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Teaching & Learning Center Resources

Teaching & Learning Center: Going Online

Hold Classes Synchronously using Zoom

Create & Share Your Session Details

  • If you have chosen to hold a synchronous session online, communicate the date(s)/time(s) with students, consider posting the schedule in an accessible location (example, Canvas course). 
  • Deliver your instructional content using short, focused, instructional videos. 
    According to a study conducted by MIT, the optimal video length should be under 6 minutes (Guo, 2013).  Furthermore, according to a study conducted at the Georgia Institute of Technology, physics professors discovered the fraction of students accessing the entirety of a lecture video decreases when videos become longer in length (Lin et al., 2017).  By the nature of the material or depth and breadth of the delivery, lecture and content videos can be lengthy. Videos over 12 minutes in length often have limited views (Guo, 2013). If content or lecture videos are over 12 minutes, students may be missing out on key material or coming to class unprepared because they do not watch the videos posted in their courses. Click here to read more. 
  • Create your live session on the platform of your choice. Throughout this guide, you will see references and find resources related to Zoom as ATSU has a university license. If you need access to your Zoom account, contact the ITS Service Desk to submit a request.
  • Share your session link with students. Users can join by computer and telephone. If your chosen platform has an app, consider providing information or a link for your students. Remind students of any work that should be completed to prepare for the session.
  • Plan ahead & record for students who cannot make your live sessions.  If students do not have access to a stable internet connection, or for any reason cannot make your live session, consider recording and providing a link for them following the live session. 

Communications and Reminders

  • Remind students of your session start date/time. Send an email the day before and then about an hour before your session starts. If you have other ways to reach your students (Remind texting service, your LMS, etc.), multiple points of outreach are ideal.
  • Remind yourself. For those used to commuting to campus and land-based teaching, online sessions will be quite different. They can be easy to forget. Set a few alarms on your personal devices. Give yourself plenty of time, to allow for any technical challenges. 
  • Encourage students to check their Canvas notifications in order to receive all updates. Canvas provides opportunities for class discussions, allowing both instructors and students to start, and contribute to as many discussion topics as desired. Discussions can be graded or ungraded, and participants can post text, video, and audio, as well as files depending on how the instructor sets up each topic.
    • Consider using mobile apps to push notifications and anywhere access. This allows for two way communication (via their smart device) with your students all within the Canvas classroom. 
  • Provide your learning objectives. By communicating the learning objectives, the students have a clear understanding of what they are expected to learn at the end of the module/week/course, etc. 
  • Remember accessibility. Consider how you will address accessibility in your online class, especially if you have students with documented requests for accommodations that could be impacted by the shift from land-based to online learning. Zoom has an available feature that allows you to automatically transcribe cloud recordings.  If you need access to this Zoom feature, contact the ITS Service Desk to submit a request.
  • Less is more. Don’t expect to be able to accomplish as much as you’d like, especially in your first few sessions. Allow plenty of time to get everyone comfortable with using the online platform and to answer questions. Prioritize checking in with students on a human level. You might have to sacrifice some content. Remember, your best is good enough!

Session Preparation Essentials

  • Share technical guides with your audience. It might be someone’s first time in Zoom, so consider sending a short tutorial on testing audio/video in advance. Include this in your reminder email along with other information that your students need in order to come prepared (assignments, readings, etc.)
  • Use a headset and a microphone. This provides a clear way to capture your voice and allows you to more clearly hear conversations. Encourage your participants to do the same. Basic earbuds that include a microphone also work very well. ​If you need equipment (i.e., webcam, headset, etc.) for teaching online, contact the ITS Service Desk to submit a request.
  • Position your webcam and light source. An external (USB) camera such as the Logitech C920 might provide a better visual experience for your audience than your built-in laptop webcam, but use what you’ve got. Position your webcam at eye-level (a stack of textbooks works well as a “booster seat”). Position your light source directly in front of you to illuminate your face. To see this in action, watch this short (2 minute) video.
  • Run a technology check. Test your computer, camera, and microphone in the video conferencing platform at least 24 hours before your scheduled meeting by logging into your session. Use all the equipment (including headset or earbuds) that you plan to use during your session. Consider practicing with the features (polls, break out rooms, etc.)  you intend to use prior to the session start date. 
  • Join from a location with a strong and stable internet connection. Reduce background noise by going to a private space. A wired connection is best. If you are using WiFi, then connect from your home or office. Review the system requirements necessary to run Zoom and share the information with your class. 
  • 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 start interacting with your learners in the chat. Lots of great conversations happen before sessions even begin.
  • Appearance matters. Clean up your background (what is visible behind you in your physical location) to ensure that it’s appropriate/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. This allows you to share the recording with students who weren’t able to attend (or who had to call in from a landline). Make sure that everyone consents before proceeding. You might forget to select the record option, set a (quiet) alarm to nudge you. 

