Adapting To Online Teaching

While the Get Started page outlines recommendations for a quick transition, this page walks instructors through considerations and best practices for a slightly longer (but still limited) transition period to online course delivery.

Contents

Remember to clarify any expectations with your department and/or college administration. Visit ufl.edu for the latest information during campus-wide events. Check with colleagues and your department chair as well; they may provide more details, guidelines, and expectations for class continuity. The guidance provided here is intended to facilitate moving a class online in response to an emergency situation.

Build

Adapting your course to a fully online environment will require new methods of organizing your content and communicating with students. It is important to structure your course so that students understand your expectations and know how to get help from the very beginning. It will also be important to reflect on your experience from previous remote teaching experience; what worked well, and what obstacles did you or students encounter? Try to plan your course so that those obstacles are removed.

Also consider the current context for your course. With the recent transition to remote teaching and remote work, it is extremely difficult to purchase web cameras, microphones, and entry-level computers. If students do not already have these items, or if they break, they will be difficult to acquire.

Syllabus

Revise your syllabus to reflect all of the changes you’ve made to transition your course to online delivery. Be sure to clarify your preferences and expectations, including methods of communication and office hours.

Anticipate more questions and plan to spend more time reviewing the syllabus with students than usual. To make this as efficient as possible - and easy for students to locate information later (which will save you time as you answer fewer questions) - prerecord your syllabus overview and chunk content into shorter, appropriately named videos.

Communication Preferences

Determine a method of communication that you are comfortable with and will be able to maintain. Share your expectations and tell students how to reach you. Be specific about times you are available and encourage students to stay engaged. Communicate proactively and let students know how quickly they can expect a response from you.

  • Email: You can email all students enrolled in your class by emailing the class Listserv address. Your class email Listserv address is located in One.UF, and you can follow these instructions to find it.
  • Canvas: If you decide to use Canvas as your main source of communication, you can send written class announcements, emails through the Canvas inbox, or create video announcements that live in your course site.
  • Create Virtual Office Hours: Make yourself available to students using tools such as email, Zoom, or Google Hangouts Meet. Be sure to communicate your schedule and expectations about office hours (for example, must students schedule ahead of time, and if so, how do students sign up?). If using a videoconferencing platform, use settings to control who can enter the virtual space, and familiarize yourself with ‘room’ management options in case anyone becomes disruptive.
  • Communication Venue: Create a place for students to ask and answer questions. You can create a shared document to collect questions, express your preferences for meeting during office hours, or provide a discussion board in Canvas for students to pose questions. Be sure students know they should contact you privately with personal or grade-related questions.

Course Organization

Your students will need to be able to locate course materials, content, and assessments quickly. Whether you are using Canvas or another platform to deliver course materials, organize your content to make it easy to navigate.

Canvas

Within Canvas, UF’s Learning Management System (LMS), you can organize your course into multiple modules, each with their own pages, assignments, and quizzes. Delivering your course in Canvas provides students with a familiar environment to find your syllabus and course materials.

Cloud Storage

Very large files, such as videos or extensive datasets, might be better hosted in a shared folder in a cloud storage platform rather than uploaded into Canvas. Links to your shared folders can be placed in the appropriate page or assignment in Canvas, or emailed to your students. Be sure to adjust sharing or editing settings appropriately for the audience with which you are sharing.

Course Content

Generally, online classes should rely less on lecture and more on independent or group work. As you move your course online, you will want to select content to supplement time you might have previously spent lecturing. Vary content by locating streaming videos, podcasts, interactive websites, or supplementary publisher material. When selecting material, consider relevance to learning objectives, access and usability, and cost. For assistance locating new material for teaching online, contact your subject specialist librarian, explore open source digital content, or publisher/vendor e-resources.

