Teach Anywhere Toolkit

Best Practices 

Principles to remember: 

  • Communicate Regularly with Students
  • Distribute Course Materials and Readings
  • Deliver Lectures Live
  • Transition Lab & Performance-Based Activities
  • Encourage Collaboration and Communication among Students
  • Collect Assignments
  • Assess Student Learning Objectives

Communicate with students

Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es) — whether a viral outbreak like COVID-19, a natural disaster (i.e. hurricane), a personal emergency, or some other crisis impacting all or part of campus. You’ll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. 

Keep these principles in mind:

  • Communicate early and often: Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety, and save you dealing with individual questions. Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren’t in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Don’t overload  them with email, but consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand. For example, if the campus closure is extended for two more days, what will students need to know related to your course?
  • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email, and how quickly they can expect your response. Let them know, too, if you are using the Canvas Inbox tool, since they may need to update their notification preferences.
  • Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider creating an information page in Canvas, and then encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing you.

Distribute course materials and readings

You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more – or all – instruction online. In a pinch, providing some new readings and related assignments may be your best bet for keeping the intellectual momentum of the course moving.

Considerations when posting new course materials:

  • Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in Canvas or another shared resource (e.g., Box or OneDrive), be sure to inform students and provide a link to the content. You might even ask that they change their notification preferences to alert them when new materials are posted. For Canvas, refer them to How do I set my Canvas notification preferences as a student?
  • Keep things accessible & mobile friendly: In a crisis, many students may only have a mobile device available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats including PDFs and Canvas Pages. Consider saving other files in two formats–it’s original application format and a PDF. PDFs are easier to read on phones and tablets and keep the file size small, and original file format often have application features that are helpful to students who use accessibility software for accessibility reasons. Also note that videos take lots of bandwidth, so only require them if you are confident students will have access to them during the current situation.
  • Maintain student engagement: In order to maintain and encourage student engagement with the content, frequent, lower-stakes assessments can be used, such as short reflection pieces, reading synopses, discussion boards, etc.

Consider these suggestions when planning activities:

  • Use asynchronous tools: Having students participate in live Zoom conversations can be useful, but scheduling can be a problem, and only a few students will actively participate (just like in your classroom). In such cases, using asynchronous tools like Canvas Discussions allows students to participate on their own schedules. In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.
  • Link to clear goals and outcomes: Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. Define how this activity helps students meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments.
  • Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious, so some instructors ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
  • Balance newness and need: As with any changed activities, you will need to balance the needs and benefits of online communication and collaboration with the additional effort it will require on everyone’s part. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit.

Deliver lectures

Zoom is an existing Tulane tool available to all instructors, staff, and students that can also facilitate remote attendance, in-meeting interactions, meeting transcription and recordings.

  • Instructors can use Zoom’s video conferencing to offer online sections and/or lectures, and using the Zoom in Canvas tool is often the easiest way to do this.
  • Interaction with and between students in Zoom can be accomplished through small group breakout rooms, classroom polling, and the digital whiteboard. Also consider all the possibilities you have for instruction by sharing content.
  • Zoom allows you to record these sessions and share a link for viewing by your students. (Note: When setting up Zoom sessions, you should avoid making students use passcodes to connect to the session).
  • Zoom Reports can be used to track attendance.
  • Before you can use Zoom, you must install the Zoom software for your device and log in for the first time.
  • Think about how you may need to secure your Zoom classroom from unwanted participants.

Regardless of which of these tools you use, your sessions should be recorded so they can be captioned for students. This applies to all classes, as instructors may not know whether students will need this accommodation.

Due to the many compliance issues (e.g., student privacy, copyright) associated with public posting of recorded lectures, instructors should not post this content on any site other than their Tulane Canvas course site.

 

Managing lab and performance activities

One of the biggest challenges of teaching online from anywhere is accommodating academic requirements that are traditionally dependent on an in-person component, such as science labs or performance & visual arts.

Considerations as you plan to address these activities:

  • Take part of the activity online: Many activities require students to become familiar with certain procedures, and only physical practice of those processes will do. In such cases, consider if there are other parts of the experience you could take online (for example, video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations, analysis of data, other pre- or post-activity work). Save the physical practice parts of the experience until access to campus is restored.
  • Investigate virtual experiences: Online resources and virtual tools might help replicate the experience of some activities (for example, virtual dissection, night sky apps, video demonstrations, performances and simulations). These vary widely by discipline, but check with your textbook publisher, or sites such as Merlot for materials that might help replace parts of your activity during an emergency.
  • Provide raw data for analysis: In cases where the activity includes both collection of data and its analysis, consider showing how the data can be collected, and then provide some raw sets of data for students to analyze. This approach is not as comprehensive as having students collect and analyze their own data, but it might keep them engaged with parts of the experience during the closure.
  • Provide media collections for review and analysis: In cases of visual or performance arts, an alternative assignment could include a in-depth analysis of curated media appropriate for the specific subject matter.
  • Increase interaction in other ways: Sometimes activities are about providing time for direct student interaction; consider other ways to replicate that type of interaction or create new online interaction opportunities, including using available collaboration tools, such as Zoom or Canvas discussion boards.

