Moving a course you designed for face-to-face delivery to a fully online “remote teaching” environment undoubtedly poses certain challenges, not least of all the question of how to communicate clearly to students on how they will be expected to interact with your new course materials and/or new modes of communication. Some aspects of your face-to-face course may remain unchanged; others, however, will have to adjust to accommodate the new ways in which students will be interacting with you, the course materials, and with each other. In this guide, you will find things to consider, good practices in remote teaching and learning, and time-tested strategies from our peers who regularly teach online courses in fully online programs.
First, some things to consider:
Explore Your Options
It’s a good idea to remember that “moving all of your course components and activities to Canvas” or “holding class through Zoom” does not necessarily mean that you must employ a single tool (like Zoom) in order to replace every single in-person teaching function—or even every single function that, for example, your class time fulfilled. That being said, some will find it simpler to stick with one new method, like live class sessions via the Zoom video-conferencing app or recording lectures with TechSmith Relay for students to watch by a specific due date. We have a suite of tools available at Dartmouth that allow:
- Posting of course materials
- Creation of multimedia course materials
- Communication to students in a robust and easily archived way
- Engagement in learning with others
- Interactive learning experiences
- Live (remote) class sessions
Focus on Pedagogy
The need to adopt alternative technologies in order to communicate with students and/or to receive feedback on their learning does not have to represent a restriction or reduction as compared to your initial teaching plan. You may even find that some of the strategies you adopt in these new mediums are more effective at achieving some of your aims and you may wish to incorporate them into your teaching even after conditions return to normal. Review your course and ask yourself what the ultimate goal is of the different activities, experiences, and assessments. Having that conversation will help you better understand what needs to be in a live video class session and what could be experienced during alternate times.
However you decide to combine these new instructional mediums into your course, it is crucial that you be attentive to how you communicate your expectations to students. Students will also be new to the online platforms you are using, and given the unusual circumstances, they may be dealing with situations outside of your virtual classroom that may affect their ability to engage with your course. Remote teaching and learning is at least somewhat new to almost everyone at Dartmouth, and flexibility and open-mindedness will be crucial as everyone adjusts to it.
Where to Begin
Adjusting to teaching remotely, and students learning remotely, is likely to take time and will get better as the term goes on. The Learning Design and Technology team (LDT) and the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) are here to help you get your course up and running while considering your top priorities for student learning. First read through this Good Practices: Beyond the Tech guide, get some ideas and food for thought, and we have a variety of workshops and trainings available for scheduling via this site.
We’ll help you think about and answer:
- What are the most important things about your course to recreate in this format?
- What aspects of the learning experience, activities, and assessments might need to change for the remote teaching format, and how?
- What is the best platform on which to recreate them and what are the most useful tools to use?
- How can you build community and rapport with your students, and how might they build it with each other?
Reach Out for Support
Get support, as needed, on the key resources you will need to achieve your goals. Your colleagues, teaching assistants, lab assistants, and the LDT/DCAL team can help you think through the different logistical challenges that might arise as you migrate online. We are also chock-full of ideas and strategies to find what will work best for you and your students.
Get Ready for Canvas to be Your Best Friend
Canvas will be the home base for your course and the primary place where students will get their course materials, communications from you, general help with the new class format and technology, and information on what the new style of class holds for them. We encourage you to have everything you publish and make accessible to students be in the “final form”. This doesn’t mean that things cannot change or continue to be added as the term progresses, as everything will need to be a bit flexible, however give consideration to changes after publishing as students might not see or be aware there has been a change. Using Canvas announcements after making changes to already published material can help students keep track, and they will be having to keep track of many different things through the distraction of this disruption. An important key idea for remote teaching is having consistency in your Canvas site. That is, the delivery of content, assignments and due dates, assessments, and all information is displayed and given in a reliable, simple, and expected way.
Here are some of our top Canvas suggestions for remote teaching:
- Newer to Canvas? Check out our Canvas Quick Start guide to get started.
- Consider building and publishing your course week by week to give yourself increased flexibility. Using a ‘weekly summary page’ format or ‘modules by week’ might best suit your needs.
- Communicate often with students via the Canvas Announcements area, which archives the message right in the course so it doesn’t get lost in email. If they are dispersed around the globe and not on campus, they might be feeling disconnected from the community.