UF Libraries

Smathers Libraries have online services that are available, including an Ask-A-Librarian chat and remote consultations with subject specialist librarians. Learn more about setting up course reserves for easier student access to materials, library services, and maintaining copyright:

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are free and openly licensed educational materials that are available to copy, use, adapt and re-share. Explore a variety of OERs, or start here:

  • OpenStax: The gold standard for peer-reviewed OER textbooks, OpenStax provides free online and low cost in print textbooks for faculty to choose from. Faculty can also sign up for an account to access ancillary materials for books in the collection, but the verification process can take up to 4 business days.
  • Open Textbook Library: A collection of free, peer-reviewed textbooks.

Accessibility

Ensure that your course material is accessible to diverse learners, including those with disabilities or those whose access to the internet is limited. Building your course with accessibility in mind can benefit all learners and may minimize the need for remediation throughout the semester. Accessible UF provides a variety of tools and resources as well as some top tips for getting started with accessibility. There are also several options for requesting captioning or DIY captioning.

Ally, an accessibility tool in eLearning, quickly reviews your course for common accessibility issues and provides guidance on how to correct most issues identified. To learn more, explore these Ally resources or attend a live training, offered throughout the semester.

Technology Selection

With time to consider how to build your course for remote or online delivery, do you prefer to keep things as simple as possible? If the answer is yes, stick to the basics and use Canvas for most things.

Alternatively, would you like to branch out, try something new, or experiment with a technology solution to a teaching challenge? Many available technologies support asynchronous student engagement. All instructional technologies should be thoughtfully and meaningfully integrated into a course, not thrown in for flash or just for fun.

In all cases, have a backup plan. You or your students may experience unanticipated internet service or technology delivery interruptions. What will be your Plan B or Plan C if your preferred technology is unavailable?

Deliver

When you begin teaching your course, you may want to survey students to confirm that they have the resources that they need to be successful, especially if the course was not originally scheduled for online delivery. If you plan to use proctoring, for instance, but your students do not have web cameras or the specific type of space required by proctoring services, requiring proctoring will disproportionately impact those students who cannot meet those requirements.

Communicate

Communication in a fully online course is imperative to student success. Effective communication allows you to clarify instructions, increase your presence in the course, and ensure student engagement.

Asynchronous classes - those that support student engagement at different times, rather than everyone meeting at once (synchronously) - allow for greater flexibility and accessibility for students while also providing an archive of past material for students to review. Students will have more time to adjust to changing personal circumstances and engage with course material that is delivered asynchronously. Asynchronous courses are still rigorous, with schedules, deadlines, and clear performance expectations.

Lecture

When transitioning a course online, don’t try to lecture for the same amount of time you did in the classroom. Online classes should rely less on lecture and more on independent or group work and might include a wide variety of content types. Varying course content also supports universal design for learning (UDL), a framework for designing inclusive courses.

Facilitate Discussions

  • Asynchronous discussions allow students to interact and engage with peers without having to be present at the same time. Create a Canvas Discussion to pose questions about course content, encourage student interaction, and facilitate communication and a sense of camaraderie. Remember to reply to discussion posts when you can and encourage TAs to do so as well.
    • Discussion questions should clearly align to course objectives and require students to reflect, analyze, and apply course concepts.
    • Set content and communication expectations so that students understand minimum expectations for their responses, and interact respectfully while addressing the prompt.
    • Be present to facilitate or deepen discussions, model appropriate responses, and intervene where necessary.
    • Review pedagogical best practices on using collaborative assessments such as Discussion Boards.
  • If you prefer to maintain synchronous discussions remotely, create a plan for how you’ll manage responses, questions, and discussion points. You can mute all participants by default and ask that students only speak after they have been called on; some platforms have a virtual ‘raise your hand’ feature that helps indicate when a participant has a question or comment.

Share Handouts

You have many options for providing handouts digitally that you might normally distribute in class.

Modify Labs

Transitioning lab courses to online delivery usually takes time, patience, and significant planning and course design. In times of duress, instructors will need to leverage creativity and a willingness to experiment in the online classroom to make the transition successful.

