Teaching Remotely Overview
Click here to learn about the portfolio of options that is being developed to help faculty prepare to teach this summer and fall.
Purdue has many resources available to help you develop an online instructional plan. The following are prioritized considerations in making your plans. Many instructors have found the Quick Start guides (below) useful in preparing their course completion plans. We’ve learned from them that there are a few critical issues, so we updated the Quick Starts with those issues. Please download the appropriate Quick Start for you course.
Download Quick Start – Blackboard (Updated March 18th) Download Quick Start – Brightspace (Updated March 18th)
You can also download a new Teaching Remotely: Detailed Guide, which includes more examples of how to update your course completion plan.
We update this page frequently, so please check back. If you have ideas, questions, or considerations not listed here, please email email@example.com.
1. How will you communicate?
- Announcements: The best time to communicate your course continuity plan is before it is needed. Spend a few minutes reviewing the plan with your students and post it to your course learning management site (Blackboard or Brightspace LMS). Reference this continuity plan in your syllabus (also posted to your LMS) as part of the Emergency Preparation section (see syllabus template). Use the Announcement and email functions within your LMS, especially when communicating on confidential or protected data such as grades. See the Registrar’s website for details on Data Handling at Purdue.
- Purdue email is the official email service for anyone with affiliation to the university. It is the most consistent, and supported, method of exchanging email with your students. You may find it helpful to provide students with email guidelines specific to your course (e.g. Subject lines must include the course number; you will reply within 24 hours, etc.) However, exercise caution when dealing with confidential information. Should the need arise to teach remotely, communicating within your LMS is the safest option and one that provides students with a single point of contact for anything related to your course.
2. How will you deliver content?
- Instructional technology: Purdue provides a host of tools and software that can assist teaching and learning by supporting interaction and collaboration, feedback and assessment, and instruction and content delivery. Explore these technologies here to learn how they might help your students and you now, as well as support remote instruction.
- Brightspace or Blackboard: Post any content that is part of the path to successful completion of the course to one of the Purdue-support learning management systems (LMS). This includes, but is not limited to course learning outcomes, syllabus and revised schedule, assignments and other assessments (quizzes, exams, etc.), and grades. Take advantage of the LMS tools to provide updates, feedback on assignments, and opportunities for virtual engagement between students, and with you. If you use other content management systems (e.g. course or personal website), move essential content to Brightspace. Check to be sure that your students have set up BoilerKey Two-Factor Authentication (Duo Mobile smart phone app or hardware token); click here for more information.
If your course is in Blackboard, but you have posted limited content, use these two guides to quickly load the essential content: Blackboard Essentials 1 and Blackboard Essentials 2.
If you are not using either Blackboard or Brightspace, and depending on when your course starts, you may already have a course page set up for you to explore when you log into Brightspace here. Even if one is not set up, you can request a course development (DEV) site – either by migrating content from Blackboard or starting from scratch by following the directions here.
- Delivery: Asynchronous (recommended) delivery is easiest for students and you, and provides stable content regardless of the reliability of anyone’s Internet access and speed. This type of delivery allows students to access course content on their own time. Lectures can be recorded now on campus or at home. Download programs like Camtasia and Kaltura to record, edit, and upload videos to your course site. Camtasia allows you to incorporate videos and images you create, merge and edit them, and add music or text callouts. Deliver a virtual lecture with Camtasia by recording your computer screen and your voice. A step-by-step guide is available here. A guide to adding video to your Brightspace course is here.
- Delivery: Synchronous can be used sparingly when your students and you are working remotely. Even if you have previously conducted web-conferencing successfully using tools such as Purdue-supported WebEx, students’ schedules will be disrupted. Many will return to their homes rather than stay in on-campus housing and may live in low-internet bandwidth areas and/or have interruptions in Internet service. If you need synchronous delivery for limited use, make your preparations and practice with your students now. Learn more about Purdue-support WebEx here. If you use a web-conferencing tool, record your session and upload it to the course site. Most web-conferencing tools allow for this option.
- Course materials: In order for students to continue following along in the course remotely, they need access to course materials. Post items such as handouts, readings, presentation slides, and assignments on the course site. Please follow copyright law when posting materials online. Investigate your options for embedding or linking course materials when teaching online and whether your situation allows for copyright exceptions. Post your syllabus and schedule, and revise them allowing for the disruption in the lives of your students and you. Consider what materials, assignments, and assessments are essential to successfully achieving the course learning outcomes. You may need to be flexible with submission deadlines, within the parameters of the academic calendar. Consider linking to relevant PULSIS research guides to help students locate additional or alternative materials to support students achieving course learning outcomes. Purdue Libraries’ Remote Access Resources Guide will direct you to Libraries’ materials and support for you and your students as you work remotely.
- Accessibility and Accommodations: Students registered with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) will share their Course Accessibility Letter (CAL) with instructors, electronically, via myPurdue. The accommodations remain in effect, but how they are implemented may need to be adapted for an online environment. Here are some steps to take that demonstrate your commitment towards accessibility and accommodations for your course.
- □ Stay in touch with students for whom you have accommodation letters to discuss updated plans for your course. Instructors have the right to privately communicate with students that have a CAL on file and ask for more details about implementation of a specific accommodation. For example consider asking questions like: “What document format will best meet your needs? (Word or PDF) or “I believe I have set the LMS to allow for your extended time on this exam. Let me know if you run into a problem right away.” If needed, you may contact a student’s Access Consultant in the DRC at DRC@purdue.edu.
- □ Captioning for students with accommodations is available. The Disability Resource Center provides professional captioning on Purdue instructional videos for students with captioning-related accommodations listed on their CAL. Contact them at DRC@purdue.edu. Contact your department for other captioning requests.
- □ When creating and uploading documents to your course, think about if the content is accessible. If your students request that your documents be made accessible, look at these sites for guidance in Word or PowerPoint.
- □ If you have any additional questions, reach out to the Disability Resource Center. The DRC staff will be maintaining regular business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) to support both faculty and students throughout the semester. The DRC Access Consultant is listed on the CAL. You are welcome to contact them directly and will find their direct dial number by clicking this link: https://www.purdue.edu/drc/about/staff.php. You can also send an email to: DRC@purdue.edu.
- Labs, recitation, field work: One of the more challenging parts of teaching a course when there is a building or campus closure are the outside course components, such as labs, recitations, field work, and site visits. To mitigate the effects of losing the in-person interaction and hands-on experience afforded through outside class components, consider establishing alternate, but equivalent activities by having an emergency plan for your outside class components. In conjunctions with our colleagues at Indiana University, we suggest the following:
- □ Putting components online: Labs often require specific procedures or hands-on work. When that is not possible, find online videos or video-record your own demonstrations and post to your LMS. 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.
- □ Use virtual labs or simulations: Online simulations can provide a similar experience to the hands-on experience. Provide students with a structure for engagement with the simulations and what to submit via the course LMS. The PhET website provides simulations for online engagement in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Mathematics, and Physics. For construction or civil engineering-specific simulations, where you might normally conduct field site visits, 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. nanoHUB has a number of visual simulation tools, lectures, and lesson plans focused on topics in chemistry, electronics, materials science, engineering, quantum mechanics, and nanotechnology.
- □ Providing raw data for students to analyze themselves: In a case where students collect and analyze data, you can demonstrate how to collect the data and provide students with the raw set of data to analyze on their own. This allows them to practice the data collection phase themselves till they return to class.
- □ Exploring 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 a separate lab space cannot be set up for students to engage with the software, consider finding an equivalent accessible to all students.
- □ Increasing alternate interaction: Outside class components often offer a more individualized experience. The use of discussion board tools in Blackboard or Brightspace, or message boards like Slack can allow for off-site interaction until students return to your labs and recitations.
- Open Educational Resources (OER): is a term describing a wide array of textbooks and course material (e.g. presentations, simulations, assessments) that has been created and shared for educational purposes, often with Creative Commons licensing. For details and a brief list of repositories, click here. nanoHUB is a free and open platform for computational simulation, education, and collaboration in nanotechnology, engineering, data science, materials science, chemistry, and related fields.