- Create a robust information page where you discuss your expectations of remote teaching and learning, and how you and the students are partners in this journey. Link to this page prominently in your course and send an Announcement the first day of class.
- Review how your course is organized and look at it through the eyes of your students. Does topic-driven organization or date-driven organization make more sense?
- Consider creating a quick narrated “tour” of your Canvas course via TechSmith Relay for the first day of the term or give a tour during your first live session on Zoom, which can also be recorded.
- Make it easy on yourself and have a clear structure in the Files area using folders and clear file names. If you don’t want students to see the course Files directory, remember to hide it in the course menu! The same goes for the Pages directory!
Evaluate Your Comfort Zone
Everyone is going to be challenged to move a little bit out of their comfort zone, both remote teachers and remote learners. Do a self-assessment of your own comfort level with the different technologies available. You are advised to not try “all the things”, but instead pick one or two that you can learn well. Your choices can focus on what will be the most effective way to cover the material and allow students to interact with you and each other. Make adjustments as necessary given the match between your goals and your ability to achieve them remotely, as you look to figure out which resources would be most helpful.
How can you evaluate your students’ comfort zones? You can ask them what they are most concerned about in the remote format through a survey or ask them to reply to a Canvas message. It might be welcoming to students to ask in an all-class Canvas discussion topic, where they can reply anonymously and air their anxieties. Be sure to also ask them what they are excited about! You can check in with them periodically throughout the term and gauge how it’s going, or have a good laugh during a live class session in Zoom.
Here are a few “template” ideas we are suggesting to everyone as we get started:
- Hold live class sessions with Zoom and build in time pre-class for social chatter and community building. Use the Breakout Room feature copiously to help students connect to each other and discuss the course content at deeper levels. Students can submit a super brief response reflection after the live class session to demonstrate they were engaged, show you where they are having gaps in understanding, and be accountable to their own learning.
Communicate your expectations
This means updating your syllabus to incorporate your new plans, explaining what your new modes of teaching (and learning) will be, and laying out clearly to students what the expectations are for the term. Expectations should include how you will regularly communicate with them and how they can best communicate with you, if there will be live class sessions based on the Dartmouth class schedule, and how they might demonstrate engagement with their classmates and the course through the online tools. Students will need to know how and where to obtain technical help. Determine what resources are necessary for your course and communicate them to your students.
It may not always be obvious to students that joining a Zoom meeting is functionally equivalent to walking into a classroom. It’s a good idea to remind your students that the same principles apply to online courses as to on-campus meetings; they should behave professionally, treat others with courtesy and respect, refrain from using profanity or socially offensive language, and be in an appropriate surrounding. Ideally they will join class from a suitable, quiet location, with a device that permits full participation in the class activities. They should NOT join a class while driving or riding in a car.
As with all teaching, the clearer you can be about what is expected and why, the more successful you and your students will be.
A few things to consider trying:
- Create a page in Canvas that serves as a “one-stop-shop” for students in need of orientation. In an ideal, perfectly planned world, perhaps the syllabus could provide this, but if you are like most of us, your syllabus evolves over time, and what’s needed is a living document that continues to represent a “map” of the course for your students.
- Introduce the Core Rules of Netiquette as a first assignment on the first day of class and allow students to create new rules or get clarity on what is presented. Our favorite quote is “Remember the human.”
- Give some very strong suggestions to students on the rules of engagement for any live sessions on Zoom. Make use of the “raising my hand” and voting features during class. Decide as a class what is appropriate for the Chat window. Come to a consensus on “mute your mic if not talking” and how to get past two people starting to talk at the same time. The visual clues during discussion might not be there, and you can find your way through it together. Some students might be audio-only and not have a video view, which adds a challenge to conversational cues.
- Set up a “FAQ” or “Course Help Q&A” discussion topic in Canvas so students can ask questions in a way that benefits others.
- Communicate your availability policy to students. The class is “online” so that does mean you are available 24x7? No, no it does not. If you think it will be a concern, set an expectation with students that you will reply to emails between certain hours or can expect a reply within 24 hours.
- Whatever venues you establish for students to share their questions (discussion forum, Zoom chat, Piazza, or Slack), be sure to monitor them routinely and respond to students promptly, to help them stay connected to the material and the class as a whole.
