At the University of Montana, our utmost priority is supporting students and faculty with their success. We want you to be fully prepared. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Identify plans ahead of time
Address emergencies and expectations upfront in course syllabus. Include detailed information such as procedures, resources and tools you plan to utilize in the event campus is closed. Students will know exactly what to do and can prepare accordingly. Consider doing this each semester to prepare and can engage quickly in the event of an emergency.
How will you communicate?
Within Moodle, please use the Announcement forum in a four-course shell to communicate with students. This Announcement forum posts in the course and automatically is sent to student emails. You may also want to communicate with students directly through UM email. Maintain regular communication with students to send reminders, updates and changes.
Clarify new expectations. Keep in mind situations may have on students' ability to meet new expectations including; illness, lacking power, no Internet connection or needing to care for family members. You may need to reconsider some previous expectations for students including participation, communication and deadlines. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.
Provide detailed communication. Students may have a lot of questions, consider how you will manage requests. Once more details about changes to the class are available, communicate to students along with information about how to contact you. A useful communication plan lets students know how soon they can expect a response.
Instruction: How will you deliver content?
There are two options for instructors to facilitate class sessions remotely, synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (advanced preparation for later distribution).
Labs, Recitation and Fieldwork
One of the more challenging parts of teaching a course when there is a building or campus closure are outside course components, such as labs, recitations, fieldwork and site visits. To mitigate loss of in-person interaction and hands-on experience afforded through outside class components, consider establishing alternate but equivalent activities by having an emergency plan for outside class components. We also recommend reviewing The Chronicle of Higher Education's article How to Quickly (and Safely) Move a Lab Course Online.
Labs often require specific procedures or hands-on work. When not possible, find online videos or video-record your own demonstrations, then post to Moodle. Connect students with online simulations. Provide analysis break-downs of data, etc. and save what is necessary for when students can return to the physical space.
Virtual Labs and Simulations
Online simulations provide similar experiences to hands-on experiences. Provide students with a structure for engagement with simulations and what to submit via Moodle.
The PhET website provides simulations for online engagement in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Mathematics, and Physics. For construction or civil engineering-specific simulations, there are online simulations to walk students through various processes. For example, letsbuild.com has examples of construction simulation games, and construction simulations are located on InteliBuild’s YouTube channel.
MERLOT, the California State University, and other partners have joined together to provide you a "one-stop-shop" for free and low-cost online virtual labs.
Raw Data and Student Analysis
In a case where students collect and analyze data, you can demonstrate how to collect data and provide students with raw data sets to analyze on their own. This allows them to practice the data collection phase themselves until the class is able to return.
Alternate Software Access
It is not always possible to have access to specific software on all of your students’ personal computers, tablets or phones. In the event separate lab spaces cannot be set up for students to engage with software, consider finding an equivalent that is accessible to all.
OPTION 1: LIVE ZOOM CLASSES
Create your live session on Zoom and share session links with students. We recommend watching the Zoom Tutorial below by Jeff Meese, UM College of Business, to get you started with basic Zoom functions.
Session Prep Essentials
- Share technical guides. It might be someone’s first time in Zoom. Consider sending a short tutorial on testing audio/video in advance, or directing them to the Keep on Learning page for assistance. Include this in your reminder email along with other information students need in order to come prepared (assignments, readings, etc.)
- Review Zoom's System Requirements for PC, Mac and Linux based systems to ensure devices are in line with basic requirements needed for running Zoom.
- Use a headset and microphone. This provides a clear way to capture your voice and allows you to more clearly hear conversations. Encourage students to do the same. Basic earbuds that include a microphone also work very well.
- Position webcam and light source. If able, we recommend using an external (USB) camera such as the Logitech C920 might provide a better visual experience for your audience than your built-in laptop webcam. Position webcams at eye-level (a stack of textbooks works well as a “booster seat”). Then, position light sources directly in front of you to illuminate your face. To see this in action, watch this short (2 minute) video.
- Run a tech check. Test computer, camera and microphone in zoom at least 24 hours before scheduled meetings by logging into your session. Use all the equipment (including headset or earbuds) that you plan to use during your session.