3. How will your students and you complete learning activities?
- Consider alternative approaches: Teaching remotely may require new approaches to your course activities. Activities done in class can often, with the tools available, be done in an online format. Consider how you could modify or replicate activities quickly and in ways that students can understand when working by themselves remotely. Rethink what you planned to do during the time the students would normally be in the class.
- Demonstrations, problem solutions, or examples can be recorded and posted on the course site. If you planned to teach a principle using some sort of demonstration, particularly one that could be done on a screen or at home, you can record it and post online using Camtasia and Kaltura. For computer-based demonstrations, Camtasia screen-capture can help you record this activity. For hands-on demonstrations, you might can use your web camera or a mobile device to create a quick demonstration video.
- Course Discussions: Students can easily continue to communicate with one another via the discussion boards built into Purdue’s learning management software. Discussions allow students to post their thoughts, reply to other students, collaborate, and share their informed opinions. Discussion boards can be open forums (where the entire course participates together) or sub-divided into discussion groups (where students only see the items posted by their group members). LMS discussion boards can be graded, encouraging students to participate. When setting up a discussion be sure to:
- □ Give students an indication of the topics or questions they should discuss. Provide specific discussion prompts to guide student responses.
- □ Share clear expectations for student posts. Provide a framework of depth and length of posts and how many replies they should make to their colleagues, to help improve student performance on the activity.
- □ Give the students time to post and reply. Have the discussion board open for several days, to allow students the opportunity to read their peers’ posts and think about their replies.
- Assignments: Students can easily submit assigned material through your learning management system, so email submission is not recommended. Assignment dropboxes are convenient places for students to submit a variety of files (.docx, .ppt, spreadsheets, video files, and PDFs, for example). Not only will these assignment folders collect student submissions under their names, they also allow for a convenient place to grade these files. When creating assignments online, be sure to think about the following:
- □ Students may not have access to specialized software on their home computers (or their home computers may not be able to effectively run this software). Try to stick to formats that are commonly available to most people at home.
- □ Give a clear indication of the assignment and expectations for the students. The assignment folders in the learning management system allow you to post detailed instructions or attach your assignment instructions as a document. This will ensure the students know exactly what they need to do.
- □ Communicate to the students about the due date of material and, in case of unforeseen events, be flexible about late submissions.
- Peer feedback can be done either through Microsoft One-Drive, the course discussion boards, or a similar file collaboration software. One-Drive, which is part of the Microsoft suite available to students, staff, and faculty, allows documents to be uploaded and shared. Students can use this service to collaborate on work, give comments to peers, and to peer-edit. Students could also collaborate using the discussion boards, particularly in conjunction with the grouping feature.
4. How will you assess student learning?
- Exams pose a particular challenge in a situation where everyone is 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 even encourage them to do so. Try to ask questions that probe deeper levels of knowledge and understanding, enabling students to apply, assess, and evaluate concepts and facts in meaningful ways. Encourage students to share and cite where they get information from and what resources they use.
- □ Encourage students to collaborate/share questions and ideas: Students will likely work together when they are stuck or confused. You can encourage working in small teams and ask them to include who they work 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 prose 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 your LMS so that students 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 your 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 appropriate ways.
- □ Ensure clarity in questions and prompts: Especially if your test is timed, your 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 they develop such work, give each other feedback, and, of course, allow your 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. Also 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.
- Testing technologies: Currently, Purdue offers two tested technologies that can facilitate remote exams where you do not interact directly with students.
- □ Blackboard has a robust exam tool that allows for multiple-choice, short-answer, true/false, or short- or long-answer exams. This can be a great alternative to exams that were previously offered via Scantron or as written exams.
- □ Gradescope is a third-party grading tool that integrates with Blackboard or Brightspace and allows students to scan and submit homework or exams via their cell phones. Students can provide answers on their own paper, so they don’t need to print off the exam or assignment. Gradescope is ideal for assessing written calculations, graphs, models, or other activities that cannot easily be completed through Blackboard. For more information on getting started with Gradescope, you can view their video tutorials, student workflow guide, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.