Interacting with Students

  • Demonstrate faculty presence. If you are making a rapid shift from land-based to online instruction, your students will likely know you already. However, take a moment to say “hello” and share something appropriately personal at the start of the session to break the ice. Check-in with your students via the chat and see how they are managing. 
  • Set expectations early on. Set clear expectations and standards for your students. Share the agenda and explain how you want them to participate. Should they use non-verbal feedback to simulate hand-raising? Add questions and comments in the chat? Will you make use of breakout rooms for small group discussions? Be clear, and take a few minutes to demonstrate the features you’ll be using (and which you expect participants to use). 
  • Create a positive community. Reinforce and maintain a positive and safe environment for your students. Be flexible and understanding in these challenging times. 
  • Hold virtual office hours. This is a helpful option, especially if most of your content and interactions take place asynchronously. Consider using Zoom or Google calendar appointment slots to hold virtual office hours.
  • Mute audio when not speaking. All noises can be picked up by your microphone including typing, shuffling papers, etc. Minimize distractions by muting your microphone when you’re listening. If you are the meeting host (main presenter), you can mute others.
  • Consider requesting students to share their screens. When students opt to share their screen they are less likely to drift off task and remain engaged in the virtual conversation. As a recommendation, make this one of your expectations that you email prior to the first session. 

In-Meeting Tips

  • Mute audio when not speaking. All noises can be picked up by your microphone including typing, shuffling papers, etc. Minimize distractions by muting your microphone when you’re listening. If you are the meeting host (main presenter), you can “mute all.” You also have the option to mute all participants on entry, which saves you the time and effort of muting each person individually, 
  • Monitor the chat. Some participants might not be able to speak up during the meeting. Others might have technical difficulties. The chat box can be used to address those issues as well as provide another place where conversation can take place during the meeting.
  • Check on your screen-sharing. If you’re not sure whether your participants see the content you’ve intended to screen-share, ask them! If something’s not working right, remember that you can always send files or website links to your participants through the chat. Do your best and don’t let tech challenges throw you off track.

