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Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching Remotely

Questions about communication

Whenever possible, rely on Blackboard’s or Brightspace’s announcements and Purdue email tools.

Students and faculty are all getting overwhelmed with emails. Students tell us that they prefer a smaller amount of emails with more information, than receive many emails with short amounts of information. Try to consolidate important information into a smaller number of emails for the coming days. Also make sure copies of correspondence are saved and posted to Blackboard or Brightspace (e.g., Announcements) in case students miss an email.

You can use email (as long as it does not include grades or other FERPA-protected information), as well as use WebEx or phone for synchronous discussions. Post communication and feedback on assignments through Blackboard or Brightspace.

Yes. You still need ways for your students to ask questions directly. Consider hosting weekly office hours via WebEx, Zoom*, or on the phone for your students to attend. You can share the link to your personal room with your students in the updated syllabus and/or in the LMS announcements, along with the hours you intend to hold office hours. Or you can create asynchronous “office hours” in your course learning management system by creating a special discussion forum for general questions.

*Note: Although Zoom is not Purdue-supported, you can use it if WebEx is not working or encountering issues.

Be explicit with learners that all deadlines for work are in Eastern Daylight Time (Purdue West Lafayette’s time zone as of March 8, 2020). Make sure to include the time zone abbreviation for all of your updated due dates, deliverables, and office hours (e.g. “All submissions must be made by 11:59PM EDT”). Consider being flexible with office hours, assignment deadlines, or group work for students in a different time zone.

Tell students when grades have been posted and where to view them. Share and explain how to use grade calculation tools or methods for students if they want to know their current grade. This will allow them to calculate their current grade with the weights of the course.

  • Stay current on grading to avoid having students ask about their grades via email.
  • Do not share grades with students via email (this is a FERPA violation). Post all grades and feedback through Blackboard or Brightspace.
  • When setting expectations about the course work and grading, remember to discuss when you will be posting grades or discussing overviews of assessments. When can students expect to hear from you? Where can they expect to receive that message? When do you expect to hear from them and how?

In most cases, provide feedback through Blackboard or Brightspace with the associated assignment or test. This will help your students and you keep track of everything for all classes in one common location as well as align with FERPA guidelines.

If you want to meet individually with students you can do so via WebEx (preferred) or Zoom* (which allows screen-sharing if needed), or via phone (you can redirect your office phone to a personal phone so you do not need to distribute a personal number).

Note: Although Zoom is not Purdue-supported, you can use it if WebEx is not working or encountering issues.

Have students submit assignments via Blackboard or Brightspace only. Update instructions to include how students will submit, revise, or apply feedback.

Ask students to use a standardized file name for assignments to make files easier to identify when downloaded. Example: [Course#_Lastname_Firstname--Assignment Name]

Questions about delivering content and activities

No, not every course needs to have videos, you can share content through text, textbooks students have already purchased, audio recordings, other open access materials found online, etc.

Purdue supports Kaltura Capture (accessed through MediaSpace) and Camtasia. Kaltura Capture is easier to use.

Here are some examples of ways faculty members have recorded lessons:

Blackboard and Brightspace storage space is limited. Upload videos to Kaltura Mediaspace, and then you can embed or link to them from the LMS. See instructions for using Kaltura with Blackboard or with Brightspace.

Yes. All videos must be captioned to support accessibility. After uploading a video to Kaltura Mediaspace, you can add mechanical/machine-generated captions. These provide a great start to making videos accessible, as you can edit captions rather than transcribing from scratch. Work from an outline or script. Not only does this keep you on track when you are recording, it also provides a starting point for captioning.

iPads can be plugged into a Mac computer (if available) to duplicate writing on the screen and record using Kaltura Capture or Camtasia (see Q&A above). You can also use any device that records video (e.g., phone camera and adjustable stand) to record yourself writing on a whiteboard or paper. Record several videos at one time when you find a set-up that works.

  • Here is an example of Dr. Chuck Krousgrill from Mechanical Engineering using an iPad to teach basic Mechanical Engineering concepts.
  • This example of Dr. James Jones (ME 270) provides reinforcement of student learning using a touch-screen drawing tool to work through a 3-D Particle Equilibrium Quiz.

Post items such as handouts, readings, presentation slides, and assignments within the LMS course page. Follow copyright law when posting materials online; see the University Copyright Office website for guidelines. Investigate your options for embedding or linking course materials when teaching online and whether your situation allows for copyright exceptions.

