UCLA’s teaching and learning community is committed to helping instructors prepare for the next few weeks of teaching with the possibility that our graduate student and postdoctoral scholar instructors may strike. Acknowledging the critical role they play as our partners in instruction, our goal is to support you in sustaining a constructive learning environment for your students. You have already heroically responded to the demands of adapting your workload due to teaching and doing research through the pandemic, and it is by no means imperative that you follow any of these suggestions. If you are considering making changes to your course in response to these events, the teaching and learning centers are here to support you with individual consultations, and hope that you will be mindful of your own needs, your work/life balance and well being.
This is a collaboration of UCLA Bruin Learn Center of Excellence, the Center for Advancement of Teaching, the Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences, and Online Teaching and Learning (OTL).
Questions about canceling class or making it remote or asynchronous
Instructors have customary discretion and autonomy to adapt their courses to strike circumstances while honoring Academic Senate regulations, just as they have discretion and autonomy to address other events or schedule conflicts throughout the quarter.
As stated in the UCLA Guidance for Research during this time: “Consider that members of the campus community and the public may prefer to work remotely or attend campus events remotely to avoid crossing picket lines.”
Academic Senate Faculty have customary discretion and autonomy to adapt their courses to strike circumstances while honoring Academic Senate regulations. Generally, our faculty can honor strikes, so long as they are not supervisors/managers under HEERA (Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act), but may risk some loss of pay. Lecturers are required to abide by the terms of their collective bargaining agreement, including Article 35 (No Strikes/No Lockouts), which provides that Unit 18 lecturers may not cancel classes, withhold work, or interfere with the operations of administration. Lecturers should check with their union for further guidance.
Students enrolled in courses, independent study or otherwise, should continue to do the activities associated with those courses and be graded in response to their academic progress regardless of employment or strike participation. Faculty may still communicate with striking students regarding academic activities.
Determine how to clearly communicate to students
Communicate clear plans for the course each week.
Consider communicating course-wide messages using BruinLearn Announcements.
Determine an approach for handling student questions: e.g. create BruinLearn Discussion forums for student questions and answers; consider creating specific topics for students to post to. If using email, you can ask students to use standard subject headings that help you most easily see and respond to their question.
As much as possible, use communication tools and ways of teaching and assessing students (in person, online, etc.) that you have been using throughout the term and that are familiar to you and your students.
Note that Bruin Learn notifications for instructors are turned OFF by default so you will want to plan to check your site frequently for discussion activity or adjust notifications.
Be sure to communicate with students in multiple ways about how you will support their learning. Tell them in person, by email, AND on your Bruin Learn site. You may want to post a short video describing how class will work during the strike.
Give students enough time to plan studying and commuting accordingly.
- If it’s about attending sections, indicate that on a weekly basis at the beginning of the week (create a Plan of Action in Bruin Learn).
- If it’s about shifting the format of a large assessment, we recommend providing at least a week’s notice; even if the situation changes, we recommend staying with the original shift.
- Provide at least a week to complete any other assignments.
If TAs are not available, let students know how to best communicate with you
Plan ahead so that you can organize communication (especially emails) efficiently. For example, ask students to use standardized subject lines such as: “course name | question about <topic>”. If you do this, provide students with categories for the subject lines (admin issue, absence, etc).
If possible, use tools already familiar to students to facilitate communication to students and for student to student collaboration.
- If those don’t exist, set up a tool (e.g. BruinLearn Discussion Forum or UCLA Slack) and provide students with guidance on how to use it. Check out CAT’s Course Communication Tool Comparison Guide for tips.
- Encourage students to ask you questions in the online discussion forum or help each other with homework in a chat. (You may need to redirect students who email with questions to the forum or chat.)
- To improve efficiency, consider creating forums or chat threads for different categories of questions (e.g. administrative, concepts from the week, grading questions, tips to practice self-care).
Plan for instruction assuming tas will not be present
You may not know ahead of time whether your TAs will be present (and based on EVC/P Hunt’s announcement, you cannot legally ask them whether they plan to participate in the strike), so plan for sections as though TAs will not be present.
- Before the strike, ensure your TAs are caught up with their job tasks. Remember that you cannot ask them to work over their allotted time, but you can ask them to prioritize that grades are up to date.
- Note: Non-striking TAs should not be given any additional work to cover TAs that are striking.
Decide what to focus on: What are your critical learning goals and outcomes?
Identify what is MOST important for students to learn to successfully complete your course and which assessments are key measures of that learning. What do you want your students to remember from your class, five years from now? What do you want your students to be able to do/know at the end of the quarter?
Organize your teaching around only those things, and put all else aside.
How can you adapt instruction?
If you’re not planning to lead the TA sections yourself, here are alternative approaches.
- Post lecture notes/recordings, so that students can review content independently or use them to complete assignments. You can record your live sections or upload a recording to Bruin Learn.
- Create a structured online discussion forum (by section groups, if appropriate) to provide an online space for students to interact asynchronously. You can encourage students to help each other with homework, complete group projects, ask administrative questions, and share tips to practice self-care.
- If not able to provide feedback on practice problems from section, consider somehow providing solutions.
- Explore more options on this UCLA Ideas and Recommendations for Alternative Assessments doc.
If part of students’ grades depends on meetings that you don’t lead, decide how any remaining portion of the grade tied to those meetings will be earned and communicate that to students.
Post lecture notes/recordings on the sections that you don’t lead, so that students can review content independently or use them to complete assignments. You can record your live sections or upload a recording to Bruin Learn. If you post your recordings to Bruin Learn, you can also update captions within Bruin Learn.
