- Sign up for a virtual consultation with an OTL team member to get one-on-one support for your online teaching questions.
- Need technology support from C&IT for your online course? Their new teaching & learning request forms will let you submit a request based on the specific tool you are having issues with.
- Remember, recorded webinars (and other valuable resources!) can be found in the OTL's Virtual Resource Hub in Canvas.
- Use our Student Technology Access Survey Guide and screencast to learn about your students' technology at home
- Follow us on Twitter for updates, resources, and tips
Supporting your students online
- The Syllabus Info Flyer includes important information about communicating the course technology requirements and support to your students.
- Student Success has created a companion site, Learn Anywhere, with resources that will help them become familiarized with online learning (such as Canvas how-tos and study strategies) as well as maintain balance in their lives, ask questions, and get help.
- C&IT is providing support to students so be sure to share the C&IT student technology page with your students.
- WSU has a limited number of Chromebooks and hotspots available for students in need. They can write email@example.com or call 313-577-1010 to make a request.
Essential WSU resources
The Teach Anywhere Toolkit
Making a plan
Download your student roster from Academica (in the left sidebar, click on “Faculty Instructional Resources” then click “Download Classlist”).
Check in with your colleagues. Colleges or departments may have individual processes, technologies, or resources available to their faculty so check with them first. Stay in touch with colleagues here at Wayne State and other institutions, as they will be invaluable sources of ideas, advice, and encouragement.
Decide how you will communicate with students. We would suggest you use the channels you typically use to communicate with students, such as Canvas announcements or Canvas Inbox (for those that use Canvas already to support in-person courses) or WSU email.
Let your students know your plan. Be sure to let your students know what your communication plan is as well as your expectations for how frequently they should be checking Canvas and/or their WSU email. We recommend they check both WSU email and Canvas at least once per day.
Prioritize and be realistic. Identify your instructional priorities based on what topics and activities you will be covering during the rest of the semester. Be realistic about what can be accomplished in that time and be flexible in order to focus on what is most important.
Opt for tools and processes that are already familiar to you and your students. Try to rely on technologies or processes are familiar to you and your students when possible.
Update settings, software, and apps. Check your notification settings in Canvas to make sure you are receiving notifications for messages, discussion board posts, etc. Make sure your version of MS Office is up to date and check the C&IT Remote Work resources page for other important info if you will be working from home. Download or update apps for your phones or tablet such as Outlook, Canvas, OneDrive, MS Teams, or MS Stream so you are ready to go. Remind your students to do this as well!
Communicating with students
Creating community online
Just as we are all adjusting to the disruptions that the COVID-19 health crisis has caused, many of your students are likely dealing with job issues, money issues, food insecurity, childcare, access to healthcare, etc. At the same time, many students may be looking to school as a source of connection, familiarity, and stability. Re-creating a sense of community in your online course is an important strategy for meeting these needs. We encourage you to be sensitive to what your students may be going through and help them return their attention to their learning by creating spaces for them to reconnect socially.
This Guide to Creating Community Online is a good starting point for thinking about how you can help students reconnect in their new online course space.
You will also want to set expectations for how your students should interact with each other in online discussions, emails, or other communications in order to continue having positive interactions online. This Netiquette Starter Guide will help -- feel free to adapt the language for use in your courses.
It will be vital to keep in regular contact with your students during the transition to online instruction and throughout the rest of the semester. In particular, it will be important to clearly communicate to your students how the course will be administered moving forward. Whether you choose to use Canvas Announcements, Canvas Inbox, or WSU email, be sure to let them know your plan -- communicate early and often throughout the early stages of the process. These principles will be helpful to keep in mind:
Reiterate your communication plan to your students and set expectations about how often they will need to check Canvas announcements, Canvas inbox, and/or WSU email.
Frequent communication will help calm anxieties and may reduce the number of individual questions you may receive. A daily digest announcement or email would be a good approach to staying in touch without overwhelming them as you get started online.
Stay positive and focused in your messages. Consider using headers to indicate key topics and bullet points rather than longer paragraphs. Many of your students may be using smartphones to read messages so structure and brevity will help them take in information more easily in this format.