- Join from a location with a strong and stable Internet connection. Reduce background noise by going to a private space. If you are using WiFi, then connect from your home or office, a wired connection may work best. Public locations can be spotty, but if you are planning to use a public location, we recommend checking your Internet speed ahead of time.
- Be on time. Plan to arrive at least ten minutes before your scheduled meeting. Do another tech check and prepare your desktop for screen-sharing. You can also begin to interact with students in the chat while waiting for others to arrive. Great conversations can happen before sessions begin.
- Appearance matters. Clean up your background (what is visible behind you in your physical location) to ensure that it’s appropriate and not distracting. Check your lighting conditions. Lastly, be aware of your behavior. When you are on video, people can see what you are doing at all times. It can be easy to forget you’re on camera, so just be mindful.
- Consider recording the meeting. Recording allows sharing with students who weren't able to attend (or who had to join by calling in from a landline). Make sure everyone consents before proceeding. If you might forget to record, set an alarm to remind you.
Download our Online Lesson Planning Template for Faculty.
Send Reminders, to remind students of your session start date and time.
Consider making discussion questions available in advance in Moodle so students can access questions if screen sharing does not work. Share slides in advance to Moodle, as PDFs, so students will be able to access the material on their mobile devices.
Display an agenda on your first slide, at the beginning of class session so students know what to expect during shared time together.
Use slides and screen sharing within Zoom to ensure discussion questions are visible to students who may have slow Internet connections or are unable to hear the audio for the initial question. (Look for “Share Screen” at the bottom of Zoom calls.)
Use the chat located at the bottom of your screen. Moderate discussion, “call on” a student with a comment to speak, to help them break into the conversation.
For large classes, we recommend assigning a Fellow or TA to moderate the chat and ensure important questions and comments are addressed. Smaller classes may find it worthwhile to ask a student to take on "chat monitor" roles to voice any questions instructors may have missed while teaching.
Chat can also be used to troubleshoot technical problems. For example, if a student is having trouble connecting, the chat might be a space for instructors or fellow students to work together to problem-solve. If you have a TA or a Fellow who can support the class with technical help, this would also be a good person to respond to troubleshooting tips in chat. Review In-Meeting Chat for more information, tips and tricks.
Use Zoom Breakout Rooms to help students talk in smaller groups (just as they would do break-out groups in a larger class environment). See Managing Video Breakout Rooms below.
Rethink classroom activities to make them interactive even if Zoom students don’t have ideal connections and aren’t able to hear and see everything perfectly. Have students write and comment together on a shared Google Doc. Try using Poll Everywhere or Google Forms to collect student responses, and then share results with both in-person and online students.
- Check the Zoom Help Center.
- If your microphone is not working, use the phone number listed in the Zoom invitation when setting up a Zoom call. You can use your phone's microphone and audio source for your call rather than your computer’s built-in microphone if necessary.
- If your Internet connection is slow or lagging, consider turning off your video stream and only using audio. Sometimes, running the web camera on your computer uses the Internet’s bandwidth in a way that might make communication challenging. Turning off video should improve communication quality.
- If you have earbuds or a headphone set, wear them! Wearing earbuds or headphones reduces the amount of noise that your computer's microphone will pick up, which makes it easier for students to hear you. You may want to advise your students to wear earbuds or headphones during the call.
- Check the “chat” space for student questions and contributions. Some students may not have working microphones resulting in an inability to contribute via voice. The chat room is a place for students to contribute, ask questions and be involved.
- Review the Disability Services for Students Resources page.
- For students who are blind or have low visibility, narrate material you’re displaying on screen. Just as you might read materials aloud in class, read material that you share on-screen in case students are not able to see essential text.
- Automatic live captioning is not available in Zoom (automatic captions are visible if you record a Zoom session). You may wish to use Google Slides and enable the live captioning feature within Slides. If you screen-share using Google Slides your voice will be captured and live captions will appear. Review Present Slides with Captions (via Google Drive support) for more information.
OPTION 2: PRE-RECORDING LECTURES
If you are not comfortable presenting live another option is to pre-record any lecture material and upload it to Moodle or share the link via email. We recommend you pre-record lectures using Zoom, as this will generate automatic closed-captions needed for accessibility reasons.
