Are you prepared to teach online in an emergency?
Southern Union has many resources available to help you develop an online instructional plan to aid in continuous learning for the students during an emergency. The following are prioritized considerations in making your plans. Click below for quick start ideas. Several training workshops will be scheduled to give you real-time instruction. Watch your email for details. You may also contact the Distance Education offices at ext. 5516 or 5378 for more information.
1. How will you communicate?
2. How will you deliver content?
3. How will your students and you complete learning activities?
4. How will you assess student learning?
Link to Faculty Technology Resources
1. How will you communicate?
- Announcements: The best time to communicate your course continuity plan is before it is needed. To prepare for an emergency before it happens, spend a few minutes reviewing the plan with your students when going over your syllabus and post it to your Canvas site. In the future, you might want to reference this continuity plan in your syllabus (which is also posted to your LMS) in the event of future emergencies or extended illnesses.
- To speak with your students when they are not on campus, use the Announcement and Inbox messaging functions within Canvas to communicate with students to maintain a record of course communications. When communicating about confidential or protected data such as grades, be sure to use the Canvas Inbox to send to a particular student to maintain the student’s privacy. It is recommended that you do not email confidential information through other sources since email privacy is not guaranteed.
- Southern Union email is the official email service for anyone with an affiliation to the college. It is the most consistent and supported, method of exchanging emails with your students. You may find it helpful to provide students with email guidelines specific to your course (e.g. Subject lines must include the course number; you will reply within 24 hours, etc.) However, exercise caution when dealing with confidential information. When the need arises to teach remotely, communicating within your LMS is the safest option and one that provides students with a single point of contact for anything related to your course.
2. How will you deliver content?
- Instructional technology: Southern Union provides a learning management system (Canvas) that can assist teaching and learning by supporting interaction and collaboration, feedback and assessment, and instruction and content delivery. Keep all course materials and instruction inside Canvas as much as possible. Most students are familiar with this format and will feel more comfortable that they are not "missing" anything. Please refrain from sending emails about assignments as emails can be easily caught by spam filters. Canvas will help keep material organized and easy to find should a student report that they completed an assignment or quiz.
- Canvas: Post any content that is part of the path to the successful completion of the course to your Canvas LMS. Your course should already contain your contact information, course syllabus, and grades. You will need to post a revised schedule, assignments and other assessments (quizzes, exams, etc.) that will take place through remote learning. Take advantage of the LMS tools to provide updates, feedback on assignments, and opportunities for virtual engagement between students, and with you. There is also a Canvas Teacher app for your phone as well as a Canvas Student app for convenience. You should make sure the student is aware that completing assignments on the phone app is not the best solution as some items are not viewable on the phone. If you are unfamiliar with the Canvas environment, email the Distance Education department to be enrolled in the Canvas Basics tutorial course.
- Delivery: Asynchronous (recommended) delivery is easiest for students and you, and provides stable content regardless of the reliability of anyone’s Internet access and speed. This type of delivery allows students to access course content on their own time. Lectures can be recorded from a laptop using a computer and webcam. You can deliver a virtual lecture with Relay by recording your computer screen and your voice. Check these links for a step-by-step video guide and a guide to adding video to your Canvas course.
- Delivery: Synchronous can be used sparingly when your students and you are working remotely. Even if you have previously conducted web-conferencing successfully using the conference tool (Big Blue Button) in Canvas, students’ schedules will be disrupted. Many will return to their homes rather than stay locally and may live in low-internet bandwidth areas and/or have interruptions in Internet service. If you need synchronous delivery for limited use, make your preparations and allow for connection problems the first time. Even if you use the conference tool, record your session using the Relay recorder and upload it to the Canvas course site for those students whose Internet connection may not be sufficient for streaming content.
