Practical Tips and Examples for Faculty by Faculty
-Teaching Remotely Together
Dr. Jennifer Richardson, professor, and Dr. Wanju Huang, clinical assistant professor, of Learning Design and Technology in Purdue’s College of Education, share the following recommendations and resources from their online instruction experience and research.
Availability and Communication
- Inform students that you will not be in the course 24/7. Instead, let them know when you plan to be in the course reviewing student work so they can anticipate when you will be providing input and/or feedback. For example “I will plan to be participating in discussion boards for our course MWF 11-1.”
- Similarly, communicate to students what your turn-around time is for emails (e.g., 24-48 hours during business days). If they haven't heard back from you by that time to send a follow-up to you.
- Let students know how often they need to check their emails. Daily? At least every two days? Set an expectation for their response time to emails, if needed.
- If you are teaching multiple courses, be sure to tell students to include the course title in their email subject line (e.g., EDCI 53600) to save yourself time in addressing their questions or concerns.
- IMPORTANT: You need to disconnect - do not go into the course(s) constantly, set times for yourself. Give yourself downtime so you do not burn out!
Discussion Board Tips
- Post a statement in your course completion plan that provides expectations for discussion boards. For example:
- □ When participating in the online discussions, I/the instructor will check in a minimum of three times per week. Keep in mind that it is not possible for me/ the instructor to respond to every single posting every week (nor is it pedagogically appropriate), but I/the instructor will be sure to respond to a variety of postings and students each week and attempt to assure equality in responses to students. If you feel you are being neglected in any way, please contact me/the instructor.
- Respond to a grouping of posts and address multiple posts at once.
- Build in simple accountability for discussions and for the work students do in any online discussions or collaborations. For example, you might instruct students that they are responsible for posting a response and responding to at least two other posts. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious, so some instructors ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation. Others give an overall weekly participation grade for students' involvement in a certain number of discussions. If there are no points allocated to such activities students will not participate.
- If you have a course of more than 40 students, consider dividing the discussion forum into smaller discussion groups (of fewer than 20 students). Both Blackboard and Brightspace allow instructors to create groups and manually or automatically assign students to these groups. This will make students more comfortable expressing their opinions and lower the effort needed to assess discussions. Click here for Blackboard directions. Click here to get started in Brightspace.
Responding to Student Questions and Setting Expectations
- Offer virtual office hours to answer students’ questions if needed; it may be ideal to offer these during scheduled class times (e.g., chat, WebEx). Drop-in hours are preferred over attempting to hold synchronous class time, because of limits on bandwidth and some students’ access to Internet.
- Create a discussion forum in your online course, titled “Ask the instructor, Ask a Peer” and a statement such as:
This area can serve as your FAQ and save you time from answering the same questions repeatedly. Be sure to check the forum every two days at a minimum. You can also subscribe to the forum so you are notified of when questions are posted. Encourage students to subscribe to the forum so they can be notified when their questions are answered. Here are instructions on how to subscribe in Blackboard.
- □ Post any general questions about the course to this discussion forum. Feel free to respond to the questions of your peers so that we can all learn from one another! Be sure to include your topic in the label of your thread. If you have questions of a personal nature, please email me/the instructor(s) directly.
- Create short tutorial videos to answer common content questions that students have, especially for large classes. You can use Kaltura Capture with Blackboard or Kaltura Capture with Brightspace to record what you are doing on your screen; Camtasia is another Purdue-supported tool. You may also use tools such as TechSmith Capture or Explain Everything. See these examples:
- Create a simple course biography discussion thread - Ask students to post 2-3 things about themselves: favorite activity, program area, what they hope to learn from the course, background in discipline, favorite way to relax, etc. If they didn't really know each other before, they now have a chance they have a chance now to put a face with the name and peer.
Delivering Course Materials
- To manage expectations, consider setting a specific date/time each week when the course materials will be available for that week (e.g., Friday by 5pm EST). For example, “all course materials will be available on Friday for the following week”.
- Send out weekly announcements to introduce the learning topics for the week, logistics, due dates, etc. - at beginning of week! Here are a few samples:
- You might provide a suggested timeline for students to follow to work through a week’s materials. This can be important if you are using discussion boards and do not want students to wait until the end of a week to make their first post. Here is a sample calendar: EDCI 57200.
- Provide supplemental learning resources such as Key Terms, Study Guides, Highlights just as you would in face-to-face class.
Adding Technology to Your Toolkit
- Choose a medium with which you are most comfortable to deliver the learning content (e.g., lecture notes, PPT with notes, audio, video, etc.). Do NOT try to learn or include a lot of new technologies with which your students or you are not familiar. Balance the newness of the situation with the need. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit.
- Introduce any new technology you are using to students by providing practice opportunities, like Webex. Make sure you practice in advance (with a colleague, friend) - and allow students the chance to test the technology out in advance, as well.
- If you create videos for lectures, for weekly introductions or overviews, do not worry about the small stuff. Did your words get tangled? It’s okay. Did your technology go off for 10 seconds? It’s okay. This is not a feature film - green screen and special effects are not necessary. A more natural delivery will be closer to a normal classroom experience. Your students want to see the real you. Later, when you get settled, if you want to edit and re-use the video, there are support staff to help with that.
Checking for Student Understanding
Consider some low stakes check-ins if they are not already built into your course. For example:
- Ask students to reflect on their learning-using an assignment, quiz, or journal activity. You can make it optional, require it and award 1 or 2 points, or award bonus points.
- □ See this sample reflection assignment from Dr. Wanju Huang
- □ Use “exit ticket” activities (aka formative assessment) from Dr. Kadir Kozan can be used for Retrieval Practice: low-stakes tasks asking learners to remember facts, conceptual connections, a process etc. Examples:
- 2 things you have learned this week + 1 muddiest point
- 5 highlights: 5 important things you have learned this week
- Using an “assignment” activity such as having students write a 5-min. essay on “Write about what you learned this week” or it can be more directive in that you ask students to write about what X and Y are, and how they connect with each other.
- □ Here are sample weekly summary/synthesis: EDCI 67200 and EDCI 57200
Working with TAs
What are some tips for keeping them connected?
- Create a short video to communicate updates. Here is a sample from Dr. Tim Newby to his EDCI 2700 Teaching Assistants. He wants you to note how relaxed the video is he completed it during a break from painting.
- Consider using Office 365 and OneDrive. Purdue has licensed Office 365 from Microsoft to make it available for free on an individual basis to students, faculty and staff, including use on their personally owned machines. OneDrive lets you access files across multiple devices, collaborate on documents, and sync files to your computer.
Maximizing Academic Integrity
A common question that those of us who teach online hear is, “how do you make sure students are not cheating?” As with any environment, you can never guarantee cheating won’t happen. However, there are some tried-and-true strategies. Some are also listed on the main Teaching Remotely page:
- Increase the question bank (the more the better).
- Use random blocks in BlackBoard or Brightspace to create the exam.
- For multiple-choice questions, the answers can be randomized as well.
- Use open-ended questions if possible and feasible.
- Have students show their work - whether it be solving a problem or the thought process for how they arrived at a decision.
- Consider question formats leading to essays, videos, pictures, and other personal responses.
- Change the nature of the questions so that students can answer the question “open-book” and “open-computer”
- Set a time limit for the exam. Be sure to communicate this with the students upfront.
- If you are using Blackboard consider using SafeAssign, an originality checking tool. This helps alleviate issues of plagiarism- plus students submit it themselves saving you that step.
For Purdue-supported tools that may be helpful please check the Teaching Remotely Tools and Services