The guide for faculty often recommends a single solution for common elements of instruction. These solutions are evaluated and selected for their effectiveness and technical ease-of-use and are supported by Liberal Arts ITS should you need additional support.
Evaluate and adapt your syllabus.
The best place to start transitioning your course online is your syllabus, which will need to be evaluated and revised for online delivery.
- Consider what will stay the same, what needs to be removed, and what needs to be revised to accommodate online delivery.
- Based on these decisions, update instructions in your syllabus around assignments/deadlines, scheduling, and other topics.
- Some considerations you might take into account in your revisions:
- Consider reducing or re-factoring high-stakes assessments, especially high-value exams. Multiple, low-stakes assessments (multiple choice and/or short answers) will familiarize students with your assessment style and will motivate students to stay current with material as the term progresses.
- Consider written, take-home exams or timed exams with robust question banks.
- Find alternatives for activities, materials, or assignments that cannot be moved online.
- If your lectures are pre-recorded for students to watch on their own schedule, set periodic deadlines to discourage binge-watching and/or falling behind. (See below for more information comparing asynchronous to synchronous activities).
- Identify the appropriate tools for converting your traditional mode of instruction to online delivery.
- Experiment with and learn the tools that you plan on using. Conduct a trial run of a lecture, office hours, or other type of class instruction. Rely on tools you and your students are familiar with as much as possible.
- Refer to this guide to working in Canvas.
- The Toolbox is an overview of supported tools and links to more information.
- If you don’t find the solutions you need on these pages, contact your department’s instructional support team or contact Liberal Arts ITS Computer Support.
- Contact friends and colleagues with online teaching experience in your department or college for advice, support, and training. Many continue to freely offer their assistance.
Create a communication plan
Draft a communication plan to share your syllabus, along with your course format and expectations with students, to address questions, and to stay in touch during the semester. Make your students aware of the Keep Learning website, as well as the Canvas Course that provides students guidance and technical preparation for online learning tools.
- In many instances, Canvas Announcements is the best way to keep students informed. Whether you use announcements or another means of communication (like email or Piazza), stick with whatever you choose so students know where to receive class information.
- Use Zoom to schedule regular online office hours.
- Consider community-building check-ins if it makes sense for your course type. Examples include hosting a Zoom session or sending a pre-recorded video message to students in Canvas.
Asynchronous vs Synchronous
You will see the terms asynchronous and synchronous while planning for teaching online. Put simply, asynchronous activities are activities in which students have some freedom to choose when to participate. Synchronous activities are activities in which instructors and students are all present online at the same time for an activity. This distinction is particularly important when it comes to choosing between live and pre-recorded lecture delivery.
Choosing Between Asynchronous and Synchronous
Synchronous class sessions most closely mirror what happens in face-to-face lectures.
- Frequent collaboration between students is possible and this mode allows for dynamic learning through real-time discourse and debate with peers, instructors, and TAs.
- Students often feel more connected to their instructors
- Better student engagement through active discussion and feedback
- Since this mode more closely matches face-to-face lecture, instructors and students find it more familiar and know what to expect. As a result, many instructors find it easier to prepare for.
- Technical failures in this mode can be significantly disruptive to class.
- This mode does not allow for a flexible schedule, though recording live sessions for students who were unable to attend is possible and encouraged.
Asynchronous class sessions offer more flexibility for students and faculty.
- Instructors have more flexibility. Instructors can record lectures at times that are convenient for them. They can prerecord a number of sessions and free up big blocks of time for other things.
- Students have more flexibility. Students working from a busy home environment or employed in positions with rigid schedules have the opportunity to watch the lecture at their preferred time, place and pace.
- Technical failures are less disruptive in this mode. Students often have sub-standard computers or network. Asynchronous materials give them the opportunity to try again after a tech failure, find locations with better networks, try different times of the day when networks may not be as busy, and generally troubleshoot and seek help with accessing their class.
- This mode creates a less collaborative learning environment.
- Students in this mode need more self-discipline to be successful
Assessments and other activities are another place where you might need to choose between asynchronous and synchronous. And, of course, the choice for these items is likely independent of the choice for lectures. However, the principles are the same: synchronous is more like what happens in a traditional face-to-face classroom; asynchronous offers more flexibility.
