There are great resources for giving online tests and running online projects — but before thinking about assessment, start with these three options to help you think about running your courses remotely:

Option 1: Run Your Class Live with Video Conferencing Tools like Zoom or Google Meeting

This option works especially well for small discussion-based classes, though it’s also effective for large lectures, especially if you have a moderator.

Recommendations

  • Use slides and screen sharing within Google Meet or Zoom to make sure discussion questions are visible to students who may have a slow Internet connection or who may struggle to hear the audio for the initial question. (Look for “Present Now” (Google Meet) or “Share Screen” (Zoom) at the bottom of your call.)
    • On your first slide, display an agenda at the start of the class session so that students know what to expect of the shared time together.
  • Use the chat (look for the speech bubble icon in Google Meet (top right) or Zoom (tool bar at bottom).
    • Moderate discussion, i.e., “call on” a student with a comment to speak, to help them break into the conversation.
    • You might use the chat to troubleshoot technical problems. For example, if a student is having trouble connecting via audio or video, the chat might be a space for you as the instructor or for fellow students to work together to problem-solve. This may, again, be an opportunity to assign a student to a special role, especially if you have students eager to help on the technical aspect of things.
  • 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.
  • Rethink your classroom activities to make the class more interactive even if Google Meet or 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.
  • Consider making discussion questions available in advance in onCourse, etc. so that students can access the questions if screen sharing does not work. If sharing slides in advance to Canvas, share as accessible PDFs, as students will be able to access the material on their phones.

A Few Troubleshooting Tips: 

  • If your microphone is not working, use the phone number listed in the Google Meet or Zoom invitation. You can use your phone as the 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 temporarily turning off your video stream and only maintaining the audio stream. Sometimes, running the web camera on your computer will use up the Internet’s bandwidth in a way that might make communication challenging. Turning off the video should improve communication quality and consistency.
  • If you have earbuds or a headphone set, wear them! Wearing earbuds or headphones will reduce the amount of noise that your computer will pick up during your quality, which will make it easier for your students to hear you. Similarly, you may want to advise your students to wear earbuds or headphones during the call.
  • Advise students to mute their microphones if they are not speaking and unmute the microphones when they wish to speak. Students may be joining video conference calls from all kinds of different locations, many of which may create background noise that could be distracting. Encourage students to mute themselves if they’re not speaking to minimize unnecessary or distracting background noise. Using the “raise hand” feature (Zoom) or simply seeing the microphone unmuted will give the group a visual cue for when a student wishes to speak.
  • Check the “chat” space for student questions and contributions. Some students may not have working microphones and, therefore, may be unable to contribute via voice. The chat room is a good place for students to contribute, ask questions, and be involved.
  • Check the Google Meet Help or Zoom Help Center.

Accessibility Suggestions: 

  • Automatic live captioning is available in Google Meet. All participants can turn on closed captioning using the button on the right of the tool bar at the bottom.  
  • 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 Google Slides. If you share your screen using Google Slides, your voice will be captured and live captions will appear. See Present Slides with Captions (via Google Drive support) for more information.
  • For students who are blind or have low visibility, narrate the material that you are displaying visually on the screen. Just as you might read materials aloud in class, read screen material that you share on-screen just in case students are not able to see essential text.

Tips on synchronous teaching from Colombia’s CTL.

Option 2: Pre-Record Your Lectures

If you are not comfortable presenting live, another good option is to pre-record any lecture material and upload it to OnCourse. Using Zoom to prerecord a presentation will generate automatic closed-captions that are needed for accessibility reasons. To record with captions in Google Meet, turn them on before you start recording.

Note that there are other options and tools for pre-recording your lectures.

Zoom Cheat Sheet to set up your call.

Basically, you’ll want to open up your Powerpoint or slides, make sure you’re recording to the cloud, and then use Zoom’s “Share Screen” tool.

Recommendations

  • Keep videos short and lively. It is often harder to focus on a video than on 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 to capture better audio.
  • Consider ADA compliance. Automatic closed-captioning is not perfect. Speak clearly and not too quickly to make the content as accurate as possible. If using a tool other than Google Meet or Zoom for recording your lecture, consider uploading your videos to YouTube to take advantage of their automatic (though not perfect) closed-captioning.
  • Integrate interaction with the lecture material. You might consider setting up an OnCourse discussion board with some specific questions, using a quiz, or setting up a chat session for a text-based live discussion.

Harvard’s CTL has more information on lecturing remotely.

Option 3: Skip the Video

Many online courses do not have a video component at all. We strongly encourage consideration of this option particularly given inclusion and bandwidth concerns. See this great guide on low-bandwidth teaching by Daniel Stanford at DePaul University as a starting point. If you are not sure you have the right equipment and are uncomfortable with the tech setup, this might be a good option, at least for the short-term.

Recommendations

  • Annotate your slideshow with notes and share this with students using onCourse or email
  • Set up a discussion for students on onCourse forums. Use specific, structured questions, and let students know expectations for their responses. Other options for collaboration are slack, piazza and padlet.
  • 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. In order to do this you can consider using slack.

Adapted from Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption by Jenea Cohn and Beth Seltzer at Stanford University