In many courses, face-to-face class periods provide the students (and the instructors) with a “home base.” While Canvas sites are, in many cases, beginning to fulfill this role in face-to-face courses, for many courses—particularly those which are smaller—class times are where students get their “map” of the term: what has happened, what will happen, what they have to do. It’s also where they get a sense of belonging, a sense that the class is a community of which they are a welcome part. In-person course meetings are filled with dozens of small conversations and micro-interactions that give students this “map” and this sense of belonging, many (most?) of which don’t even involve the instructor: a student might quickly look over a peer’s shoulder to see which PDF he or she has open, ask a student sitting nearby to confirm the deadline for a paper assignment, or venture a guess to their neighbor before daring to answer an instructor’s question in front of the whole class.
Gold Star Resources on Fostering an Online Learning Community
- Review strategies from Michelle Pacansky-Brock for How to Humanize Your Online Course and help your students be engaged, feel valued, and create community. What is meant by “humanizing”? Check out this EdSurge article by the same author, How to Keep the Human Element in Online Classes.
- In How to Be a Better Online Teacher ADVICE GUIDE (Darby) in the Chronicle of Higher Education, you will find “advice on how to make your online pedagogy as effective and satisfying as the in-person version” (Darby, 2019).
- UC Davis’ open resource can help you think about Being Present in Your Online Course.
- Melissa Wehler shares Five Ways to Build Community in Online Classrooms through the Online Education section of Faculty Focus.
Instructors looking to recreate the “invisible” aspects of face-to-face course meetings online might try some of the following:
- Create opportunities for casual interaction
If the invisible “micro-interactions” (think “water-cooler talk”) that ground students are no longer going to routinely happen by accident, think about scheduling them in. If there are three key things students need to know to orient themselves in your class, help them out by putting them into pairs or small groups in Zoom to ask the simple questions that will get them talking about these key orienting points (“what’s the reading for next week?” or “what are you going to write your midterm paper on and are we clear on when it’s due?”).
- Help everyone be a part of the learning environment
While we typically focus first on making sure the students can see and hear the instructor, it’s equally crucial that students are seen and heard (and that they feel they are seen and heard), and this takes some additional structure and intentionality online. Even if you are reluctant in your face-to-face class to structure student contributions (i.e. by going around the “room” and asking each student to make a comment, or by having structured student presentations), you might think of doing so in the online environment. Even if it is ostensibly less efficient than the free-flowing conversation you may have in your typical classroom, it helps to ensure that each student feels connected with the spine of the class. This might be accomplished in a Zoom live session, or through the Canvas discussion tool on their own time, but by a due date.
- Think about ways you can be inclusive to all learners in your course during live sessions in Zoom. There is a suite of feedback icons that can help you determine engagement and give your students some choice on which way to proceed or which topic to talk about next. For example, there is a ‘raised hand’ icon a student can click on as well as a thumbs-up or down. The “no” icon can be used for students you call on who are just not ready or able to speak. In addition there are richer live polling options which could be useful.
Give permission for an extra few minutes for a casual chat when employing course-related small group discussions in a live class session via Zoom. Students who are now remote might be missing the ever-present interactions with their peers. Come up with an agreement with your students on how to get back on-topic if casual chatter goes beyond a few minutes.
Review your course materials and content delivery
Think deliberately about how/where in the course you were planning to cover material. If you are able to identify key learning objectives for each class session it will make it easier to think about how to best achieve them remotely. Some concepts might be best explained through a live interactive lecture, just as you would if were you still teaching face-to-face. But perhaps other portions of your class don't actually require students to be in the same (virtual) place at the same time.
At least two important things happen during a typical class period: (1) instructors model inquiry, explain concepts, and transmit information, and (2) students engage with that material (and, very likely, with you and with each other) in order to practice and begin to settle it in their minds. Now that your class is happening remotely, how will you achieve these functions and create opportunities for interaction? Here are some things to consider about the timing of your lectures, about creating interactivity, and about the challenge of doing board work online.
Meet Together or Be Independent?
Perhaps the very first decision you will have to make when moving lectures online is whether it is necessary (or even preferable) to schedule them during your normal class block or instead pre-record short lecture videos and allow students to view them at any point within a certain window. We suggest that you ask: is it necessary for students to encounter the material together? Do I wish to incorporate interactive components that require students to be tuned in at the same time? If you do choose a live class session via Zoom, what kinds of accommodations will you provide for students who are unable to participate at the right time? What about students who are on the west coast or international and many hours behind or ahead of us?