Look for opportunities to clarify issues to the group. You will likely receive individual messages from students with questions. Consider using these to gauge issues that may be concerns for many students and answer these by responding to the whole class in a digest announcement or email. You might also consider setting up a Q&A discussion board on Canvas to facilitate information sharing and community-building across the whole class.
The Canvas Chat feature offers a quick, easy way for your students to contact you. Our Using Canvas Chat guide will walk you through how to use the Chat feature.
You can create an announcement to share important information with all students in your course. The announcement will be visible in your course under “Announcements.” You can add text or images, link to different sections of your course, or link to external content. You can attach one file to an announcement as well. You can also schedule announcements, which means you can pre-write announcements and let Canvas send them for you at the appointed time. The full Canvas guide to Annoucements will help.
You can send a direct message to anyone in your course (or to your entire course) using Canvas. This message will be sent to their Canvas inbox where they can read and reply. If you receive a Canvas message in your WSU email inbox, you can reply to it directly without logging into Canvas again. Additionally, Canvas will create an inbox for each of your courses which will remain organized. The full Canvas guide to the Inbox will help.
Notifications are messages that are sent to you when certain things happen in Canvas, such as receiving an announcement or having an assignment graded. You can choose to receive these messages in your email inbox, mobile device or even some social media platforms. It is highly recommended that you review the notifications preference page to ensure that you are receiving your preferred notifications. Refer to this guide for setting up notifications as an instructor. Encourage your students to do so as well – they can use this guide to set up their notifications.
If you opt to use email, please use your WSU account and ask students to do the same. This may be a good initial option if you are currently using email to communicate and you have little to no prior experience with Canvas.
This section covers considerations when posting new course materials, options for sourcing new materials, and tech tips for organizing content in Canvas.
Considerations when posting new course materialsMake sure students know when & where new material is posted. Canvas Announcements are your best avenue for letting them know. 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: 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, its original application format and a PDF. PDFs are easier to read on phones and tablets and keep the file size small, and the original file format often has application features that are helpful to students who use accessibility software. Also note that videos take lots of bandwidth, so only require them if you are confident students will have the network and computing resources to access them during the current situation.
(The text above was borrowed/adapted from Stanford)
Sourcing supplemental course materials
WSU Library support for online instruction
Please review this WSU Library resource guide to learn how the library can help you. They are ready and waiting to support you and your students with course content (including videos), open educational resources, interlibrary loan, and more. They can be reached via Chat as well as via email – more instructions available at their site, which will be updated frequently as new resources are available.
Syllabus: You may need to update your syllabus to reflect changes you are making in your course, particularly around assignments, deadlines, and expectations. The best way to make your syllabus accessible to your students is to post it in Canvas. The linked page will show you how to add updates via the Rich Content Editor as well as post a file. This will allow students to download and refer to it at any time with no risk of them losing it.
Adding Modules and Pages to Canvas: These resources on Modules and Pages will help you structure your Canvas site. If you are new to Canvas, you may want to start small by creating a page with essential information and set that as your home page, then transition to modules as things progress.
Canvas Rich Content Editor: This resource will help you use the Rich Content Editor in Canvas when you create pages, including adding text, creating links, and embedding images or videos.
OneDrive: OneDrive is an alternate campus tool you and your students can use to share files. This may be a useful workaround if you are not currently using Canvas to support your classes and you have large files to share that may be difficult to email.
Shifting lectures online: Asynchronous & synchronous options
A key decision will be how to transition in-person lectures online. There are two ways to move forward: asynchronous (instructors prepare material and students access it at a time of their choosing, with interactions unfolding over longer periods of time) or synchronous (where instructors and students meet virtually at the same time to interact).
Many online courses may have a mix of the two elements, with asynchronous videos or readings for sharing content and synchronous sessions focused on answering student questions, problem solving, or working through examples.
Consider your instructional goals, your students’ needs and technology access, and your technological capabilities as you decide between the two. The following advantages and disadvantages adapted from Stanford’s Guide to Teaching Effectively during Times of Disruption may be helpful in thinking through this decision:
Advantages of Asynchronous Teaching
- Higher levels of temporal flexibility, which may simultaneously make the learning experiences more accessible to different students and also make an archive of past materials accessible.