Engagement Tools

  • Start and end strong. People will most remember the first and last five minutes of a learning experience. Use your time wisely by planning a strong start and finish. Stories, videos, images, chats, and polls can all boost engagement.
    • At the beginning of the lecture, frame the content of the day’s lecture. For example, today’s lecture connects to “______ topic we covered last week…”.  This will help students recall what was last covered so they can start to see how it is connected. 
    • List specific topics to be covered with the format(s) you intend to use (Canvas, video file, etc.). 
    • Discuss the approaches you plan to use (case study, patient examples). 
    • Explain the application to a specific problem/diagnosis/skill (be specific). How can they solve the problem, brainstorm ideas or discuss the parameters here?
    • Discuss the significance, connections or summary once you have presented on the topic.
  • Use the chat. The chat is your best friend in an online session. While we might discourage chatting in a land-based classroom, the opposite is true in an online session. Encourage your students to comment on the topic at hand in the chat. This will keep them engaged and active. Ask lots of questions, especially if you’re lecturing, and comment on students’ responses in the chat. It’s very easy to use the chat for an informal poll (e.g., share one word that comes to mind when you think of today’s topic). Formal polls take time to create.
  • Switch it up. Just as we want to be mindful of the length of lectures in a land-based classroom, the same is true in an online session. In addition to punctuating your lecture with questions and engaging students in the chat, try not to lecture for more than 10 minutes. Take a break, do an activity, and then resume your lecture if needed. 
  • Try a breakout room. Regardless of the size of your class, you can use breakout rooms in Zoom meetings to boost engagement. Zoom allows you to divide your meeting into as many as 50 separate sessions. Make sure to set clear expectations for what students should be doing in the breakout room (e.g., assign a timekeeper, reporter, leader, etc.). Breakout rooms are not recorded and the chat will switch from a session-wide chat to a breakout room only chat. Students can call on the presenter/teacher for help from within the breakout room. 
  • Assess student learning. Assessment is a tool to help students AND faculty to teach and learn best. This list of 50 Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) includes tons of “just-in-time” assessments that you can use to get a read on student learning. Most of these are easily transferable to an online session, and you can use them in a poll or chat. Another alternative is to make use of Google docs, which allows students to easily collaborate on a shared document in real-time or asynchronously. Some of these CATs would work well in Google docs.
    • Synchronous discussion activities. The example activity is called an entrance ticket. At the start of your lecture, ask students to write down what they already know about the topic you plan to cover preferably share via chat or in breakout rooms and have a spokesperson report out for the group). Have a conversation about what students may know. Take the opportunity to review the content previously reviewed and make connections to help reinforce retention. 
  • Provide frequent and timely feedback. This can be completed with assignment feedback, discussion forums, or any other method that works for you and your class. 
  • Consider using tools like Poll Everywhere or Mentimeter. For faculty currently using the free version of Poll Everywhere, reach out to the support team, who will enable the 90-day premium plan for no cost. You can find alternative free technology tools by clicking here. 

Acknowledging Anxiety

  • Recognize your own anxiety. Aside from the abrupt shift from land-based to online instruction, the reasons behind that shift might be ramping up our stress and anxiety. It is also very normal to feel camera-shy, even if you’ve been teaching in front of a classroom for years. Take a deep breath, and remember that perfection is not the goal. Be human, do your best, and ask for help when you need it.
  • Recognize your students’ anxiety. Just as these rapid shifts will elicit strong emotions from faculty, so too will our students likely experience higher levels of stress and anxiety that might impact their classroom behavior or experience.

Wrapping Up

  • Remember to stop the recording. Tell your participants when you do so, as they might have some questions that they were too shy to pose during the recording.
  • Stick around a bit. Wait for a few participants to leave before you hit the “end meeting” button so that the closing doesn’t feel so abrupt. Thank participants for their time and remember to send any follow-up materials as close as possible to the session timing, so that it’s still fresh in participants’ minds.
  • Be patient and set reasonable expectations. Once you have ended your recording, the file has to render. This can take some time and you will be unable to access and share/download your recording until this step is completed. Depending on the length of your meeting, plan for 4-12 hrs (especially if you selected the automatic audio transcript).
  • Post your recording to Canvas. You can use the New Rich Content Editor to embed video and audio media from external resources.

Provide Content Asynchronously

Having students participate in live Zoom conversations can be useful, but scheduling can prove to be problematic, you (or your students) might experience poor internet connection, and/or your students may not participate as actively as you’d hope. 

Consider alternative lectures to live, synchronous sessions. 

  • Create Lecture Pages (Microsoft Word, PDF, HTML) to upload in Canvas

  • Lecture Recordings (Record and download your video file to upload for viewing at a later date. Tools like Zoom, Echo360, and Recording over PowerPoint slides offer options)

  • No Lectures/Seminar Format (Chat, Discussions, Zoom, Collaborative Activities)

    • Use asynchronous tools like Canvas Discussions to allow students to participate on their own schedules. In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.

  • Deliver your instructional content using short, focused, instructional videos.
    According to a study conducted by MIT, the optimal video length should be under 6 minutes (Guo, 2013).  Furthermore, according to a study conducted at the Georgia Institute of Technology, physics professors discovered the fraction of students accessing the entirety of a lecture video decreases when videos become longer in length (Lin et al., 2017).  By the nature of the material or depth and breadth of the delivery, lecture and content videos can be lengthy. Videos over 12 minutes in length often have limited views (Guo, 2013). If content or lecture videos are over 12 minutes, students may be missing out on key material or coming to class unprepared because they do not watch the videos posted in their courses. Click here to read more. 


