EDUCAUSE recently published an article by Jill Anderson called “Out of Crisis, Compassion: Using Instructional Technologies to Alleviate Student Stress.” This article points out how professors have upped their technology skills not just to move content into the online environment, but to extend compassion to their students.

The article defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it,” pointing out that studies have found over 70 percent of students reporting increased stress and anxiety related to health and academic performance that affect sleep, concentration, and these effects are compounded by interacting less with others.

Alleviating Stress

This article prompted the week’s post. I encourage you to check out Jill Anderson’s suggestions. Inspired by that, I have offered a few additional suggestions below. As we reach the 18-month mark of the coronavirus pandemic, we are all still dealing with a lot. We all face the uncertainties of the “murky middle”: we are past the adrenaline of the initial shock caused by these global changes, yet we can not see how far the arc stretches until these conditions end. There are some things we do know, but we do know that regardless of these conditions, students experience predictable points of stress in all courses: assessments, deadlines, and lack of resources chief among them We also know that a sense of caring from teachers in their interactions with students can relieve distress and encourage better engagement and retention. Below we offers ideas, some our own, some from others, that can help support you and help you support students as they navigate the current semester and the semesters ahead.

Using Local Tools for Boosting Communication and Lowering Stress

  • The Mountie Student Hub: This resource can lower stress for professors and students. A local “hub” for technology information, targeted links to student services of all types, and links to get to more personalized forms of support, this can take some pressure off of professors to know everything about Canvas while providing students easy pathways to the information they need.
  • Pronto is a communication/chat tool that let’s your students connect with one another in a familiar format. See our Pronto page for a number of suggestions for student engagement strategies.
  • Canvas Studio can be used by faculty with embedded quiz questions or to create a discussion. Students can also create video content in Canvas Studio. Get some ideas for using Canvas studio for engagement.
  • Use Canvas “Message Students who…” in Gradebook and in New Analytics (if you don’t see New Analytics in your menus, you may need to drag it into your menu by going to Settings > Navigation). This lets you message students who haven’t yet turned something in, who did really well or who did poorly on any assignment (gradebook) or students who have not looked at content (New Analytics) you assigned. It shows personal caring and students often appreciate these nudges to help them stay on track.
  • Use the dates in Canvas you can add dates to any content and allow students to check off items (and let you see more about their progress in tools like New Analytics). The video below shows an example of this.
  • Give personalized feedback early. Small forms of individualized feedback to students early on can help students feel like you “see” them. Consider adding it with rich voice and video feedback.
  • Add a feedback question to your assessments. Ask students to evaluate how they are doing in the course, what they liked best out of the most recent activities, or what suggestions they have. Put it last on the exam and explain that all serious answers are marked “correct” as there is no correct answer. Make it worth a few points. It can be a great way to get some interesting feedback from students.
  • Add some Levity It can help to laugh together and have a little fun to build a better sense of community and belonging in the class. You don’t have to go outside of your own teacher persona. You can do something as simple as play an entry or break “song,” have a structured game (see Incredible Embeddables for a few ideas). Create a “fun” discussion where students can connect with one another. These are not a waste of time. Creating cohesion and novelty can really be a welcome opening to create connections or become more invested and positive about a course.

More Resources for Pedagogy in Difficult Times

As long as we’re talking about alleviating stress, please know that your Faculty Center for Learning Technology cares about you and wants to help alleviate your technology stress where we can, through our resources and services. Come to Instructional Design office hours on Thursdays in Zoom, check out the Canvas Faculty Center (especially the Tools & Apps page) to learn about our local tools and how to use them, use the Faculty Accessibility Center and Mt. SACs Captioning Service (also listed under the Help button in Canvas) for assistance, and if you don’t find what you are looking for, email us at for additional course design assistance!

Have another suggestion or tip for using technology to alleviate student stress? Want to suggest a topic for a future blog post? Please add your comments below!

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