Keep in mind that you can combine multiple modalities. In certain cases, you might find it most convenient and effective to split up the information-transfer and student-interaction portions of your typical class period, using pre-recorded video lectures for the former and live interaction for the latter. For instance, you might post short lecture videos for students to watch on their own ahead of time, then schedule short follow-up Zoom discussions during your scheduled class period or use online discussion forums in Canvas.
Live Class Sessions via Zoom
Zoom is a platform that allows you to host live “meetings” with your class. You can broadcast yourself and share a screen from your computer. Anything you have on your computer can be streamed as a screenshare in Zoom (Powerpoint slides, animation, demo, etc.) Students can see each other, contribute to a whole class discussion, vote on polling questions, go into small group breakout rooms, share their screen, and more. Zoom also affords you the option of recording each class, which you can post to your Canvas site so that students can watch the recording later, perhaps because they were unable to attend the class. Be sure to also share any slides or material you will screenshare with your students in Canvas before the Zoom session. Some may want to have it up on their own screen or print and take notes during the session.
It is sometimes assumed that online teaching must be less interactive than its face-to-face counterpart. In fact, there are many ways—many of which may even be familiar from conventional classroom teaching—to engage your students during a remote class.
Some ideas on creating interactivity are:
- Web-based or Zoom polling allows you to obtain real-time feedback from all students. Zoom has a polling tool that allows students to respond to multiple choice questions as well as nonverbal feedback icons (raise hand, yes, no, etc.). Our other tool, PollEverywhere, provides a variety of question types, including multiple-choice, word clouds, and open-ended questions. Students can respond to PollEverywhere through a web browser or via texting and you can show the results on your screenshare.
- Zoom breakout rooms allow students to talk with each other in smaller groups during a larger class session. Make sure to provide clear guidance before sending students to breakout rooms, and provide a format for students to share the outcome of their discussion. You might ask each group to contribute a key idea when they return to the full group, or you could ask groups to submit a written response via Google docs, Canvas, or another medium.
- Students working in groups in Zoom breakout rooms might use collaborative software, such as Google docs, to take notes together, or share their work with one another using screen sharing. There is also a virtual whiteboard available.
- Zoom includes several other tools to engage students during class, including a chat tool and annotations. Annotations can be used by an instructor, as well as by students to collectively add notes or drawings to a shared slide.
- At the end of each session, give students a chance to answer a few questions about how things went, responding to a few short prompts such as: what have I learned, what am I confused about, what do I want to learn more about? You could ask them to provide specific feedback on the tools you are using and what support they may need, if anything isn’t working well. You could do this via an anonymous Google Form or anonymous survey in Canvas.
Pre-recorded Video with TechSmith Relay
Pre-recorded video can take many forms of a narrated or voice-over presentation via Powerpoint, handwriting on paper or iPad, or webcam view of you talking. For these purposes we support TechSmith Relay, which is an audio, screencasting, and mobile camera recording app that automatically brings your video online and gives you a simple link to share with students. You can also make use of existing and open-source videos on the internet or from other institutions. If you create new recordings, we recommend keeping them short (between five and 15 minutes). Rather than record a single 65-minute lecture, you can break it into smaller segments. You might use the Canvas Quiz tools to intersperse questions between videos to keep students engaged and check their understanding or use the in-Relay question feature. Be sure to run the close captioning/transcript service on your Relay videos after the video processes. It’s pretty good for non-technical jargon and might not need much editing.
If you think you will be uncomfortable recording short videos (i.e. listening to your own voice in playback) or will get too caught up in background noise (your dog barks), saying too many umms, or just having a hard time in general, we suggest you go with the live session route. Time is of the essence, and while the learning curve is not too steep, it can add stress to your class preparation before the term starts.
If you have taught your class in past years and had it recorded through echo 360, contact LDT for help copying those class videos over to the spring term Canvas course.
With the use of an iPad or tablet, mobile device camera and whiteboard, or a document camera and paper you can replicate the feel of board work. Instead of having students watch as you write, as they would have done in class, you might instead create slides that you share through Zoom or narrate over in Relay. To complement this, provide opportunities for students to solve problems on their own or discuss in small breakout rooms in Zoom.