Keep videos short and lively. It is often harder to focus on a video than a person! Check out some tips for creating lively short online videos from online educator Karen Costa.
Test your microphone to make sure that you have good sound quality. Consider using a headset with an external microphone for better audio quality.
Consider ADA compliance. Automatic closed-captioning is not perfect. Speak clearly and slowly so that the microphone can pick up your content as accurately as possible. If using a tool other than Zoom for recording lectures, consider uploading your videos to YouTube and taking advantage of their automatic (though not perfect) closed-captioning. consider setting up a Canvas discussion board with specific questions, use a quiz or set up a chat session for text-based live discussion.
Make sure to review the Disability Services for Students Resources page for more information.
OPTION 3: SKIP THE VIDEO
Many online courses do not have a video component at all. If you are unsure you have the right equipment and are uncomfortable with the tech setup, this might be a good option for you, at least for the short-term.
Annotate your slideshow with notes and share with students using Moodle or email.
Set up a discussion for students in Moodle. Use specific, structured questions, and let students know expectations for their responses. See our recommendations on Written Discussions.
Share links to outside resources. Encourage students to watch videos, read articles, etc.
Use Chat to have a live, text-based chat session with students.
Exams pose a particular challenge in situations where participants are on their own. The online format does not allow instructors the same ability to proctor exams as they have in class. In order to minimize incidents of academic integrity violations for online exams while still ensuring they accurately reflect student learning, consider the following principles in creating and modifying exams:
- Allowing exams to be open-book/source. Assume students will use resources while taking an exam and encourage them to do so. Try asking questions that probe deeper levels of knowledge and understanding, enabling students to apply, assess and evaluate concepts or facts in meaningful ways. Encourage students to share and cite where information was found and what resources were used.
- Encourage students to collaborate/share questions and ideas. Students will likely work together when stuck or confused. Encourage working in small teams and ask students to include who they collaborate with and in what ways.
- Focus on solving problems while showing work and explanations. In many cases, students may get the same answer, but showing their work reveals meaningful differences in understanding. Sometimes there may only be a few ways to show work, so you may ask for brief explanations, or have students record a video of them talking through the process to solve a question.
- Use question pools. If you have short-answer or multiple-choice questions, create pools in Moodle so students will receive different sets of questions (this can also be done with essays and more complex questions).
- Use student-generated questions with explanations. Instead of trying to ensure everyone answers a limited number of questions on their own, ask every student to create their own question with an explanation of how it would assess a certain topic or skill in a meaningful way. You can also assign students to answer each other’s questions and state whether those questions actually do assess these skills in the appropriate ways.
- Ensure clarity in questions and prompts. Especially if your test is timed, students may not have a chance to ask a question and get a response. It is vital that questions and prompts are clear to novices so your assessment measures what you want it to. Even if not timed, you do not want to be spending your limited time answering clarifying questions.
- Consider question formats leading to essays, videos, pictures, and other personal responses. If your class lends itself to it, having students express their learning through essays, videos, pictures, or other personalized forms of writing/speaking/communicating means that everyone needs to create their own. You can also have students post their responses for each other and assess each other’s work through peer grading. Rubrics can help guide students as work develops, give each other feedback, and allow teaching assistants and you a consistent method of assessment.
- Respect your own time. Most of these ideas take time to grade. Try to determine what is feasible in your situation, and use feedback-based or hand-grading intensive assessments sparingly. Consider how much feedback students actually need/will use. Many times feedback can be created for the whole group based on common challenges or problems, as opposed to individual responses.
Set up virtual office hours to meet with students using your webcam, share your screen or collaborate using Zoom's whiteboard feature.
- Keep the link to the Zoom room you’re using for your students in a central place on your course Moodle site. The main factor to consider when holding office hours or conferences with students via Zoom is your accessibility as an instructor. Make sure they know how to find your “office” (just as you might offer them directions to your office on-campus).
- Encourage students to share their screen with you. Screen sharing is possible not just for the instructor in Zoom, but for students too. Help students navigate towards a screen sharing option so they can show you the work on their screens.
Keep on Teaching strategy inspiration was acquired from Pepperdine Community, Stanford, OLC’s Making the Shift to Online Learning: Emergency Preparedness & Instructional Continuity, Purdue University and Indiana University pages.