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Virtual Engagement Toolbox

Programming in a Virtual World

As we continue in an environment of social distancing and virtual learning, there is significant need for campus units and departments to offer programming and engagement opportunities to help our students stay healthy, happy, stimulated, and growing.

We hope that the resources you find on this page inspire you to launch new web-based programming series, host nature walks in the Ithaca area (while enforcing public health guidelines), and create numerous virtual spaces for unstructured social interaction amongst students in your programs, majors, and theme communities.

Instructors and Students: The Learning Strategies Center created guides for students to help in the transition to and continuation of online learning:

How to learn remotely (with a focus on having a growth mindset and being flexible)
A check list for remote learning technology (what your students need and need to now)
A resource for families about how to support their students' remote learning

Engaging Virtually

As our university continues to engage virtually, there are many best practices to help guide you in the creation of your virtual programs. Below are tools and questions to ask yourself that will sharpen your programming so that it is equitable, accessible, and successful.

Consider EQUITY in creating a virtual program. What questions should I ask myself as a programmer?

  • Programmers should consider what access barriers students may face.  For example, is the software, platform, or app that you want to use free to use and available in all countries?
  • Programmers should apply Inclusive Classroom approaches and include a clear expectation for civil discourse.
  • Programmers should consider how to most effectively market or message so that the opportunity reaches the broadest audience for whom it is appropriate.  Ideas include, e-lists, and social media.
  • Consider time zones when deciding on dates and times! Many students are in Ithaca, but there are many that are all around the world. Generally speaking, events that take place between 7-10am and 7-10pm EST.

How do I ensure that the virtual program I am creating is ACCESSIBLE?

Intuitive: The layout of the program is simple, consistent, and predictable

Perceivable: The content is designed so that it can be perceived by a wide range of users, regardless of disability

Navigable: Program navigation does not assume that the student is using a specific device, such as mouse. A user can navigate program using the keyboard alone or with the use of assistive technology in ways that are equally effective

Captioning: Many video conferencing tools are capable of utilizing closed captioning technology. For people who are deaf/hard of hearing, or with certain cognitive disabilities, closed captioning provides equitable access to the programming content.Screen Readers: It is important to remember that documents shared during your meeting should be accessible to screen readers. TIP: Documents live streamed are not accessible to screen readers. If you plan to livestream documents to be read visually by the group, you may want to also add a link to the document in the chat box or share the document ahead of time.

Apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to your programming.  Cornell’s Center for Teaching Innovation has a resource library, including Universal Design & Technology. As you move to remote programming, remember to consider time zone differences, and ask yourself whether you can you incorporate recording or varied time offerings.

How do I ensure that my program will be VIABLE?

The most important thing that you can do to ensure the viability of your program is to include students in the planning process!  Their answers to key questions may be different than your own.  Ask yourself (and your students):  Who is your audience, and from their perspective is the program fun?  Does your program help build community?  Does your program leverage our students’ amazing abilities (e.g., tap their creativity in all its forms)?  Does your program support our students’ health and wellness?  

In terms of practical matters, ensure that you have the appropriate technology to support your program.  Look first to the tools already at your disposal and supported by Cornell IT (e.g., Canvas, Chatter, Campus Groups).  Also consider whether you will need oversight and moderation of any posts or comments, and if so ensure that you have adequate staffing.

What other institutions might I look to for models of virtual programming?

Walden University conducts mentoring programs onlineArizona State University has moved their LEED training for student leaders online and conducts its New Student Organization Information Sessions by Zoom.

Resources for Instructors

Newsletters, websites, and best practices

Educause Quarterly. Best practices in online learning.

Boettcher. Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online

Grant and Thornton. Best Practices in Undergraduate Adult-Centered Online Learning

MERLOT. The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching.

The Quality Matters eLearning Marketplace is a free, searchable database built to serve the broad QM community with an easy-to-use eLearning product/service directory organized within the 8 general standards of the rubric as well as by user and product categories.

Utilizing social media to increase quality of discussion

PEPnet offers free online courses. Of interest are the courses on accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing students.

Faculty Focus online publication with valuable information for faculty, academic deans, and department chairs. 

Quality Matters (QM) faculty-centered, peer review-based process that is designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components. QM rubrics are downloadable.Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository

Resources from Chronicle of Higher Education

6 ways to be more inclusive in virtual classroom

Building community in a Zoom classroom

External Resources for Support

When you start developing your programming concepts, please check out these additional external resources to extend your knowledge and skills in virtual engagement.

Is there anywhere online where I can share ideas and learn from others about how higher education is engaging virtually with their community?

There are many ways to connect with others to ask and share ideas during this time. Here are a couple communities and resource-sharing opportunities you may find valuable: 

  • Facebook Group: “The Virtual Event Ideas Community” | Let's stay connected and engaged! The Virtual Event Ideas Community is a place to share best practices in creating, marketing, and hosting virtual events, telecommuting tips, and it is a place to share ideas about how YOU are staying connected to your colleagues and students.
  • Facebook Group: “Higher ed and the coronavirus” | “In this group you can ask others questions, tell stories about how your college or university is reacting to the virus, and share practical tips with members.”
  • Crowdsourcing: COVID-19 Crowdsourcing (remote learning, community building, etc.). A higher education-specific page to exchange ideas and resources in specific areas. For example, two resources listed are Virtual Team builders and a Spring 2020 Presence Free Engagement Guide.

What are some creative ways to engage virtually?