Week 8: Orientation for The New Normal

By August 5, 2020April 5th, 2024Smeal Academy Newsletter

Smeal Academy: Fall 2020 Readiness – Week 8

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip everyone with best practices and strategies for teaching, learning, and technology to ensure the Smeal community is prepared to respond to the unique challenges of Fall 2020. Between now and the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester, we will be sending weekly emails with practical tips and information, providing live sessions, and holding virtual consultations.   

This week, we share resources and strategies that will help ensure a successful course launch and first week of class as we navigate this health crisis together. The following Remote and Online Teaching Guide for Instructors includes a number of helpful step-by-step guides.

As you finalize your course and prepare to open the Canvas space to students, consider what information and details students require in order to be successful. We recognize that no one really wants to redesign their course(s) or do more work than you have already taken on with COVID-19 changes. However, ensuring that your course is easy to navigate with a consistent design and providing online details about the tools, processes, and procedures used in the course will, in the long run, save you a lot of work (as well as help you avoid a flooded email inbox).

If you’re not sure where to start with your course design, Smeal’s Remote Teaching Canvas courses (organized by weeks and by modules) offer some layouts and resources that you can copy and use in your courses. With so many variables surrounding this pandemic, it is critical that courses have a clear and consistent navigation. The way students navigate your course online will overwhelmingly affect how they perceive their learning experience. Use your Canvas home page as a “North Star” for students. It should guide students to where they want or need to go in the course. Additionally, as you organize your course, imagine if a student landed in the “middle” of your course instead of the home page (this happens frequently when students click on assignments in their Canvas Dashboard “to do” lists). Your course should still have a clear navigation path in place for students to easily find what they need regardless of where they are in the course.

Current News

COVID Safety Guidance and Facility Updates

Are you curious about how your classroom(s) will be configured to accommodate for COVID-19 protocols? This August 3, 2020 PSU News story states that “Penn State will utilize plexiglass barriers, signage and various other measures, as appropriate, to provide for social distancing and other health and safety needs. Penn State also has purchased 500,000 cloth face masks and 1.5 million procedure masks that will be distributed across campuses to students and employees; several thousand additional hand-sanitizer stations will be placed in high-traffic areas; enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be employed in University facilities; and classrooms, common areas, study spaces, workspaces and other shared locations will be reconfigured with social-distancing principles in mind.” Instructions for how to view room photos are available.

Face masks and social distancing are required of all students, faculty, and staff on campus. “If a student ultimately refuses to comply after being warned, the employee should immediately file a report with the Office of Student Conduct and notify their supervisor.”

Fall Student Communication Recommendations 

Faculty received details outlining recommendations for communications to our students based on course instructional mode. The email recommends a timeline of August 3 (or earlier) for an initial communication to students via LionPATH or email. For details outlined in this email and communication templates, please refer to this document linked on the University’s Keep Teaching website. 

Upcoming Live Sessions

  • Assessment Strategies for Remote Learning: This session will explore strategies and best practices for assessment when some or all of your students are learning remotely. Join us Wednesday, August 5 from 2 to 3 p.m. via Zoom. 

  • You Got This – Prepping Your Course for the New Normal: This session will review strategies for your first week, orientation tips and tricks, academic integrity/online honor code resources, course communication, and Canvas navigation considerations to ensure a successful course launch. Join us Wednesday, August 12 from 10 to 11 a.m. via Zoom.

NOTE: Recordings and resources from previous sessions can be found on our eLDIG Website.

Tips of the Week

Tip #1:  Create a Course Orientation in Canvas. Because most courses will have some form of remote instruction and students are likely to have a number of questions, we recommend adding an orientation to your course. If you don’t already have one, you are welcome to import and customize the orientation from the Smeal Remote Teaching Canvas space.

Tip #2:  Check Your Syllabus to ensure that you have made adjustments to reflect any course changes related to COVID-19. See University guidance on what to include in course syllabi about the mask requirement.


Ask eLDIG/RIIT – Open Consultations

Zoom Hours:

  • Thursday, July 9, 1 to 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 16, 10 to 11 a.m.
  • More to be announced


Check out the eLDIG website for more resources and support.

Contact Us

Email us at: course-support@smeal.psu.edu or fill out our Remote Teaching Support form.