I hope you and your home team are doing well. I also hope that you're finding a new rhythm with a work from home environment. My little family of three has been all home together working for about two weeks now and the novelty is beginning to fade. It’s been both a blessing and a challenge, which has likely been your experience as well. I’ve met with several groups of students virtually and have learned a lot about their challenges. I’m hopeful this advice may help us all be successful during this interesting time.
Talk about it: Have a family meeting with one agenda: what does success look like as more people are working from home? Now that our students have been doing virtual learning for a week, they will have a better idea of what they need. Commit to a regular/weekly check-in to see what adjustments might be needed. If your college student groans about this, suggest that it’s like the roommate agreements they created at the beginning of each year on campus. (Don’t worry - they groan about that too.) You’re essentially asking them to negotiate with you as roommates!
Schedules: Students know that a schedule is essential to their success; however, the students I’ve talked with this week are really struggling with scheduling.
Time on task: We know that students spend about 12 hours/week in class (and that doesn’t change in a virtual situation) and should spend at least 20-30 hours a week doing school work. So, yes, they are working a full-time job from home.
Class delivery: From my anecdotal evidence, it sounds like about half of our professors are meeting synchronously (live at the same time as the scheduled class) and half asynchronously (flex schedules where they watch video lectures on their own schedule). The synchronous classes are easy -- go to class. Asynchronous is much more difficult from a scheduling perspective, although I would suggest that students should “go to class” when it was originally scheduled, even if they have the flexibility to choose otherwise.
Technology challenges: Several students mentioned sharing technology and/or internet bandwidth issues when everyone at home is online at the same time. Understanding schedules may help prioritize equipment and internet time. Obviously, if a live/synchronous class or meeting is scheduled, it should take priority over social or asynchronous video lectures.
Support scheduling: You can help by asking your students to share their known, fixed schedule with you (and other family members should share theirs). You can also help by asking about “their plan for the day.” It’s not your responsibility to “monitor” or create their plan, but it is important as you encourage goals for the day and establish family routines.
Motivation: Online learning generally, and asynchronous classes specifically, require renewed discipline and self-motivation because there is more autonomy.
Reflection: Ask them to share their thoughts on how to self-motivate. Share your observations about your student’s motivation and barriers to motivation (both now and from their high school experiences). Ask how you can support their motivation. This part is tricky, especially for young adults who crave independence. It’s like supporting someone trying to exercise more -- sometimes nudges are helpful, sometimes pressure-producing. Just like with exercise, working alongside, where possible, might be most helpful.
Scheduling supports motivation: Encourage them to do their asynchronous class work at the same time every day to establish a schedule (whether it’s at the time class was originally scheduled or some other scheduled time). Students don’t love their 8 a.m. classes so will likely want to reschedule.
Virtual study groups: Students have also shared that when they’re lacking motivation, they are connecting virtually with friends who are also studying. The virtual study group seems to provide social connection and a motivation boost.
Sleep deprivation: Students always think they work better at night. In reality, most humans are more productive during the day, but disrupted sleep schedules alter our functioning. Sleep deprivation is a problem both on campus and likely now at home. Encourage good sleeping patterns -- 6-8 hours/night.
Self care: Like us, students cannot work all the time. We find the lines blurred between “home” and “work” and all need to find ways to unplug from everyday stressors. We all need to exercise, see the sun, eat healthy meals, socialize with friends and family. However, many find themselves out of balance. Students may also find themselves struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health aspects of their experience. Please encourage them to stay in contact with friends and campus support systems including connecting (or re-connecting) with IWU Counseling and Consultation Services. We are still offering counseling to all students in Illinois (licensure requirements) through virtual appointments, and services are available to out-of-state students as well. FAQ link.
Your own self-care: During these usual times, Counseling and Consultation Service counselors are also happy to consult with parents who may be in need of assistance. Please assure your student that you will be talking with a counselor different from someone they may have seen in the clinic, to support confidentiality and promote appropriate boundaries. FAQ link.
Space: With everyone working from home, space is a challenge. When possible, students need quiet space to attend class, listen to lectures, engage in group discussions, read, research, write and study.
Establish a desk: I’ve encouraged them not to make their bed their “home office”, if they can avoid it. Please help them set up a work space, if possible. If you have a card table that can be set up in a corner of their room, that would help them establish an appropriate work space.
Quiet area: If you have multiple people working from home, you might consider (if possible) designating a “quiet area” or even a “quiet time of day” where they can listen to class/meetings, video lectures, read and do research without interruption.
