Online Teaching Policies for Sabrina Weiss
Refunds and Withdrawals
Families will receive a full refund if they withdraw before the class begins. Families who withdraw after class begins will receive a prorated refund based on the time remaining in the class, minus administrative fees.
If the withdrawal is for schedule conflicts or a learner struggling with class content (that is either too easy or too hard), I am happy to work with families to try to find solutions.
I reserve the right to manage classroom enrollment based on fit and prior classroom interactions.
I try my very best to avoid class cancellations. I often teach classes even if the minimum number of enrollees has not been met. However, I do reserve the right to cancel a class if the minimum enrollment is not met. I will do so 48 hours before class begins and issue full refunds or credits toward a future class I teach.
In the event of an emergency that requires me to cancel an individual session, I will work with individual learners to find a sufficient make-up strategy. This may include a recorded session or a rescheduled session.
In the rare event of an emergency that requires me to cancel a substantial portion of the class, I will either find a substitute or issue prorated refunds for the class. If I must find a substitute, families will have the option to receive a prorated refund instead of continuing the class.
I recognize that students have different comfort levels and experience with participating in online class environments. Students are welcome to participate in a way that works best for them so long as it does not disrupt our interactions and contributes to a constructive classroom environment. I am mindful of differing comfort levels with video, voice, and text communication, as well as aware of technological limitations. Students are welcome to leave video or mic off and use text chat only if they are more comfortable with this, though I do require some form of active/live communication to be used so I know the student has a way to participate. Unless there are students with hearing disabilities, I intend to primarily use voice to communicate during live sessions, with text used to send supporting information like terminology or links.
I utilize Socratic Method and Debate/Forensics style discussion styles: for example, I will ask questions that challenge a student’s evidence/warrants for arguments they make and ask them to expand on underlying assumptions and values. I will do my best to engage in a neutral and constructive way, however some interactions may be perceived as contentious by students unfamiliar with this pedagogical style. Students are encouraged to reach out privately to me if they have concerns about these discussions, and I will make an effort to support adaptation to this discussion style. However, students will be expected to engage constructively and respectfully in our discussions, with both instructor and students, as well as with any guests or co-instructors.
My classes are high-interaction and discussion-heavy. It is best for learners to prepare for live meetings so they can get the most out of them by coming to class ready to participate and reflect on the material. I do my best to respect learners’ time and focus by streamlining activities and assignments to be relevant, interactive, and effective for learning.
I do not assign “homework” that is graded or evaluated independently. Instead I provide activities and preparation (which may involve reading, researching, or just thinking) as well as discussion forum “assignments” to promote asynchronous interactions with other students and me. These activities provide scaffolding for future topics and final class projects and are important for the learner to do so they can get the most out of my courses. I do offer optional add-ons to most of my courses that give me a chance to provide feedback on drafts and guidance towards revisions for an essay or other final project.
For example, I may provide an article for learners to read and ask that they post a reflection comment on the appropriate discussion forum as well as respond to two other posts. Learners who do these activities will tend to enjoy class discussions more and develop a stronger sense of self-efficacy. They will also be better prepared for final projects, if they are a part of the course.
If learners are struggling to complete these preparation activities, they are encouraged to reach out to me for guidance and to practice self-efficacy skills to complete them.
If families choose not to do some or all assignments, learners may stay in the class after I have been able to discuss this with the family. However, I will only issue letters and certificates of completion to students who have met the assignment threshold as explained in that particular class.
I respect that each learner has unique circumstances and I aim for a learner-centric approach. In return, I ask that learners and their families communicate with me about concerns and needs in a timely fashion so I can work with them to adjust expectations and assignments as appropriate.
Generally speaking, I try to work with students to make the class work as well as possible. If there is a good reason that a learner needs an extension on a due date, please reach out to me. Work that is turned in late may be late receiving feedback. There will be a point for every class (typically two weeks after its end date) where I can no longer accept assignments.
If a student is uncommunicative, I reserve the discretion to no longer provide feedback on assignments.
It is important to me that all students have a safe and enjoyable classroom experience, so I have some behavioral guidelines to reach that goal. My general behavioral guidelines are as follows (and will also be announced directly to students in an age-appropriate way):
- Mute microphones if there is excessive background noise
- Turn off camera if there are distractions in the background
- If we are in a large class, you may have to use the “raise hand” feature before speaking
- No mean-spirited comments in discussion boards (disagreements should be handled respectfully or reported to me)
- Students must wear clothing when on camera
- No flooding the chat with off-topic content (My 2 response rule applies)
- No name calling, bullying, or unwanted private messaging
- No sharing contact information with other students without parent permission
- No disruptive behavior that distracts other learners (such as constantly changing background screen, changing screen name to something silly, making faces at the camera, etc.)
- Respect safe space practices and each other: we talk about some difficult and personal topics in many of my courses.
Response to Behavioral Concerns
My top priority is that all learners get the best experience they can out of the class. This means that my response to behavioral concerns is to address the individual problem with the least amount of disruption to the student concerned as possible. In general, I try to mitigate a specific behavior rather than remove a student from the classroom or limit their participation.
Here are some examples of ways that I may address behavioral issues in order from least to most invasive:
- Disable particular functions of the online classroom (for example, turn off private chat, manually mute microphones, turn off a video feed)
- Lock a discussion forum thread or delete completely inappropriate comments
- Privately reach out to students to ask them to stop the behavior during class
- Reach out to students and their families to brainstorm a solution to a behavioral issue outside of class
- Require a parent/guardian to be present during live sessions in the event of repeat behavioral violations
- Remove a student from live sessions but allow them to continue in the rest of the course and send recordings
- Remove a student from the class
In the very rare event that a student is removed from a class for behavioral concerns or significant lack of fit with material or classmates, a prorated refund will be given.
My policies also extend to the way I treat learners in the classroom. I believe that respect is the foundation of positive educational experiences, so I have the following policies in place to help ensure that my respect for learners is centered in my interactions.
- I will call learners by their preferred name and use their preferred pronouns.
- I maintain professional standards by asking students to address me as “Dr. Weiss” or “Teacher Weiss”. I do not respond to my first name, “Miss,” “Ms.” or “Mrs.”.
- I will announce methods to get my attention in the case that a learner is having trouble being heard in class. These can include using the “raise hand” button, sending me a private message, or creating alternative ways for a learner to participate that works best for them.
- I will do my best to accommodate requests for adjustments that help make materials accessible. To facilitate this, I ask that families proactively reach out to me with special needs or concerns as soon as possible.
- I will be available for questions outside of class and answer those questions in a timely manner (generally within 24 hours).
- I will give feedback in a constructive way that respects the efforts learners have made.
- I will provide relevant feedback that reasonably fits accepted academic standards at a university level, adjusted as appropriate for class level and learner’s ability level.
- I will be understanding of learner differences and individual personalities and be as flexible as possible as I strike a balance between keeping the class productive for everyone and allowing room for everyone’s individual needs.