly to students’ questions ensuring that you address any common concerns in your lectures and the supporting materials you create. 

Student community 

Create a class ‘team’ using Microsoft Teams, with a dedicated ‘student hangout’ for sharing non-academic content and interacting with each other. 
Organise a buddy system for students who are unable to attend on-campus classes so they can link up with those who are physically attending UTS. 
Encourage students to initiate discussions and study groups in the online space. Such activities can be embedded in group learning, and also be extra-curricular. 
Ask students to create an online ‘treasure hunt’ for their classmates, in which they ask questions relating to, for example, the course content, their hobbies and interests, and their hometown. 

Student support 

Set aside a regular time for online office hours, which can be dedicated to synchronous discussions with students affected by the travel ban. 
To support students studying in their second language, refer to the LX.lab’s language-use guide Making your Canvas site clear to all students. 
To help students understand and use discipline specific vocabulary, create a glossary of key terminology for them to refer to, and also to contribute to. 
The measure of educational success differs from culture to culture. Clearly communicate to everyone the behaviours, attributes and activities that students must demonstrate to be successful in your subject. 

Need more help?

We have compiled a toolkit to assist you in adapting your subject for online delivery, including the recommended tools and technologies, for students affected by the travel ban.

Check the UTS FAQs page on COVID-19 for the latest information; this includes advice for students affected by self-isolation requirements.

If you need more advice, the LX.lab team is available to support you. Please drop into the lab – CB06.04.020 – between 10am and 4pm for technical and online teaching advice.

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