Consider alternative readings for students, as the Purdue Libraries’ physical spaces and services are temporarily closed and students have been directed to move off campus, if at all possible. Visit the Libraries’ e-resources to locate alternative materials whenever possible, or visit the course reserve request form to request converting physical course reserves to electronic formats (considering the changing nature of the situation this option may not be readily available moving forward).

Students can engage remotely through various platforms. Blackboard and Brightspace have discussion boards for students to work in, or groups can be set up in both learning management systems to allow students to work together. Class groups can also share files and submit assignments.

There are tools such as Circuit, which allow students to provide feedback to other students’ work. For more information about Circuit, see the Circuit information page.

When grouping students or having students choose groups, keep in mind that there may be students working in different time zones.

For additional options for remote group work, see the Innovative Learning Instructional Technology page, the Alternative Activities and Assessments document, the PoRTAL Teamwork guide, or for additional activities with descriptions, see the KP Cross Academy’s website.

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 rubric or 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 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.

Discussion boards can be open forums (where the entire course participates together) or subdivided into discussion groups (where students only see the items posted by their group members). Blackboard and Brightspace discussion boards can be graded, encouraging students to participate. Specific directions are on quick start guides on the Teaching Remotely webpage.

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. Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud are both available for all Purdue students
  • 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.
  • Consider linking to relevant PULSIS research guides to help students locate additional or alternative materials to support students achieving course learning outcomes.

Questions about exams and assessments

You can provide exams directly through Blackboard or Brightspace. For instructions on adding assessments to Blackboard, see the Blackboard Essentials 2 document. We recommend that these be untimed exams with open resources.

Students should submit their exams through Blackboard or Brightspace. Students should never email their work directly to you (a FERPA violation).

We do not recommend proctoring exams remotely because there are significant caveats. However, you can consider using lockdown browser options, such as Respondus LockDown Browser, which prevents students from utilizing other browsers, tabs, and applications during an electronically delivered exam.

Keep in mind accessibility accommodations when using lockdown browser options.

  • We recommend making assignments and exams untimed. You may have students in different time zones and many learners have accessibility accommodations related to the duration of their exams.
    • We do not recommend setting automatic submission or force completion settings for any assessment.
  • Note: Students who use web-based text readers, such as Kurzweil or Read and Write Gold, cannot use Respondus LockDown Browser or Monitor.

For more information about academic integrity online, see the Maximizing Academic Integrity portion of the Practical Tips and Examples for Faculty by Faculty page.

We recommend making tests available for at least 24 hours. This flexibility means that students can take the exam at an appropriate time for their time zone and situation. exam window well in advance of that day.

There are various tools that you can use to provide feedback. You can use Blackboard or Brightspace to share examples of feedback addressing common issues for specific questions or assignments, or use Gradescope**.

Instead of providing detailed feedback on each assignment, consider providing common themes emerging from the assignments you are reading. Share an example in text or video. The PoRTAL instructor posting guidelines provide details on how to make effective use of your time and presence.

**Gradescope is an online grading tool. You can use it tograde scanned, pen-and-paper and free response assessments, which includes drawings, figures, or equations. Gradescope provides a dynamic point adjustment rubric that allows you to modify rubric items and values while you’re grading. If you are interested in using Gradescope for your courses, please email the Innovativelearningteam@purdue.edu.

Student accommodations still apply to new learning environments, but may take slightly different forms. Access consultants from the Disability Resource Center can help you identify appropriate accommodations.

Additional resources

For examples and questions to help guide you with putting your course or course components online see the Teaching Remotely Detailed Guide.

For various options for your current class components, see the Alternative Activities and Assessments document.

For “how-to” guides to use various tools and technologies, see the Tools and Services for Teaching Remotely page.

For information on accessing Libraries’ resources, see the Purdue Libraries Remote Access Resources Guide.

For video examples from other faculty about moving to remote instruction, see the Practical Tips and Examples for Faculty by Faculty page.  

Contact Us

contact_supportFor questions about teaching remotely or Purdue-supported technologies tied to your course, email innovativelearningteam@purdue.edu.


contact_supportContact ITaP Tech Support (itap@purdue.edu) if you have issues with: Logging in to Blackboard, Brightspace, or WebEx; accessing BoilerKey or email; or to address phishing questions. Tech Support is also still available by phone 765-494-4000.


contact_supportStudents should direct questions about your course to your Purdue email. They may also reach their academic advisor through BoilerConnect, or go to the updated Academic Advising Remotely webpage.