The Personal Academic Tutoring website has now been updated with new resources for staff, including a new section on Online Tutoring. Other resources on the site are being updated to take account of the move to remote teaching.
There are plenty of tools available to enable us to communicate both synchronously and asynchronously with our students. However, do remember that your students will be dealing with many challenges at the moment. Like us, they may be coping with the emotional impact of social distancing, worrying about their own or family members’ health; caring for (and trying to homeschool) young children; struggling to access food and medicines; and they may not have good access to the internet nor a private work space, or be competing with other family members for the only computer in the home.
So concentrate on reassuring your students and helping to set realistic expectations for yourself and them. If you haven’t already done so, try to send a brief message to each of your tutees, and ask them to let you what their current situation is, what they most need from you at the moment and how they would prefer to communicate.
It may be that a brief phone or video call to say hello would be welcome. You can video call using the Chat feature in Teams.
However, after that emails may be the most practical way to conduct more detailed discussions, as they allow students to access them from any device and at a time that suits them. At the same time, be clear about your own boundaries – you could add a line to your email signature detailing when you will be able to respond or advertising virtual ‘office hours’. If you know you are not going to be available at any point due to caring commitments or illness, make sure your students know who they can contact instead.
Advice from AdvanceHE “Unless you already communicate with your students using social media apps, such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook groups etc. this is probably not the time to start. Not all of your students will be willing to sign up to the T&Cs required by these ‘free’ apps, and it may become increasingly difficult and stressful to keep up with numerous communication channels, it is harder to identify students who are not engaging and the app provider may decide to change their T&Cs in light of the expected increase in demand.”