Remote Teaching

A variety of circumstances might require you to temporarily deliver your class online with minimal notice, such as a viral or infectious disease outbreak, a family emergency requiring your presence elsewhere, or a natural disaster. This guide provides you suggested actions to take quickly when making the shift from teaching in a land-based classroom to teaching anywhere.

A good starting point for planning a shift to remote teaching is to understand the difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning.


  Prepare One Week of Class in Five Steps


Make a Plan

Consider using the Rule of 2's strategy to create a straightforward remote teaching plan. This planning process includes focusing on two guiding principles, two tools to support teaching, and so on. Modify your course expectations allowing flexibility for less than ideal conditions for access to technology, child or dependent care, and health considerations.


Stay Connected with Students

Determine how you will hold office hours and how to stay connected to students. Establish a plan clear plan for staying connected. Will you schedule office hours by phone call? Will you hold virtual office hours synchronously on Webex? Will you simply contact students using the Announcement feature in Canvas? Define a communication plan, and keep it simple.


Create or Identify Content to Distribute

Get one week of contect prepared. Consider preparing a combination of brief lecture videos, existing open content, and readings based on your current course plan. Assistance in adding and organizing this content in Canvas is available from the Center for Innovative Design and Instruction, and can be requested by completing the Online Conversion Help Request form.


Create Assignments and Assessments

Based on your plan determine how students can best demonstrate that they have met your expectations for the course. Again, be cognizant that students will have varying levels of access to technology are other important resources, so be flexible in your requirements. We want to remove barriers, not rigor. Also consider student accessibility issues as you transition to remote teaching in a new format.


Teach Remotely

Time to get started. This will be a different teaching experience for you, and a different learning experience for your students. Teaching is difficult anyway, and teaching through a crisis presents a number of additional challenges. We are all human and trying to process what's happening in the world around us. Be flexible in your expectations. Be understanding with your students. Be human.

Additional Resources and Tips


1. Make a Plan 

With limited time and resources to redesign a courses for online or remote teaching we need to keep things simple and straightforward. Priority should certainly be placed on providing students with the support they need during this time. That starts with understanding that we must be flexible with expectations. We want to remove barriers to students learning without removing rigor. 

Consider using the following tips and resources:


Use the Rule of 2's strategy

The Rule of 2's strategy was created for shifting to remote teaching during crisis to establish or maintain guiding principles for your course, and keep things simple by focusing on two tools, chunking content, and focusing on flexible ways to engage students. Rember that as you go through this process you can work with a colleague, instructional designer, librarian, or student to help.

Recommended Resource

Name: Rule of 2's Worksheet
Type: Instructional Planning Tool
Time: 20-30 minutes to complete
Source: Plymouth State University

Consider course workload

It can be difficult to estimate the amount of time it takes the average college student to complete common academic tasks. This tool is provided as a helpful way to estimate the amount of time you are asking students to spend on your course based on different types of academic tasks (reading, writing, exams, etc). Be cognizant how much time you're asking your students to spend working on your course.

Recommended Resource

Name: Course Workload Estimator
Type: Instructional Planning Tool
Time: 10-15 minutes to complete
Source: Rice University

Adjust expectations in syllabus

If you and your students are working through a pandemic or natural disaster there will be a need to adjust expectations in the syllabus. Consider reminding students that nobody signed up for this situation, you will work together to get through it, you won't be able to replicate a land-based course in an asynchronous setting, but you will work to be flexible and adjust to the situation.

Recommended Resource

Name: Adjusted Syllabus
Type: Example 
Time: 5 minutes to review
Source: Brandon Bayne, UNC Chapel Hill



2. Stay Connected with Students 

You are a vital connection for your students, and they want to hear from you. Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es) - whether a viral outbreak like COVID-19, a planned absence on your part, or a crisis impacting all of part of campus. You'll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations.

Keep these principles in mind:

Reach out to student authentically

Students want to hear from you, and they need to hear from you right now. Based on feedback from USU students, we recommend that you authentically reach out to students. This authentic reassurance can be enhanced as you review the Beginners Guide to Canvas #KeepTeachingsolicit formative feedback from your students, and be flexible in your grading and deadlines as situations unfold.

Recommended Resource

Name: Low-Effort, High Impact Remote Teaching Strategies
Type: Webinar
Time: 33 minutes to watch
Source: Center for Student Analytics

Set flexible expectations

Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email (or other channels), and how quickly they can expect your response. Let them know if you are using the Canvas Inbox tool or announcements for contacting students, consider reminding students to update their notification preferences.

Recommended Resource

Name: Use Announcements to Reach Students
Type: Instructional Video
Time: 4 minutes to watch
Source: Center for Innovative Design & Instruction

Communicate early and often

Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety. Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren't in place yet, and let them know they can expect more specific information. Consider lowering due date pressures and grade anxiety to enhance student agency. Be concise and clear, and demonstrate compassion with your students.

Recommended Resource

Name: Completing a Face-To-Face Course Online Following A Campus Mandate
Type: Blog article
Time: 6 minutes to read
Source: The Scholarly Teacher blog




3. Create or Identify Content to Distribute 

You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to reading that allow you to shift more -or all- instruction to asynchronous formats. Don't feel like you have to create content as there is a wealth of open content available. In a pinch, providing some new readings, podcasts, or videos with associated assignments may be your best bet for keeping the intellectual momentum of the course moving.