- Increased cognitive engagement since students will have more time to engage with and explore the course material.
Disadvantages of Asynchronous Teaching
- Students may feel less personally engaged without the social interaction between their peers and instructors; discussion boards can be a way to mitigate this.
- Course material may be misunderstood or have the potential to be misconstrued without the real-time interaction.
Advantages of Synchronous Teaching
- Immediate personal engagement between students and instructors, which may create greater feelings of community and lessen feelings of isolation
- More responsive exchanges between students and instructors, which may prevent miscommunication or misunderstanding
Disadvantages of Synchronous Teaching
- You may need to rethink the content and learn new facilitation strategies and technologies.
- Some students may face technical challenges or difficulties if they do not have fast or powerful Wi-Fi networks accessible or an updated computer.
Resources for asynchronous recorded lectures and overviews:
- Our Guide to Whiteboard Lectures and Guide to Video Micro-Lectures are great resources for incorporating videos in your courses.
- Our number-one tip for recording videos is to keep them short! A series of short videos (aim for no longer than 10 minutes each), with each focused on a particular topic, will be more meaningful and accessible to your students than a single hour-long video. It will also be easier on you to record short chunks than try to get through a long lecture in one take.
- Effective Educational Videos from Vanderbilt provides excellent tips for instructional videos.
- You may want to offer synchronous office hours to supplement recorded videos and answer student questions. The tools listed below for synchronous lectures will work for these types of meetings.
- Echo360 is the university’s supported tool for recording, hosting, and sharing lectures. This Echo360 Guide will help you get started with Echo360, including downloading the software, accessing your Echo360 library, recording videos, and sharing them within Canvas.
- If you have existing Echo360 lectures from a previous semester that you would like to share with your current students, follow the steps in this guide.
Alternate tools for recording videos
- Please review this Guide to Recording Videos without Echo, which goes over recording videos with Powerpoint, Zoom, and other tools including links to screencasts & help guides. If you are new to recording videos, it might be easier to start with a tool you know, such as PowerPoint, and this guide will help you do that. We have also posted three companion webinar recordings in the Virtual Resource Hub.
Hosting your Videos with MS Stream
- MS Stream acts essentially as Wayne State's internal youtube. It is a great place to host (or upload) the videos you create for your course if you are not using Echo360. MS Stream will auto-generate closed captions and a transcript, which is 90-95% accurate (depending on audio and speech quality as well as the number of discipline-specific terms). It is also very easy to edit the transcript and closed captions right inside Stream.
- We have created an MS Stream Guide and screencast of how to use it; you may also want to reference the slides from our MS Stream webinar or view the webinar recording in the Virtual Resource Hub.
Resources for synchronous online class meetings
This Faculty Guide for Facilitating Online Sessions will give you practical tips and pedagogical for conducting your class sessions online, should you decide this is an option that will work for you & your students. The following sections include tech resources specific to MS Teams and Zoom.
- Wayne State has a license to Zoom and it is now integrated into Canvas. All current faculty, staff, and students can get a pro account by regisering at wayne-edu.zoom.us with their Access ID and password.
- How can I get a Zoom account?
- How do I use Zoom in Canvas?
- How do I use breakout rooms in Zoom?
- How do I use polling in Zoom?
- Other Zoom FAQs from C&IT
- Microsoft Teams is now integrated in Canvas! Microsoft Teams is a great option for synchronous virtual meetings and communication with your students. The following C&IT Knowledge Base articles will help you get started.
For classes that are centered around discussions rather than lectures, you may want to focus your efforts on setting up effective discussion boards and prompts, as well as other active learning strategies. Please see the tab below for those resources.
Discussions & Active Learning Resources
Discussion boards are a great starting point for active learning in online classes. Students can often feeling isolated when learning remotely, so discussions are also an important strategy for giving students a chance to interact with each other & learn from and with their peers. Consider discussion boards as an opportunity not only to engage in intellectual work but also as a chance to nurture community in your courses.
