March 16, 2020 - Academic Resources for Remote Teaching and Learning

From the Provost
March 16, 2020

Dear Faculty and Staff in Academic Affairs,

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone on our staff and faculty for continuing to help us maintain academic continuity under these difficult circumstances. 

Please know that everything we are stating right now might change later today or tomorrow. These are indeed challenging times for our university, our community, our nation, and our world. Thank you for helping Sonoma State be as good as we can possibly be throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

As promised, please find a list of resources and advice compiled with the collaboration and input of many people both on campus and off to help us transition to remote instruction in the smoothest manner possible.


Academic Affairs has created a Faculty Resources Guide that provides general guidance to faculty related to instruction. This document will change regularly as the situation changes and as we field additional questions. If you have thoughts about how we can improve the document, please email, and we will be happy to receive your feedback.


The Faculty Center remains open to serve our faculty with any/all requests to help as faculty transition to remote instruction for at least the next few weeks. We are on standby to assist with: 1) Canvas LMS (assignments, communication, grading, and exams), 2) Zoom (for holding live class meetings), and 3) Yuja (for recording video and distributing on Canvas).  We have a wealth of resources on our Teaching Through Disruptions guide for assistance with teaching remotely.  Think about how you will communicate with students, how you will collect and distribute assignments, and how you will inform students about grades. Canvas makes a lot of this very easy and simple. 

We are taking active measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and the faculty we serve.

Faculty seeking assistance should first call 707-664-2659 or email (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday) to see how we can help with your request. If you want to come to the Faculty Center in person, please call ahead and make an appointment first rather than just coming in, so we can assure appropriate social distancing.

Faculty may also check out our online Zoom Meeting Room, which will be staffed beginning Monday morning during regular hours. Canvas phone support is available 24/7 at 1-833-263-0708.

Effective immediately, workshops will be done primarily online using Zoom. These have their own Workshop Zoom Meeting Room. For the time being, we will continue to offer in-person options for those who prefer it, but to ensure appropriate social distancing, we are capping workshop participation at five (5) in-person participants. You must RSVP to attend if interested.

Finally, we have a group of SSU faculty peer consultants that has offered to help you with addressing pedagogical concerns or getting up and running with Canvas, Zoom, or other common SSU teaching tools. Take a look at the list, find a colleague in your school, and send them an email to arrange a consultation over the phone or online. 


Keeping in touch with students is vital right now. Please continue to let students know about changes in deadlines, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety and save you from dealing with individual questions. Keep these principles in mind (borrowed from CSU San Marcos):

  • Communicate early and often: Let students know about syllabus and assignment changes as early as possible, even if all the details aren't in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Don't swamp them with email, but consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand (For example, if remote teaching is extended, what will students need to know related to your course?).
  • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email and how quickly they can expect your response.
  • Manage your communications load: send messages to all students in a course at the same time. If you have suggestions for messages that should go out to all students in the major, contact your department chair. If you have suggestions for messages that should go out to all undergraduates or graduate students, contact

This teaching environment is unprecedented, so cut yourself some slack and breathe. Here are some further thoughts on how to focus your teaching (adapted from Queen’s College):

  • This is not online learning -- this is triage. You won't replicate what you do in person in a remote or virtual mode overnight. Teaching online well takes time and training, so think small and triage. Can you communicate with students? Share resources? Communicate grades?
  • Talk to the Faculty Center and the peer experts available to you now. Don’t wait.
  • Prioritize: what do students really need to know? You absolutely can’t do it all (and shouldn’t try).
  • Take account of access issues: students may not have a computer or access to sufficient bandwidth at home. Many will only be working via a phone.
  • Be prepared to relax expectations, reduce course work, and lighten the load during this crisis.
  • Use campus-provided tools. These are things we can help you with. Vendors want to make quick sales right now. The Canvas LMS is sufficient to do nearly anything you might need, and students already know how to use it. Don't try to train students by yourself.


In addition to the Faculty Center, you can reach out to your department chairs, associate deans, and deans with specific questions about teaching remotely, about student issues, and about your needs during this unprecedented situation. They stand ready to assist and will be available on campus and remotely. Similarly, faculty leaders in the Academic Senate have made themselves available for support and assistance, so please do not hesitate to reach out.

Academic Programs and Faculty Affairs are fully staffed and available both on campus and remotely for questions about curriculum and instruction, faculty workload, RTP questions, policy issues, enrollment issues, and general support for faculty and students.

With sincere thanks,

Lisa Vollendorf, Provost