In case of campus closure, illness, inclement weather, etc., you may be required to teach remotely. Using available learning tools at WashU, you can successfully teach your course online during a short or prolonged disruption.

Although we expect that most faculty will use Canvas as their overarching teaching and learning tool, Canvas alone may not support all of your current teaching methods. This website will detail how you can utilize a range of available tools to swiftly transform your teaching.

Get Ready to Teach Remotely

To prepare yourself for remote teaching, get ready to complete the following steps:

  • Update your adjusted syllabus and post it on Canvas
  • Contact your students via Canvas and/or WebFAC to let them know your course is moving online
  • Create a brief, check-in Canvas Assignment or Quiz to ensure all students are engaged immediately
  • Convert paper-based assignments and materials to online alternatives
  • Change your exam format and testing conditions
  • Hold office hours online
  • Prepare students to complete group work at a distance

Ready? Get started by clicking the button below.

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Quick Start Guide

Review Your Expectations & Prepare to Be Flexible

Consider teaching remotely as a modification to your current teaching practice rather than building a fully online course from scratch. To begin, review your course expectations and be prepared to adjust. Not everything that you do in a face-to-face environment will translate well to a digital environment.

Be prepared to think outside the box, pivot to new options, and get creative!

Previous expectations such as the use of technology in class, definitions of attendance and class participation, and submission types may need to be reexamined.

Above all, remember that you are not alone in this endeavor. Seek out support in your department and school if you aren’t sure how to transform your class.

Start by reviewing the steps below:

1. Prepare to communicate with your students: Plan to communicate with your students clearly, early and often. Draft an email and/or Canvas Announcement to your students that includes key information:

  • How course expectations have changed
  • Any changes in class format
  • How to access your course materials
  • Any adjustments in assessments
  • How they can reach you or your Assistants in Instruction if they have questions

Not sure how to contact your class? See the How To resources below:

  • How do I send an email to my whole class? See this WebFAC tutorial.
  • How do I send a Canvas Announcement? See this page.
  • How do I send a message to my class, select students, or class groups via Canvas Inbox? Please note that Canvas Inbox relies on Canvas notification preferences rather than WUSTL email directly. See this page for help.

Tip: Canvas Announcements persist in your course so that students can easily find them again. Canvas Announcements also sends students an email with a copy of the message. To ensure that students are receiving these crucial communications, consider asking them to send a brief acknowledgement in reply.

2. Ensure timely delivery of course materials via Canvas: While you may be used to handing out materials in-class, having your course directions and resources available online will be an imperative step for digital instruction.

Make sure that all readings, PowerPoint slides, assignment directions and course materials are available on Canvas AND that you communicate where they are located in your Canvas course site. Consider setting up a weekly or topical structure via Modules to keep materials organized. This will ensure that students can easily find the materials needed for each class session.

Tip: Make sure that resources are available to students by ensuring that students can access the appropriate navigation items and that your files/modules are published.

3. Set up online assignment submissions via Canvas: The Canvas Assignment tool is useful for providing students assignment instructions, as well as receiving student submissions. Grading can be done online using SpeedGrader, or you can download and print documents. In an online environment, providing clear, specific and detailed instructions is critical. Think about all the information that you might provide to students when explaining an assignment in-class and put that into a textual, audio or visual format. Be sure to provide due dates (day/date/time/time zone) for all assignments, in addition to being realistic about deadlines for students who may be displaced or have additional considerations.

4. Prepare for online exam options: Exams can be effectively administered digitally in many ways but will require some changes to how you would administer an exam in person. If you have exams in your course, visit the Exam Planning page.

5. Maintaining student engagement: When determining which engagement strategies to employ in your particular course, first consider what your learning goals are for students, then choose the techniques that most closely align with those goals. Students tend to mirror patterns of engagement modeled for them by faculty. Frequent communication, follow-up, and feedback initiated by faculty will translate into increased student attentiveness to the learning environment.

Consider the following guidance:

  1. Poll students prior to the beginning of remote learning to determine what resources (including computer and internet access) are available to them. You can set this up as a Survey in Canvas. This will help you create accessible course content. See creating a survey in Canvas.
  2. Post frequent announcements in Canvas to keep students updated. Aim for a minimum of one announcement per week. See creating an announcement in Canvas.
  3. Clearly communicate your expectations to your students as well as what they can expect from you. How many times per week do you expect students to log into Canvas? Are they expected to attend synchronous meetings? When should they expect new content? How should they ask questions?
  4. Use the student view tool in Canvas to ensure that course materials are available to students. See Student View in Canvas.
  5. Create an “FAQ” Canvas discussion board that encourages students to ask questions and also answer questions of other students is a useful tool. See this page on creating a discussion board in Canvas.
  6. Build-in frequent opportunities for formative assessment to help keep your finger on the pulse of student learning.
  7. Utilize the analytics within Canvas to examine which students have or haven’t accessed the course. Reach out to struggling students early and often. See Canvas Course Analytics.
  8. Chunk material into digestible pieces. Instead of posting a 50-minute recorded lecture, post several 10-minute lectures interspersed with other course materials in a Canvas module.

Strategies for Teaching Remotely

Three Primary Options

You have three basic approaches to temporarily conducting remote classes.

Option 1: Run your class live with Zoom (synchronous):

Do you teach a lecture-based class that includes in-class activities? Do you teach small, discussion-based classes? Do you have Assistants in Instruction who could serve as moderators as you conduct a large-class discussion? If you answered yes to any of these teaching situations, you may wish to consider holding real-time Zoom meetings.

Zoom is a web-based video conferencing system that allows faculty to present lessons as well as facilitate discussions and break-out groups with students.

