Shifting Your Classes Online

You have three options for shifting your classes temporarily online:

Option 1: Run Your Class Live with Zoom

This option works especially well for small discussion-based classes, though it’s also effective for large lectures, especially if you have a moderator. See instructions at the end of this document how to access Zoom.

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Use slides and screen sharing within Zoom to make sure discussion questions are visible to students who may have a slow Internet connection or who may struggle to hear the audio for the initial question.

    • On your first slide, display an agenda at the start of the class session so that students know what to expect of the shared time together.
  • Use the chat (bottom of your screen)

    • Moderate discussion, i.e., “call on” a student with a comment to speak, to help them break into the conversation.
    • For larger classes, assign a Fellow or TA to moderate the chat and make sure important questions and comments are addressed. Even for smaller classes, it may be worthwhile to ask a student (or two) to take on special roles as “chat monitors” to voice if there are questions that arise that the instructor has missed.
    • You might use the chat to troubleshoot technical problems. For example, if a student is having trouble connecting via audio or video, the chat might be a space for you as the instructor or for fellow students to work together to problem-solve. This may, again, be an opportunity to assign a student to a special role, especially if you have students eager to help on the technical aspect of things.

      If you have a TA or a fellow who can support the class instruction with technical help, this would also be a good person to respond to troubleshooting tips in the chat.

  • Use Zoom Breakout Rooms to help students talk in smaller groups (just as they would do break-out groups in a larger class environment).
  • Rethink your classroom activities to make the class more interactive even if Zoom students don’t have ideal connections and aren’t able to hear and see everything perfectly.

    • Have students write and comment together on a shared Google Doc.
    • Try using the inbuilt polling function in Zoom (you have to turn it on in Zoom’s Settings) or Google Forms to collect student responses, and then share results with both in-person and online students.
  • Consider making discussion questions available in advance in Canvas, etc. so that students can access the questions if screen sharing does not work. If sharing slides in advance to Canvas, share as PDFs, as students will be able to access the material on their phones.

A Few Troubleshooting Tips

  • Consider temporarily turning off your video stream if your Internet connection is slow or lagging, and only maintain the audio stream. Sometimes, running the web camera on your computer will use up the Internet’s bandwidth in a way that might make communication challenging.
  • If you have earbuds or a headphone set, wear them! Wearing earbuds or headphones will reduce the amount of noise that your computer will pick up during your quality, which will make it easier for your students to hear you. Similarly, you may want to advise your students to wear earbuds or headphones during the call.
  • Advise students to mute their microphones if they are not speaking and unmute the microphones when they wish to speak.
    Students may be joining Zoom calls from all kinds of different locations, many of which may create background noise that could be distracting. Using the “raise hand” feature or simply seeing the microphone unmuted will give the group a visual cue for when a student wishes to speak.
  • Check the “chat” space for student questions and contributions.
    Some students may not have working microphones and, therefore, may be unable to contribute via voice. The chat room is a good place for students to contribute, ask questions, and be involved.

Accessibility Suggestions

  • Automatic live captioning is not available in Zoom (automatic captions are visible if you record a Zoom session). You may wish to use Microsoft PowerPoint and enable the live captioning feature within PowerPoint. If you share your screen using PowerPoint, your voice will be captured and live captions will appear.
  • For students who are blind or have low visibility, narrate the material that you’re displaying visually on the screen. Just as you might read materials aloud in class, read screen material that you share on-screen just in case students are not able to see essential text.

Option 2: Pre-Record Your Lectures

If you are not comfortable presenting live, another good option is to pre-record any lecture material and upload it to Canvas. We recommend that you pre-record lectures using Zoom as this will generate automatic closed-captions that are needed for accessibility reasons.

Additionally, you can also use the voice memo feature on a phone to record audio, save audio files, and upload the audio files to Canvas.

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Keep videos short and lively. It is often harder to focus on a video than on a person!
  • Test your microphone to make sure that you have good sound quality. Consider using a headset with an external microphone to capture better audio.
  • Consider ADA compliance. Automatic closed-captioning is not perfect. Speak clearly and not too quickly to make the content as accurate as possible. If using a tool other than Zoom for recording your lecture, consider uploading your videos to YouTube to take advantage of their automatic (though not perfect) closed-captioning.
  • Integrate interaction with the lecture material. You might consider setting up a Canvas discussion board with some specific questions, using a quiz, or setting up a chat session for a text-based live discussion.

Option 3: Skip the Video

Many online courses do not have a video component at all. If you are not sure you have the right equipment and are uncomfortable with the tech setup, this might be a good option, at least for the short-term. You can create a PowerPoint, record a brief memo, or just upload your lecture notes.

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Annotate your slideshow with notes and share this with students using Canvas or email.
  • Set up a discussion for students in Canvas. Use specific, structured questions, and let students know expectations for their responses.
  • Share links to outside resources. Encourage students to watch videos, read articles, etc.
  • Use Chat to have a live, text-based chat session with students.

Office Hours

Set up virtual office hours to meet with students using your webcam, share your computer screen or collaborate using Zoom’s whiteboard feature. You can also use the online chat feature in Canvas, or if you want to talk over the phone, set up a Google Voice number.

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Make sure the Conferences menu option is visible to students. The main factor to consider when holding office hours or conferences with students is your accessibility as an instructor. Make sure they know how to find your “office” (just as you might offer them directions to your office on-campus).
  • Encourage students to share their screen with you. Screen sharing is possible not just for the instructor in Zoom, but for students too. Help your students navigate towards a screen sharing option so that they can show you their written work on their screen.