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.