No matter in what modality you will be teaching in the upcoming semester or term, teaching and interacting with students will look and feel different. You will need to consider clear and regular communication with your students, plans for hearing and responding to students in your modality, and supporting students' learning and mental health. This Inside Higher Ed article lists eight ways to improve your online course; these strategies are valuable for any course modality.
In a November 2, 2020 email, President Robbins announced plans for the start of the Spring 2021 semester. The same four course modalities will be in effect: In-Person, Flex In-Person, Live Online, and iCourses. Spring semester will start in Stage 1, with only essential in-person classes meeting on campus. All other classes will start with remote instruction.
This guide was created to help you get started on what might feel like a monumental task, by walking you through a series of steps to convert a “normal” face-to-face course, or a hybrid course with face-to-face elements, to a more remote delivery.
The panels below describe an eight-step process, so you can break up the process into manageable chunks, tackling as much as you can in one session. In fact, it probably will be more productive to stop after every couple of steps and come back to the next step another day. This will allow new ideas to emerge that you can incorporate as you work on your course.
Important Note: Because of the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, it is advisable to put most of your course materials into a D2L course site. If instruction needs to remain in or pivot to remote delivery again, or if you have students who have to stop attending because they get sick, this will make it easier for you and your students. Links to D2L help topics are included in the steps* below.
*To make navigating the steps below easier, all links will open in new tabs in your browser.
Pull out the syllabus from a previous offering of the course to use as a starting point. If you have any notes about future changes to the course, gather those as well.
If you are designing a new course for an upcoming semester or term, consult the OIA mini-primer, Writing an Effective Course Syllabus.
Re-read the course learning outcomes. Next, review the list of assignments (papers, homework problem sets, projects, quizzes, exams, presentations, etc.). Keep in mind that Spring Break has been replaced by five Reading Days spread throughout the semester; see Reading Days Recommendations for some suggestions on accommodating these days.
Regarding a final exam, remember that after the Thanksgiving break in Fall 2020, almost all courses will continue in a remote or online mode until the end of the semester. Consider replacing a cumulative final exam with a final project, paper, ePortfolio, or presentation that allows your students to demonstrate their mastery of the course learning outcomes without the need for a proctored exam. These guidelines for Assessment Redesign & Academic Integrity were presented at ASU's Connected Faculty Summit. If you do opt for a cumulative final exam, consider these Guidelines for Open-Book Exams and creating a Culture of Honesty. The Disability Resource center will have limited capacity to proctor exams for students with accommodations during the fall semester.
Now that you have identified your assignments and final assessment, it’s time to work on your D2L course site.
Working from your planned changes, modify content and assignments in the D2L site. For your content, consider these Accessibility Tips. Keep in mind that consistency in structure helps to keep students organized; for example, making quizzes always due on Tuesday nights, and reflections on Sunday nights. Don’t forget to adjust due dates for student submissions, and make sure that all deadlines are shown in the D2L calendar so students can easily scan to ensure they are staying on track. Set up your gradebook; remember to link assignments to grade items. To decide if you are going to use the TurnitIn option, you can consult TurnitIn FAQs. Keep in mind that D2L course sites automatically open to students one week before a semester or term starts; if your course site isn't ready by then, you can adjust your navigation bar so that students can only see the course home page and you can continue working on the rest of the course.
NOTE: Do not make your course site inactive during the week before classes start; that will result in many panicked student phone calls and emails to D2L support!
Next, step back from D2L and consider what needs to happen when you meet with students that will engage them and support their learning.
Note: For web-based meetings, Zoom is the recommended meeting tool, as the UA has a license and you can restrict access to arizona.edu email addresses, reducing the chances of being “Zoom-bombed.” You can also consider some of the other Security and Privacy settings in Zoom. (Starting September 27, Zoom will require all meetings to have a waiting room or require a passcode .) You can use the chat, breakout rooms, and whiteboards in Zoom to engage your students.
For any modality, you don’t have to limit yourself to Zoom and breakout rooms to engage your students.
- Consider using the Discussions tool in D2L. The OIA mini-primer, Online Discussions, has ideas to make good use of this tool.
- Consider using the Groups tool in D2L, to group your students and attach specific groups to discussions or assignments.
- If you want to stretch your skills beyond D2L, consider using VoiceThread, a web-based, interactive collaboration tool that allows instructors and students to share video and audio clips, presentations, and documents. Listed below are some OIA-developed tutorials.
In a survey of UA students in May, 2020, one of the things they identified as a source of frustration during the second half of spring semester was unclear and infrequent communication from instructors. So, your next step is to develop a plan for regular and clear communication with students. This Chronicle of Higher Education article includes suggestions for connecting with online students; some of these are applicable to other modalities.
- First, update your syllabus to reflect the changes you have made based on the previous steps. Also, consider revising the language to make your syllabus learning-focused, rather than content-focused. You can use the suggested syllabus language for the class formats developed by the Teaching & Learning Re-Entry Taskforce. (Note that this link will download a Word document to your computer. Depending on your browser settings, you may be returned to this webpage.) Please also consult the Provost's memo regarding attendance policies for the fall 2020 semester. When you post the syllabus in D2L, it is good practice to create separate pages for the different sections, rather than uploading a single document. It will be easier for students to refer to a section of the syllabus that has the information they are seeking. Also, if you make changes, it will be easier for you to edit a section in D2L than to edit a document and re-upload it.
- Next, take the time to compose an email that you will send out to your students a week or so before the semester starts, welcoming them to the class, and giving them some information about what to expect. You can use these Communication Suggestions as a guide.
- Suggest that your students bookmark the D2L Student Help pages. If your students are new to D2L, suggest that they complete the Student Orientation Course. It is also important that students adjust their User Settings to reflect their notification preferences and current time zones.
- Craft a welcome announcement to add to D2l Announcements on your course home page. You can also create future Announcements and set release dates for them. Even if you are meeting with students regularly in person or via Zoom, students will appreciate regular Announcements in the D2L course site.
- Create a Discussion forum for (non-personal) questions about the course and ask students to first post their questions there. Invite other students to answer questions; you do need to monitor this to make sure that students' answers are accurate.
- Make plans to reach out to students who don't appear to be engaged in the class; e.g., they aren't attending face-to-face or Zoom sessions, they attend but don't participate, or they aren't regularly signing in to the D2L course site. Note that the D2L Classlist allows you to view students' progress. When you do reach out, ask what is preventing them from engaging in the course and how you can help them re-engage. Reaching out indicates that you care about all of your students and want them to be successful, and is particularly important for students who aren't on campus or need to self-isolate. If you have international students, consult these strategies to Stay Connected with International Students.
Take a deep breath and recognize that conversion of a course to a new modality doesn’t need to be, and likely won’t be, perfect the first time you offer it. Let your students know what you are trying and how that supports their learning. Solicit and listen to their feedback. Invite them to point out “mistakes” (due dates not updated, broken links, typos). Some instructors give small amounts of extra credit to students who report these errors.
Above all, take care of yourself and show compassion and understanding to your students!
OIA is offering webinars and mini-courses throughout the semester to help instructors with their teaching. Please also feel free to reach out to the OIA Faculty-Development team with your questions and requests for consultations regarding planning your courses.