Tips for teaching online

The tech essentials

  • Zoom.  If you are new to  Zoom, get to an IT training on how-to-use Zoom, or use the guide or access Zoom Support.  Make sure you have used the Canvas-embedded Zoom set-up, and that your Zoom client is up-to-date.
    • Make sure you have your Canvas Course set up adequately. Using The Montclair Syllabus which should be pre-loaded into Canvas will help. See MSU online teaching preparation checklist.
    • MSU Zoom Etiquette: Let’s raise the expectations together, across the University. Web page version.  Also found on Canvas Commons.
    • Load and publish assignments as they are ready for students to access. Check due dates for consistency.
      • Students need clear instructions on how to access, complete, and submit all assignments. Provide a step-by-step list or record a short video demonstrating how they should complete each assignment.
    • Support peer-to-peer communication. Casual but valuable peer-to-peer communication needs to be deliberately supported in online classes. Try:
      • Stable student groups. Set-up peer groups of 4-5 students who can share contact information in a zoom room and then work regularly together to facilitate communication among peers. Stable student groups that work together on low-stakes assignments and engagement activities foster community and help keep everyone on track.
      • A discussion board for open chat, questions, and peer-to-peer engagement.
    • Create a class communication plan so students know where to go and what to expect; address questions like:
      • Where to send questions
      • How quickly will you respond to emails; how quickly will you respond to discussion posts
      • How to reach you with any urgent needs or questions
      • What sort of regular communications you will send out to the class (e.g. weekly reviews and/or updates)
      • Other plans you have for how you will be available to students and how you will send out regular information and updates
    • Accessibility. All students need to be able to access and interact with your course content in an equitable learning environment. Building online content allows you to implement these considerations into all of your course content and planning. Some simple things to do while setting up your course to ensure student access is below, and you can find many more tips here.
        • Provide instructional materials that are accessible and easy to access and linked where appropriate within course pages or modules. Use the Canvas Accessibility Checker and Ally to help ensure your course content is accessible.
        • Image descriptions and alt-text for all images and videos
        • Captions and/or transcripts for all videos.
        • PDFs with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) for screen reader access
        • Checking for screen reader accessibility with a tool such as Webaim

Short-cut note: You do not have to have all the details of your course loaded into Canvas; rather, students need to access your course on Canvas, assignments and due dates, course materials, and readings and understand how to submit assignments and receive feedback on their work. They also will need a way to send you questions, find support or answers, and when you are available to respond

The pedagogical essentials

  • Make sure you have strong course goals and student learning objectives.
  • Make a schedule: Using a spreadsheet or other calendar-based app, schedule your course assignments and day-to-day meeting plan. It’s okay if you don’t have every single day planned or every assignment finished. Just complete the first few weeks so you and your students are ready on day one.
    • If your synchronous class is meeting 100% online for each scheduled class meeting, be sure to indicate this in your attendance policy.
    • If your synchronous class is meeting 50% or some other live, remote schedule, be sure you have clearly stated in your course schedule what days students should expect to meet live, online as scheduled.
    • For long classes, consider building in breaks to limit Zoom fatigue. Design a mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities and assignments to break up long classes.
  • Set up your technology, including accessing and scheduling your ZOOM course meetings, virtual office hours, and other platforms such as Padlet or Perusall.

And finally, just a few days before the first class…

  • Record your class Welcome video, course tutorials (i.e. for completing assignments, logging in, or accessing course technology).
    • For recording videos, please see this page and the recordings scripts and guides to plan out your recordings.
  • Prepare your space.
    • Laptop, desktop or tablet with all your course resources, including presentations, technology, videos or images you’ll be using, etc. tested and ready to go. Close all unnecessary applications and browser tabs before starting class.
    • Headphones or earbuds — the biggest impediment to online communications is poor audio quality, so make sure you have a headset or earbuds; this is important for eliminating audio feedback loops, background noises, and other disruptions.
    • Microphone — may already be built into your device, computer, camera or as part of a separate headset.
    • Webcam — may already be built into your device or computer.
    • Internet — this all does require reliable internet service; a wireless hotspot on a high-speed network may also suffice.
    • Backdrop — make sure what students see behind you for any live or recorded video is clean and professional.

A few more tips

  • Teach from your personal strengths — for some, it’s the lecture, others it’s 1-1 engagement, etc. No point in trying to be someone you’re not.
  • Review the expectations and best advice for your modality and for last-minute, top resources, check HawkFlex resources.
  • OFA events for faculty continue throughout the semester.
  • If you’d like to view recordings or see materials from past sessions, please, as always, go here (login into your Montclair Google account to access):

*some elements adapted from “Practical Advice for Instructors Who Teach Online,” Inside Higher Ed, March 11, 2020.