At WashU, Zoom is also integrated within Canvas for teaching continuity. To learn more, read the Guide to Using Zoom in Canvas at WashU IT’s Tools for Teaching & Learning Continuity

Tip: Zoom can host up to 300 concurrent users in any meeting with unlimited time and recording. If you teach more than 300 concurrent users in a meeting, contact WashU IT Media Services to request a special license.

Option 2: Pre-record your lectures (asynchronous):

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

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Keep videos short and lively. It is often harder to focus on a video than on a person! Check out some tips for creating lively short online videos from online educator Karen Costa.
  • Test your microphone to make sure that you have good sound quality. Consider using a headset with an external microphone to capture better audio.
  • 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.

Technology Options for Recording Video

Kaltura is a video tool available for teaching. It offers the ability for faculty to easily record and upload video in their courses. Using this tool, faculty can access analytics on student use of video resources and engage students in video content by incorporating comments, questions, and even quizzes.

Additional instructional and pedagogical resources are available from Kaltura.

Links and Resources for Kaltura

Option 3: Skip the video and keep instruction textual:

Many online courses do not have a video component. If you are not sure that you have the right equipment and are uncomfortable with the tech setup, this might be a good option, at least for the short-term.

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Annotate your slideshow with notes, and share this with students using Canvas.
  • Set up discussion forums for students in Canvas. Use specific, structured questions, and let students know expectations for their responses. See the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence’s instructor recommendations for Fostering Effective Discussions.
  • Share links to external resources. Encourage students to watch or read these curated videos, articles, etc.
  • Set up live, text-based chat sessions with students. Microsoft Teams is a good institutional chat technology with minimal set-up for faculty and students. To learn more about setting up a class chat in Microsoft Teams, visit WashU IT’s Microsoft Teams page.

Tips to Get Started

Review the following guidance and tips to get started on your transition to remote classes:

Get started by visiting WashU IT’s Connect page.

You and/or your Assistants in Instruction can use web-conferencing, chat and old-fashioned phone or free VoIP providers to conduct “virtual” office hours during campus disruptions.

Step 1: Choose a tool, such as Zoom web-conferencing, Microsoft Teams chat, or establish an office-hour specific number using free VoIP providers.

Step 2: Determine a set time when you can be available online. For instance, Fridays from 1-3 p.m. Announce this time on Canvas and give instructions for how to connect to your tool of choice.

Step 3: Confirm that students know when office hours are and how they can participate with you online or by phone.

Learn more about Zoom meetings and video conferencing, Microsoft Teams, and Google Voice.

Pursuant to the Chancellor’s recent announcement, due to COVID-19 all Danforth classes will shift to online instruction until at least April 30, 2020. During this time, we anticipate that faculty and instructors will use Canvas or Zoom to provide instruction. According to those software provider’s Terms of Use, course content that you post in connection with such instructions remains your sole property. Likewise, Washington University will not assert ownership rights in any instructional materials you create (including, but not limited to, class recordings) as a result of the temporary suspension of face-to-face classroom teaching due to COVID-19.

Strategies for Learning Remotely (for Students)

Quickly moving a face-to-face course to an online format is a significant challenge. The purpose of this page is to help students anticipate, understand, and navigate some of the changes that may result.

Keep in mind…

This transition will be stressful for both students and instructors. Patience, persistence, and understanding in both directions will be key in getting the most out of your courses.

What changes can I expect?

During this time, courses will not meet in a classroom. Beyond that, changes will differ from course to course. Ultimately, instructors will adapt their courses in the way they feel best meets the learning objectives of the course.

  • As necessary, instructors may revise the course schedule, assignments, exams, grading, and other policies to accommodate the online format.
  • Instructors may introduce new tools to the course that allow key course activities (e.g., lecturing, exam administration) to happen remotely.
  • Some of your courses will continue to have “live” remote meetings at their regularly scheduled times. Most courses that do this will utilize Zoom in Canvas. For more information, see Tips for Using Zoom for Class.
  • Instead of or in addition to live meetings, some courses may provide access to pre-recorded lectures or other pre-recorded content.
  • Some instructors may opt to skip remote meetings and recorded lectures altogether and deliver content in other ways (for example, using textual resources).
  • Many instructors are likely to administer exams via Canvas. Your instructor may use the following features available for Canvas exams: (1) time limits, (2) locking your browser to remain on the exam until it is complete, and/or (3) monitoring software that utilizes your webcam to proctor the exam.
  • On a mobile device? Read these tips for accessing Canvas on a mobile device.
  • For more information on exams, see Tips for Taking Online Exams.

Where can I get Canvas support?

Please visit the MyCanvas Student Support page for 24/7 Canvas Support options and to view common issues and concerns.

Who can I call for additional technical support?

Students can contact Student Technology Services for assistance by emailing, or by calling 314-933-3333.

Frequently Asked Questions for Students

Review Frequently Asked Questions (for Students) for important information about course-specific communications, connecting remotely, best practices for remote learning, and available resources.

Resources & Tools for Faculty

WashU’s Learning Management System, Canvas, supports teaching fully online courses and programs. While we expect Canvas will be your home base for your course, you may identify a compilation of different tools for unique types of delivery, user experience and contexts to support your course.

Please note that each school or department may encourage different tools or online teaching methods. For curricular support outside of Canvas and related tools, please consult your local school-based support for guidance as needed.

Tools for Teaching Continuity

WashU IT has a central location for teaching and learning continuity tools via Canvas. Visit the tools site to get help on technologies such as:

  • Canvas
  • Zoom
  • Kaltura
  • Respondus
  • Teams, and more!

Other Resources