Skip to main content

Accessibility menu

Skip to main content Skip to footer

Keep Teaching

A page within Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning (CATL)

General Principles

The following general principles continue to guide the transition to online distance learning.

Keep Teaching General Principles

Communicate and consider access
  • Communicate with your students early and frequently. Cultivating a sense that you are present with the students in a meaningful sense is crucial to successful online teaching. 
  • Remind students that we are all learning through these circumstances and to remain flexible. 
  • Think about access. Remember that your students may not all have the same level of access to internet connections, computer software, hardware, etc. Gather information about potential needs and brainstorm workarounds.  
  • Figure out ways to maintain your internet connection away from campus. If you do not have access at your home or are concerned about reliable internet access, please discuss with your department chair who will relay this information to the appropriate Academic Dean.
  • The Keep Learning site contains tips and resources for students during this transition. Please feel free to share it with your students.
Be flexible and accommodating
  • Revisit and update your course policies, specifically attendance policies, to ensure they allow for flexibility should unforeseen sickness, technical interruptions, or other occur. Create additional plans to assess attendance and/or participation, if needed. Consider that not all students will have continual access to technology and/or internet. 
  • Convert synchronous activities into asynchronous activities to ease scheduling and access (internet, computer, etc.) challenges. 
  • Explore and provide options where possible. What objectives can be met in different ways? What can be reordered? What knowledge or skills can be shown in a different way?  
  • Consider different ways for students to show their work or progress. It might be that exams or group presentations need to be reconfigured. Consider deliverables in the form of video recorded presentations or demonstrations, oral exams, small group creation of an artifact, developing an infographic, a student created study guide, writing a research or opinion paper, a series of short quizzes, etc. Need more ideas? Contact CATL.
  • Think about what you will do if YOU get sick. Some options include adding an alternate instructor, ask students to do asynchronous work, record online lectures in advance, import or build online modules, utilize external resources or courses (for example, Coursera, EdX, FutureLearn – free online courses with modules you can assign), create a long-term project where students work on their own for a bit, etc.  
  • Read Teaching in a Crisis for additional strategies and resources for students, faculty, and staff.
Know your tools and resources
  • Use tools that are familiar to you and the students, to the greatest extent possible. If using new tools, provide directions and practice opportunities, if possible.  
  • Think about supplies that students could have at their home to complete course work for studio or lab courses, or any hands-on activity. Share that list with students in advance of classes starting up again. 
  • Inform students of technologies you might use and places to go for support so students can test and prepare for the technology. You do not need to provide technology support to your students, but you do need to give them information about where to go for such support. Two great places for students are Canvas student support and Eagle Help Desk for all other technology needs.   
  • Learn about various technologies that could assist you. Keep reading to review what those technologies might be.
  • Replace physical resources with digital resources where possible. Remember that students who are not on campus will only have access to digital resources from the library, and some will lack access to their course textbooks. Digital resources from Murphy Library include streaming video, classical music, e-books, databases, online journals, federal and state publications, and locally digitized resources (local/area history mostly). Please also know that the library will continue to offer library instruction. 
Maintain continuity by focusing on outcomes
  • Focus on learning outcomes even if you need to adjust the specific activities that contribute to those outcomes. Keep students moving toward those outcomes. Avoid "busy work." 
  • Maintain normal course scheduling as much as you can. You can hold synchronous activities to promote community, but please don't penalize students who cannot participate due to time zone differences, poor internet access, sickness, or similar factors. Record synchronous sessions for those unable to attend or wanting to review. Additionally, it's ideal to schedule synchronous activities during the normal class time (relative to the Central time zone), to avoid putting students in the untenable position of having to choose between simultaneous activities for different classes. 
  • Prioritize course activities and focus on delivering the ones with the most significant impact on learning outcomes. When necessary, rearrange or alter course activities to meet objectives in an online format. 

Specific Strategies

Communicating with Students

You are already familiar with communication via email, but you might wish to consider some other alternatives. 

