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Best Practices

Assess and Plan

To move parts of a course online, first consider your ability with the relevant instructional technologies, the structure of your course, the particular needs of your students, the requirements of your material or your discipline, the assignments and assessments typically used in the course, and the limitations caused by timelines and scalability. Above all, because you are working with unexpected limitations, we advise you to observe (and encourage your students to observe) reasonable expectations for success.

Communicate with Students

Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es) —whether a viral outbreak likeCOVID-19, a planned absence on your part, or a crisis impacting all or part of campus. You'll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Keep these principles in mind:

  • Communicate early and often: Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety, and save you dealing with individual questions. Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren't in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Don't overload them with email, but consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand. For example, if the campus closure is extended for two more days, what will students need to know related to your course?
  • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email, and how quickly they can expect your response.
  • Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students,so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour.

Distribute Course Readings and Materials

You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more –or all –instruction online. In a pinch, providing some new readings and related assignments may be your best bet for keeping the intellectual momentum of the course moving.

Considerations when posting new course materials:

  • Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in D2Lbe sure to let students know what you posted and where. You might even ask that they change their notification preferences to alert them when new materials are posted.
  • Keep things accessible & mobile friendly: In a crisis, many students may only have a mobile device available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats such as HTML.
  • Utilize accessibility tools such as captions. Refer to Instructional Design Services for assistance.

Substitutes for Face-to-Face Class Meetings

Prioritize course work that doesn't require real-time interaction. While real-time interactions on platforms like Zoom enhance student engagement by allowing instructor-to-student and student-to-student interactions, online learners often prefer the flexibility of self-paced material with fewer technical barriers.

If you feel that video is the most appropriate tool for your instruction, instructors have the following options provided by the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and Instructional Design Services.

Running Lab Activities

One of the biggest challenges of teaching online from anywhere is sustaining the lab components of classes. Since many labs require specific equipment, they are hard to reproduce outside of that physical space. Considerations as you plan to address lab activities:

  • Take part of the lab online: Many lab activities require students to become familiar with certain procedures, and only physical practice of those processes will do. In such cases, consider if there are other parts of the lab experience you could take online (for example, video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations, analysis of data, other pre-or post-lab work). Save the physical practice parts of the labs until access to campus is restored. It is understood that the semester will be disjointed by splitting up lab experiences, but it might get you through a short campus closure.
  • Investigate virtual labs: Online resources and virtual tools might help replicate the experience of some labs (for example, virtual dissection, night sky apps, video demonstrations of labs, simulations). Those vary widely by discipline, but check with your textbook publisher, or visit resource sites created by CETL and IDS.
  • Provide raw data for analysis: In cases where the lab includes both collection of data and its analysis, consider showing how the data can be collected, and then provide some raw sets of data for students to analyze. This approach is not as comprehensive as having students collect and analyze their own data, but it might keep them engaged with parts of the lab experience during the closure.
  • Increase interaction in other ways: Sometimes labs are about providing time for direct student interaction; consider other ways to replicate that type of interaction or create new online interaction opportunities, including using available collaboration tools, such as Zoom.

Foster communication and collaboration among students

Fostering communication and collaboration among students to build and maintain a sense of community that can help keep students motivated to participate and learn.

Consider these suggestions when planning activities:

  • Use asynchronous tools when possible: Having students participate in live Zoom conversations can be useful, but scheduling can be a problem, and only a few students will actively participate (just like in your classroom). In such cases, using asynchronous tools like D2L Discussion Boards allows students to participate on their own schedules.
  • Link to clear goals and outcomes: Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. Define how this activity helps students meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments.
  • Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious, so some instructors ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
  • Balance newness and need: As with any changed activities, you will need to balance the needs and benefits of online communication and collaboration with the additional effort it will require on everyone’s part. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit.
  • Ensure equity and inclusion: Considerations for equity and inclusion do not require a major overhaul of a class, but they do require intention.
    • Remind students of campus resources available through the SDSU Office of Disability Services.
    • Look for ways for students to work together (e.g., through e-mail or video chat), and when possible, build in opportunities for interaction.
    • Continue to communicate that you value the diversity represented by the students in your class through your communications to students.

Collecting Assignments

Collecting assignments during a campus closure is fairly straightforward, since many instructors already collect work electronically. The main challenge during a campus disruption is whether students have access to computers and/or the internet, as anyone needing a campus computer lab may be unable to access necessary technologies. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid email for assignment collection: It may be easy to collect assignments in small classes via email, but larger classes might swamp your email inbox. Consider using D2L instead. Balance what is simplest for students with what is easiest for you to manage.
  • State expectations, but be ready to allow extensions: In the case of a campus closure or other crisis, some students will undoubtedly have difficulties meeting deadlines. Make expectations clear, but be ready to provide more flexibility than you normally would in your class.
  • Require specific filenames: It may sound trivial, but anyone who collects papers electronically knows the pain of getting 20 files named Essay1.docx. Give your students a simple file naming convention, for example, FirstnameLastname-Essay1.docx

Assessing Student Learning

The SDSU Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and Instructional Design Services can provide individual consultation to instructors wanting to adapt exams to a different format to ensure that the new format is measuring what the instructor wants. Continue to refer back to the Student Learning Outcomes in your syllabus to ensure you are assessing what you want students to learn.

Instructional Design Services

Please refer to the SDSU Instructional Technologies for Emergency Teaching & Learning document for a comprehensive listing of technology options to support you during this transition.Full resources can be found on the IDS Public Website or InsideState.

SDSU Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning

Do not hesitate to reach out to Kevin and Shelly for additional support during any campus event demanding changes to your current instructional approaches. We are here to assist you with any of your teaching and learning needs. Full resources can be found on the CETL Public Website or InsideState.