COVID-19: Supporting your students

Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by the current situation and, as ASIC staff care for our own vulnerable loved ones we share our sincerest and deepest empathy with you all. Read our full statement here.

Advice for educational settings regarding student welfare.

The situation we are all dealing with is unprecedented, and many of our institutions are having to make changes to their current teaching practices. Below we offer some advice as to how best to communicate with your students, with links to helpful resources at the end.

Follow official advice.

First and foremost, please follow the advice and guidance issued by the National Health Service (NHS) and Public Health England (PHE) if you are in the UK. UK Government advice for educational settings can be found here. ASIC Global institutions should follow all official guidance and government rules and regulations in your country. As the situation continues to change daily, please regularly check for updates and communicate your response and advice to students accordingly.

Provide regular updates.

Establish a channel for updating students with your latest position, for example, a dedicated webpage and advise them to check there for all news in the first instance. Make sure your students are directed to this from other channels of communication. Clearly signpost who to contact if they have any questions.

Have a dedicated FAQ page.

Provide answers for the most likely questions your students will be concerned with, such as “I need to self-isolate because I have coronavirus symptoms, what do I do about attending lessons?” “Will teaching and examinations/assessments be impacted?”

If students communicate that they are struggling with their mental health, or you suspect their workload or confinement is impacting their wellbeing, provide guidance where you can – and direct them to where they can find help.

Point them to where they can find help with anything that isn’t covered in the FAQs.

Communicate clearly.

As we all react to a situation which will change over the coming weeks, and possibly months, it is important to accept that many solutions will be a work in progress. If you encounter issues along the way, ensure that you communicate clearly, and as quickly as you can, with your students. Monitor the situation and be ready to take further measures to protect their health and wellbeing. Use your existing online-learning platforms, update your institution’s website, and use social media and e-mail to communicate. Be aware that things you think are obvious may not be to your students, particularly international students. Be as clear as possible and have someone available to answer student questions and explain anything which needs further clarification.

Online learning platforms.

Platforms that you are already using will most likely be the easiest way to communicate course information to your students, as well as being the portal for their online learning. Make sure you share new additions to these existing resources with everyone; including resources which demonstrate how to effectively use them. Unfortunately, there will be equity issues, for example, some may not have access to technology at home to engage in virtual learning. Please do everything you can to support these students and find other solutions for them to continue to be able to engage in their studies, or return to them easily when they are able.

Reflect and learn.

Use this time to address your current pedagogical practices and think about how changes made now can become opportunities going forward. For instance, online learning can have benefits for students who struggle with face-to-face interaction and classroom confidence. Your institution can use this period to think about how to serve all your students better in the future.

Be patient. Be kind.

This is not a situation anyone would have asked for, and everyone will have personal struggles running alongside the world crisis. Remind students coping with the current situation that we are all in this together. Signpost where they can access health and wellbeing support. If students communicate that they are struggling with their mental health, or you suspect their workload or confinement is impacting their wellbeing, provide guidance where you can – and direct them to where they can find help. There will also be times where communicating effectively is difficult, as we deal with the challenges of working in a way which is not the norm; remember to be patient and kind in your communications, another person sits on the other side.

Useful links:

UNESCO: Distance learning solutions for schools

Microsoft Teams: a guide for educators

Microsoft Teams remote-learning resources for educators

JISC guide for educators

JISC blog: Tales of a reluctant online educator

Tony Bates: advice for online educators

THE: Will coronavirus make online education go viral?

Using virtual reality to offset travel restrictions

LSE: online resources for universities

Advance HE: Learning in the time of Covid-19