The ACE 

A guide for decision-making and professional development planning during times of crisis.

Supporting First-Year Students Online

Resources for courses that teach only or primarily first-year students who are new to the campus community.

Complications & Connections

Complications: Some faculty will be teaching introductory, general education, or seminar courses that have a significant proportion of first-year students. The first year of college is always especially precarious with students having to quickly transition academically, socially, and emotionally and, with universities’ increased attention to rates of retention, there is always pressure associated with teaching this population of students. With the threat of COVID-19 and changes having to be made to our traditional face-to-face classes, first-year students might grapple with feelings of isolation and frustration, experience academic difficulties and issues of miscommunication with peers and professors, and face more obstacles in their college persistence journey than previous cohorts. We have collected resources for faculty who are teaching first-year students during this tumultuous time, particularly emphasizing taking time to grow and nurture community among students.

Connections to ACE: For faculty, Connection is an important value in ACE to consider in these situations. Students who have been on campus for years of traditional, face-to-face classes have had the opportunity to find their place in their college community and build relationships with peers, professors, and staff, while first-year students haven’t had the chance to make their connections. Forging connections will be difficult in an online or partially online environment. “Fostering Classroom Community” is a starting point for focusing efforts on deliberately building opportunities for the classroom community to emerge and flourish by starting with building trust. “The Internet as Classroom and Community” discusses how students can be encouraged to work on the open web and how your classroom community can be widened to include other students, academics, and scholars. 

Equity is another relevant connection to ACE when supporting first-year students. For first-generation college students and students part of minority groups especially, persisting at a four-year university comes with a multitude of obstacles. Considering ways to make your teaching more equitable and communicating yourself as a resource for basic needs, university processes, and a connector to other on-campus resources can do a lot to show that students have an ally should they need support. Ultimately, first-year students will benefit from an approach of compassion as they will need mentors they feel comfortable reaching out to for help.

Resources for Teaching First-Year Students Online

About the Workbook

The Workbook is an online space for you to record your reflections and assignments for the Workshop.

Participants at PSU will be using an Office 365 Word Document (available via the “Files” section of the “General” channel in the ACE Workshop Teams space).

Participants at other institutions should check with their Workshop Facilitator(s) about where to work on their Workbook.

About the Discussion Forum

The Discussion Forum is an online space where all the members of the Workshop can share ideas and reflections and build community

Participants at PSU will be using the ACE Workshop Teams space).

Participants at other institutions should check with their Workshop Facilitator(s) about where to access their Discussion Forum.

About the VidSpace

The VidSpace is an online space for synchronous video meetings among participants (that can also be recorded and shared for asynchronous access).

Participants at PSU will be using Zoom (available via the Zoom tab in the ACE Workshop Teams space).

Participants at other institutions should check with their Workshop Facilitator(s) about where to access their VidSpace. 

About the ACE “Institutional Level”

The ACE Framework is primarily designed for faculty who are readjusting their curriculum during times of regional, national, or global crisis. But in order for the work that faculty do with their assignments and courses to be most effective, it should be aligned with the institutional mission, which should guide policy and structural planning related to curriculum and teaching.

The institutional level of the framework is a reminder to faculty that if their adjustments at the assignment- or course-level are difficult to operationalize successfully, it could be due to larger policies and structures that are mis-aligned with the ACE Framework; advocacy may be warranted to bring the institution into alignment.

The institutional level of the framework is also a call to university policy-making committees, administrators, Boards of Trustees, and legislators that there is much work to be done to prepare university policies and structures to support students and faculty who are learning and teaching through challenging times.