Teaching Remotely

Guidance in preparing for online teaching and communication.

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Preparing Material for Online Access

This information is provided for emergency situations and offers guidance in preparing for online teaching and communcation.

Ensure access to RPI email from a mobile phone, laptop, or web browser

RPI Outlook Web Access link: https://exchange.rpi.edu

Ensure home laptop or computer has the software and internet connectivity needed for online instruction
Ensure Blackboard course website contains all relevant course material

You should understand how to use Blackboard for distributing assignments to students and if you use audio/video in your class, to be able to share this on Blackboard. You can always use email as an alternative way of communicating with students or sharing information but the size of the attachment may prove to be an impediment in some cases.

Establish communication channels with your students

This includes ways in which students can contact you with questions, students having a way to contact each other and collaborate remotely, and for you to have chosen a platform to discuss material with students online. Blackboard allows each of these functionalities and Webex is integrated into Blackboard.

Understand your options for conducting classes at a distance

Students can read content that you post, they can listen to an audio file, or watch a recording of your lecture. Whatever is your preferred format, provisions exist within Blackboard to do so. We can help you to choose an approach and to test how that works. Learn how students can submit assignments through Blackboard and how you can conduct tests or examinations using this platform. You and your TAs must also prepare to provide feedback to your students using Blackboard or through email or other platforms like Skype or Webex. Posting of final grades to the Registrar would be as in a normal semester, but you can share intermediate grades with students in Blackboard.

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Strategies for Teaching Remotely

Communication
  • Communicate early and often with students.
  • Define expectations for communication with students - how often? response time?
  • Manage communication responses. If multiple students are asking the same question, send out a group message or create an announcement in Blackboard instead of emailing individually.
  • Communicate when new material is posted using email or notifications in Blackboard. Students may need to adjust their notification settings in Blackboard.
  • Instructor must be present with their students. It will be important to be present in the online format for the success of the students as well as the training.
  • Encourage communication and collaboration using both synchronous and asynchronous tools to allow for multiple avenues of communication and collaboration. Live meeting sessions using Webex, discussion boards, recorded sessions, voice streaming tools are all ways to merge together both synchronous and asynchronous communicators. 
  • Offer clear goals for communication and build in accountability. If using discussion boards, assign a few participation points. Be clear on how the participation points will be awarded, for instance so many points for an initial post and so many points for a response. 
Delivering Lectures
  • Recording lectures. If recording lectures and posting to Blackboard, be sure to record in small chunks (2 to 5 minutes). Keep it simple and add in some engagement, if possible.
  • Live Video. Use Webex to offer a live lecture session, however be sure to be flexible. Record your session so it can be posted at a later time for students to be able to review and access. A student may have not been able to join in due to slow internet connections or audio challenges. Use live video to encourage the course community. Use the webinar setting as a way to review topics, check in with students, and offer any updated information.
  • Posting links to other credible sources. If there are other credible sources (e.g, Ted Talks or Kahn Academy) that explain the topic, create a link for additional support in Blackboard for student to review. 
Lab Activities

Lab activities can be a challenge in a situation where campus is closed as it can be hard to reproduce an experiment outside of the lab classroom. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Online lab activities. Can parts of the lab be conducted remotely or online? If so, organize the content that can be done remotely or set up the partial online exercise. This will offer more value to the learning experience. 
  • Research online or virtual labs as well as any alternate software that may be available for implementation that will complement your subject.
  • Provide raw data for lab activities if students are unable to produce it on their own. This will assist in keeping students engaged and give some relevance to the experiment.
  • Encourage instructor/student interaction in other ways. 
Collecting Assignments
  • Be sure students have access to the software they need to submit an assignment. If they do not have access to the software outside of being on campus then use a common software that everyone will have access to remotely.
  • Use Blackboard to collect assignments instead of emailing attachments. There are also grading tools and options available in the LMS. Define how to name the files for assignment submissions (e.g., firstnamelastname-assignment.docx). 
  • Set assignment expectations and due dates but be flexible in allowing extensions.
Assessing Student Learning
  • Embrace short quizzes/tests.
  • Write questions on a short quiz or test that will offer critical thinking versus quick factual responses that are easy to look up.
  • Research whether the textbook publisher offers a question bank, assignment, quiz or test option. Depending on the text book it may integrate with Blackboard.
  • Be flexible and willing to reexamine project completion dates due to challenges in accessing content or collaborating with team.
  • Consider setting up tests in Blackboard or consider alternate exams.
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Additional Tools and Resources to Support Learning

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Rensselaer Instructional Design Webinar Recordings

This section offers recordings to webinars that have been offered to our Rensselaer faculty and staff on general Instructional Design practices and tips to consider while transitiioining to an online environment. These webinars focus on recommendations for organizing and structuring an online class while suggesting various tools.  

Guidelines for Online Teaching

As we navigate through the uncharted waters of placing all face-to-face courses online, we wanted to offer some guidelines for online teaching. In this webinar, we have gathered information on practices that will help you build a better and more effective online course. There is a ton of information being sent around and we wanted to try and simplify some of the concepts. This webinar recording focuses on:

  • Fundamental values and practices for online teaching – understand how being present in class, organizing content intuitively, framing activities, offering samples, and committing to continuous improvement can create a space for successful online teaching with your students.
  • Review of online etiquette for communication.
  • Discusses practices and tips for establishing discussion boards.
  •  Understanding the terms asynchronous and synchronous and how to think about blending them into your course.

Maureen Fodera (Office of Undergraduate Education) is the presenter in this webinar and Claude Abbott (Rensselaer at Hartford) is the moderator.

Guidelines for Online Teaching Recording Link

Guidelines for  Online Teaching Documentation Link

Transitioning Courses from Face-to-Face to Virtual

This webinar recording focuses on answering two simple questions which will guide you in understanding what is needed or not needed in your digital classroom. The two questions asked are:

  • To best master learning in my course, students need to…
  • To best demonstrate learning in my course, students need to…

This webinar offers solutions in activities and tools to use based on the answer to these two questions. This webinar will get you thinking about the structure of your class and offer suggestions for a solid framework.

Claude Abbott (Rensselaer at Hartford) is the presenter in this webinar and Maureen Fodera (Undergraduate Education) is the moderator.

Transitioning from Face-to-Face to Virtual Webinar Recording Link