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Resources for Instructional Continuity

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Resources for Instructional Continuity

At its best, flexible teaching successfully combines the design, organization and deep preparation of online courses, the agility and choice of hybrid/blended courses and the student connection and engagement of face-to-face courses. 

Though flexible teaching practices can be implemented at any time and for any course, for Fall 2020, you should assume that at least some of your students will be participating remotely. Thus, all in-person courses should be designed to accommodate students with extended absences by planning for the availability of remote delivery for all courses.

To prepare your courses for the upcoming academic year, focus first on designing the best possible flexible course, including appropriate asynchronous and synchronous activities. With that course design in mind, consider the locations and intentions of your students for Fall, and decide whether you might safely add any effective in-person component (without inequity for students who can’t attend).

Be Prepared to:

  • Provide synchronous Zoom sessions of your in-person lectures and record these lectures for those students that may not be able to interact synchronously
  • Post all content and assignments on Canvas so that students can access these remotely
  • Prepare remote assessments for students who may not be able to attend an exam in-person, or use remote assessment for all students
  • Prepare lab, studio, and performance activities that can replace in-person assignments for students that require extended absences

Class Meetings

This section provides an overview on delivering and managing your class meetings using pedagogical best practices with technologies supported by OU Information Technology and the Office of Digital Learning.

If students are not on campus, host synchronous class sessions through a web conferencing tool such as Zoom to replicate the face-to-face experience. To increase engagement, live sessions should include more problem-solving and discussions than lectures. 

Your course may be fully face-to-face or fully remote. Or you may have both in-person and online audiences, in which some students are in a physical classroom and the others join by web conference. This hybrid environment is more complex than either wholly online or in-person teaching. 

Holding live class meetings best approximates a classroom setting, since students can ask questions and engage in discussion and group work. Students often interact with course content on their own time, so these synchronous sessions offer a sense of belonging to a community of students. Instructors can gauge students’ understanding of the materials through activities such as polling and discussions. It is often easier to give assignment instructions or expand on difficult concepts in person. 

Do not require that students participate live. Students may face challenges due to technology, connectivity, time zones and other access issues. Therefore, any live class sessions should be recorded to be viewed by students at alternate times.

Emphasize engagement. Online discussions are as important as synchronous instruction to overcome the challenges of flexible teaching. Your course site should emphasize activities that build community among the students and ask engaging questions.

Holding meetings using Zoom

Zoom is the recommended tool for holding live class sessions and online office hours. Zoom supports a variety of pedagogies including active learning, lectures, discussion and group work.

Set up your environment for Zoom sessions. For optimal meetings, you and your students should have a strong internet connection, a quiet space, and headphones. In general, you and your students should turn on your cameras for better interaction, however the single most important part of a Zoom session is audio, so turn off your camera if you have low bandwidth and prioritize having a quiet location.

Learn the basics of Zoom. There are several essential steps to learn before holding a Zoom session. These include how to get a Zoom account, how to run a meeting and how to access Zoom.

Add Zoom to Canvas. Post scheduled class meetings from your Canvas site so that students can easily find the meeting links. Recordings should be set to record in the cloud.

Turn on important settings for all Zoom meetings. Recommended steps include enabling meeting transcriptions in recordings, auto-recording class sessions, turning on chat, breakout rooms, non-verbal feedback options and implementing securing measures.

Take advantage of Zoom’s active learning features. Non-verbal feedback options allow students to respond with quick signals to your questions (thumbs up/down, yes/no, etc.). Use breakout rooms to sort students into small groups to work on problems or discuss course content. Use polls to gather student input for discussions and get a sense of their knowledge on a topic. Screen sharing allows instructors and students to present content from their computers.

Set up your Zoom office hours. Use your Personal Meeting Room for office hours, meetings with advisees or impromptu help sessions. It has a permanent URL, which you can configure and does not need to be scheduled in advance. 

Learn how to use annotation and screen capture. If you wish to record short videos, please refer to the guidelines for creating effective videos detailed below. 

Course Materials

The easiest way to share course materials with students is to put them in Canvas. This approach works equally well in online, hybrid and in-person courses, and most students are already familiar with how to use Canvas.

Upload files to Canvas. Any and all documents, presentations, and spreadsheets (etc.) you have prepared for you course can be uploaded into the Files section of Canvas.

In addition to documents, you will likely have mixture of assignments, discussions, quizzes, and pages for custom content.

