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Paper resilience during Omicron

With Omicron circulating, staff and students may become unwell, need to isolate, or manage additional work or whānau responsibilities at short notice. We have prepared a list of reminders and suggestions that may help you increase the resilience of your papers during this period.

Please add your own suggestions to our online ideas board.

You might also like to watch the recording of Tweaking your teaching for Covid times: Making things easier for you and your students (slides available).

1 Communicate with your students

  • Discuss with your students that there may be changes throughout the trimester and that they will need to use flexibility and resilience; Reassure them that you will work out solutions to any issues as they arise.
  • During Covid disruptions, students who are new to the university can find it hard to make social and study connections. Encourage them to create a paper-based social media group, and share the details in class.
  • Some staff use a course map as an overview of what students should do each week. The map can also help if colleagues need to cover for each other. Sample coursemap template.
  • Consider adding a forum for asking general questions in Moodle so that FAQs are seen by all students and responding can be shared between colleagues.
  • Share a list of helpful contacts or the Learner Support Hub,  and highlight the useful links on Moodle. The location of useful links is included in the introductory video Tour de Moodle 2022.

2 Have your equipment ready

  • Take key equipment (e.g. laptop, headset, webcam) home every day.
  • Back up teaching materials regularly, either to the cloud, e.g. Google Drive/Moodle, or a USB key/portable hard drive, so that they are available anywhere.

3 Build in flexibility to your assessment design

  • Allowing students some assessment choices makes it easier for them to work around absences and additional burdens. It also reduces your workload in granting extensions and spreads out marking to minimise the effects of staff absences.
  • Consider how you could lighten student workload if they are unable to complete assessments on time. (Giving extensions may help in the short-term, but may also result in unsustainable student and staff workloads later in the trimester.)
  • Examples of flexible assessments include: the best three pieces of five counting towards the final grade; flexible or longer or switchable deadlines; providing assignment questions early so that students submit earlier if they wish; the choice to pre-record presentations or present in-class.
  • Consider how assessments such as group work or peer marking might be impacted if a lot of students are absent. (e.g. longer windows for providing feedback or the option to work individually).
  • Consider how you might reduce marking time in 2022, e.g. reducing length or number of assignments, incorporating self-marking options such as Perusall for readings or Moodle quizzes.
  • Review Keep Teaching during Covid 19 advice on moving teaching and assessment online.

4 Plan what you will do if you need to cancel or change a class

  • Decide how you would communicate a change and who could do this for you if you are on leave.
  • Think about what could be combined, cut or re-ordered if need be.
  • Identify materials from previous years that could be repurposed at short notice. (Try to do this well in advance because you may need assistance to access older materials.)
  • Consider preparing a pre-recorded lecture or guest lecture or some self-paced activities such as Moodle lessons which could replace live lectures.
  • Have backup plans for classes that have to be done face-to-face, e.g. alternative dates..

5 Work with others - but in a low risk way

  • Be in touch with a colleague or two to discuss your plans and how you may help each other.
  • Have a plan for whether a colleague can communicate with your students, if only to give instructions for self-paced work or what should happen if you need to be absent. Set up access to required resources including each other’s Moodle papers (ask your departmental administrator to give you both Moodle access via the Paper Association Tool.)
  • Consider pooling materials with a colleague, or at department or research area level.
  • Try not to meet face-to-face groups of staff who teach on the same programme, to avoid you all needing to isolate or take leave at the same time.

6 Get help with teaching design early