You can use both asynchronous and synchronous instruction to leverage the benefits of both (often called “flipped” or “hybrid” courses). A good mix for many courses may be some amount of well-planned, pre-produced materials that free time for more live interaction and discussion during scheduled class sessions. For example, lectures can be pre-recorded for students to study on their own time while synchronous sessions can be scheduled for Q&A, and interactive discussion of topics from the lectures and readings.
Canvas, Panopto, and Zoom will help instructors address lecture and discussion delivery online. Instructors are encouraged to learn to use both. Panopto is recommended for asynchronous lecture recording, although Zoom can be used as well.
The University takes privacy and security seriously. All software must be approved by the Information Security Office (ISO) before it can be used on campus. All software mentioned on this site is approved by ISO.
Canvas: Course Hub for Communication, Materials, and Assignments
This is the organizational hub for your course. It is the centralized place to post learning resources and administer your course. Canvas is used to share course plans, assignments, class announcements, and other information with your students. Both Panopto and Zoom are integrated into the Canvas environment.
Panopto: Asynchronous Video Recording
Panopto is a lecture capture tool that records webcam, PowerPoint/Keynote slides, computer screen, and audio. Students view these recordings via Canvas. As viewers, students can take notes, place bookmarks, and comment on your recording. You also have the ability to place low-stakes quizzes into the recordings. Consult the Toolbox for help documentation on how to install and use Panopto.
Zoom: Synchronous Meetings
Zoom should be used for live, synchronous meetings. It has a limit of 300, but is best used with 25 or fewer participants. Zoom allows you to communicate over video and audio as well as share your desktop with your students. Students can comment in real-time via video or text-based chat. You can record these sessions for others to view later. Get Zoom and learn more about how you can use it in the Toolbox.
Update: Be aware of Zoombombing and steps you can take to prevent it.
Ready for more tools? Consult our full Toolbox.
Recommendations for Common Class Needs
Below are several use cases and recommended tools for instructors to use when moving their course online. That said, instructors should continue to use what they are most familiar with. Many faculty have experimented with Zoom, for example, and may prefer to continue doing so in lieu of recommendations below.
I need to convert my lectures to be delivered online.
Tools needed: Panopto
Panopto is recommended as the user-friendly tool for pre-recording lectures to deliver to students who can watch in their own time.
Panopto allows you to pre-record lectures and load them to Canvas for students to watch asynchronously/on demand. Panopto provides an editable transcription for instructors to accommodate students with accessibility needs; more info on accessibility below. Consult the Toolbox for help documentation on how to install and use Panopto.
I need to teach a small discussion-based class (20 students or fewer) in an online format.
Tools needed: Zoom
Hold synchronous discussion through Zoom. See additional information on how to use Zoom in the Toolbox.
I need to teach a large discussion-based class (over 20 students) online.
I need to teach a language course (30 students or less) and I need to move my discussions online.
Tools needed: Zoom, Canvas
Hold synchronous discussion through Zoom and asynchronous discussions using Canvas Discussions. Additional documentation, including Canvas and Zoom video tutorials produced by language instructors, can be found here.
I need to deliver assessments online.
Tools needed: Canvas, Proctorio
Multiple choice, short-answer or essay quizzes through Canvas are recommended, using questions banks and shuffle question/response options to promote academic integrity.
Implement Proctorio for high-stakes assessments delivered via Canvas Quizzes to monitor student behavior and deter academic dishonesty. Proctorio is an AI-based Google Chrome extension software which can deter problematic behaviors and monitor the students for suspicious activities during the assessment. Instructors should continue to write effective, discriminating exam questions. More information on Proctorio can be found in the Academic Integrity tab.
I need to teach a large lecture class (150-250 students) with labs (20-30 students) online.
Tools needed: Panopto, Zoom
Pre-record lectures through Panopto. If the labs require meeting in real-time use Zoom for synchronous discussion. If labs can be converted to asynchronous assignments this is preferred. Consult the Toolbox for help documentation on how to use Zoom and Panopto.
I need to accept handwritten assessments from students (like Chemistry, Math, or Chinese) online.
Tools needed: Gradescope
Use Gradescope to streamline grading and feedback for handwritten work.