Editor’s Note: The following article is one in a series offering insights from faculty members at the American University in Cairo on how to make online classrooms more effective. The comments are from an article published by New Chalk Talk, a newsletter of the university’s Center for Learning and Teaching. See a previous article from this series: “Making Online Teaching Work: Insights from American University in Cairo Faculty.”
Students are anxious, overwhelmed and stressed. They are living and learning in a global pandemic, separated from the learning environment that they know best and the social campus environment they enjoy. Faculty members are working hard and most are teaching online for the first or second time. Many may feel overwhelmed with the amount of digital communication and emails. But they need to understand that students are feeling similarly burdened, even if they are contributing to instructors’ workloads.
To reduce load on faculty and students, here are some insights shared by faculty members:
Listening to students’ concerns, and discussing our own thinking with them, can make all the difference in allowing us to respond to their needs while also helping them understand why we do what we do.
Nellie El Enany, department of management:
“Explaining the rationale behind the workload, learning outcomes, assessments and deadlines is really important, it encourages a more open and empathetic space and allows students to understand what is going on. Let’s all agree though, overburdening students with work, assessments and learning material is not helpful to them or to us, and there is more and more evidence on how it negatively impacts mental health and well-being.”
Ramy Aly, department of sociology, Egyptology and anthropology:
“I am discussing deadlines with students and responding to their sense of how and when they can complete assignments. I am providing individualized deadlines where I feel that a student is genuinely struggling. The substance of their learning is more important than deadlines that apply to all—of course this means I am marking all the time, basically—but these are exceptional times.”