We have to get creative using your own devices (iPhone, Android, laptop or webcam) with board work if there is no iPad or tablet available, so please contact the LDT team for ideas and directions.
General Strategies to Consider
- Come up with a plan and process for how and when you will set up live class sessions in Zoom and how you can best organize the links to those live sessions for students in Canvas. Is there one page where they are listed by date, and later where the meeting recording can be linked? Does the Canvas calendar work better for your students to keep track? How about setting up weekly summary pages that contain everything students will need to access, read, watch, or do? We highly recommend this latter strategy of weekly pages.
- If you want to use pre-recorded short lecture clips, how can students easily find what to watch and by when? Will you then hold live Zoom class sessions to discuss the topics or give students an opportunity to ask questions?
- Do your class sessions usually involve writing on a chalkboard or whiteboard, where your writing speed dictates the pace of the lecture? If you are creating short video clips, students can pause and review the video to catch up in their notes or watch a second time. For live Zoom sessions, be aware of your pace if you are using pre-written slides. There also might be other options we can help you with, to deliver a whiteboard like experience for your students.
Create opportunities for engagement and discussion
Instructors responsible for teaching smaller seminar and discussion-based courses are, in some ways, in a fortunate position when moving online. By virtue of their intimate size, they may be the easiest kinds of class meetings to reproduce relatively intact via Zoom; and indeed, we recommend that these classes continue to meet at their normally scheduled time, using Zoom to connect students with each other and their instructors. For many instructors, the hardest thing about moving a small class online has to do with air traffic control: assuming you aren't accustomed to staring directly at all 15 of your students in a face-on video gallery, you may struggle, at first, to see which students are eager to enter the conversation. Fear not, however: you'll soon learn to read the gallery just as well as you can read the body language around your seminar table. We’ll also address the challenges of group work, like problem-solving or team-based learning.
It is also common for students in small classes to engage deeply with relatively brief, but complicated, texts and artifacts: to close read a document in a history course, for example; or to focus intensively on a single object or painting. In a face-to-face course meeting, the instructor might bring copies of the text to class, or to have the class meet in one of Dartmouth’s museums or libraries to work with an original object. In a remote teaching class, you might choose to direct students' attention to a shared text via Google Doc or annotation tool (like Hypothes.is), which will allow them to mark up and comment on the passage in a way that is visible to you and their peers. You can place an image of the object or artwork on your screen and then share your screen in Zoom, which (again) allows students to draw and leave annotations on the image. You can also do this in the Zoom breakout rooms. Debate structures can also work well in Zoom, though it takes clear guidelines and facilitation.
You might want students to work together in small groups to solve problems, decode concepts, or analyze new examples of the phenomenon you are studying. Google Docs and Google Slides are wonderful (and wonderfully commonplace) tools for student collaboration. Small groups of students can collectively author Google Docs, communicating and collaborating with each other in the comments. For coding/scripting activities, students can be sent off to Zoom breakout rooms and share their screen. Breakout rooms also have whiteboards for students to create diagrams, or they can share a group worksheet via Google docs to complete together.
What might be initially lacking from the student experience is a way to share handwritten solutions to problems. If students do not have a table or iPad it can be difficult, however, many of the strategies we suggest to professors can be used by students. Setting up a webcam to face a write-able surface or act as a document camera is do-able. Additionally, students could have a bold black marker and write on paper/clipboard that is held up to the camera. Students can get creative and they might bring their own ideas on how to foster teamwork.
Designing and Facilitating Online Discussion Forums
If you haven’t used online discussion forums in Canvas yet, we have a guide for you. Online discussion forums give students an opportunity to think about and compose responses to classmates, with a great deal more care and thought than what might happen in a live discussion. Besides the typical “academic discussion” you might think of, Canvas discussions can take a range of purposes that help your students meet your goals. Here are some ideas that go beyond the typical discussion question:
- Use Canvas discussions to prep live discussions and hold students accountable for reading or watching course materials. It might be a basic question where students can give informed opinions, ask a thoughtful question, or each contribute a salient point.
- Set up a discussion forum for general course questions and chatter, where everyone can benefit from the questions and answers.
- Use a discussion topic for brainstorming ideas or addressing misconceptions.
- Students can share files, links to a video, images, etc. The rich-content editor for discussions in Canvas is the same one instructors use to build courses. Get creative!
