This site is an archive of CoLab resources from spring and summer of 2020 during the COVID19 pandemic. It is shared here for archival purposes, and, over time, links to external resources and pages are likely to break.

Emergency Remote Learning Quickstart Guide

Key Principles

  • Let it Go

    What can your course do without? Focus on what most matters.

  • Keep it Simple

    Don’t try to create a whole online course now. Don’t try to learn lots of new tech. Don’t try to replicate your face-to-face course. Go with what is most simple for you and for your students. Start with the Rule of 2's.

  • Be Compassionate and Flexible

    You and your students are under stress. Some of us are likely to get sick. Many of us are likely to care for people who get sick. Choose to be kind, choose to be generous, choose to be compassionate, choose to be flexible. We are all in this emergency together.

  • Adjust for Asynchronicity

    Too many things are being disrupted for us to try to replicate our face-to-face course schedule. People will have emergencies, tech will fail, our stress will affect our ability to follow instructions and plans. Don’t try to hold, for instance, two 75-minute classes a week—that will just create frustration for you and your students. Instead, look at what your most important work is and set a few deadlines for students to do it by.

  • Be as Present as You Can Be

    Research shows that remote course delivery benefits from a sense of presence from the instructor. This doesn’t require lots of new techniques from you. Simple things like emailing your students a few times a week to check in and offer updates is valuable. Providing individual feedback as much as you can will make a big difference. It is as much a matter of attitude as anything. Your class can be a community, and in a time of social distancing, we need community as much as we ever did.

First Steps

1. Email your students and put a statement on Moodle. 

It’s important for students to know not only that the course will be changing but that you are currently working on it. (If you are farther along than that, give them some first steps.) It’s important that your students hear from you ASAP; this will help relieve some of their anxiety. Be honest with them about this being uncharted territory and the situation being in flux.


2. You don’t need to decide everything right now.

You should focus on:

    • What are the bedrock, absolutely necessary elements of my course, the things the students absolutely must learn?
    • How can I adjust the grading system for the new reality? Might contract grading work? Are there forms of ungrading that will help in this situation while still maintaining fairness? Your students are going to be feeling intense anxiety about the world; we should put effort toward reducing the anxiety our grading schemes create.
    • How am I myself most comfortable communicating with my students remotely?

Use our Rule of 2’s worksheet to help think through these questions more fully.


3. Seek help getting answers to any questions you don’t feel confident you can answer yourself.

See the resources we’ve created for you here on the CoLab website. Feel free to email us or join us in the Zoom room.

Don’t be shy! You are not alone in your questions, challenges, and struggles!


4. Communicate clearly, simply, and compassionately with your students.

Let your students know the new expectations. Consider giving them a checklist to show them what they will need to do to complete the course in this emergency situation.


5. Be good to yourself.

Letting go of course elements may make you feel like you are not being a good teacher, that you are not delivering what your students paid for. Right now, we don’t need you to be a great teacher of content, we need you to be a person of compassion and flexibility who will help the Plymouth State community stay together in a time of crisis. We want you and your students to be healthy. Let’s show our students that education and knowledge start from a place of caring.

But you also need to take care of yourself. This is a stressful situation. First and foremost, do what you need to do to stay physically and mentally healthy to the best of your ability right now.