  • Determine what is feasible.
    • Work with your department chair and dean to determine which course goals are realistic, as well as whether course fees will change.
  • Consider cost - both financial and time.
    • Changes to course costs may discourage or preclude students from taking the course, which may ultimately jeopardize their academic progress.
    • Be cognizant of both the start-up and management time costs for the solution you select.
  • Identify and implement solutions that you can manage.
    • Review available solutions and select the best option for your course.
    • Be sure that the product has been approved for use with student records (restricted data).
    • Work with the vendor to implement the solution, and distribute how-to documentation to students. Provide vendor contact information for support if the solution is not centrally supported.
  • Get creative
    • There are many free resources available online that allow students to explore, observe, examine, and investigate, from museum collections (including those of the Florida Museum or the Harn Museum of Art) to a tour of the International Space Station and exploratory journeys through remote locations including the Grand Canyon or Petra. Resources also include those in dedicated online repositories such as MERLOT and JoVE. Your library subject specialist might help identify resources appropriate to your course.
    • Do you still have access to a lab? Can you do relevant experiments at home? Evaluate whether a recording of you conducting an experiment on video would be useful to your students.
  • Set reasonable expectations (including your own).
    • Will you aim to accomplish everything you accomplish in person?
    • Communicate your expectations and any variations from previous labs clearly and consistently to students.
  • Be patient and flexible.
    • Prepare for the unexpected. It is likely that not everything will go to plan. What flexibility can you provide in assignments, due dates, and grading criteria?
    • What alternative activities might also meet your course goals?

Assess

Adapt Assignments

Review your in-class assignments, and think carefully about how face-to-face assignments will need to be adapted for the online learning environment. What resources do students need to complete assignments? How have the assignments traditionally been completed? How will you assess students and their work remotely?

Consider modifying your assessment strategy for online teaching. Maintain an emphasis on:

  • Student learning objectives and course outcomes. 
  • The purpose of a previous assignment and how it aligned to course objectives and outcomes.
  • Flexibility and creativity. Are there different ways that students can demonstrate their understanding of a topic, such as videos, podcasts, web pages, or other creative work?

Essays

Essays or research papers may not need modification in assignment format unless students are expected to collaborate or use library resources. In online learning, students may use UF’s cloud services to collaborate. Students can use any electronic library resources via the UF Libraries website, but they must log in using the VPN in order to do so.

Presentations

Assignments that require student presentations can be completed in several different ways in an online course. Students can record directly into an assignment submission in Canvas using the media comment button in the Canvas rich content editor, though this option should only be used for short presentations due to processing time. Students can also record presentations using PowerPoint, and those pre-recorded presentations can be uploaded to a cloud service and shared or exported as a video. Tools like VoiceThread, Flipgrid, Zoom, and recording using smartphones might also be ways that students engage and present.

Remember that pre-recording and then sharing presentations gives students the flexibility that they might need as they adapt to an online course. Technical challenges, bandwidth, or even their living situation may make live presentations difficult for students, and live presentations should be used only if that is needed for students to meet your course’s learning objectives.

Handwritten Work

Assignments that are best turned in via hard copy (such as a math problem set) can be distributed to students as a problem set to copy and complete. Students can take photographs of their work and upload them to an assignment in Canvas. Photographs can also be embedded into Microsoft Word or Google Doc files, which can then be submitted.

Discussions and Participation

Online discussion boards provide an asynchronous option to keep students engaged, provide peer interactions, and build community in a course. Create a Canvas Discussion Board to facilitate communication, encourage student interaction, pose questions, and reply to discussion posts. Additionally, discussion boards can be utilized for discussions among smaller groups of students. When creating discussion boards:

  • Craft discussion questions that clearly align to course objectives and require students to reflect, analyze, and apply course concepts.
  • Set content and communication expectations so that students understand minimum expectations for their responses and interact respectfully while addressing the prompt.
  • Be present to facilitate or deepen discussions, model appropriate responses, and intervene if necessary.
  • Review pedagogical best practices on using collaborative assessments such as Discussion Boards.
  • Speedgrader allows you to grade discussion boards quickly and provide targeted feedback to students.