Reminders and Announcements

Communication is paramount, and it's essential to keep in touch and interact with students, no matter where you are. While email is always an option, we encourage you to explore tools (Canvas) to keep communication organized, quick, and personable.

  • Remind students of upcoming requirements and deadlines. Send an email or create an announcement to communicate with students about the course activities and upcoming deadlines. If you have other ways to reach your students (Remind texting service, your LMS, etc.), multiple points of outreach are ideal.

  • Encourage students to check their Canvas notifications in order to receive all updates.

  • Remember accessibility. Shifting courses online is an opportunity to build in accessibility from the beginning. If you already use an online course manager, you may be familiar with some basic accessible teaching strategies: 

  • Provide your learning objectives. By communicating the learning objectives, the students have a clear understanding of what they are expected to learn at the end of the module/week/course, etc. 

  • Less is more. Don’t expect to be able to accomplish as much as you’d like, especially in your first few sessions. Allow plenty of time to get everyone comfortable with using the online platform and to answer questions. Prioritize checking in with students on a human level. You might have to sacrifice some content. Remember, your best is good enough!


Session Preparation Essentials

  • Make sure all course materials are available in Canvas. Clarify assignments, readings, and all instructions. Upload Documents, links, videos, and other teaching materials as necessary. 

    • Keep in mind, access to on-campus resources, (example, library books) may require a proxy or permalink so that students can access them off-campus. Contact a librarian for more information. 


Video/Audio Recording

  • Share your session link with students. Users can join by computer and telephone. If your chosen platform has an app, consider providing information or a link for your students. Remind students of any work that should be completed to prepare for the session.

  • Appearance matters. Clean up your background (what is visible behind you in your physical location) to ensure that it’s appropriate/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.

  • Remember to record the meeting. This allows you to share the recording with students who weren’t able to attend (or who had to call in from a landline). Make sure that everyone consents before proceeding. You might forget to select the record option, set a (quiet) alarm to nudge you.


Video/Audio Options

  • Echo360 Video Recording. This tool provides students with options to view recorded lectures, demonstrations, and interact with course material for deeper learning. 

  • Record within Canvas using Zoom or Echo360. Click here to watch the step-by-step videos. 

  • Record a slide show with narration in PowerPoint. Record voice narrations and timings over your presentation slides. You can start a recording from any slide in your presentation. Save the recording file and upload it for your students to review at a later date. 

    • Manage your recordings

      • Pause - to pause a recording.

      • Close - to end a recording.

      • Laser Pointer, Pen, Highlighter, or Eraser - to use the pointer, ink, eraser, or highlighter tools in your recording


Technology Tips

  • [If using Zoom] Join from a location with a strong and stable internet connection. Reduce background noise by going to a private space. A wired connection is best. If you are using WiFi, then connect from your home or office. Review the system requirements necessary to run Zoom and share the information with your class.

  • Use a headset (or earbuds) and a microphone. This provides a clear way to capture your voice and allows you to more clearly hear conversations. Encourage your participants to do the same. Basic earbuds that include a microphone also work very well. ​If you need equipment (i.e., webcam, headset, etc.) for teaching online, contact the ITS Service Desk to submit a request.

  • Position your webcam and light source. An external (USB) camera such as the Logitech C920 might provide a better visual experience for your audience than your built-in laptop webcam, but use what you’ve got. Position your webcam at eye-level (a stack of textbooks works well as a “booster seat”). Position your light source directly in front of you to illuminate your face. To see this in action, watch this short (2 minute) video.

  • Record your video on the platform of your choice. Throughout this guide, you will see references and find resources related to Zoom as ATSU has a university license. If you need access to your Zoom account, contact the ITS Service Desk to submit a request.

  • Remember accessibility. Consider how you will address accessibility in your online class, especially if you have students with documented requests for accommodations that could be impacted by the shift from land-based to online learning. Zoom has an available feature that allows you to automatically transcribe cloud recordings.  If you need access to this Zoom feature, contact the ITS Service Desk to submit a request.

