After a challenging year marked by rapid change, we’re looking forward to spending more time at the beautiful UTS campus this year. To ensure that you can teach on campus in the safest way possible for you and your students, some safety guidelines have been introduced by UTS. In this post, we’ll run through the basics and offer some teaching tips to help you and your students adjust to the new circumstances.
In line with its risk mitigation framework, UTS has mandated that face masks be worn by students for all formal activities (classes, tutorials, labs etc.) as well as for co-curricular activities (such as orientation and Library and IT skills sessions) throughout Autumn session. Staff must also wear face masks if 1.5m distance cannot be maintained. The university has developed some classroom management protocols to help you manage the face mask requirement in your classes.
You may remove your mask to accommodate accessibility requirements (eg. if anyone in the class lip-reads). There are also transparent masks available from SSU, which you can request by emailing Accessibility@uts.edu.au. The ADCET guidelines for responding to the needs of students with disabilities in return-to-campus planning may also assist you in ensuring that your classroom is an accessible and inclusive space.
Powerpoint slides are available to download and print for your classroom and further information on campus safety guidelines is available here.
Planning the class
To foster students’ connection with their peers, your email could also invite students to engage in a pre-class, visual asynchronous icebreaker on the subject Canvas site before they come to class. The completed visual icebreaker (eg. padlet wall) could also be used as a stimulus for an interactive icebreaker in the first class.
Remember to include a friendly welcome message (and the teaching team’s photos and bio) on your Canvas site to humanise the online learning environment and strengthen students’ sense of connection to you. The students want to see you as a multi-faceted person, so infuse your message with your personality, and invite them into a learning partnership with you. Acknowledge that the safety guidelines are probably going to take some getting used to, but this is something that you are going to navigate that together.
Using the classroom
Consider how your subject is going to work under the new conditions in the physical classroom and prepare your activities accordingly. If you need students to separate into groups to discuss content, smaller groups of 2 or 3 people may work better, depending on the acoustics of the space you’re teaching in. And don’t forget to become familiar with the AVS equipment in your classroom – if you’re using video, slides or a microphone, have the contact details for AVS on hand (x1978) and get familiar with AVS resources.
Start your first class by going through the safety requirements – again, acknowledge that this is a learning process for everyone and that you’ll work through it together.
Teaching in a mask
Adjusting to teaching and learning in masks might take a little time to get used to. If you’re presenting, set yourself up at an appropriate distance, and allow for some time at the start of class to check that all the students can hear you.
For your own convenience, it may be helpful to ask students to wear a name tag or display a piece of paper (name tent) in front of them with their name.
In the first class, you could explore the completed visual icebreaker that students did before class, or introduce a new activity for students to get to know each other. It’s a great community-building activity to use throughout session too, as it helps students feel comfortable and connects them with new peers each time.
To help students feel safe, cared for and respected, think about the tone you set in the classroom. Show them the ‘roadmap’ of the subject and how it has been designed to support them in developing as a professional. Try to start and finish your classes with where the students are at – for example, you can use the first and last 10 minutes of class to check in and get feedback to identify pain points and build trust. You could use polling tools like Mentimeter, PollEverywhere, Socrative, Sli.do, Pingo, or Kahoot to give students a simple way to interact with you and your content. Or you could use email, Canvas discussion boards, or a form that allows the responder to stay anonymous – whichever works best for you.
Check out our posts on belonging on Futures including a new ‘Belonging at UTS’ series that offers different perspectives on building an engaging and supportive environment for students.
Key resources and events to help you navigate Autumn session – including this blog post you’re reading – have now been compiled in a useful, one-stop-shop toolkit.
Feature image by Andy Roberts.