re: “Class X moves online”… a journey in change management


Today I wrote up an addendum to the course schedule and syllabus of one of my in-person 300-level classes that relies on computer lab use every class session, team projects, and face-to-face meet-ups with outside consultants.

Can the interactivity, engagement, and hands-on aspects of this class be moved to an online environment without disruption? No. It cannot. But can it be adjusted, retooled, and re-thought? Yes. It can.

So in my humble opinion, we are actively dealing with The Change Curve with these students (and ourselves on top of it). There are several reputable sources that cover this topic, but for this piece, I chose a reference from University of Sussex.

Image source: University of Sussex, n.d.

According to this particular source, The Change Curve (derived from the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross), “identifies the 7 typical stages people go through when faced with change.” With my WSU-student-centric narrative and interpretation woven in, these include:

  • Stage 1 – Shock:

    I heard about #COVID19 in China and Italy but is it true it is showing up in the states? In Seattle? Older people are dying? Wait a second… what does this mean?

  • Stage 2 – Denial:

    No worries. We are fine. We are young and healthy so even if we get it, we’ll recover pretty quickly. This doesn’t really impact us that much, right? The worst that will happen is that they will cancel classes for a couple weeks so they can disinfect everything. Wash my hands, don’t touch my face. I’m all good.

  • Stage 3 – Anger & Blame:

    Wait a minute. This is real?! But what about my friends, my lab, my teams, Mom’s Weekend, Commencement, my summer job? This isn’t actually happening, right? This is so unfair! Who can I blame? The media? WSU officials? Politicians?

  • Stage 4 – Bargaining:

    Maybe there is a way around this? Maybe Macklemore will get rescheduled? Maybe we could meet off-campus in smaller groups? Maybe we can get into the lab in some sort of rotation? Maybe my parents will supplement my income if my hours get cut for several weeks?

  • Stage 5 – Depression & Confusion:

    So this is really happening. I am leaving for Spring Break and don’t know what happens next except my classes are going online, I won’t see my friends as often, I won’t be in the classroom anymore, I won’t be able to see my professors as easily as I used to, I’m worried about my summer employment, I’m concerned about my grandparents’ health. What in the world am I supposed to do? I didn’t plan for this at all.

  • Stage 6 – Acceptance:

    Whew. I’m alright. Overall, my family and friends are OK. Classes are not the same, but there are only 5 weeks left so I’ll survive. It’s not so bad. Summer is coming. I’ll push through. It will be OK.

  • Stage 7 – Problem Solving:

    We got this. We will persevere. We will overcome and we will be back. We are Cougs and Cougs never, ever give up.

So as I wrote this addendum for my 300-level course, I considered the mindset of my students today. Right now they are somewhere around stage 4 or 5. That means they are hanging out somewhere between bargaining and confusion. That’s a tough place to be because it feels unsettled, un-grounded, and ambiguous.

After my initial contact with them upon the notice from WSU that we are moving all in-person classes to the online format, I created a formal addendum to the course syllabus and course schedule with the following general outline:

  • Class format
    • How will the course content be distributed?
    • Will class still be held during the normal time? How will it be delivered? Is attendance mandatory? What is the Zoom link to join?
    • Where will students turn in assignments?
    • How will they view lectures?
    • How will attendance and participation be accounted for?
  • Hours and assignment expectations
    • How many hours should students expect to devote to this class each week including readings, assignments, peer engagement, quizzes?
    • What changes have been made to assignments or course schedule?
    • Will the way a professor or TA’s grade shift to a different format or criteria?
    • How will presentations be delivered? Live? Recorded? What tools should we use?
  • Office hours and interaction
    • How can students schedule a time to meet with the instructor or otherwise engage with them when they have questions?
  • Service-learning, labs, required technology, or other hands-on requirements
    • Will CCE projects still continue? How will interaction with community partners be managed?
    • Will we shift to a virtual lab?
    • How will I work with my team?
    • How will I access technology? Are there alternatives that will be acceptable?

For the next few days, students will predominantly disengage. They will take some time to breathe and re-set. Faculty, on the other hand, will be frantically adjusting their in-person curriculum to an online format. So reality will start to hit for students around March 21-22. March 23 is when Stage 5 will really show some true colors and it may take a week or so to move them to Stage 6.

Stay strong dear faculty and administrators. We will get through this. Do your best to be transparent, responsive, and organized. Don’t over-complicate and work with what you have. I have so much faith in our overall success. #GoCougs

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Online Teaching Tips series. Check out more tips in the “Online Teaching Tips” category.

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