The #feesmustfall protests are happening across universities in SA. As I write this, UCT academics are preparing to march to parliament to urge government to provide additional funds to sustain higher education. As many lecturers may be feeling out of touch with teaching and learning at this point, it is highly likely that students are feeling disconnected too. So what can lecturers do?
You could try sending students a voice message using Vocaroo or even making a short narrated presentation using Screencast-o-matic Both of these are free tools which allow you to create an mp3 or video which can then be added to an announcement on an LMS like Sakai (Vula at UCT) or Moodle. Or even shared via social media, WhatsApp or email. Send a few words that acknowledge diverse perspectives and updates on the current situation. Keep your communication neutral and supportive. If you have assignments due for your course or any formative feedback you could share these too. I imagine there will be many extensions. Communicate such processes with patience and understanding. Some of my colleagues and I have sent personalised voice recordings with formative feedback to postgrad students and they reported feeling more connected hearing their lecturer’s voice.
During this difficult time feeling connected is vital so I urge fellow educators to think ‘out of the box’ about how we might support students, foster connection and create spaces for dialogue. Personalise official institutional communications, as these can be experiended by students as bureaucratic and alienating. Your voice counts and your students are likely to trust you more and find your words more accessible. As many of us are working from home this is also the ideal time to get creative and experiment with how we might use the tools at our disposal to facilitate and support students’ learning experiences. We need to come up with innovative ways to do business as usual in unusual ways. Feel free to share some of your strategies for how you are doing so with your students.