- Course materials: In order for students to continue following along in the course remotely, they need access to course materials. Post items such as handouts, readings, presentation slides, and assignments on the course site. Please follow copyright law when posting materials online. Investigate your options for embedding or linking course materials, provide links to educational websites or videos. Post your schedule, and revise them allowing for the disruption in the lives of your students and you. Consider what materials, assignments, and assessments are essential to successfully achieving the course learning outcomes. You need to be flexible with submission deadlines, within the parameters of the academic calendar. Consider linking to relevant LRC resources to help students locate additional or alternative materials to support students in achieving course learning outcomes.
- Accessibility and Accommodations: Students provided ADA accommodations should share that form with instructors, electronically, via SUSCC email. Previously approved accommodations remain in effect, but how they are implemented may need to be adapted for an online environment. Here are some steps to take that demonstrate your commitment toward accessibility and accommodations for your course.
- Stay in touch with students for whom you have accommodation letters to discuss updated plans for your course. Instructors have the right to privately communicate with students who have ADA accommodations on file and ask for more details about the implementation of a specific accommodation. For example consider asking questions like: “What document format will best meet your needs? (Word or PDF) or “I believe I have set the LMS to allow for your extended time on this exam. Let me know if you run into a problem right away.” If needed, you may contact Cydney Mathews at firstname.lastname@example.org, Robin Brown at email@example.com, or Carol Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding questions about ADA accommodations.
- Make captioning for students with accommodations available. TechSmith Relay provides a tool for closed-captioning to meet disability needs. Be sure to submit any video you record for closed-captioning. Contact your department for other captioning requests.
- □ When creating and uploading documents to your course, think about if the content is accessible. If your students request that your documents be made accessible for use with a screen reader, look at these sites for guidance in Word or PowerPoint.
- Labs, recitation, fieldwork: One of the more challenging parts of teaching a course when there is a building or campus closure are the outside course components, such as labs, recitations, fieldwork, and site visits. To mitigate the effects of losing the in-person interaction and hands-on experience afforded through outside class components, consider establishing alternate, but equivalent activities by having an emergency plan for your outside class components. We suggest the following:
- Putting components online: Labs often require specific procedures or hands-on work. When that is not possible, find online videos or video-record your own demonstrations and post to your LMS. Connect students with online simulations. Provide analysis break-downs of data, etc. and save what is necessary for when students can return to the physical space.
- Use virtual labs or simulations: Online simulations can provide a similar experience to the hands-on experience. Provide students with a structure for engagement with the simulations and what to submit via the course LMS.
- Check publisher resources: During an emergency, publishers often make online resources available that accompany your textbook.
- Open Educational Resources (OER): is a term describing a wide array of textbooks and course material (e.g. presentations, simulations, assessments) that has been created and shared for educational purposes, often with Creative Commons licensing. For details and a brief list of repositories, click here.
3. How will your students and you complete learning activities?
- Consider alternative approaches: Teaching remotely may require new approaches to your course activities. Activities done in class can often be done in an online format. Consider how you could modify or replicate activities quickly and in ways that students can understand when working by themselves remotely. Rethink what you planned to do during the time the students would normally be in the class.
- Demonstrations, problem solutions, or examples can be recorded and posted on the course site. If you planned to teach a principle using some sort of demonstration, particularly one that could be done on a screen or at home, you can record it and post online using Relay. For computer-based demonstrations, Relay screen-capture can help you record this activity. For hands-on demonstrations, you might use your web camera or the Relay FUSE app on a mobile device to create a quick demonstration video. Be sure to create closed-captioning on all videos for accessibility purposes for people with hearing limitations.
- Course Discussions: Students can easily continue to communicate with one another via the discussion boards built into Canvas. Discussions allow students to post their thoughts, reply to other students, collaborate, and share their informed opinions. Discussion boards can be open forums (where the entire course participates together) or sub-divided into discussion groups (where students only see the items posted by their group members). Canvas discussion boards can be graded, encouraging students to participate. When setting up a discussion be sure to:
- Give students detailed directions on the topics or questions they should discuss. Provide specific discussion prompts to guide student responses. If grading, provide a grading rubric so students are aware of how their response will be graded.