Canvas Discussions are discussion boards being with a prompt posted by the instructor. Students and instructors can respond to the initial prompt, or to other reply posts. Replies are “threaded” (recommended) to group responses to any given post together.
To get started, please review these resources:
- 10 Tips for Effective Online Discussions from Educause
- Guide to Designing and Facilitating Effective Online Discussions
- Active Learning Strategies for Hybrid & Online Courses
(Additional resources text above borrowed & adapted from University of Michigan LSA)
How do I create a discussion as an instructor?
How do I reply to a discussion as an instructor?
How do I view and sort discussion replies as an instructor?
How can I require students to reply to a course discussion before they see other replies?
How do I edit or delete student discussion replies in a course?
Strategies and Resources for Active Learning
Discussion boards are an effective means of providing more person to person interactions, however there is a wealth of ideas and innovations to strengthen learner engagement and encourage meaningful interactions between all individuals in your course. The following resources provide insight and guidance toward developing an engaging and interactive online educational experience for you and your students.
Wayne State University (OTL) - Active Learning Strategy Guide
University of Illinois Springfield (ION) - Online Instructional Activities Index
University of California Berkeley (CTL) - Active Learning Strategies
Columbia University - NYC (CTL) - Five Effective Learning Strategies for Your Online Classroom
Assessing student learning: Best practices for online courses
Advice about Online Assessment from WSU Faculty Colleagues:
Jennifer Hart, Associate Professor of History, with her thoughts on alternative assessments for knowledge construction as well as strategies for giving tests online.
Karen Myhr, Associate Professor of Biology, shares her advice for making decisions about online tests and other assessments for both large lecture classes and smaller seminar classes. You may be asked to log into Academica before being able to view Karen's video in MS Stream.
Best Practices for Online Exams
As you think through your options for online exams, start with pedagogy! The technology for setting up exams in Canvas is relatively straight-forward, so focus your mental energy on thinking through the best way to set up exams and write meaningful questions to assess student learning in an effective and equitable manner.
- Start with the OTL's Online Exam Decision Flowchart or OTL's Strategies for Online Exams to figure out if an online test is still the best option for your class.
- Writing strong test questions that are aligned with mutiple levels of Bloom's taxomony is an important strategy for successful online exams. Designing Effective Multiple Choice Questions from McGill University is a great resource with many examples of question types from different disciplines.
- Rutgers University's Tips for Exams and Alternative Assessments also includes a section on writing questions for online assessment in quantitative courses.
- Before you make decisions about how to set up your tests in Canvas, use this guide and screencast to survey your students about their technology access at home. You will need this information to determine viable options and ensure accessibility for all of your students.
- Canvas Guide for Quizzes -- just a heads up, Canvas refers to all tests, exams, etc. as Quizzes! Quizzes has many features that facilitate administering exams: timed exams, release dates, closing dates, section-specific exams. In addition to multiple choice, fill-in-blank and other common question types, it has an Essay question option where students can type, and attach images, audio and video in the text response field, and a File Upload question option for attaching text files. You can set correct or partially correct answers on many question types, which can mean less work grading the completed tests.
- The OTL's Respondus 4.0 Guide -- this is a great tool for importing test questions into Canvas Quizzes.
- The OTL's Canvas Speedgrader guide -- useful for providing feedback and grading short answer or essay questions!
- Online proctoring tools (please use these cautiously and make sure all of your students have the technology and data acess to meaningfully participate before deciding to use them!):
- Faculty Resources for using Lockdown Browser & Monitor including Canvas Quick Start Guide
- Student Lockdown Browser & Monitor Guide and Overview Video -- if you plan to use either tool, it is essential that you share these resources with your students.
Best Practices for Other Assignment Types
These resources are aimed at making decisions for other assignment types, such as papers, other written reports or artifacts, presentations, video or audio recordings, concept maps, infographics, or other image-based work.
- Start by rethinking what your assignments could look like! Review the OTL's Online Exam Decision Flowchart and Alternatives to Traditional Exams and Papers from Indiana University to understand your options.
- If student presentations are a meaningful choice for your classes, the OTL's Guide for Online Student Presentations will be an important resource.
