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Preparing to Start the Quarter Remotely

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Before a quarter of online teaching with your students begin, there are many materials you need to prepare in advance, such as syllabi, tech surveys, and other student-facing messaging.

PWR Office Messaging to Students Engaged in Online Learning

The PWR office messages all online students before the start of the quarter to share with them relevant information that is consistent across sections. Here's a summary of the information that student received before the start of Spring Quarter 2020: 

  • That PWR classes will all meet live on Zoom for at least part of the time during their designated meeting time, and that students should arrive promptly for an on-time start of class.  
  • That PWR classes are not recorded (although the instructor might share some pre-recorded material), and that out of respect for student and instructor privacy, students shouldn’t record their live Zoom sessions either unless they have an OAE letter that specifies that sort of accommodation.
  • That if they have a time zone conflict, they should contact us at to change sections.
  • That they will receive an email from their instructor before the first day of class with the Zoom link for their first day of class and that the link will also be shared through the Canvas site.  
  • That they should email their instructor and also us at if they have any confusion over where to go on the first day.  
  • That if they miss either of the first two class meetings of the quarter, they may be dropped from the course, so that they should email both us ( and their instructor ASAP if they’re absent. We also mentioned that we understand there might be technology glitches or other unavoidable issues that come up, and that they shouldn’t worry about being dropped if that’s the case, but that they need to communicate with us no matter what so we know what’s going on.

Your Pre-Quarter Prep

 You should also plan to communicate with your students prior to the start of the quarter, including clear instructions about how they can connect through Zoom on the first day of class.  It's suggested you do so by the end of the day on the Sunday before classes start and that you make sure the Zoom link is clearly indicated on your Canvas site as well.

You might include some of the following in your pre-quarter messaging:

  • Links about that give advice about workplace set up, zoom set up, etc
  • A student-facing class tech guide, similar to the one Angela created
  • A tech survey (designed for anonymous responses), similar to this one developed by Cassie and Chris

Other links you might want to send students:

Please don't ask students to complete much if anything during this pre-quarter period in the way of preparatory assignments. 

Syllabus Language

In crafting your syllabus for spring quarter 2020, you might consider including some language that recognizes the unusual nature of this moment.   For instance, you might adapt this adjusted syllabus statement by Brandon Bayne, from UNC. 

In addition, you might consider some of these syllabus statements from our colleagues about assessment and attendance as models for your own:

Also, don't forget to include a paragraph about the Hume Center.  Here's the updated blurb for Spring 2020.

Also, refer to our main Teaching Writing pages on Creating Your Syllabus, which includes links to Required and Recommended Syllabus content.

Other Considerations as you Prepare for the Quarter

  • Create a back-up plan protocol for students with individual tech difficulties (i.e., should they email you for make-up work? Does each student have a “class buddy” who will fill them in if they have tech issues that prevent them from connecting? Etc.)  Make sure this is on your syllabus and clear to students.
  • Create a back-up plan protocol for the class as a whole in the event that Zoom fails (it could be as simple as “If Zoom fails, check your email for further instructions). Make sure this is on your syllabus and clear to students.
  • Establish and share with your students a structure you’ll use for communicating with them, and then stick to it (i.e., weekly announcements Monday mornings at 9:30am; all project deadlines on Sunday evenings, etc.)
  • Remember: Less is more. While we all still need to have students complete the required major assignments for the course, reduce the number of little scaffolding activities/ungraded assignments that you usually assign.  Streamline, don’t expand. Minimize the amount of different platforms you’re asking students to use for class.  Focus on your learning objectives as you decide what's really necessary for students to do in your class.  Exercise compassion and flexibility in this moment.

Resources for You

Be sure to check out the resources available to you to support you this quarter.  First and foremost, if you're feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about how to navigate the online teaching experience, please reach out to us!  Also, please be aware that the Stanford Faculty-Staff Help Center is offering remote appointments during this time; your emotional health should be a top priority. 

For your asynchronous pedagogical needs, check out our other TeachingWriting pages on Online Teaching, including these specific pages:

 You might also want to browse: