Tips & Tricks for Remote Teaching

During the Spring 2020 semester faculty worked hard to transition traditionally on campus classes into new remote and online offerings. The transition process was neither quick nor easy. Many of us experimented with new technologies and approaches to teaching. We found some amazing resources and practices that worked for our classes and our students. We also went down paths that didn't pan out as expected, but we learned a lot along the way.

Faculty Association would like to share some tips and tricks (and lessons learned) for transitioning classes into a remote learning environment from the best resources possible: our faculty.

Technology

  • In addition to written announcements every Monday I sent out a video message to each class with the to-do list for the week. I kept them short, 2-4 minutes in length. Because the videos were uploaded to my Vimeo channel I was able to monitor how many views they had. The views were between 97-100% compared to the class enrollment number.
  • My students have been responding positively to video announcements. Rather than send extensive emails, I sent video announcements guiding and reassuring students that I was still available to them. I have also found that having live virtual office hours regularly has helped students remain engaged.
  • The "mistake" I would have made would be to not be prepared with additional on-line teaching resources and material where possible, as a back up to what I teach in person. I have made myself tech savvy. I took the Canvas course the college offers and was prepared. The only thing that I needed to learn was a means to hold a "virtual" class using something like Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.
  • I was able to convert a document camera to show on my computer rather than a large screen. This allows me to show the steps taken as we talk through the problems...with my handwriting...it just feels more like 'class'
  • Don't hold simultaneous office hours through Conferences for multiple sections of the same class. It became very difficult to manage all of the different windows.
  • For me, it was helpful that I originally designed the course as if it was going to be taught online (which it is), and then modified it from there to be a "face-to-face" class.
  • Even though the publishers have stated their willingness to support faculty to shift to online format I have found it cumbersome to find appropriate resources for the course I am teaching. I have had more success using other resources in my field of study.
  • Since using Protorio (and online proctoring for testing in general) was a new process for my students, many initially struggled with the technology set up. I found it worked better for students who took the Proctorio Practice Quiz I provided in Canvas since they could work out their technical issues before taking an actual exam in class. Students could take the practice quiz as often as they wanted to get 100%. I found there was a better response to taking this add-on quiz if I incentivized students with extra credit points (5 questions at 100% = 5 extra credit points).
  • Student access to college servers using AllAccess is confusing and kludgy.
  • You can find answers to technology questions on YOUTUBE or LYNDA.com and Lynda.com is free through https://services.slcpl.org/.
  • Use live Google Docs to have students collaborate.
  • Created a new Canvas assignment called the Feynman Technique. The purpose of this assignment is to use the Feynman Technique to create your own detailed handwritten lecture notes that help you develop mastery over a single new or challenging concept or problem. In addition, you will conduct and receive Canvas mediated Peer Reviews of these notes with others in the class. https://collegeinfogeek.com/feynman-technique/
  • I have learned how to use 'Pages' in Canvas to add videos for students to watch.
  • Using canvas quizzes has also been useful. It is a pain to write them and takes a lot of time but it is helpful for the students to have something concrete to do, that is low stress and helps them assess their learning.
  • I think we need to require all full-time faculty to take Canvas training. It really helps in the long run.
  • I have learned that using Canvas as the sole way to communicate with my students was not that effective. I think the reason is that the students are new to this as well.
  • I learned how confusing Canvas is from the student perspective when they have multiple courses. I am trying to communicate as clearly as possible as I can to my students through regular (not excessive) announcements.
  • Canvas is not super easy to navigate at first. Remember this when you set expectations for your students.
  • The markup tool in PowerPoint allows me to show examples and work problems in a more familiar way.
  • If something is embedded in powerpoint, it's extremely difficult if not impossible to write on it.
  • Zoom has been a great resource. Students can see my face as well as the screen of the computer. This has really helped them as I explain and show what to do online each week.
  • In a pinch, the conference button in Canvas works great! I chose to use this option for two reasons. First, students already have to regularly use Canvas in my class, so using an option available in an educational platform that my students already know made the transition easier. In addition, it is part of an educational platform unlike Zoom or Skype. To create a conference is easy and it can be recorded. Slides can be uploaded and students not only hear me, but also see me. Students can choose how they want to sign in: either just listen, show video of themselves, and have audio. If they do not have audio then can type into a public chat to ask questions or comment. I am not sure the capacity of the platform in terms of how many conferences can be simultaneous. Anyways it has been useful. Joining a conference is not required for my class and the days have varied. However, for one class I have consistently had about 13-15 students show up! It might be something to look into for the future.
  • As a hardcore WebEx user I was extremely surprised to find out BigBlueButton via the Conferences tab is easier for faculty and students to use. It was AMAZING. I highly recommend checking it out.
  • Getting set up with WEBEX was a bit 'traumatic' at first; I received different information from technicians on how to set it up - such that it became more complicated than it should have been - for my part, I was eager to get going right away and took the first suggestion only to find out later there was a better way from another technician; still another tech gave me another option - all in all - too many cooks in the kitchen - I know this was a rapid transition for the college, but for the future ONE simple set of instructions which all technicians are familiar with would simplify the process.
  • I am not all that tech savvy, so this transition was frightening for me. Also, I LOVE teaching face to face and did not know how to duplicate what we do in class in an online environment. One thing that has really helped is that I learned to use Webex and have still held some classes, during the regularly scheduled time. It did not seem fair to hold all classes and also expect them to do online work, but I used these meetings for students to present projects they had been working on to the class. I also use them as review session/lecture combinations, where students should come prepared with work done and questions, and then we go over the harder points of the material. Overall this has worked surprisingly well.
  • I started doing lecture/discussions via WebEx once a week but made them optional because I know students may not have the resources to access the internet or computers to log on--but slowly the number of students showing up to these discussions has dwindled. I am considering recording lectures for them to view later. I also recorded the WebEx videos where students were present for others to watch later.
  • Learning the different features in WebEx "meeting" vs "training"
  • I like the ability to use a personal meeting room through WebEx, which can sometimes be a looked-over feature. Without the need to schedule or send out in invite, the ability to lock the room for one-on-ones, and a permanent accessible link, having a personal meeting room allows my students to drop in at any time during my working hours. For any faculty that are unaware of this feature, you can find the link and details by logging into WebEx in the browser: https://slcc.webex.com/webappng/sites/slcc/dashboard
  • Students really need to feel like their instructor is accessible and need one-on-one guidance. I've found the Webex conferencing tool has increased my capacity to reach my students and give them the confidence they need to make this difficult transition.
  • Using the Microsoft programs such as "One Note" WITH A SMART PEN used as a white board... It works great. Also being able to make notes and write on PDF's help further. Videos don't come across very well to the students. It comes out kind of slow and Jerky.
  • Microsoft Teams has a web conferencing option that all faculty and students have access to. It has a cool feature to blur or change your background if you don't want students to see inside your home.
  • I make videos to communicate further with my students.
  • A lot of times we add in "nice to know" things, which is great and even sometimes really helpful to some of our students, but when creating a recording or doing a live online session, it can be better to stick to the basics. Then in a different recording or file, add in the "nice to know" or mnemonics and things so that those who appreciate them can still find and benefit from them.
  • Video compression, picture-in-picture screen recording, screen annotation, best practices for online video research articles are all important to consider when recording videos and doing virtual presentations.
  • I have made Kaltura videos for them and had never utilized them in the past. I hope they are watching them. I wish there were a way I could tell for sure.
  • I just created YouTube videos for my lectures. I felt that this was the best way to make them accessible to all students and avoid issues with compatibility, file types, etc.
  • YouTube is a good platform to post recorded lectures. You can record multiple shorter videos (3-5 minutes each) and then group them into a playlist. Students are more likely to watch 5 or 6 shorter videos than one long 30 minutes video.)
  • YouTube also has the option to open license your videos for CreativeCommons when posting.
  • I have found that recording long lectures (especially audio onto PowerPoint) is not an effective learning tool for our students especially during this chaotic time. Creating shorter, more flexible content - using YouTube, recording very short pieces of lecture (audio and/or video) etc. - allows our students to work their study around their busy lives.
