Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Virtual Learning and Accessibility in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions for students and for instructors/faculty in the transition to online course delivery.

For Students

Learning at home

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Q: How do I manage the increased stress I’m feeling right now?

A: First and foremost, know that this is really hard for some students. Your approach to learning has changed. That’s really different from in-person learning, not to mention you don’t have access to the usual places and people that may play an important role in your learning. It can be helpful to simply name that this online learning may, in fact, be harder.

The key elements to keep in mind during this time are to commit to self-care, physical wellbeing, and establish a regular schedule or routine. The four tips below support those key elements:

  1. Look at YOU@WISC, which includes great content cards on the following:
  • Mental Wellness Tips for COVID-19
  • Communicating Your Needs with Faculty During COVID-19
  • Tips to Be Productive when Studying at Home During COVID-19
  • Getting the Most Out of Online Classes
  • How to Show Up While Remaining Physically Distant
  • Science-Based Strategies to Cope with Coronavirus Anxiety
  1. Silvercloud, your online Mental Health Resource through UHS
  1. Connect with your support team: friends, family, counselors, Access Consultants, tutors.
  • Take breaks from school work (that don’t include technology, if possible)
  1. Physical activity is encouraged as a break, whether a walk around the block, some yoga moves, body weight exercises, or just some deep breathing. RecWell is sharing virtual programming.
  • Have a healthy snack, such as bananas, almonds, apples, cheese, hummus, or vegetables

Q: My home environment doesn’t understand my disability. What can I do?

A: Navigating the new reality of being with family and roommates can be frustrating. Have compassion for yourself and others; a little forgiveness and grace can go a long way. It’s okay to set boundaries and ask for what you need. Take space wherever you can get it, and honor when others need the same.

You know yourself the best. Trust in the work that you’ve done to build your identity, wherever it is right now. Your current household may not have been on the journey with you in managing your disability in an academic environment. Be empowered to stay true to your identity. If you feel safe and comfortable, share a bit about your strengths, personal process for learning, working, and managing work. Trust yourself, so if you don’t want to share this info with family or those living with you currently, reach out and connect to others for support.

Q: How do I track or manage my time and focus with online learning?

A: Below are tips and suggestions for common challenges with online learning:

Creating Structure: 

  • Think about what structure worked for you on campus and apply it to your current location.
    • If you went to Ogg or the Nat between classes to exercise, continue to practice that routine in or around your home
    • Move before starting class, as you likely traveled to class before this change
    • If at home with family, eat supper with them and then study in the evening if that’s what you usually did on campus
  • Lay down some rules and routines about when and where you are learning and studying, and stick with it.
    • You may decide on working on each class every day at the same time, so it’s almost like high school.
    • If your current schedule was a good fit for you, stick with a similar schedule for courses, even if they are recorded
    • Perhaps you “attend” one class on the couch, and another at the kitchen table.
  • Set up a few virtual study sessions with friends, classmates, or use your instructor’s virtual office hours for some accountability and structure.
  • Change clothes for tasks, even if it means a different pair of comfortable pants from morning to evening.

Developing time management:  Part of time management is being organized and knowing what you need to do.                          

  • Assume that because things are different or new, they will likely take a little extra time. Try to plan for that additional time when scheduling
  • Try to use what worked on campus, whether it was a white board, a planner, or try using an app. Some options include the following: 2do, Listastic, EpicWin, Forest, Tide,  Do, Todoist
  • Because you are on the computer or your phone a lot more, there are more opportunities to get distracted by all that the internet has to offer.
  • Take Breaks: Not only does taking breaks while studying allow for processing and increased learning, but remember you likely moved a lot when on campus by simply going to a physical space. Bring that practice to your currently learning environment. Keep track of the mini-breaks with a timer on your computer.
  • Avoid multi-tasking

Maintaining or increasing motivation: 

  • Set a specific goal for different work periods. This might be writing the top three must-dos/priorities for the day at the beginning of the day.  This can also be done at the end of the evening for a little closure and a signal that it’s time to unwind a bit.
  • Set mini-goals on what you hope to accomplish in a study or learning session.
  • Start small on the work. Not everything has to be done in one sitting. Getting started can be the hardest part, so starting in any way shape or form can be helpful and start forward motion.
  • Chunk out work into smaller sections. This will help with memory and may also reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed

Q: It feels like I have to teach myself right now. What might enhance my learning experience?

A: Some additional resources and strategies include:

  • Use other learning tools- find a YouTube video, Kahn Academy, a PBS show, or the like for some additional learning or context.
  • Set up virtual study groups
  • Refer to the UW’s tips for learning remotely
  • Continue to take notes while watching recorded lecture. Watch recorded lectures at normal speed. This helps increase retention.
  • Stick to your instructor’s schedule as much as you can if the lecture is pre-recorded. Staying on a schedule will help you have a feeling of normalcy and prevent you from falling behind.
  • Find out how to ask questions for your online course. Is there a chat feature? Is there a discussion forum? Does your instructor have virtual office hours?

Check out additional academic supports for continuity in learning


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Q : How do I get my approved disability-related accommodations met with virtual online learning?

A: All approved accommodations that have been requested through McBurney Connect should be implemented by your instructor as long as they are timely and reasonable. Please confirm that you have selected your accommodations and submitted your request(s) through McBurney Connect. Also, contact your instructor(s) to discuss how the accommodation(s) will be implemented especially given the transition to online learning.  The difference in instructional method may require additional communication about the methods to which your accommodations will be implemented.

Q: How will I get my 50% extended time accommodation?