Foster communication and collaboration among students

Communication and collaboration among students fosters a sense of community that can help keep students motivated to participate and learn.

Consider these suggestions when planning activities:

  • Use asynchronous tools: Having students participate in live Zoom conversations can be useful, but scheduling can be a problem, and only a few students will actively participate (just like in your classroom). In such cases, using asynchronous tools like Canvas Discussions allows students to participate on their own schedules. In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.
  • Link to clear goals and outcomes: Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. Define how this activity helps students meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments.
  • Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious, so some instructors ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
  • Balance newness and need: As with any changed activities, you will need to balance the needs and benefits of online communication and collaboration with the additional effort it will require on everyone’s part. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit.

Define assignment details and collect submissions

Collecting assignments during a campus closure is fairly straightforward, since many instructors already collect work electronically. The movement of courses online creates a number of challenges including access to technology and potential misunderstandings of assignment criteria. Here are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Set expectations, but be ready to allow extensions: In the case of a campus closure or other crisis, some students will undoubtedly have difficulties meeting deadlines. Make expectations clear, but be ready to provide more flexibility than you normally would in your class. 
  • State criteria for assignments: Inform students about assignment criteria, for instance the use of outside resources and whether or not collaboration with peers is allowed for the assignment.
  • Avoid email for assignment collection: It may be easy to collect assignments in small classes via email, but larger classes might swamp your email inbox. Consider using Canvas Assignments instead. Balance what is simplest for students with what is easiest for you to manage.
  • Require specific filenames: It may sound trivial, but anyone who collects papers electronically knows the pain of getting 20 files named Essay1. Give your students a simple file naming convention, for example, FirstnameLastname-Essay1.docx or .pdf and download all submissions at once from Canvas. 

Assess Student Learning

The Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the Innovative Learning Center (ILC) can provide individual consultation to instructors wanting to adapt a final exam to a different format to ensure that the new format is assessing the learning outcomes. Additionally, there are technologies that can assist with the administration of take-home exams, including distribution, submission, and, in some cases, grading.

Here are some options for adapting your assessments:

  • Distribute Exam PDF electronically and ask students to scan with their phones: You can distribute a PDF of your exam via Canvas at an appointed time for printing using Files or Assignments. Students can work on it in the privacy of their room and scan it to a multi-page PDF using an app like GeniusScan, then upload it to Canvas Assignments.  Canvas Assignments can be used for essay exams (recommend File Upload option).
  • Use Canvas to offer assessments online: Canvas allows tests and quizzes to be timed and offered online.  This may not work for all classes, however it may be an option for many. Canvas can also auto-grade in many instances.  Instructors may wish to consult with CELT or the ILC via Teach Anywhere to ensure that an online offering of an exam is measuring the same learning as the timed assessment.
  • Assessments in multiple formats: Assignment submissions such as papers, projects and presentations can also be submitted using various file submission formats (i.e. audio or video, web URL, etc.)
  • Use Respondus LockDown Browser in conjunction with assessments: Students taking assessments delivered online can be limited to the exam browser window with LockDown Browser. This tool prevents access to other applications and assessments are displayed full-screen while the browser menu and other toolbar options are disabled. 
  • Use Respondus Monitor to proctor assessments: Respondus Monitor allows for live proctoring of quizzes and tests delivered through Canvas. Reach out to Teach Anywhere for more information.

Email Awareness – Phishing and Fraud

During this time of emergency, phishing campaigns via email, phone calls, text messages, and social media messaging platforms may become more frequent.

Please be on alert for emails or messages that may request sensitive information.

Several Higher Ed Institutions have reported phishing emails that claim to be from the CDC, WHO, and/or other governing bodies containing references to COVID-19 and Coronavirus. These emails may contain malicious links or file attachments.

The Information Security team would like to encourage staff, students, and faculty members to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid clicking links in unsolicited emails, chats, text messages, and be cautious of any email attachments, especially if the attachment prompts you to login or validate your credentials (username and password).
  • If an email or email attachment prompts you for your username, password, or other information, please close the email and forward it to security@tulane.edu so it can be investigated.
  • It is recommended to reset your password if you haven’t reset it in the past 120 days. Please use a strong password and not one that has been used previously.
  • Be wary of emails/chats requesting personal information such as phone numbers, address, banking information, or SSN. 
  • If the message or file you receive seems suspicious in any way, do not open it, and report it to security@tulane.edu – The security team will be happy to assist.

Questions, Concerns, Suggestions

For questions, concerns, or suggestions about this guide, email the team at teachanywhere@tulane.edu.