Vocal area: There may also be a “vocal space” (or times when the “quiet space” is converted) where family members can schedule meetings where they will be talking. You could literally put an hourly calendar on the door for scheduling so it’s possible for single use.
Distractions: There will be distractions. It’s unavoidable, but all should work together to be thoughtful and respectful toward each other. Distractions during a live class are different from distractions during a video lecture that can be paused/replayed. Understanding schedules helps with this. Using this sign for doors or work areas might also help. “Live meeting in progress” might simply warn others that distractions should be minimized. (I used to have a moody co-worker who would post a stuffed animal - a crab - when she was having a bad day. Message was clear. A sign might work the same way.)
Privacy: Students are accustomed to some level of privacy -- whether that’s alone time or simply space where they can have a conversation that isn’t overheard by others (maybe while they take a walk alone). Talk through this and see how best to manage this in your environment. Acknowledge that you respect and appreciate this need. Work as a family to give everyone the privacy they need.
Household Expectations: It is OK to have expectations of your adult work-from-home college student around cleanliness, connectedness, and contribution to a functioning household. One of my staff (with a teenager, a college student and two work-from-home parents) has established a daily cleaning routine -- every member of the house has a daily task. Family time is also important and will be a blessing during this time. My family has enjoyed having lunch together (with a daily LEGO challenge). Everyone has to do their part to make this work from home.
We appreciate that this is a challenging time for all of us, individually, as families and communities. Please know that we are committed to supporting our students and families.
As you “return to classes” from home this week, I am hoping to share a bit of advice. Normally, I write with institutional updates and specific pieces of critical information, but today, I write with guidance for your success. OK, I know you’re getting a ton of stuff -- please keep reading anyway.
I’ve been working from home for about a week now and I’ve learned a few things that I hope may help you as you also begin to “work from home.”
A schedule is essential: Think about your IWU rhythm and try to replicate it at home. Get dressed each day so that you feel energized and ready to face the day (and dress up at least once a week - you will feel better). If you normally get up and talk with your roommate, build that into your schedule (Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts!). Our student affairs offices are connecting on Google hangouts every morning, just like we would in our campus offices. I also “walk to work” each morning with a quick 10 minute walk around the block so I can mark the beginning of my day. (Think of it as your walk to class.) I know many of you are used to being busy at IWU -- trust me, you will be busy at home too. It will feel different, but embrace your new schedule.
Establish a work space: I’m sure you have a study space/work space at IWU that allows you to be your most productive. Develop that space at home as a specific work space. If Ames was your space here, what did you love about that space and how can you recreate it at home? For me, I’m at the dining room table (shared with my 10-year-old who is also home) with stuff spread out far and wide. And at the end of the day, I pack it all up (in my virtual backpack) so the day is done (as best it can be in these circumstances). And … I take a walk home. How will you end your day? Close up your academic work/walk home from the Library? (Hint: Don’t make your bed your work space. You really can’t go to class, have meetings with professors, study, write, research, connect with friends and sleep all from one space and feel productive.)
Work your to-do list: Having a clear list of projects (class, campus involvement/ leadership development, career or leisure) and priorities (class work; home chores; work; social) will help you stay productive. On campus, many of us are turning some attention to long-neglected projects. You may also have neglected projects too -- is your resume ready and updated? Is there a book you’ve been wanting to read (hint: The summer reading book for next year is What the Eyes Don’t See, by Mona Hanna-Attisha)? Yes - there’s always the Netflix binge list, but are there some things that could be more productive? If you love to travel, research and plan a future trip (don’t book it yet -- things are still evolving). IWU students are committed to service -- there are many ways to serve right now: delivering food/supplies to those who need it; childcare for at-home kids; and many more.
Be intentional about your social connections: I had the most amazing meeting last night with Student Senate. It was just so wonderful to see student leaders, all working to advocate for students and also pushing to get back to a “new normal.” Many of you are feeling isolated (or overcrowded at home) to some extent. Schedule time to connect with friends, clubs and organizations. Plan a meeting with your team or student organization. Create activities that are fun for you to do together. With my family also working from home, we do a fun daily LEGO challenge over lunch -- keeps us creative and connected. Maybe you need a daily TikTok video challenge? Find more resources here.