Organize your content in Modules. Once you have content ready for your course, you need to add it to your Modules section in the way you want students to access those materials. 

Some additional organization suggestions. You may need to setup Canvas Assignment Groups in order to weight your grades to different types of assignments (i.e. homework, papers, exams, participation, etc.). Even if you don’t need to weight grades, this is an excellent feature for general assignment organization to help you and your students keep track of different types of assignment.

To keep your course materials organized within the Files section of Canvas, you can create a folder structure just as you would on your personal computer. This is especially helpful if you need to copy your materials to a future course.

Examples

Here are several courses you can explore to see their Modules sections:

Using the Canvas Assignments Tool

Take advantage of the grading options of Canvas assignments. The Assignments and Quizzes tool allows instructors to create, distribute, collect and grade online assignments. You can also use SpeedGrader make written and video comments on student work when grading. The Assignments tool in Canvas offers several additional grading options:

Building a course website on OU Create with Wordpress

You can use a course website on OU Create in addition to, or instead of, a Canvas site. This is a good option if you feel comfortable working in WordPress and would like to build your own course structure. WordPress course sites are most often used in courses where students create and share content such as digital portfolios, blogs, project websites or multimedia artifacts.

Additional Tools

The following tools are offered to OU students, faculty, and staff. To access the service, users will be required to login using their OU Net ID and password.

  • GradeScope - Gradescope is an online grading platform, integrated with Canvas, for rapidly grading handwritten student work including problem sets and short answers/essays.  Features of Gradescope include adaptive rubrics, simultaneous team grading, and direct submission by students. Learn more.
  •  MyMedia - Create screen captures, webcam recordings, or upload videos. It also integrates seamlessly with Canvas to enable the use of video in course content, discussions, and even assessments.
  • LinkedIn Learning - LinkedIn Learning offers a robust amount of videos and content in a variety of different groups. Users may also earn certificates which they can share on social media or on their LinkedIn account.
  • Qualtrics - Online survey and analytics tool that can be used by OU faculty, staff and students to gather data and insights as well as conduct institutional research and generate reports.

Creating your own course videos

If you need to deliver small amounts of content to students in lecture format, that can be done live (in Zoom), but if you have time you can also record videos for your students. 

Keep your videos short. The most engaging videos are short, generally under seven minutes in length. 

You can have more on the screen than just yourself. You can share your computer screen and narrate while showing slides or doing a demonstration. If you would like to record yourself working on problems or solving equations, you can use a virtual writing surface like a tablet or use Zoom’s whiteboard feature. Whatever content you show, be sure to keep your video on while recording. Students are more likely to keep watching videos when they can see their instructor somewhere on the screen.

You can add assessments to existing videos. If you’d like to stop during a video to ask students a self-reflection question, you can do so in your MyMedia videos. You can also break videos into short segments and put quizzes between them. 

Using existing content from outside sources

Instead of recording your own lecture videos or creating new web pages, you may curate existing content that covers some of the topics you’d like to include in your course. You can often save time by finding high-quality open educational resources that give students an introduction to a topic. Some places to find good content include:

  • OER Commons: a free repository of open educational resources that is searchable by subject and topic
  • OpenStax at Rice University: for open textbooks in a range of subjects, mostly at the introductory level

Many other types of supplementary materials can also be found on the web including e-texts, practice tests, problem sets, online simulations and animations, virtual labs, virtual field trips and more. Once you have selected the appropriate content, you can link or embed them in your Canvas course or course site.

If you plan to show media that you didn’t create, you may need to have students independently access the content by linking to the content. Linking to publicly available online content like news websites, existing online videos, etc., is rarely a copyright issue, though you should use caution if it appears the posted video is infringing on the original copyrighter (example: pirated movie). Ask your librarian if you are concerned about access to particular content.

Always Be Mindful of Plan B

Write one or several alternate plans for assignments or activities you originally had in mind, as necessary to account for various scenarios, including those below.

For an in-person class, consider the scenario that none of your students are in the classroom with you and notes what changes would be required. 

For an online class with regular scheduled synchronous sessions online in Zoom, consider the scenario that more than 50% of your students are unable to join live due to their time zone, illness, family care responsibilities or other factors; make notes about what would have to change in your course in that case. 

Consider identifying an alternate instructor who has access to all relevant materials in case you need to be absent for any period of time.