Consider these additional reccomendations:


Create concise and relevant videos

Let go of thinking your videos need to be "fancy" and overproduced. You can humanize the online learning experience for your students by speaking authentically and keep it simple and straightforward. Some of the most effective videos can be recorded and uploaded from home and can be the basis or prompt for an asynchronous discussion in Canvas.

Recommended Resource

Name: How to Create More Effective and Engaging Videos Without Getting Overwhelmed with Karen Costa
Type: Podcast
Time: 47 minutes to listen
Source: Episode 23: Lecture Breakers Podcast

Identify existing open content

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning resources that exist in the public domain. OER vary fromfull courses, course materials, modules, streaming videos, test banks, and homework. You can find your own OER to use for your course through the University Libraries, or if you need help in identifying resources contact USU's OER team to help you through the process. Think of other content that you could use like podcast and blogs as well.

Recommended Resource

Name: 10 Ways You Can Use Podcasts in Your Course to Engage Students
Type: Blog article
Time: 10 minutes to read
Source: Barbi Honeycutt

Adapt existing course content

You may already have content that you had created for a blended approach to your course that could be utilized or adapted for remote or online teaching. Further, you find existing content in Canvas Commonsa repository of content and activities, to import directly into your course. Consider finding existing content that can be adapted to fit the context of your course and your students. 

Recommended Resource

Name: Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository - Course Content
Type: Peer Reviewd Teaching Database
Time: 20 minutes to review ideas
Source: University of Central Florida



4. Create Assignments and Assessments 

In the case of a campus closure or other crisis, some students will undoubtedly have difficulties meeting deadlines. Make expectations clear, but be ready to provide more flexibility than you normally would in your class. Lean on asynchronous engagement while remembering the main challenge during a campus disruption is whether students have access to computers, as anyone needing a campus computer lab may be unable to access necessary technologies.

Consider these suggestions when planning activities:


Provide flexible options

Simplify. Revisit and review your learning outcomes. What have you already assessed? Reduce. Try to identify assessments that can be used to evaluate more than one learning outcome with an inclusive approachBe flexible. Students are likely stressed and struggling with many competing priorities, demands, and needs. Be gentle with them and extend grace where possible for deadlines.

Recommended Resource

Name: Top ten tips for redesigning course assessments
Type: Blog article
Time: 4 minutes to read
Source: Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Design for accessibility

Keep things simple, but consider Plus One thinking. How can you assess learning in more than one way? Using UDL you can remove barriers to student learning, don't remove rigor. In a crisis, many students may only have a mobile device available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats including PDFs, accessible documents, and Canvas assignments.

Recommended Resource

Name: How to Integrate Universal Design for Learning Principles In Your Online Course with Thomas Tobin
Type: Podcast
Time: 40 minutes to listen
Source: Episode 26: Lecture Breakers Podcast

Lean on asynchronous ideas

When shifting from land-based teaching to remote teaching it's easy to think of video conferencing as the go-to, however there are many low-bandwidth teaching alternatives. In such cases, using asynchronous tools like Canvas Discussions allows students to participate on their own schedules. In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.

Recommended Resource

Name: Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository - Assessment
Type: Peer Reviewd Teaching Database
Time: 20 minutes to review ideas
Source: University of Central Florida



5. Teach Remotely 

Instructors are the most important point of interaction with students. Each of us are experiencing the current crisis in different ways with different contributing factors. Don't forget to humanize the learning experience as you engage with students. Be flexible in your expections, and empathatic in your communications. Reach out to your students, and provide meaningful feedback. Also consider ways to foster collaboration among students which can build and maintain a sense of community that can help keep students motivated and connected during times of crisis. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind:


Provide positive feedback

By framing your feedback in a positive way, you can improve the student learning experience. Show them support, and model a growth mindset with students by encouraging improvement from small failures. Feedback to students should be frequent, specific, balanced, and timely. Even in remote teaching situations there are many ways to give your students better feedback with technology. Feedback can be sent via email, Canvas Conversations, SpeedGrader, or other mediums you have designated for your course.

Recommended Resource

Name: Positive Feedback in Remote Teaching and Learning Environments
Type: Webinar
Time: 37 minutes to watch
Source: Center for Student Analytics

Foster collaboration among students

By providing students with options to communicate and collaborate with their peers they will maintain and build a sense of community that can help students stay motivated to participate and learn. While synchronous solutions like Webex can be used, consider using asynchronous tools like Canvas Discussions that allows students to participate on their own schedules. While remote teaching presents challenges, there are many for you and your students to actively engage asynchronously in meaningful ways.

Recommended Resource

Name: What I Am Learning About My Students During an Impossible Semester by James Lang
Type: Blog article
Time: 15 minutes to read
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

Human elements in remote teaching

Perhaps one of the most important thing to remember during times of crisis is that in any format of teaching (traditiona face-to-face, broadcast, or online) the most important aspect of a course is the humans involved. You and your students are what make the experience meaningful. Instructors across the country have shared insights on the importance of the human element or remote teaching. How are you connecting with your students, and how are you helping them to stay connected with each other?

Recommended Resource

Name: Humanizing Learning with Digital Tools with Michelle Pacansky-Brock
Type: Recorded ETE Seminar
Time: 78 minutes to watch
Source: Empowering Teaching Excellence

In addition to the resources cited throughout this resource, portions of the guidance were adapted, with permission, from the Stanford University "Teach Anywhere" website, the Georgia State University "Keep Teaching" website, and the Indiana University "Keep Teaching" website.
Content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.