Continue Teaching 
in the Center for Teaching and Learning

Getting started

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 or part of campus. Use this information to be prepared. When you realize you have to move your class online quickly and teach from somewhere other than your Marian classroom, consider the following right away.

  • Prepare in advance (if you can): Consider addressing emergencies and expectations up front in your syllabus, so students know what will happen if classes are canceled, including procedures you will implement. Consider doing this each quarter, so you are ready in case of an emergency.

  • Get details about the closure or event: Download and install the Campus Shield app on your mobile phone. All emergency updates will be communicated here first. Please encourage your students to do this, too.

  • Check with your department: Your department may issue more details about the situation and guidelines about their expectations for classes. Administrators may want to have many of the department's classes handled in similar ways, so before doing too much planning, check with departmental leaders to get guidance.

  • Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don't yet have a plan in place, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming. Let them know what your expectations are for checking email or Canvas (Marian’s learning management system), so you can get them more details when available.

  • Consider realistic goals for teaching from anywhere: As you think about continuing instruction online, consider what you think you can realistically accomplish. Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? How will you keep them engaged with the course content?

  • Review your course schedule to determine priorities: Identify your priorities during the disruption — providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer to resolve than initially planned.

  • Review your syllabus for points that must change: Identify what must temporarily change in your syllabus, such as policies, due dates, or assignments, and communicate those changes to students.

  • Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, introducing new tools only when absolutely necessary. If a closure is caused by a local crisis or an infectious disease outbreak, it may be already taxing everyone's mental and emotional energy. Introducing new tools and approaches may leave less energy and attention for learning.

  • Reset expectations for students: You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students' ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.

  • Create a more detailed communications plan: Once you have details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with how and when they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). Anticipating students will have questions, let them know how and when they can expect to receive a reply from you.

Communicate with students

You'll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Keep these principles in mind:

  • Communicate early and often: Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety, and save you dealing with individual questions. 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 when they can expect more specific information. Don't overload them with email, but consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand. For example, if the campus closure is extended for two more days, what will students need to know related to your course?
  • Set 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, and how quickly they can expect your response. Let them know, too, if you are using the Canvas Inbox tool, since they may need to update their notification preferences.

  • Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider creating an information page in Canvas, and then encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing you.

Distribute course materials and readings

You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more – or all – instruction online. In a pinch, providing some new readings and related assignments may be your best bet for keeping the intellectual momentum of the course moving. Considerations when posting new course materials:

  • Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in Canvas or another shared resource (e.g., Google Drive or OneDrive), be sure to let students know what you posted and where. You might even ask that they change their notification preferences to alert them when new materials are posted. For Canvas, refer them to How do I set my Canvas notification preferences as a student?

  • Keep things accessible & mobile friendly: In a crisis, many students may only have a mobile device available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats including PDFs and Canvas Pages. Consider saving other files in two formats, its original application format and a PDF. PDFs are easier to read on phones and tablets and keep the file size small, and the original file format often has application features that are helpful to students who use accessibility software. Also note that videos take lots of bandwidth, so only require them if you are confident students will have the network and computing resources to access them during the current situation.

​Share audio/video instruction and host synchronous sessions

Instructors have several options:

Regardless of which of these tools you use, your sessions should be recorded so they can later be captioned for students. Be considerate of student privacy before posting lectures or any instructional content outside of Marian’s University Canvas courses.

Run lab activities

One of the biggest challenges of teaching online from anywhere is sustaining the lab components of classes. Since many labs require specific equipment, they are hard to reproduce outside of that physical space. Considerations as you plan to address lab activities:

  • Take part of the lab online: Many lab activities require students to become familiar with certain procedures, and only physical practice of those processes will do. In such cases, consider if there are other parts of the lab experience you could take online (for example, video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations, analysis of data, other pre- or post-lab work). Save the physical practice parts of the labs until access to campus is restored. The quarter might get disjointed by splitting up lab experiences, but it might get you through a short campus closure.

  • Investigate virtual labs: Online resources and virtual tools might help replicate the experience of some labs (for example, virtual dissection, night sky apps, video demonstrations of labs, simulations). Those vary widely by discipline, but check with your textbook publisher, or sites such as Merlot or Open Oregon Educational Resources for materials that might help replace parts of your lab during an emergency.

  • Provide raw data for analysis: In cases where the lab includes both collection of data and its analysis, consider showing how the data can be collected, and then provide some raw sets of data for students to analyze. This approach is not as comprehensive as having students collect and analyze their own data, but it might keep them engaged with parts of the lab experience during the closure.

  • Increase interaction in other ways: Sometimes labs are about providing time for direct student interaction; consider other ways to replicate that type of interaction or create new online interaction opportunities, including using available collaboration tools, such as WebEx.

Collect assignments

Collecting assignments during a campus closure is fairly straightforward, since many instructors already collect work electronically. 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. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Consider your class size before using email for assignment collection: It may be easy to collect assignments in small classes via email, but larger classes might swamp your email inbox. Consider using Canvas Assignments instead. Balance what is simplest for students with what is easiest for you to manage.

  • State expectations, but be ready to allow extensions: 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.

  • Require specific filenames: It may sound trivial, but anyone who collects papers electronically knows the pain of getting 20 files named Essay1.docx. Give your students a simple file naming convention, for example, FirstnameLastname-Essay1.docx.

Assess student learning

The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) can provide individual consultation to instructors wanting to adapt an exam online. Here are some options for adapting your exams:.

  • Use Canvas to offer exam online: Canvas allows final exams to be timed and offered online. This may not work for all classes, however it may be an option for many. Canvas can also auto-grade in many instances. Visit the Canvas Instructor Guides on Quizzes to see tutorials on how to use them in your course. For very large exams, contact the CTL for options CTL@marian.edu

  • Speedgrader: Assignments and Quizzes facilitated in Canvas can easily be graded by instructors using Speedgrader. Visit the Canvas Instructor Guides on Speegrader to see tutorials on how to use Speedgrader.

Portions of the guidance on this page are adapted from Stanford University Teach Anywhere and the Indiana University keepteaching.iu.edu website. “Keep Teaching” content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License by the Trustees of Indiana University.​​

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