Grey concrete bench with the word compassion engraved on it.

Photo by Dave Lowe on Unsplash

By Carolyn Ives and Catharine Dishke Hondzel

As the fall term comes to an end, we’re reflecting on all of the amazing things we’ve witnessed over the last several months. So many faculty worked incredibly hard to ensure their students would have an opportunity to learn as well as virtually as in a face-to-face classroom. We’ve seen boundless energy, commitment, and care go into this work. But we’ve also seen how tired many people are now as a result—including students.

If we’ve learned anything over these last few months, it’s this: Less is more. Simple is better. It’s better for faculty, and it’s better for students. We learned this through offering the Facilitating Learning in Moodle course this summer. Each of the three iterations was simplified and pared down from the one before, but still each one contained elements that were overwhelming for some participants. If we were to offer it again, it would include far less content.

What might “Less is More” look like in your course?

  • It might look like the elimination of any “nice to know” information. You may opt to stick to the essential content that students absolutely need to be able to achieve the course’s learning outcomes.
  • It may look like integrating as much asynchronous activity as possible for your context. While this may not work in every course, students will appreciate the flexibility. You may also appreciate it as the winter term gets busier.
  • It may look like simplified course Moodle sites. You may opt to reduce content, but add clear instructions when appropriate. Also, you don’t have to use every awesome technological tool possible to create a solid course.
  • It may also look like the creation of recognizable patterns within your course. You may find it helpful to repeat content and activity patterns for each week; regular routines and class rituals can be reassuring for your students and use less of your own bandwidth, as you won’t have to make as many decisions throughout the term.
  • It may look like flexibility for assignment deadlines. If this is something that works for your context, you might find it helpful, as it reduces pressure on students and helps spread out your marking load.
  • Most of all, it might look like compassion—for yourself and your students.

Compassion can look like many different things, too. It might mean you have to acknowledge that mistakes are going to happen; deadlines might be missed; and instructions might be misinterpreted. But everyone is carrying a heavier load right now, so reach out to people who care about you to help you unburden and maybe even find humour in the situation.

So simplify if you can. We’ll be working on doing the same.