A: You must still communicate with your faculty about the extended time accommodations. Faculty/instructors can adjust the time allotted for your quiz or exam in Canvas to arrange for your extended time.

Q: Can I still use my accommodation of break time for exams?

A: Faculty should adjust the available time to include approved breaktime. Please review your approved accommodations by clicking the “My Eligibilities” link in McBurney Connect. Communicate with your instructor to confirm your accommodation and ensure that your breaktime will be adjusted. Unless otherwise stated, most common breaktime includes 5 minutes of break (stop-the-clock) for every 30 minutes of testing. Faculty may consider adjusting the time to include 25% extended time to account for your breaktime accommodation if this is better managed in an online setting.

Q. How will my accommodation of small group testing/distraction- free environment work in the online environment?

A: Depending on the platform of the quiz/exam, you may need to consider the environment you sit for the timed assessment. Situating yourself in a workspace that meets your needs (limited distractions for example) can support your access to the exam or quiz. If you are taking the exam in a virtual classroom with video/audio feed from others, you may request access to your approved small group accommodation and be assigned another “room” with fewer test-takers.

Q: Will I still be able to receive notetaking as an accommodation now that classes are online?

A: If the course is meeting in real time or has recorded video/audio lectures online, you may continue to receive notes.

Q: How can I access my use of audio/Kurzweil 3000 on an exam?

A: Your professor can provide you with a Word or PDF file of the exam and you may open it using your access to Kurzweil 3000 on your laptop or desktop computer. You can also add a Kurzweil 3000 extension for Chrome or Firefox, called Read the Web. If you require additional support with this accommodation, please email the Alternative Formats Coordinator for additional suggestions.

Flexibility / Reasonable Course Adjustments and Modifications

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Q: How do flexibility accommodations work with online classes? Can the terms of my flexibility accommodations be changed?

A: “Flexibility with Attendance, Deadlines, and Exam Dates” will be honored with online courses just as with face-to face classes.  As usual, the parameters of flexibility require clear communication, advance planning, and negotiation of details between students, their instructors, and Access Consultants, as needed. There are times when flexibility will not be applicable, for example, if courses are in asynchronous formats and pre-recorded, accommodations for flexible attendance would not be applicable. Familiarize yourself with the new format and guidelines of your online course and talk with your instructors if you have questions. Plan in advance and reach out to faculty if you need an extension or to reschedule an exam due to a flare up. Reach out to your Access Consultant at the McBurney Center if you have questions about what is reasonable. If the terms and degree of the flexibility plan need to be changed due to symptom impact caused by this new environment, contact your instructor and/or Access Consultant as needed.

Similarly, students approved for “Modification of Public Speaking Presentations,” “Modification of Participation in Class Discussions,” and “Modification of Group Work” may request those accommodations for online learning, as appropriate, though may require creative solutions. For example, if you are required to participate in a group online discussion using a webcam and you have a class participation letter, you may request a variation on participation such as being present with audio only. Work with the instructor to determine the degree of participation in the small group discussion. You might be able to submit alternative forms of participation such as making contributions through email. Reach out to your Access Consultant if you would like to discuss options.

For Instructors/Faculty

Supporting Students and Accommodations

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Q: What should I do if I’ve not received much/any communication from a student since transitioning to virtual learning?

A: You are welcome and encouraged to contact the student directly and express any concern you have for them. If you don’t receive a response, you can contact the student’s Access Consultant at the McBurney Center or contact the Dean of Students Office and complete a Student of Concern Report to check on the student’s well-being.

Q: How do I support a student who is behind in their course work?

A: Our current situation is challenging, but like any other emergency, people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted. Subsequently, communication might be more difficult and the means for communication might need to vary to more accessible or comfortable ways to engage. Ask about preferred method of communicating and offer to meet in a way that may be most comfortable for the student. Consider encouraging the use of virtual office hours. If the student is approved for the flexibility accommodation, contact their McBurney Center Access Consultant to begin the interactive process of defining the accommodation within the terms of your course.

If there is no flexibility plan, still don’t hesitate to contact the student’s Access Consultant to help discern what’s possible for the student to gain equal access.

Q: How can I track students in my course who need accommodations? Can I see a list of students?

A: Instructors can access a list of students through the McBurney Connect Instructor Portal

Q: How can I extend time for quizzes, tests or exams in Canvas?

A: You may modify the time for an individual student for an assessment. You can find instructions on how to extend time on a quiz in Canvas through the Knowledgebase. The Instructional Continuity website also offers accessibility support and instructions.

Q: If I approve an Incomplete for a student, will they still have the option the special SD (Satisfactory-Disruption) and UD (Unsatisfactory-Disruption) grading option?

A: Yes, students will have the opportunity to convert to the new SD/UD grades only after there is a final grade recorded for the course. The Office of the Registrar will email students once a final grade is received and students will have 8 days from receipt of that email to convert the grade to a SD/UD grade.

Communication Access

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Q: Can the McBurney Center assist in producing closed captioning for faculty?

A: At this time, the McBurney Center is only providing media captioning production services for the instructors/faculty of students who are approved for sign language interpreting, speech-to-text, and media captioning services for classroom media and other academically required requests for credit/timetable courses.  If you do not have an accommodation request for media captioning and are interested in adding closed captioning to your videos, the KnowledgeBase (KB) has information about how to submit media for captioning from contract vendors and a do-it-yourself option using Kaltura machine captioning (free, but requires editing and the addition of speaker info, sounds, and tone for compliant captions – Ordering machine captions for media in Kaltura MediaSpace and How to edit captions in Kaltura MediaSpace)