A topic that's come up a few times in recent faculty development sessions has been about helping students who are struggling with keeping a schedule this semester. Of course, this isn't new. Students struggle with keeping a schedule under the best of circumstances (and heck, let's be honest here, many of us struggle, too).
But, let's be honest, there are far from the best of circumstances.
There are of course some very important differences that we also need to acknowledge and address. I'll highlight three because really, don't need to pile on ourselves. First, the global collective trauma of COVID is very real and very present for all of us. This is compounded by other traumas happening in our nations, communities, and homes. And it's hard to stay on task with all of that circling around us all the time. Second, obviously, is that our teaching and learning environments are new and very different. We may need to change things because something isn't working or something is working better than we thought. Experimentation, innovation, and prestidigitation are difficult to pencil in. And lastly, a schedule implies certainty, habits, rhythms--things that seem to evade us in our current moment. At the end of my workday, I create a daily schedule for the next day based on what did/didn't happen. In the past months, I've abandoned that schedule by noon because life happens, energy-levels change, new griefs stack upon old ones, and reveling in successes is no longer time-bound.
All of that to say: scheduling is a struggle.
And some of the thoughts that I'm going to share with you in this post are not going to make it much less of a struggle for the reasons I outlined. But if you're like me and process through doing, if nothing else, it can help you do that.
Ask students about support. Having an open, honest discussion about scheduling (including if you're struggling, too) can yield suggestions for resources. And like us, some students just need to talk about it. Make it part of the class routine.
Use gentle reminders. Provide scheduling reminders in announcements, overviews, and emails. Start and/or end classes with reminders and suggestions. Leave a few moments for students to write down their schedule and/or put it in their digital/analogy calendar.
Give them resources. Create a calendar of important dates. Provide a checklist of due dates. Talk to them about using calendar blocking. And if your institution provides student success support, make sure students know when, where, and how to contact them.
Encourage current habits. Students are probably familiar with some kind of scheduling system and/or a technology that can be used to create one. For instance, many students may already heavily rely on a mobile device for browsing, email, and social media. Encourage them to use their email system or built-in calendar app for course scheduling and reminders.
Leverage LMS tools. Most learning management systems come with a calendar that you can populate with due dates that also auto-generate reminders. Tools like announcements and emails can be used for time-sensitive reminders. Some LMS will also let you send assignment reminders through a retention center or grade book feature.
Use delayed sending. Most email systems will allow you to compose emails that can be sent at a future time and date. Once you have your course's schedule complete, you can compose those gentle reminders for students to be sent when they need them most.
Develop resources. Develop a "week-at-glance" or "weekly snapshot" resource that helps students to think about their time. This will help them to better understand your expectations and give them support as they manage their schedule. Here's an example: General Weekly Schedule.pdf
Use a scheduling/reminder application. You can use an application like Remind to push out timely reminders about course information and due dates. There are also chat tools like Slack and GroupMe that can be used for reminders and scheduling.
Create a class calendar. Many learning management systems have built-in calendar features that you can use to help students manage their time, especially around due dates. You can also create a shared calendar through your email system or a calendar application (like Google calendar).
Create a shared digital planner. Like the class calendar, this is a shared space where you and your students can share reminders, resources, and suggestions when it comes to scheduling. There are many digital planners out there, but you can also repurpose apps you may already be using like Padlet, Jamboard, and Trello.
As always, please share thoughts, resources, experiences!
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