Practice self-care: We will begin a regular self-care challenge soon. Have you seen the Self-Care BINGO? If you are used to exercising, get in an exercise routine at home. If you have worked with counselors here, schedule your next appointment. Counseling and Consultation Services is providing telecounseling for any students in Illinois (licensure requirements) and posted remote counseling options available to students in any location on the FAQ page. Some of the licensure restrictions for telehealth may be suspended in the coming days, so watch for updates on the FAQ page. Focus on what you can do to create a full day and life. Part of this is being really in-tune with what works well for you. Last night’s Senate meeting had me grinning from ear-to-ear and totally reinforced my need to connect with students, even remotely! You all bring me joy! When something works well for you, repeat it!
Remember we are here! Although many of us are working from home, we are still here to support, assist, and serve you. We will begin virtual student leader meetings this week and next. On Google Chat, if the button beside my name is green, feel free to “drop in” with a note. I may be in a meeting, but I will respond. You can always call and email us. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
I’ve learned a ton about myself this past week and I’m confident that you will too. We can get through this together. I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about solidarity and the sacrifices it takes as a global community to slow a pandemic. I am confident that our IWU community understands solidarity, sacrifice for the common good, and resilience as we face this challenge together. I am also confident that we will all be stronger in the end.
Karla C. Carney-Hall, Dean of Students
Welcome Back and Welcome to Your Online Classes
Sunday, March 22, 2:46 PM
To our students,
Welcome back from your extended Spring Break! We hope you were able to find the opportunity for some rest during the past two weeks, though we know that this has been a time of great uncertainty, and of many changes, for all of us. This has been true for faculty and staff here at IWU, as well, but we have been working consistently over the past week to make sure that your return to (virtual) classes on Monday is as smooth as it can be.
As we continue this journey together, we wanted to share some resources that we hope will help you to make a smooth transition to your online learning program for the remainder of the semester. For many of you, our learning management system, Moodle, will not be new, as many of our faculty have used it for years to post syllabi, assignments, discussions, and grades. To find your Moodle courses (including new ones), visit the MyIWU portal and, after logging in, select the “Moodle” option from the navigation on the left. You should see “My Courses” when you enter the system, and you can choose where you want to go from there. If you have any trouble logging into Moodle, please submit a question through the ITS Help Desk. If you need more immediate help, e.g., if you are trying to login to Moodle to gain access to your professor’s video lecture, please use this link to access our on-call IT help. This page will be updated regularly with virtual help sessions that we will make available through the rest of the semester.
In addition to Moodle, you may find your professors and your classmates making more active use of our Google Apps for Education (also known as the “G-suite”). You have probably used Gmail and Drive before, but you may not have used Google Calendar (for scheduling) or Google Meet (for live videoconferencing). These two Google apps work very well together, and may be used by your faculty to schedule advising appointments, office hours, or video lectures. Some of these opportunities may be linked directly into your Moodle course site, but keep an eye out for messages from your faculty sharing how they will be using these tools (and possibly others) to help you keep meeting your learning goals for your class(es). If you’ve never used Google Meet before, you can review these resources and tutorials on the Google site. And, again, if you have any technical issues using Meet, you can always contact the ITS Help Desk or get on-call help. You may also find some faculty using Zoom, a commercial application that does allow for free account creation. We are not currently supporting Zoom on campus, but they have a number of tutorials available for those of you who may be new to the application.
Finally, remember that the Ames Library is still available to you, wherever you are. Our faculty and staff have been working with your professors for the past week to make sure that as much of the content you need for your assignments will be available to you through your Moodle course sites. If there is a required reading that you don’t see available, please ask your professor to contact the library so that we can determine if (and how quickly) we can make that material available to you. We have also placed links to a full range of digital content and services available to you at the Guide to Remote Library Services. We have tens of thousands of electronic books and journals available to you wherever you are, as well as many media materials. Again, if you have a question, you can always email your liaison librarian, and you can connect for on-call help (Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
This is new to all of us, and we know that you may need some help adjusting to an all-online learning environment. We have found this set of suggestions from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to be very helpful, and we encourage you to take a look. We are all learning this together, and we are looking forward to learning with you even as we work to make sure that you can complete your learning goals for your classes and your program. Keep checking in with your professors, and keep reaching out to each other and to those of us in Student Affairs, the Library, and ITS, who are here to help you to be successful in your new, virtual classroom.
Like everyone, we continue monitoring developments in the coronavirus epidemic, locally, nationally, and globally. Please visit the IWU Coronavirus Virus Response site for the most current information about our plans and resources available to you.
Thank you, again. We look forward to seeing you back in Bloomington as soon as we can!
Mark Brodl Provost and Dean of Faculty
Scott Walter University Librarian and Co-Interim Chief Technology Officer