Students can submit “exit papers” as they are leaving class (e.g. indicating a main takeaway or remaining questions from the lesson); for larger classes, students can submit through BruinLearn in a “Graded Survey” that assigns points just for submission.
You can create a self-grading online quiz with multiple attempts for student mastery, and provide information about where students can find relevant information. You can choose to explicitly make this collaborative to foster discussion.
Here is an array of options to consider depending on what is the best fit for your course and time:
- Create a structured online discussion (by section groups, if appropriate) to provide an online space for students to interact asynchronously.
- Encourage students to help each other with homework, complete group projects, ask administrative questions, and share tips to practice self-care in a Bruin Learn Discussion Forum (and allow liking posts) or Slack chat.
- Annotate a reading together, asynchronously, by asking (section groups of) students to comment on it in Google Docs (check sharing permissions) or using a software such as Perusall.
- Explore more options on this UCLA Ideas and Recommendations for Alternative Assessments doc.
- If you offer in-person office hours, consider opening a Zoom room at the same time to accommodate students who are unable to make it in-person.
- Consider Zoom-based group office hours so that multiple students can attend without worrying about space.
- If you host multiple office hours, consider creating themes for some of the hours (e.g. how to organize a paper, solve difficult problems for exams, review a complex topic).
- If you expect large groups, consider recording the office hour session and sharing it with all students.
Create a way for students to submit questions about exams and organize questions/responses thematically using tools that are familiar to you and/or your students (e.g. Google docs, google forms or a discussion board).
- Encourage students to use or choose from common categories of questions (i.e., the “big ideas” that you have defined as your key learning goals and outcomes) so that you can sort questions into groups as you put together responses.
- Consider different formats for hosting “review sessions” that provide all students with access: create an FAQ, video response, reply to discussion forum questions, live review session on Zoom and record/share.
- Avoid hosting review sessions that will not be accessible to all students (e.g. review sessions during any time other than the scheduled class times, unless recorded and shared).
How can you adapt grading?
Ensure that you have up-to-date access to all course materials and grade data for your courses in BruinLearn before the strike.
To reduce grading, consider self-assessment, peer grading based on instructor rubric (where each student grades 2-3 others), consolidate smaller assignments where possible, and/or have students complete work in teams instead of individually
To the extent possible, stay consistent with your Syllabus in terms of assessments and weighting of grades. If you decide to make changes, we recommend providing at least a week’s notice; even if the situation changes, we recommend staying with the original shift.
If homework grading will be delayed, consider posting sample solutions or annotated examples of exemplary work.
Consider providing a short video of “common successes and pitfalls” that you can glean from quickly scanning students’ homework.
If easier for you, consider recording audio/video feedback comments for student assignment submissions in Bruin Learn.
Dropping assignments may shift the weighting to different categories, which can in turn shift students grades in an unexpected way, so we recommend any of the following:
- Assume 100% for anything submitted that did not get graded (because some students may count on doing better on later assignments).
- Provide students options for what to weigh more and/or whether to drop an assignment (but this may be too much work in large courses).
- Consider using tools integrated into BruinLearn so that they get (more) automatically graded and become part of the gradebook.
- Consider using Gradescope to grade items using rubric – more info here.
- Identify what is essential for summative assessments and what formats of assessments will be reasonable to grade (multiple-choice or short-answer exams, etc.).
- If you are changing the format of an exam from short answer to multiple choice, let students know and provide them with sample questions.
- Use Rubrics to grade more effectively and equitably. You can ask students to self-evaluate their submitted work using the rubrics.
- Have students grade one another using Bruin Learn Peer Grading tool.
If you use something like a final paper in a course, consider adapting the assignment so that the grading workload is more manageable, such as having students write the outline of the final paper, indicating what evidence or data from the course they will use and how it is connected to the paper’s thesis or argument. If you choose to do so, provide students with a strong example of this approach, and with the rubric you will use to grade their work.
If you use something like a presentation in a course, consider asking students to record and use a rubric to expedite grading.
Use tools integrated into BruinLearn so that they get automatically graded and become part of the gradebook.
- The following tools have assessment capabilities and are integrated into Bruin Learn: Assignments, Discussions, Quizzes and Surveys, Gradescope, iClicker, Hypothesis, and Perusall.
- Set up weighted grades in Bruin Learn to help calculate final course grade from graded assessments in Bruin Learn.
- Import final Bruin Learn grades to MyUCLA Gradebook.
If you grade attendance, consider creating a Google form that can be shared with the teaching team, to capture students who might be absent, instead of searching for emails in your inbox. Also be aware of the policies concerning students being absent for COVID-related reasons.
Where to go for more help or info (technical or pedagogical)?
Local Pedagogical support
- Center for the Advancement of Teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers campus-wide pedagogical support, classroom technology.
- OTL (Online Teaching & Learning): email@example.com. Provides campus faculty and academic leaders with the experience, knowledge, and support to incorporate educational technologies into blended/hybrid and online courses.
- CEILS (Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences): firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers STEM-centered pedagogical support and Anti-Racist Educator workshops.
Some of these tips and strategies have been adopted from the UCLA Multiple Modality – Teaching Resources + Recommendations. Visit Bruin Learn Resource site and Bruin Learn’s knowledge base for additional support articles specific to Bruin Learn.
We want to acknowledge UC Santa Barbara Office of Teaching and Learning, UC Irvine Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation and UC Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning, who inspired some of the guidance in this document.