  • Run a technology check. Test your computer, camera, and microphone in the video conferencing platform at least 24 hours before your scheduled meeting by logging into your session. Use all the equipment (including headset or earbuds) that you plan to use during your session. Consider when you will launch your activities and practice with these tools (polls, break out rooms, etc.)  prior to the session start date. If you are uploading the recorded file, students watching the recording will be unable to participate in activities completed during the session. 


Interacting with Students

  • Demonstrate faculty presence. If you are making a rapid shift from land-based to online instruction, your students will likely know you already. However, take a moment to say “hello” and share something appropriately personal at the start of the session to break the ice. Check-in with your students via the chat and see how they are managing. 

  • Hold virtual office hours. This is a helpful option, especially if most of your content and interactions take place asynchronously. Consider using Zoom or Google calendar appointment slots to hold virtual office hours.

  • Set expectations early on. Set clear expectations and standards for your students. Share the agenda and explain how you want them to participate. Should they use non-verbal feedback to simulate hand-raising? Add questions and comments in the chat? Will you make use of breakout rooms for small group discussions? Be clear, and take a few minutes to demonstrate the features you’ll be using (and which you expect participants to use). 

  • Create a positive community. Reinforce and maintain a positive and safe environment for your students. Be flexible and understanding in these challenging times. 


Engagement 

  • Switch it up. Just as we want to be mindful of the length of lectures in a land-based classroom, the same is true in an online session. In addition to punctuating your lecture with questions and engaging students in the chat, try not to lecture for more than 10 minutes. Take a break, do an activity, and then resume your lecture if needed. 

  • Discussions. Discussions provide an opportunity for student-student and student-instructor interaction and often become one of the main activities of an online course. In addition to content-related questions and have informal exchanges with their classmates. Graded discussions seamlessly integrate with the Canvas Grade book. Discussions allow for interactive communication between an entire class or group, allowing for a level of engagement that closely aligns with the in-class experience.  

    • Consider if you want students to participate during regularly-scheduled class time or will your policy be flexible? Discussions do not have to happen in real-time during class times. They could be due at the end of the week. Students who are sick may not have the energy for a 90-minute discussion board or lecture. Consider adding in extra time for completing discussions and assignments. 

    • Consider giving students credit for discussion if they turn in lecture notes or critical discussion questions. Do not be surprised if you see an increase in spelling or grammatical mistakes. The extra cognitive load of so much typing (or text production via voice transcription technology) may make things difficult for our students. 

    • Ask open-ended questions to continue the discussions and prompt for a response supported by evidence. 

    • Assign staggered deadlines to encourage participation and discourage procrastination which prevents a dialog from occurring. 

    • Provide suggestions and expectations for student responses

      • Reflection about meaning: Describe thoughtfully what something means or new insights it provides, or raise a question as a seed for clarification or further discussion.

      • Analysis: Discuss relevant themes, concepts, main ideas, components, or relationships among ideas. Or, identify hidden assumptions or fallacies in reasoning.

      • Elaboration: Build on ideas of others or ideas found in the readings by adding details, examples, a different viewpoint, or other relevant information.

      • Application: Provide examples of how principles or concepts can be applied to actual situations, or discuss the implications of theory for practice. 

      • Synthesis: Integrate multiple views to provide a summary, a new perspective, or a creative refashioning of ideas.

      • Evaluation: Assess the accuracy, reasonableness, or quality of ideas.

      • PQP (Praise, Question, Polish): Students can first point out something positive in a classmate’s post, then pose a question about something in or related to the post, then offer suggestions to expand upon the idea in the post.

  • Consider providing an alternative format for the discussion assignment, as appropriate and applicable. There are a number of ways that discussions can be formatted besides the traditional format, 

    • Debates. Instead of discussing a question openly, students can either pick a side to support or can be assigned to a specific side. Be sure to remind students to be professional in their messages and direct their comments at discussion points, not individuals, to avoid flaming.

    • Fishbowls. In this discussion design, the class is divided in half. One half of the class starts the discussion while the other half observes. Then the groups switch and the other half of the class completes the discussion activity. It’s critical to provide clear expectations for student participation upfront in order for this format to work.