Quizzes and Tests

Canvas quizzes allows you to create quizzes and exams that can be accessed by students at specified times. However, it is important to keep in mind that students have access to varying degrees of resources. Their living situation, computer resources, or internet connectivity may impact their ability to complete online exams, especially when those exams are using remote proctoring tools. When adapting your course, you may want to consider a different type of assessment. For example, you may implement the use of a writing assignment, group project, or creative work that allows students to demonstrate their understanding in lieu of quizzes and tests. 

When adapting quizzes and tests for online, keep best practices in assessment design as well as quiz settings in Canvas in mind.

Group work

Group work is feasible online. You can encourage small groups to meet on their own schedule live via Zoom or Google Hangouts. In addition, Canvas offers several options to promote group work: an instructor can create groups within a course, which will provide the students in each group with their own Canvas workspace. That can include a discussion board and an area for files. If you create groups in Canvas, consider naming them with availability windows and allow students to sign up for the group that best matches their availability.

UF’s cloud services include both Office 365 and G Suite, which enable collaboration for specific assignments or projects to extend collaboration online.

Provide Feedback

Providing meaningful feedback to students in your online course is essential to maintaining a welcoming classroom culture and helps combat the feeling of isolation that students sometimes feel in an online learning environment. Feedback can be formal or informal, formative or summative; in any case, feedback should be frequent. Timely and specific feedback from instructors allows students time to correct misconceptions, extend their work, and apply that feedback to future mastery of content. 

Meaningful feedback provided throughout your course will ensure that students are successful on both low-stakes and high-stakes assessments. Speedgrader in Canvas is a tool that can be useful when providing feedback to students. It is best utilized when grading essays, presentations, and other projects as it allows instructors to annotate within the student’s document as well as leave overall feedback for the students to review. Speedgrader is particularly effective at saving time and providing meaningful feedback when rubrics are utilized in Canvas; high-quality rubrics clarify instructor expectations and performance levels and encourage authentic self-assessment by students.

Ensure Academic Honesty

As you transition your course online, you may have questions about how to ensure academic honesty. Implementing best practices around academic honesty, adapting assignments for an online environment, and exploring proctoring tools are some strategies that can help promote a culture of academic honesty in your course.

Even in the best of times, it’s critical to talk to students about academic honesty and provide resources to help them be successful. Define academic honesty, and clearly describe what kinds of collaboration, assistance, or resources are acceptable for assignments in your course.

During times of increased stress, students may find it difficult to pay attention and practice good time management and thus be increasingly tempted to take shortcuts or engage in practices that can hurt their learning. Encourage students to use available resources by building assistance into your course. Reach out to the library to assist you in identifying resources or library guides to embed into your course site or share services from the Writing Studio or the CLAS Teaching Center.

There are a variety of ways that you can adapt face-to-face assignments for online delivery, including modifying exams and quizzes and creating authentic assessments. In addition, you can also utilize quiz settings in e-Learning to make cheating more difficult or explore exam proctoring tools.

For written assignments, you can discourage plagiarism by scaffolding writing assignments through the submission of proposals, drafts, and revisions and provide explicit instruction and resources related to citation and attribution expectations. You can also enable the text-matching tool Turnitin in your assignments. Turnitin can be a helpful tool in spotting improperly cited material, but the similarity percentage alone cannot be used for identifying plagiarism — the similarity report should be reviewed to determine if flagged material (indicating a match to other work) has been properly cited.

To use Turnitin as a learning tool to help students review their citations and determine what changes they need to make, settings should be adjusted for draft paper submissions to be excluded from the student repository so subsequent versions won’t flag as highly similar with the report showing large amounts of self-plagiarism. Students should also be provided with guidance for interpreting the originality score and what steps they may need to take, if any, based on the results.

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