  • A few tips for recording with your smartphone:
    • Use a tripod.
    • Use a microphone that plugs into your phone for better sound.
    • Use the back camera of your phone, not the front selfie camera. It is much higher quality than the front camera.
    • Use natural light.
    • Write down your talking points to keep your message concise.

Other Tips & Tricks

  • Commons has pre-built modules, lessons, etc. in.
  • Our librarians can be embedded in discussion boards to help with research assignments.
  • OER (Open Educational Resources) can replace physical materials.
  • I think lots of departments have faculty who are experienced online teachers. In my dept. I am but one such faculty member. I've worked extensively with eLearning to design the course I teach in concert with other FT and PT faculty. People who have this kind of experience can be real resources to their departments. In my dept's case, we were close to prepared to share fully fleshed out online versions of the courses we teach with anyone who wanted those resources. Ideally, departments would be in that situation--close to prepared to share with anyone. Online modalities can be adapted to work with f2f teaching--so it could really be seen as a kind of shared curricular resource for all faculty, when (I assume!) we can return to the modalities we feel most comfortable with--even if people don't want to teach online unless they have to, online resources can be extremely valuable to a whole department.
  • It does help that resources are flooding the market. Cengage™ is providing free access to eBooks, online courseware and study tools through the end of the current academic term. Also, look to professional organizations within the discipline? Our own professional association has a learning bundle with free access to several courses and educational conference recordings on the ACF Online Learning Center, through June, 2020. https://www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Education/ProDev/ACF/Education/Learning/ACF_Online_Learning_Center.aspx
  • Many textbook and equipment companies have also temporarily unlocked their expensive online virtual resources, allowing for instance welding students to "weld" on the VRTEX Virtual Welding Simulator using just a mouse.
  • The most meaningful thing I did --- Instead of jumping right into "business," I set up a discussion just to check in with my students. I gave them prompts to answer and also encouraged them to share how they're doing. My prompts for the discussion included: What are your thoughts on the earthquake, the C-virus?, What concerns do you have about now and the future?, What uplifting stories do you know?, What are you doing to stay mentally and physically healthy?, What are you doing to be other-centered? Going forward – I look forward to us learning and teaching each other. Let's do this! This gave students an opportunity to share their stories, thoughts, and concerns. After two weeks I created another discussion. The prompts included: How has remote learning helped or hindered your ability to learn course content?, What challenges, if any, do you have accessing material or submitting work?, What are you doing to keep mentally and physically healthy?, What are you grateful for?, What are you doing to invite, create or cultivate connection with others?, If you are without resources that affect your academic, mental, or physical health, please contact me privately. The purpose of the second discussion is to assess needs, and to foster a sense of optimism and connection. Moreover, I wanted them to know I am here for them, and that I care.
  • It worked to share a message with students acknowledging the difficulty, the fear, frustration, and hopelessness the current situation was bringing. However, I told them I would use flexibility, and extra communication with them to help them remain strong in their journey to completing this course successfully. I also share all the resources available to them. The students have been doing very well and are enroute to complete my courses successfully.
  • I teach 5 different f2f courses and one online. Students want to hear from the teachers and know their education is in good hands. They are very unsure about things going on right now, so the best thing we can do is be consistent and let then know what they can expect each week. To that end, I send out an announcement for every class. It posts at Monday morning at 6 am. It has words of encouragement and a look ahead and to do list for the coming week. I also let them know if we will be meeting via WebEx and post the link and password. It has taken a few weeks, but now students know to look at the announcement to know what to expect.
  • Flexibility! Both faculty and students need it!
  • Every day is a learning experience. I am making mistakes daily in the use of streaming technology. It's been like learning to ride a bicycle. I have a lot of bruises and skinned knees, but I just keep getting back on and do a little better each day. Student's have been very understanding and patient.
  • I leave the assignments due open for a week. Many students are home watching and teaching their children. Some have to work more to keep money flowing. It is very difficult to do work online for them with all the other things they now must do, so giving them a week to complete an assignment is very helpful to them. As for virtual meetings, I found it extremely hard for all 24 students to meet at the same time for a virtual lecture. Recorded lectures work better. I set up a WebEx for my office hours where students can log on and talk to me face to face, they really like that.
  • I've found the most important thing during this transition from in class to online teaching is to be there for your students. Continue to be a presence for them. I've had success teaching my classes synchronously and I think students appreciate meeting with their classmates and faculty face to face, even if it is virtually. For any courses I have chosen to teach asynchronously, I always make myself available during the scheduled class time through WebEx for students to meet with me and ask any questions about the course content for the day. Students need to know we are here for them during these difficult and crazy times.
  • Be flexible, adaptive, and compassionate... not only for your students, but also yourself. These are challenging times and consider what you can do to enhance student success."
  • I've learned how important the "real time" interaction with an instructor is for many of our students. They have been grateful for the "live" classes I have been holding in WebEx. I even have students trying to organize online study groups with each other. They need that interaction. One thing I have liked about the WebEx classes is the Chat feature. I've been trying to mimic what I do in a face-to-face class by asking questions and having students try problems and share their answers. They are just sharing those responses in the Chat window. Students who never offered responses previously are offering them now. They are more comfortable typing a response in the Chat window than offering an answer in class. So I have been enjoying hearing from some students that I don't normally hear from in class.
  • Something good I've tried and works is when students are finished working a problem, I have them raise their hands (virtually) so I know they're done and I can continue to go over the problems.
  • I have discovered that everything I do face-to-face can be done online. I'm giving the same information to them. I just hope it's a similar experience for them to receive it. It may be even better. Everyone has to respond. Not just a few talkers. I assess their knowledge at almost every point.
  • I had created a quiz for my new remote students to set up their notifications in Canvas so that they 1. Get my announcements, 2. Get notifications when I add comments to their assignments, 3. Understand how online discussions work. I then was able to contact everyone via email who didn't complete this survey to ensure that they knew of its importance in how I would communicate with them.
  • Something I'd like to have in place for the future is best practices for ADHD students, student work groups, student mentors and maybe even an online class ADHD students can take before they take an online class to help them build study habits.
  • Unique and creative? Probably not, but for me, it has been easiest to keep classes at the same time and continue with a lecture style class online - but I think this only works because I already had a good in-person rapport with the students previous to classes going online. I had also taught online classes previously at UVU. Most of my class work was already on Canvas, so the transition wasn't that difficult for me. I have had to add some exams to Canvas, but that will just help with successive classes.
  • Don't focus too much energy on making the course a mind-blowing experience. Students are adapting, they are not going to be fully engaged. https://anygoodthing.com/2020/03/12/please-do-a-bad-job-of-putting-your-courses-online/
  • Not sure at this point, still processing a lot of information. I have been making specialized worksheets with more detailed information, which I hope is helping.
  • Don't use synchronous class meetings for just lecturing. That can be just a video. Use synchronous class meetings for discussion and interaction... or don't use them at all if they aren't necessary.
  • Don't feel like you have to create everything yourself. There may be lectures, activities, assignments, etc. that others have already created that you can use or modify.
  • Use multiple forms of content delivery. Text, video, images, interactives, etc.
  • Simplify as much as possible. Try to have a standard format for each Module so it is clear for students.
  • Email students regularly.
  • I have found contact with students should be the emphasis. It doesn't matter how polished your video lecture or live discussion is, they just need the chat. I have also utilized guest speakers on live discussions and that has been very successful.
  • In using audio lectures to cover the material an instructor still needs to ask probative and analytical questions to foster greater learning. Request students to respond directly with the instructor for clarification.
  • Be animated as you record online and/or recorded lectures. Show students the room(s) you are in or let them see the space where you live/work. Let them know you are indoors or staying at home as they are.
  • I have tried to keep the content and delivery simple and straightforward for students. But students still struggle with understanding how this all works and are understandably stressed about not doing well in a format that they did not sign up for. I have been doing daily live streams to keep in touch with students, but there is very little participation and it seems like a lot of students have checked out and are not engaging online much at all. They are also not reaching out for help either which is very concerning.
  • I removed one major assignment. I am doing asynchronous audio -- no video, as that is too data heavy for some students. I am available on every video conference application out there. I surveyed students about how they were doing. I value what I do, but there are far, far more important things in life than school, especially at the moment. Compassion, humanity, for instance...
  • I learned and knew that my students would need to be able to access me almost 24/7, and I already do that by having the Canvas App messaging on my cell phone throughout the day, but I have had to answer technology- Canvas relates questions. Students are spending a lot of time with Canvas support waiting on the phone, since I have a lot of experience with Canvas, I simply have been helping them navigate the course, which I have rarely done for traditional online students in the past. I also realized that students do often want to stay connected, and they also appreciate simply being asked how they are doing or feeling. I also let my students guide the direction of the class, and asked how they would feel about having class via video technology. I let the students make a lot of personalized decisions and I allowed a lot of options - students choice- and made many discussions extra credit. I think just being able to be really flexible is the most important takeaway from all of this. Flexible and willing to help others - students and faculty.
  • Don't be shy about asking for help. Make sure to check in with students as a whole group and also individually to see how they are doing. Access and additional responsibilities with this remote learning are overwhelming many folks in our classes. They're overwhelming teachers too, if I'm being honest.
  • Develop new aids for students. Posted videos to assist on assignment completion. Creating new materials for new material of the class
  • Still be you. (Your students are used to you.) Use variety (slides, docu-cam, wacom tablet). Always show your face even though students may or may not show theirs. Record your session and encourage the students to watch them later at 1.5x speed (which makes a very quick & effective way to find out what they may still be confused on).
  • I think the main thing I have learned is that the most successful Online students are somewhat self-motivated. Online learning requires the student to seek out answers that might have been naturally given in a classroom setting.
  • I have found that much of the class content can be done online, but the remaining parts require access to and learning how to operate lab equipment
  • Students need to see my face. I put a lot of material on to pages for them to read, but they just needed to see my face and hear my voice and then they started to go forward.
  • Keep it as close to normal for your sake and for your students.
  • Prepare your students (and your faculty) for remote teaching even when your course is face-to-face. You never know when you will need it.
  • I front-load courses so that the bulk of new concepts are introduced in the first half of the semester, more implementation and depth with a few new concepts in the later weeks. This happened to be very important this semester.
  • Incredible resources are available. I paid for three drawing courses online through Drawing America. The artist is Will Weston, and he has professional grade photos of models, and a five week course I am super excited about using similar content and modules for my Figure Drawing 1260 class.
  • As an effort to transition to remote learning, I hold virtual classes during one of the original meeting days at the same day and time as the on-campus classes were scheduled. During the other class session, I set up appointment blocks for students to have a one-on-one opportunity. The virtual class session attendance is between 75-90%, which I consider a success."
  • I replaced weekly lecture/discussions one day with exercises using illustration software the second day per week with one day of reading material 'preview' (mostly lecture) one day and group discussion (mostly them talking) for the second day per week. For my class, one of the greatest challenges I've faced is finding ways to encourage students to participate in the discussion while online to the same degree they participated in person.
  • I've created a "to do" list for each week for students to follow.
  • Using the Paint tool as a virtual whiteboard and having multiple "boards" in use at a time has helped. I use a Wacom tablet to write. It is useful to the students to have the lectures recorded for later viewing. With students having unknown situations it is good to have flexible viewing dates and also flexible due dates on assignments.
  • At first I chose not to give due dates because I felt that this would make it easier for students to work at their own pace and not be overwhelmed but I discovered that only one or two students actually turned something in so I changed it to due dates and got a much better response.
  • I had to communicate changes through MANY channels. I tried announcements, Canvas pages, emails, and still I have students that responded with, "I didn't know that things had changed. I was going off of the old syllabus". So, I made a homework assignment that required them to acknowledge the major changes to doing school work and knowledge that dynamic is the new normal.
  • It is very hard for students to stay engaged for 2+ hours in an online/remote format. I think it is important for them to use some of what would have been extended classroom time to do projects, research, and other independent activities they can share with the class.