- Whole classes can break out into separate discussion groups. In general, for academic or course-related discussions consider having no more than 8 people in a group.
- There are various settings for discussions in Canvas - including “post before you see others’ posts” and allowing Liking (like up-voting).
Read this online discussion guide from Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning before embarking on using Canvas discussions in your course. It talks about preparing, setting the tone, communicating expectations, maximizing engagement, and wrapping up discussions.
Revising Assignments for Remote Teaching
Start by looking closely at your assignments and learning experiences. Is it still possible for students to complete them remotely and in the digital space? If they draw upon library resources, technological applications, and/or physical spaces (e.g. labs or creative arts spaces) that are hard (if not impossible) to access off-campus, what adjustments can you make to help students produce something meaningful? We don’t have all the answers, but we have lots of ideas and experience. We’re looking forward to collaborating with you on ideas and solutions for the upcoming term.
Many types of out-of-class assignments that you have planned will not need to change when teaching online. The kinds of work that students would have completed individually—assignments such as response papers, problem sets, or essays—might not require modification, particularly when they assess students' ability to do things with readings, data, and/or concepts already found on the syllabus and available through your Canvas site. Assignments or problem sets that are usually submitted on paper can be scanned or imaged via the Canvas App and submitted to Canvas. Things may become more complicated, however, in those cases in which you have asked students to work together, to present their final product interactively in class, and/or to draw on research or other kinds of resources found exclusively on campus. In these cases, you may have to introduce modifications into your original plan, directing students to alternative resources (e.g. online documents in lieu of research in special collections) or alternative platforms (e.g. a voiceover recorded in TechSmith Relay or Zoom in lieu of an in-class group presentation).
Here are some considerations to bear in mind as you think about how to preserve/revise your assignments.
Focus on what you want to assess
As you begin thinking about which parts of your assignments you wish to preserve or modify, you'll want to identify, as clearly as possible, the competencies you really care to assess. If it seems too difficult for your students to complete the group podcast you had assigned, you may ask yourself: what were you most interested in learning about your students from that assignment? Was it their ability to engage in collaborative groupwork? Their ability to demonstrate a mastery of audio recording and sound editing? Their ability to interview someone? Their ability to tell a compelling story? Depending on your answer(s), you might arrive at different paths forward. If the core of the assignment was about groupwork, then it might be a good time to start preparing students to hold group meetings by Zoom; if the core was the storytelling, perhaps you could allow students who won't have the benefit of a cancelled workshop on sound recording to submit a script instead?
Connect students with the resources they need
Make sure that students have access to any software, technology, or other physical resources that are required to complete assignments. Ideally, aim to use software or other resources (e.g. library databases) that are freely available to College students from remote locations. In the event that software packages or e-resources require students to login through VPN while off-campus, make sure that students know how to do this: Dartmouth VPN Info. If you need assistance determining if the resources are available off-campus, reach out to LDT/DCAL at: email@example.com and we can refer you to the appropriate person.
Create many opportunities for dialogue
Whether we recognize it or not, frequent, low-stakes feedback is the currency on which all assignments run. It can be easy, when moving online, to underestimate the many avenues, informal as well as formal, that our students utilize to ask and answer questions when we are teaching face-to-face. Whether it’s waiting to talk to the professor before or after class, turning to the classmate in the next seat, or participating in an ad hoc study group, students in face-to-face environments benefit immensely from the opportunity to talk through their ideas. How can we make sure that students retain at least some semblance of these resources when we are teaching remotely?
- If you've been planning to have students present their work-in-progress in class, you could ask them to present to their peers through a live session in Zoom. Alternatively, students could record a presentation on their phone or computer with TechSmith Relay and submit it through Canvas.
- Insofar as your students would benefit from getting peer feedback outside of class, you may want to encourage them to use collaborative tools, such as Google docs and Zoom, to offer each other feedback. There is also the Peer Review feature in Canvas. You may also want to assign students to study groups and establish formal Zoom rooms for their use. Many students already use group texting tools like GroupMe, and you can encourage that strategy.
- You might assign a teaching assistant to monitor the chat function that accompanies your Zoom class meeting, and encourage students who have questions about upcoming assignments to post them there. You could then respond to a digest of these questions at the end of your online class meeting or through a Canvas Announcement after class.