- Whatever form your assignments take, your students will benefit from clearly-written instructions to guide their work. Check out the OTL's TILT (Transparency in Learning & Teaching) resources in our Virtual Resource Hub. Note: you will have to self-enroll in the Virtual Resource Hub first if you haven't already in order to access our TILT page.
- Rubrics are a good way to make it clear to your students how you will be evaluating their work. The University of Michigan's Sweetland Writing Center has several helpful resources about rubrics. While they are aimed at written work, they can be easily adapted to other assignment formats.
- Canvas Guide for assignments -- comprehensive instructions for setting up assignments in Canvas.
- Instructor's Guide for Unicheck in Canvas -- Unicheck is a plagiarism detection tool integrated within Canvas.
- The OTL's Canvas Speedgrader guide -- Speedgrader is a very useful tool for providing feedback on student submissions!
- Canvas Guide for rubrics -- step-by-step instructions for creating & using rubrics in Canvas.
Accessibility & mobile design considerations
When changes happen quickly, students with disabilities can quickly become disadvantaged in the learning experience. However, the way that you create your content can go a long way in reducing this impact. Implementing these accessibility considerations will also help your content be more accessibile on mobile devices. Follow these considerations as you create online course materials to ensure inclusive learning experiences:
- Text Contrast: Use black text on a white background to ensure that the text stands out on the page.
- Text Styles: Do not use color alone to denote differences in emphasis and content meaning. Students who have vision impairments may not adequately see the color and a screenreader will not let a student know that the text color has changed.
- Heading Styles: Use built-in heading styles to designate content organization.
- List Styles: Use the built-in bullet or number styles for lists.
- Alt Text: Provide a brief text alternative for images, graphs, and charts that answers the question: Why is this image important? Also ask yourself how you would describe this image to someone you were talking to that could not see the image.
- Closed Captioning: Captioning your media provides greater student comprehension of the material covered and provides access media for individuals with hearing impairments in compliance with federal regulations.
- Link Text: Use descriptive text for link text, titles, and headers. This helps students, both with and without vision impairments to understand the destination of links, ultimately increasing the usability and accessibility of a document or page.
- Tables: Use simple tables when possible, with column and row headers.
Additionally, please consider asking your students to fill out a brief Student Technology Access survey. This is an insightful way to gain knowledge on your students' needs during this time. We have provided survey distribution directions to guide you through. We have created a Student Technology Access Survey guide to help you get started in sharing the survey and interpreting the results.
Other resources for teaching online
- Top 10 Tips for New Online Instructors Suddenly Forced to Teach Online Due to a Global Pandemic
- Going Online in a Hurry: What to Do and Where to Start (The Chronicle of Higher Education article)
- So You Want to Temporarily Teach Online (Inside Higher Ed article)
- How to be a better online teacher (The Chronicle of Higher Education guide)
- Teaching online will make you a better teacher in any setting (The Chronicle of Higher Education article)
- Using Live, Online Sessions to Support Continuity of Instruction (Online Learning Consortium webinar recording)
We are facing a great deal of uncertainty as the implications of this global health crisis unfold. Please take time to care for yourself! You will be better positioned to help your loved ones, students, and colleagues if you stay in good shape yourself. These resources will help. Share them with your students as well!
- Managing anxiety during the COVID-19 outbreak
- Home Office Ergonomic Tips
- How to Cope with Anxiety about Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Five Ways to View Coverage of the Coronavirus
- Speaking of Psychology: Coronavirus Anxiety
- Pandemics: General Resources from the APA (includes resources for talking to children about the situation)
- Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families with the Coronovirus Disease (COVID-19)
Gratitude to our colleagues in Faculty Development & Faculty Success & Social Work for sharing these resources!
Getting support from OTL and C&IT
WebinarsWe continue to offer webinars focused on online teaching and learning. Sign up for those that seem the most useful for your needs. You can access recordings of prior webinars in our Virtual Resource Hub.We will be using Zoom for the webinars, so if you haven't used Zoom previously be sure to reference these instructions for joining a Zoom meeting and these instructions for using the Zoom chat function.
ConsultationsFill out the consultation request form to request individual support or to be matched with an experienced online instructor (just note that in the comments).