  • The Inbox tool in Canvas allows students to contact you and their peers in one space where they access course materials as well.  Remind students about this tool, and consistently use it yourself It can be much easier to keep up with course related messages in the Canvas Inbox than in your email inbox.  
  • Consider using Collaborate Ultra in Canvas to hold virtual office hours and to keep appointments with students. You can also use WebEx. If your students do not have access to adequate bandwidth for video conferencing, you can use it strictly as a chat or voice meeting or consider using Microsoft Teams for real-time typed conversations, video or voice calls; or for asynchronous typed chat conversations with individuals or groups. 
  • Use the Canvas Scheduler in your course calendar to designate selected time slots for which students can sign up for one-on-one or group meetings with you.  
  • Announcements in Canvas can be used to help students have a centralized place within their course to see a history of updates, notes, reminders, etc. When set-up, notifications in Canvas will send emails or texts to users when announcements posts.
  • The Keep Learning site contains tips and resources for students during this transition. Please feel free to share it with your students.
Delivering Lecture Content Online

If your plans for a class include lectures or demonstrations, you can often use a recorded video to achieve the same effect. Furthermore, hearing your voice and seeing your face can help students maintain a sense of instructor presence, so important in online teaching and learning. 

  • You can prerecord your lecture from a specific classroom or space on campus using MediaSite. This is useful if you want to be in a classroom with specific equipment or supplies. Please contact the Eagle Help Desk for assistance. 
  • You can prerecord your lecture from anywhere on or off campus using either MyMedia (Kaltura) or MyMedia (Mediasite).  
  • Another option is to create slides with audio and/or video using VoiceThread. 
  • As an alternative to making your own videos, you could search for already created videos. Canvas has options already enabled to add videos from resources such as YouTube, Vimeo, TEDed, and other video services available through Murphy library.  
  • Live courses can be offered with web-conferencing software such as  Collaborate Ultra in Canvas or WebEx outside of Canvas (providing links to meeting rooms in Canvas). Consider that not all students will be able to access session live. Record the live session and do not penalize students for an inability to access the materials live. Audio and video content for classes must be made available to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students at the same time it is available to the rest of the class in order to ensure equal access. 

If you're making your own videos, try to employ the following practices: 

  • Keep your videos short, less than 15 minutes in length (following the Flipped Learning Global Initiative's recommended maximum of one minute per grade level). If your lecture would normally last longer than 15 minutes, divide it into smaller sections. 
  • If you have students watching multiple videos for a single class session equivalent, insert a learning activity between the video segments. This can be as simple as having students briefly derive a potential test question from the video they just watched, post a reaction in a discussion on Canvas, or take a brief content quiz either in Canvas or right in the video using Kaltura interactive video quiz. (These kinds of engagement breaks make face-to-face lectures more effective, too.) 
  • Prepare and use a script or talking points if you have time to do so. If you find that you must choose between audio quality and video quality, prioritize audio quality. Otherwise, don't worry too much about production values, keeping it real like in class helps students to connect.  
  • The easiest way to deliver videos you've made yourself would be to upload them to your MyMedia (Kaltura), in Canvas, so you can link or embed right into your courses 
  • Finally, you could also simply provide students with the text of your lecture—again, preferably broken up into chunks punctuated by activities in which students interact with the material. 
Running Lab or Studio Activities Online

While it might be difficult to fully translate existing lab exercises to an online learning space, there are some steps that may work for some labs. 

  • Divide the lab experience into smaller segments and determine which segments can be delivered online. If you normally begin a lab session with an orientation to certain procedures or equipment, perhaps you could use a video recording to deliver the same information. This may require pre-planning to ensure access to necessary equipment to use.  
  • Investigate virtual labs (e.g., ChemCollective). In some circumstances, a virtual lab experience might be suboptimal but adequate. 
  • Reconsider what needs to be done and when. Are there ways to separate out giving information vs collecting data first-hand? If the primarily learning outcome the lab experiences addresses has to do with data analysis rather than data collection, consider providing the students with realistic data sets upon which to perform the required analysis. 
  • For a studio course, consider ways to use synchronous tools such as Collaborate Ultra or Microsoft Teams to allow for one-on-one video teaching. Students can submit videos of their work in Canvas.  
Conducting Discussions and Collaborative Work Online

Translating a seminar-style discussion into an asynchronous format is different, but keeping those conversations going throughout any course cancelations promotes student community as well as student learning. The Discussion tool in Canvas provides a digital space for these conversations to happen.  