Take advantage of Canvas
If you're concerned about how students will submit their assignments while they are away from campus, Canvas may be just the solution. Many instructors already accept assignment submissions through Canvas; some even complete their grading through SpeedGrader. Beyond a problem set or written assignment, you could consider other modalities, including audio or media files.
- For handwritten problem sets, students can take a picture of each page (mobile device, document scanner, etc.) and submit via the Canvas iOS or Android apps, or upload the image as a submission to the assignment
- In-class quizzes and exams can shift to an online format with the Canvas Quizzes tool. The LDT and DCAL teams can help you adjust your assessment strategy to make use of the online format while still challenging students who have more resources at their disposal.
A few more ideas to help get you started:
- Students have full access to Zoom and Relay and can submit their own videos to you through a Canvas assignment or to the class by posting the link in a Canvas discussion.
- Are there relevant virtual resources that replicate the experience or offer similar resources? Recently the Smithsonian Museum released thousands of their images as an open-resource. Help and ideas for similar resources can be found on this library help page.
- Do you have students research and present primary course content to their peers? You can give students the reigns during a live Zoom session to present, or the small group can get together on Zoom and record a collaborative presentation. The recording can be posted for classmates to watch.
- Is group work big in your class? We can help you consider ways to mimic that environment through Zoom Breakout rooms, collaborative Google docs, and discuss other flexible options.
- Performing arts your game? We’ll be posting a separate guide based on suggestions from our peer institutions.
- Concerned about studio arts courses? We’ll soon have information in this guide.
- You can find some suggestions for moving components of lab courses online in this guide.
Delivering Assessments and Exams Online
It is fairly easy to give small quizzes to hold students accountable or do spot-checks on their learning, and this might be ideal to keep students on track during class disruptions. Providing high-stakes tests online can be challenging, however; they place extra stress on students, and test integrity is difficult to ensure. The LDT/DCAL team can work with you on rethinking your assessments, helping you to concentrate on your ultimate learning objectives and what (and why) you want a high stakes assessment. You might consider alternate assessments that aren’t the shape of an exam. This is new terrain for everyone at Dartmouth --- students and professors --- and we’ll all need to think a little bit outside of the box. Can your online exam be tailored to allow for students to have access to course materials and resources? Are there more frequent lower-stakes exams or quizzes that will fill the need? We can help you figure it out.
General tips for assessing student learning in a remote teaching environment:
- Embrace short quizzes:
Short quizzes can be a great way to keep students engaged with course concepts, particularly if they are interspersed with small chunks of video lecture. Consider using very-low-stakes quizzes to give students practice at applying concepts—just enough points to hold them accountable, but not so many that the activity becomes all about points.
- Move beyond simple facts:
It is good to reinforce concepts through practice on a quiz, but generally it is best to move beyond factual answers that students can quickly look up. Instead, write questions that prompt students to apply concepts to new scenarios, or ask them to identify the best of multiple correct answers.
- Check for publishers' test banks:
Look to see if your textbook publisher has question banks that can be loaded into Canvas. Even if you don't use these questions for your exams, they can be useful for simple quizzes. Some textbooks also have their own online quizzing tools or interactive homework that can help keep students engaged with the material.
- Update expectations for projects:
Campus disruptions may limit students' access to resources they need to complete papers or other projects, and team projects may be challenged by a team's access to meet online in Zoom. Be ready to change assignment expectations based on the limitations remote learning can impose. Possible options include allowing individual rather than group projects, having groups record presentations with Zoom, or adjusting the types of resources needed for research papers.
- Consider alternate exams:
Delivering a secure exam online can be difficult without a good deal of preparation and support, so consider giving open-book exams or other types of exams. They can be harder to grade, but you have fewer worries about test security.
Communicating with Students and Office Hours
Professors and teaching assistants should continue to offer weekly office hours so that students can discuss course material and assignments, as well as any questions about the revised course format and expectations. It may be easiest to set aside blocks of time during which students can "drop in" to join a group conversation in Zoom. If you want to set up individual or small group meetings with students, be sure to create a new Zoom meeting room instead of using the one you normally use for class. This can prevent students from popping in on one another. You can also experiment with the Waiting Room feature.
Acknowledgements: This guide was adapted from Teaching Remotely (a resource authored by The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University) and Keep Teaching (from Indiana University) .