August 9, 2021

6 ways to support student academic success this autumn

The last year and a half have been incredibly challenging. We’ve all experienced trauma and uncertainty and absorbed an enormous amount of stress, fatigue and wear and tear.

Yet, through it all, dedicated instructors like you have gone above and beyond to support our students and help them succeed. So, thank you.

Your hard work, flexibility, empathy and creativity have been vital to student success, and this semester will be no different.

As we prepare to return to campus for the autumn 2021 semester—and as we face uncertainty related to the Delta variant of COVID-19— we know that students are still feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed and a whole host of other emotions, and many of you are feeling the same.

Here are a few tips for how you can set yourself and your students up for success this semester as we continue to navigate COVID-related challenges.

Thanks to many across the university, including the Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning, the Office of Distance Education and eLearning, the Office of Student Academic Success, the Office of Student Life and the Suicide Prevention Program, for putting these resources together.

  1. Acknowledge that this transition may be challenging—and adjust your expectations accordingly. Just as it was challenging for everyone to transition into the pandemic, it will be complicated to transition out. We might be tempted to expect "full steam ahead" for ourselves and our students, but we should also be realistic. Returning to campus is going to be another big adjustment, and just like last year, many of the same messages apply: Be compassionate with yourselves and your students, set realistic expectations and prioritize the most important learning objectives and experiences.
  2. Use what you’ve learned in the past year and a half. Did COVID force new ways to teach and engage with your students? Consider reflecting on what worked and could continue or be improved upon (in small increments of change) rather than reverting to pre-COVID instruction. For example, if you’re teaching an in-person course, consider using occasional video supplements to your course—either to set up a high-stakes assignment or explain more difficult concepts. Videos allow students to rewind and review concepts and help them understand more complex or novel assignments. Using Carmen to both provide weekly announcements and maintain regular communication with students can still be quite helpful. This helped manage our classrooms during the pandemic and can continue to do so as we transition out of it.
  3. Familiarize yourself with mental health resources—and share them with students. In addition to the COVID-related mental health challenges facing our campus community, it’s worth noting that although the traditional college years coincide with the age of onset for lifetime mental illnesses, many students who screen positive for depression or anxiety are not receiving mental health services. Recent national survey data from the Healthy Minds Network (Fall 2020) suggest we are experiencing a significant “treatment gap.” So, as we return to campus, we must keep these vulnerable students in mind and work together to notice warning signs, offer support and create a unified campus culture of care. Ohio State offers a variety of helpful resources, but students aren’t always aware of how to access those opportunities, or even believe that they will help. Staff and faculty play an important role in making students aware that help and hope exist. So, be sure to add resources to your websites, Carmen pages, syllabi and emails. You can also encourage students to download the Wellness app and check out offerings on the Student Wellness Center page.
  4. Reduce mental health stigma. On a positive note, research indicates that mental health stigma continues to fade. Yet, while the majority of college students say they wouldn’t judge someone for seeking help for mental health, almost half worry that others will think poorly of them if they did seek help. Students are often more judgmental of themselves than they are with other people and can easily harbor their own self-stigma. Remind your students that their peers are not judging them, openly talk about mental health in your classroom, and be aware of how your own biases, stereotypes or attitudes could prevent students from seeking the help that they may need in order to be successful and live well (preventatively or when in a crisis).
  5. Help your students understand instructional modalities and how to navigate them. Students may be unsure what to expect as they navigate online, hybrid and in-person courses again this semester. They may also be missing key skills they need to navigate a return to in-person learning (like how to navigate campus to get where they need to go on time). Communicating clear expectations for your course, linking students to information on other course types and promoting the Ohio State app for campus maps and bus route navigation will help. You can find more student-friendly resources at the Teaching and Learning Resource Center.
  6. Apply the Carmen Key Four. Regardless of the course modality, you reduce stress and create a seamless experience for students by integrating some simple (yet helpful) methods for organizing your course on Carmen. Already applied the Key Four? Check out the other “Carmen Common Sense” suggestions curated by students.

Thanks for everything you’re doing to help our students be as successful as they can possibly be.