  • Begin with some type of course content—typically a reading or video—designed to elicit student response. 
  • Require students to make an initial post that responds to that content in some well-defined way. Canvas allows student not only to type responses, but also, to post audio or video responses, add links, or attach content to help make discussions more interactive.  
  • Require students to return later to the discussion and provide response to one or more posts by their classmates. Be specific about when students should complete each component. By iterating through this cycle several times with relatively short time between deadlines, you can get a little bit closer to the feel of an in-class discussion. You can create small-group discussions in Canvas too.
  • Make your discussion prompts as specific as possible, especially for lower-level courses, but also open-ended. 
  • If you would grade the discussion in a face-to-face setting, grade it also in the online setting. In Canvas, while creating the discussion post you can turn on the graded option.
  • Moderate your own participation. Intervene if necessary, to keep the discussion going, but be even more patient with silence than you would be in a face-to-face discussion, keeping in mind the asynchronous nature of an online forum. Let the conversation develop between students.
  • Remind your students that an online course forum is an extension of the classroom, and the same expectations of civility and critical thinking apply as when you're face-to-face. You might want to share with your students eLearning Industry's "10 Netiquette Tips for Online Discussions." 
  • Consider important differences between online and face-to-face communication and urge your students to do the same. Tone of voice, body language, and general demeanor translate poorly into text-only communications, so think before you write and encourage your students to do the same. In particular, be aware that countering a student's perspective with an alternative perspective can have a chilling effect on a conversation, so try to allow those alternatives to arise from other students whenever possible. 
  • You can conduct group work using similar principles. Canvas supports the creation of groups within a class. When groups are created, students get their own group page where they can create pages or collaborations, have discussions, and share files. Beyond their educational value, group activities can support class cohesion during periods when students are physically far away from each other. 
  • If you have a relatively small class, you may be able to organize a synchronous discussion session using Collaborate Ultra (integrated in Canvas), or a similar web conferencing tool. However, please do not penalize students who cannot participate in synchronous meetings. 
Receiving Student Presentations Online

Since student presentations usually take the form of short lectures, they can be delivered to you and to the class in the same way that you can deliver your own lecture content to the class. 

  • Students today generally know how to make short videos on their laptops or phones, pending they have access to devices and internet. Students also have access to Kaltura and Mediasite to use screensharing and audio in a presentation format. Advise students how you want them to submit their videos, via an assignment, discussion, or through the inbox with links or embedding the content.  
  • Having students post in discussions, where other students can comment on their classmates' presentations, may offer the nearest analogue to a synchronous face-to-face presentation.  If you're inviting peer review, encourage students to make both appreciative comments and comments that could lead to improved performance in the future. 
  • Check out and share this guide for students from the Public Speaking Center.
Administering Tests and Quizzes Online

Administering a high-stakes assessment online during the stressful events surrounding a campus closure are probably ill-advised, but low-stakes assessments like daily reading quizzes or concept checks can easily be delivered through the Quizzes tool in Canvas. Good practices in online quizzing include: 

  • Focus on low-stakes assessments. 
  • Allow students to use the resources at hand (like an "open book" test). Design the assessment appropriately and place a time limit, word count limit, or both on the exercise. Canvas makes it easy to add accommodations on timed assignments or number of attempts for students that may need them or for errors in taking the quiz 
  • Some professors may be concerned about academic integrity during online quizzing. UWL has access to Respondus Lockdown Browser in Canvas for use with Classic Quizzes. While in use, Respondus Lockdown Browser does not allow students to print, copy, visit other website, access other applications, or close a quiz until it is submitted for grading. For the remainder of this academic year, we have a fully functioning trial of Respondus Monitor which is an online video proctoring service. Know the specifics of this tool before employing it in your course. 
Additional Resources

Here are a few good articles and resources about going online in a hurry. Note that not all ideas, recommendations, or technologies are available or best suited for UWL.  

CATL Keep Teaching: Webinar Recordings

This document links to webinar recordings. You need a UWL email to view this list. We are adding links as they become available. 

For additional support...

The Center for Advancing Teaching & Learning is ready to assist you with specific, individualized course elements and ideas. You can also contact Canvas support 24/7 or review Canvas guides at any time. You can also contact the Eagle Help Desk for additional technology support 

Significant portions of this guidance are adapted, with permission, from the Indiana University Knowledge Base article "Keep teaching during prolonged campus or building closures."