    • Jigsaw. Some discussion assignments may require students to focus on multiple topics as part of the discussion. A jigsaw is a great way to make such assignments manageable. For this discussion format, you first enroll students in homogenous groups where each group is assigned a different topic to focus on. In part two, you split the groups up and form new groups that contain at least one person from each of the homogenous groups to form heterogeneous groups. In their new groups, they might work together to provide a “big picture” recommendation based on the individual topics they researched. Once again, it’s critical to provide clear expectations so students understand what their individual role is in each discussion group in order for this format to work.

    • Group Consensus. Students work in small groups to come to an agreement on a question or problem. Groups must be small; four is the ideal size. Students should also be responsible for posting their own thoughts first and then go on to work on an agreement to avoid freeloaders. Finally, extra time should be given for discussions that require consensus due to the amount of time it takes to achieve this in an asynchronous environment.

    • Show-and-Tell. While the Show-and-Tell discussion format generally doesn’t evolve into a true dialog, it’s a great opportunity to facilitate sharing among your students. Ask students to find articles, videos, or other resources related to a particular topic and share with the class, along with a brief annotation, to generate a bibliography for a specific topic or module in the course.

    • Peer Feedback. A common response to course evaluations is the request for more feedback. While it’s important for instructors to provide feedback, students can also provide feedback for each other. Formatting a discussion to generate peer feedback can be an extremely valuable learning tool for students giving as well as receiving feedback. When creating such discussions, it’s important to ensure that all students receive quality feedback. Having students work in small groups of 3-4, where they provide feedback to everyone in the group seems to work best. The instructor must also provide guidelines for how the feedback should be focused on.

  • Provide an opportunity for hands-on application. Consider Online MedEd to find lesson ideas that allow virtual opportunities for practice. 

  • Assess student learning. Assessment is a tool to help students AND faculty to teach and learn best. This list of 50 Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) includes tons of “just-in-time” assessments that you can use to get a read on student learning. Most of these are easily transferable to an online session, and you can use them in a poll or chat. Another alternative is to make use of Google docs, which allows students to easily collaborate on a shared document in real-time or asynchronously. Some of these CATs would work well in Google docs. Assessments can also be completed in Canvas. Check here for the different quiz options

  • Provide frequent and timely feedback. This can be completed with assignment feedback, discussion forums, or any other method that works for you and your class. 

  • Consider using tools like Poll Everywhere or Mentimeter. For faculty currently using the free version of Poll Everywhere, reach out to the support team, who will enable the 90-day premium plan for no cost. You can find alternative free technology tools by clicking here. 

  • Monitor your timing as you begin teaching in an online, synchronous format.
    One timing trick is to have an example about 3/4 of the way through the lecture that can be expanded or compressed. Here are a few suggestions if you find yourself running on schedule, running late or (by some miracle) ahead of schedule. 

    • On-time - continue example as planned

    • Running late - introduce example and approach but skip details

    • Running early - (does this happen?) show them the level of detail you expect on an exam including written reasoning


Assessment 

You can assess your students, design and execute in-depth discussions, and collect group and/or individual assignments. 

  • Set clear deadlines (Canvas options) for assignments and graded deliverables. 

  • Consider using rubrics for assignments as well as discussions. Rubrics provide clear expectations for students regarding how an assignment, that can otherwise be subjective, will be assessed. In addition to providing support, they can be especially helpful to instructors since they clearly state the goals for the assignment and facilitate a systematic way to assign grades. Don’t have time to create a discussion rubric? Consider these examples


Acknowledging Anxiety

  • Recognize your own anxiety. Aside from the abrupt shift from land-based to online instruction, the reasons behind that shift might be ramping up our stress and anxiety. Take a deep breath, and remember that perfection is not the goal. Be human, do your best, and ask for help when you need it.

  • Recognize your students’ anxiety. Just as these rapid shifts will elicit strong emotions from faculty, so too will our students likely experience higher levels of stress and anxiety that might impact their classroom behavior or experience.


Wrapping Up

  • Provide your contact information. Consider where you post your contact information. How often will you meet with students? Students should have clear expectations for when they should hear back related to their questions or when you will provide feedback. 

  • If you experience technical difficulties, we are here for you! Our ITS staff is ready to assist you. Here are 4 ways to get help from ITS: