Online Teaching and Learning
If you are new to using technology for teaching, the wide array of tools and techniques can be daunting. Where do you start? This chapter describes how to adapt your face-to-face syllabus and assignments to the online environment. For more details about how to do this, please visit the CTE No Walls Teaching 2021 guide (UF Gatorlink is required for access).
It is useful to go through an online learning experience yourself so that you can see how things work. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Online, as in the classroom, the human-to-human connection between instructor and student is the most important element.
- Keep things simple.
- Communicate with your students frequently (see point #1).
- The recommendations in this Toolkit are suggestions only, ignore whatever doesn’t work for you, your course, or your students.
You can also watch the CTE Online Teaching Toolkit workshop recording (1:43:33). Skip the sections that do not support your teaching needs.
Preparation for remote or hybrid teaching can be divided into three main stages. They build upon each other, so we suggest that you go through them in order.
- Use your existing syllabus to develop a weekly class structure.
- Identify interesting assignments and assessments that help students connect with the course topics in a meaningful way.
- Plan interim deadlines for larger assignments to keep students on track.
- Import a template from CanvasCommons to create a Canvas “Page.”
- Use the plan/syllabus you have developed to set up a prototype module.
- Duplicate your prototype to create the rest of your modules.
- Identify existing resources and plug them into your course pages.
- Incorporate social interaction and activities into your course.
- Import a sample communication/teaching plan from CanvasCommons.
- Customize the communication plan to meet the needs of your course.
- Set up automated announcements.
A quality online course has a lot of moving parts. Focus on the pieces that are most important for a good student experience. These are the minimum elements that should be ready to go the week before the start of classes:
- Your Canvas course shell is published – Publish the shell as soon as you get it (students won’t see it until the class start date).
- The final syllabus is available in Canvas.
- Placeholders for all assignments, discussions, quizzes, and exams are set up in Canvas.
- All deadlines and points are set in Canvas
- Why? Students want to see how much work they will be expected to do.
- By setting the deadlines only in the assignments, you will avoid putting an incorrect deadline somewhere.
- Deadlines should be double- and triple-checked (it is MUCH better to correct errors before students find them).
- You have created a friendly welcome message using your preferred medium.
- The first two weeks of content are set up in Canvas.
- All links have been double- and triple-checked.
- Why the first two weeks? This allows you to stay just ahead of the students.
- The more content that is ready to go in Canvas the better, students appreciate being able to look ahead to see what is coming up.
Assignments & Activities
Use the Assignments Worksheet to list the activities you currently use in your course. (Don’t like this worksheet? Use whatever format you prefer.)
- Describe what you expect students to learn from the activity
- Focus on what the assignment needs to DO
- The following types of activities are commonly used online:
Look at your Assignments Worksheet with a critical eye. Here are the things you should have:
- Current Assignments
- What are students expected to learn from this?
- What steps do students follow?
- What are the grading criteria?
- Online Assignments
- Describe how the assignment will help students learn.
- Explain how they should use any new technology.
- Provide detailed steps (a complicated assignment may benefit from both text and video explanations).
- Grading criteria, checklist, or template that describe how work will be evaluated.
- Examples that demonstrate how the work meets the criteria.
- Identify things that can go wrong and what students should do in response.
Listing everything that students will need and do helps to ensure that you have everything ready for them. This can significantly reduce student questions and frustration as well as make your life easier!
How do you know whether students have learned what you intended for them to learn? That is where assessment comes in. Assessments that double as learning activities provide a big bang for the time spent by both student and instructor. The ideal assessment parallels the work done in the discipline and is frequently referred to as “authentic” assessment.
- Identify assessment instruments.
- Determine academic integrity challenges.
- List any scaffolding or preparation that needs to be done.
Review your face-to-face assessments:
- Determine what adjustments (if any) might be necessary to use them online.
- Review good practice for your preferred type of assessment in A Practical Guide to Assessment by Dr. Tim Brophy.
- Provide your students with more than one way to demonstrate their learning.
- Identify academic integrity challenges.
- It is recommended that online assessments that comprise 15% or more of the course grade use academic integrity measures such as an anti-plagiarism checker (i.e., Turnitin) or proctoring (i.e., Honorlock).
- See CITT’s UF Instructional Tools for details about the available technologies.
- “Authentic” assessments such as projects tend to be less prone to cheating.
- Interim deadlines can also help to reduce cheating.
- The more “real world” you can make your assessment, the better!
- View the Special Report: Promoting Academic Integrity in Online Education.
- Interested in trying something completely different?
Good Practice for Exams
Depending upon the course content and the size of the class, multiple-choice exams may be the only feasible assessment for your course. If this is the case, these suggestions can help reduce student anxiety.
- Provide a “review” opportunity such as a practice exam to help students prepare.
- Create a bank of questions that will randomly draw a certain number of questions for each student.
- Randomize the questions and answers.
- Provide the UF Honor Pledge as the first question requiring students to select yes/no they understand the academic integrity requirements and they have not given nor received assistance.
- Consider using “higher-order” multiple-choice questions that refer to a case or other analysis activity as Dr. Tim Brophy describes in his video, “Difficulty and Cognitive Complexity” Module 3e from A Practical Guide To Assessment.
Two-Stage Collaborative Assessment
Turn your exam into a learning activity with Two-Stage Collaborative Assessment as described by Dr. David Julian in this Teaching Beyond the Podium podcast from season two.
“Two-Stage Collaborative Assessment” (15:43)
At present, there is no magical technology that keeps students from cheating on exams. UF’s preferred online proctoring provider is Honorlock, which uses recorded video and algorithms to identify cheating behaviors. Be aware that online proctoring adds another layer of technology that may be problematic for students who are using older equipment or who have low bandwidth. Potential technology issues add more anxiety that can keep a student from doing well on an exam.
- Give students a low- or no-points assignment to allow them to test out the proctoring service.
- Provide details about the proctoring service at the beginning of the semester.
- A webcam and headset/microphone are required for online proctoring and must be included as “required” in the syllabus.
- Honorlock is the preferred provider for courses.
- View faculty and student preparation information
- Provide a minimum 4-hour window of time: the larger the enrollment, the wider the window needs to be (24 hours is recommended for 100+ students).
- Add at least 15 minutes of additional test time to accommodate student set up with a proctor.
- Pay particular attention to students who may need accommodations.
- You can provide extra time for a specific student in all quizzes using Quiz Extension found within Instructor Tools in the menu to the left.
- NOTE: extra time will need to be provided again for any quizzes added AFTER a particular student has been given extra time.
Help students understand your plan for helping them to learn the course material. You have already developed a plan for the course outlined in your syllabus. Use the syllabus topics and your assignments worksheet to create a framework for your online materials.
As much as is feasible, keep the course activities consistent from week to week. Your weekly outline should include:
- Preparation activities.
- Introduction of new material.
- Engagement or “learning” new material.
- Follow up homework to reinforce new learning.
Use one of these templates to create a list of the activities and assignments for each week (click the Make a copy button).
- Use this MWF Template as a starting point.
- Use this TTH Template as a starting point.
- View this sample course plan.
- Don’t like the list format? Use this google sheet version to create your plan.
- Enter the topic(s) you plan to cover each week.
- Edit the Week 1 activities to meet your course needs (adapt or delete the sample items).
- Do I have to use this template? No! Use whatever format you prefer.
- If your syllabus lists everything a student needs to do each week, that may be sufficient.
- Use the Wake Forest University Workload Estimator to determine the appropriate amount of work for your course.
- Generally, you are aiming for 3 hours each week/credit hour (video + reading + assignments and synchronous sessions or other activities).
- Instructors frequently underestimate how long things take (students often complain that online courses are more work than face-to-face).
- Do I have to pre-record my video lectures?
- No! Students have expressed a strong preference for synchronous class sessions.
- You may wish to pre-record some lecture content so that you can use class time for cooperative learning activities such as small group discussions.
- Do I have to keep my pre-recorded videos under 20 minutes in length?
- Not necessarily, but attention ebbs and flows in 20-minute cycles.
- Break up your presentation with activities that help students synthesize what you have said (this will promote retention).
- What if I don’t want to do the same thing every week?
- You can certainly have some variation (variety is the spice of life, after all) but try to keep some elements consistent.
The “Carnegie Rule” for face-to-face classes requires one hour of “seat time” plus 2 hours of homework per week over 15 weeks for each credit hour. So a 3 credit course would have three 50-minute (so not a full hour) class meetings plus 6 hours of homework for a total of approximately 9 hours each week. It is recognized that some weeks the workload might be lighter or heavier. You should aim for one hour of weekly two-way communication per credit hour for your students. Some weeks you may have more and some less, but they should be “regularly scheduled.”
- Synchronous class meetings via Zoom that encourage students to ask questions or engage in discussions are preferred.
- TA-led Zoom discussions are fine.
- Instructor/TA moderated asynchronous discussions may be used in conjunction with other methods.
- Assignments that provide opportunities for personal feedback and questions via SpeedGrader or other tools.
- Instructor/TA engagement with students via Perusall or other platforms.
Not recommended as contact hours:
- Pre-recorded lecture video–unless followed with a scheduled opportunity for two-way communication such as a discussion.
- Office hours–as these are at the student’s discretion, they do not count as “regularly scheduled.”
(Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, 2018), (Downs, 2020)
Once you have planned out your weekly activities for the semester, it is time to set up your course site. Visit the No Walls Teaching 2021 guide for:
- Examples of ways to organize your course material.
- Templates you can import into your Canvas site.
- Details for using time-savers such as the Multi-Tool and Design Tools.
- Design Tools is not centrally supported and it has a bit of a learning curve.
- If you wish to use Design Tools request a CTE consultation to help you get started.
- Weekly communication and teaching checklist you can import into your Canvas course and customize.
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. (2018). Distance and Correspondence Education Policy Statement (Issue brief). Retrieved August 6, 2020, from Https://sacscoc.org/ website.
Downs, L. R. (2020). New Regulations Review #1: Regular & Substantive Interaction. WCET Frontiers. Retrieved August 6, 2020, from https://wcetfrontiers.org/2020/04/03/new-regs-review-1-regular-substantive-interaction/