Faculty Guide to Time Zone Challenges
Working online from different time zones can add an extra dimension of challenge and stress for many students; this problem is especially acute for international students. While students in the coming semester will be encouraged to tailor their schedules to manageable class times, you may still have students who are taking your 2:30 pm seminar at 2:30 am their time. Student feedback from spring 2020 suggests that purposeful teacher pedagogy, open dialogue, and faculty flexibility can help maximize learning and reduce difficulties for students. Suggestions for instructors include:
Name the Problem
Invite students to reach out directly to you with logistical concerns and make specific mention of those related to time zone challenges. Given that these classroom communities will be developing largely online, it is particularly important to name the problem and ask for student input. You might survey students early in the class to find out which time zones they are in. Students should feel comfortable raising these concerns with you and will benefit from explicit talk about this issue at the outset of class.
Share Asynchronous Teaching Material Early
Asynchronous teaching elements can be enormously helpful to students in different time zones and relieve the pressure on student schedules. Try to make flipped lecture content, such as videos and lecture slides, available to students before class meetings. This will enable students in different time zones have time to view it before your synchronous class. Other additional materials to structure their learning experience, such as outlines or discussion questions, can support comprehension as well as improve engagement.
Collaborative work can be particularly challenging for international students, especially in smaller classes where there may be fewer students from similar time zones. Classroom surveys may allow students to match with others in their personal time zones more easily. Assignments that allow for asynchronous collaboration or fewer in-person meetings are another possibility, as is a flexible option that allows for independent work.
Organize Study Groups
Many students find study groups valuable, but they often develop around spontaneous interactions on campus. If possible, explicitly facilitate the development of student study groups by helping interested students in similar time zones find each other.
Timed deadlines create unnecessary stress for international students, since a 5 pm deadline can mean a 5 am deadline for some individuals. Identifying a range of time to submit an assessment of complete an exam may be easier for most students. You might need to adjust office hours to accommodate an international student’s more limited schedule. In some cases, alternative assessments (a harder and longer problem set, an essay) may be a better fit for students living far away. Students mentioned that having the option of choice in assignments and assessments allowed them to identify the learning method or assessment that worked best for their situation.