- Share clear expectations for student posts. Provide a framework of depth and length of posts and how many replies they should make to their colleagues, to help improve student performance on the activity.
- Give the students time to post and reply. Have the discussion board open for several days, to allow students the opportunity to read their peers’ posts and think about their replies.
- Assignments: Students can easily submit assigned material through your Canvas course, so email submission is not recommended. Submissions through a Canvas assignment link will keep all submissions organized and will not be lost and there is also a Speedgrader to allow an easy and convenient place to grade these files. When creating assignments online, be sure to think about the following:
- Students may not have access to specialized software on their home computers (or their home computers may not be able to effectively run this software). Try to stick to formats that are commonly available to most people at home or are free for student’s use. To check for originality, instructors may “allow” Turnitin to check for plagiarism against online resources and thousands of papers submitted to institutions of higher learning.
- Students can collaborate on documents as a group in Google Drive.
- Give clear details of the assignment and expectations for the students. The assignment folders in Canvas allows you to post detailed instructions or attach your assignment instructions as a document. This will ensure the students know exactly what they need to do.
- Communicate CLEARLY to the students about the due date of material and, in case of unforeseen events, be flexible about late submissions. It is recommended that you make assignments due BEFORE 10 p.m. to avoid problems with the Canvas LMS used by students in different time zones.
- Peer feedback can be done either through Google Drive or the Canvas course discussion board that allows documents to be uploaded and shared.
4. How will you assess student learning?
- Exams pose a particular challenge in a situation where everyone is on their own. The online format does not allow instructors the same ability to proctor exams as they have in class. In order to minimize incidents of academic integrity violations for online exams while still ensuring they accurately reflect student learning, consider the following principles in creating and modifying exams:
- Allowing exams to be open-book/source: Assume students will use resources while taking an exam, and even encourage them to do so. Try to ask questions that probe deeper levels of knowledge and understanding, enabling students to apply, assess, and evaluate concepts and facts in meaningful ways. Encourage students to share and cite where they get information from and what resources they use.
- Encourage students to collaborate/share questions and ideas: Students will likely work together when they are stuck or confused. You can encourage working in small teams and ask them to include who they work with and in what ways.
- Focus on solving problems while showing work and explanations: In many cases, students may get the same answer, but showing their work reveals meaningful differences in understanding. Students may submit their solutions online through the assignment feature or have students record a video of them talking through the process to solve a question.
- Use random selection of questions: If you have short-answer or multiple-choice questions, create question groups in your LMS so that students receive different sets of questions (can also be done with essays and more complex questions). Set up more questions in your quiz than needed (50) and then tell Canvas to randomize and choose a limited number for the students.
- Ensure clarity in questions and prompts: Especially if your test is timed, your students may not have a chance to ask a question and get a response. It is vital that questions and prompts are clear to novices so your assessment measures what you want it to. Even if not timed, you do not want to be spending your limited time answering clarifying questions.
- Consider question formats leading to essays, videos, pictures, and other personal responses: If your class lends itself to it, having students express their learning through essays, videos, pictures, or other personalized forms of writing/speaking/communicating means that everyone needs to create their own. Students have access to create a Relay account using their SUSCC email address. They can then use the FUSE app on their phone to record and submit the video through Canvas. You can also have students post their responses for each other and assess each other’s work through peer grading. Rubrics can help guide students as they develop such work, give each other feedback, and, of course, allow your teaching assistants and you a consistent method of assessment.
- Respect your own time: Most of these ideas take time to grade. Try to determine what is feasible in your situation, and use feedback-based or hand-grading intensive assessments sparingly. Also, consider how much feedback students actually need/will use. Many times feedback can be created for the whole group based on common challenges or problems, as opposed to individual responses.
- Canvas has a robust exam tool that allows for multiple-choice, short-answer, true/false, essay, or short- or long-answer exams. This can be a great alternative to exams that were previously offered via Scantron or as written exams.