Virtual Learning Support

In response to the continued spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Cal Poly has transitioned entirely to a virtual learning environment. Students suddenly find themselves having to adjust in ways they never imagined. For many students, the classrooms and residence halls were the safe environment that provided shelter, community, and stability.

This may be a very stressful time for students. Some students may experience fear and worry, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, or worsening of health and mental health conditions. Faculty are frequently and consistently communicating with students and may be the first to notice how the current crisis is impacting a student.

Many resources are emerging to support faculty with instructional technology needed to transition to the virtual environment, but there are fewer resources focusing on how to create the psychological and emotional conditions necessary for students to continue to learn most effectively.

Identify the Early Signs of Stress

  • Concerning comments written on discussion boards, assignments, etc.
  • Failure to turn in assignments
  • Lack of participation
  • Frequently contacting instructor about assignments, often without actually doing the work
  • Repeatedly canceling appointments or office hours at the last minute
  • Angry and/or irate tone in communications to instructor or other students
  • Interrupting instructor and peers who are trying to help them
  • Inappropriate comments or statements in online communications
  • Requests for help without specifying what they need or when they are available to receive assistance
  • Multiple requests for extensions


  • Don’t ignore the signs. If comfortable, let your students know that you are there for them and that if they need help to reach out to you.
  • Temper your expectations. Remember that for both faculty and students remote learning can be a challenge. Be flexible with deadlines, offer alternatives if someone can’t complete a particular assignment, and don’t assign high-stakes tests on a new platform.
  • Students have left behind more than just their classes and academics. Consider creating a community discussion board for them to share what is happening in their lives, especially given the stress, fear and strains in these uncertain times.
  • Create opportunity for students to process the moment.
  • Reach out to all students early, and often.
  • Be authentic in your interactions – emails, videos, etc. Given the emotional and psychological toll of the changes brought on by the pandemic, integrating empathy and compassion into courses is now a critical part of the work faculty are encouraged to do.
  • Provide resources - these can be included on the syllabus, Canvas tab, or separate handout.

Helpful Articles


Campus Referrals

If you encounter a difficult or challenging student, please offer your support by reviewing the resources listed below and referring them to the following on-campus resources.

805-756-2511 (24/7 Crisis Line)

Offers a variety of confidential support services including therapy, emotional wellbeing workshops and preventative education.


Serves as a resource to help students resolve university-related issues and concerns to help them obtain their degrees. The office ensures student success by facilitating referrals, support and advocacy through nonclinical interventions. It also provides follow-up services in collaboration with other university departments or individuals, community agencies, parents or guardians, and stakeholders in the students’ success. 

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