Are you shifting your in-person class to online delivery?
The FAQ below provides some guidance on questions related to online instruction you might have. You can also check out these resources by NAU faculty and staff to help make your course online-ready:
- How to Be a Better Online Teacher, by Flower Darby, Assistant Dean of Online and Innovative Pedagogies
- Minds Online by NAU’s Michelle Miller, Professor in Psychological Sciences, available through Cline Library
- A series of recorded webinars produced in support of NAU instructors during their Spring 2020 pivot to online instruction: Bb Learn Basics, Bb Learn Grade Center, Collaborate Ultra, Kaltura Capture, Communications Tools to Sustain Online Presence, Re-imagining Discussions Online, Engagement and Interaction Online, Redesigning Your Online Exams, “Cheat-Proof” Online Tests, Online Proctoring Options for COVID-19, HonorLock Online Proctoring Tool
Are you prepared to teach? Are your students prepared to learn?
I’ve never taught online before. What technology will I need? Accordion Closed
You’ll need a good internet connection and a pretty basic computer, with a webcam and microphone for recording video or live conferencing, if that’s something you want to do. Most laptops now have built-in microphones and webcams. A headset will reduce audio feedback issues.
I’ve never taught online before. What technology will my students need? Accordion Closed
They’ll need reliable internet access, which is not necessarily a given. It will help them if you plan low-tech activities, such as PDF readings, and use existing Bb Learn functions (discussions, quizzes and assignments). These are the best approaches to provide equitable access for all students.
For hardware, most laptops have built-in microphones and webcams. A headset will reduce audio feedback issues.
I haven’t used Bb Learn in my classes before. Where do I even start? Accordion Closed
You can also preview how your students will see your Bb Learn course by accessing the student preview mode.
For more guidance on how to use Bb Learn, you can view a recorded webinar (scroll down on the page to find the “Bb Learn Basics” webinar).
I’m worried about whether my students will know how to use Bb Learn. What are the basics for students? Accordion Closed
You can direct students to the FAQs for students on the Student Technology Center website, which includes guidance on how to upload and attach assignments in Bb Learn and how to join a Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session.
Or you can ask them to complete the self-paced Bb Learn Student Orientation and/or the self-paced Attention Matters workshop, both delivered through Bb Learn. Blackboard also provides online guidance just for students. If you build your course using the NAU Course Shell, students will have access to information via the “NAU Help” link in your course whenever they encounter challenges in Bb Learn.
I am concerned about my students having limited or unreliable internet access. What are some lower-tech approaches to teaching online? Accordion Closed
Go here and here for suggestions on how to teach online in low-tech ways that make minimal use of Bb Learn. The chart below is a guide for the bandwidth demands and time-sensitivity of different online learning activities, with the green and blue sections denoting activities that are least taxing for people with internet access issues.
What are the most important differences between online and in-person teaching? Accordion Closed
Perhaps the most important thing to recognize is that good online teaching has a different rhythm than in-person teaching. As Flower Darby, NAU’s Director of Teaching for Student Success notes in a recent Chronicle article, if “you’re used to thinking of teaching in discrete, 50-to-90-minute chunks … you have to start thinking of class as something that takes place over the course of a week as students log in at different times of the day or night.”
This observation is closely connected to the recommendation that you NOT rely exclusively on synchronous communication–such as live Zoom lectures in place of your usual in-person lectures–but, rather, plan for asynchronous course activities, meaning students can engage in the class and complete work on their own timelines within timeframes that you clearly define and communicate to them.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever use synchronous communication, but it is best used for optional or individually scheduled activities, such as virtual office hours, teacher-student conferences, or small-group work that is scheduled by the group members themselves.
The different rhythm of online courses is something that also needs more management from you. It’s up to you as the instructor to create and clearly communicate the expected workflow for the course, so that your students can incorporate the work for your course into their own schedules.
Finally, another key difference between online and in-person instruction is the importance of making time to develop your social presence in the class, and giving students opportunities to do the same. In in-person classes, students get to know you because they see you on a regular basis–even in large lecture classes. When the course is online, you have to be more deliberate about making yourself visible to students and providing them opportunities to project their own social presences in the online classroom space. Though it may seem outside of the course learning outcomes, establishing a social presence is a key component of keeping learners engaged with the course, and you can develop activities that create space for social presence and help students meet learning goals.
How do I exactly replicate what I do in my in-person class? Accordion Closed
You don’t. You can’t.
Instead, keep the course learning outcomes at the center of your planning, and approach online course design by thinking about what you can do in a fully online environment that you can’t do in an in-person class. Learning outcomes should not be changed, but the way they are achieved can be. What are the learning goals of the activities you do in person? What alternative tasks can you offer that will help your students achieve the same learning? You can develop remote alternatives that allow for independent, asynchronous completion by all students and that look quite different from your usual activities but still meet the same learning goals, such as multiple smaller, low-stakes online quizzes in place of big, high-stakes exams.
Also keep in mind that even though the course is online, low-tech solutions are possible and may be the best option for your instructional goals. Learn more by participating in this self-paced Bb Learn course for Facilitating Learning Online.
I usually lecture with PowerPoint slides in my classes. How do I deliver my PowerPoint lectures online? Can I simply livestream my lectures using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra? Accordion Closed
Although this seems like a good solution at first, we don’t recommend that you default to broadcasting your lecture during synchronous meeting times, since students may not have reliable internet and/or may be spread across multiple time zones.
For these reasons and more, we recommend you consider asynchronous and lower-tech options such as pre-recorded videos with text transcripts and/or bulleted outlines, PDF readings with guiding questions and/or written notes, etc. You can read more about the strategic balance of asynchronous and synchronous activities in online teaching, and find more guidance from NAU and from Blackboard on using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, as well as more on using Kaltura from NAU and from Kaltura Learning.
You can use Kaltura to record screencast videos of you narrating your PowerPoint lectures and then embed them into your Bb Learn course shell. This is a good way to deliver your lectures asynchronously. Even better, deliver your lecture material in small video segments (best practice is no more than 5 minutes) and intersperse these lecture segments with other more interactive activities to help students engage with and process the material. (This also makes the learning activities more flexible for students who have complex time or internet connectivity constraints.)
If you feel you must deliver your lectures synchronously via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, be sure to record your sessions and embed them into your Bb Learn course shell so that students can access them asynchronously. (Again, this makes these learning activities more flexible for students who have time or internet connectivity constraints.) For more guidance on using Collaborate Ultra, you can view a recorded webinar.
If you deliver your lectures via video, be sure to caption your videos or include transcripts of your lectures as pdf or Word docs.
I usually take attendance in my in-person classes as part of students’ grades. How would I do this in online classes? Accordion Closed
First consider what the goal is behind including attendance in students’ grades: if it’s about increasing engagement, you could require check-ins or small graded or ungraded activities that regularly require student interaction with course material.
You could also consider participation in asynchronous online discussions as a form of attendance. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra does have the option to keep track of student attendance in synchronous online sessions, but keep in mind that courses designated as fully online cannot require any student to be anywhere at a particular time (other than individually scheduled and mutually agreed-upon appointments with instructors or classmates).
What are some strategies I can use to keep my students engaged and help them stay on track? Accordion Closed
Build in regular opportunities for connecting with your students, including weekly announcements and virtual office hours. Invite students to reach out to you if they have significant obstacles to completing course work. Establish course policies that have built-in structures for some flexibility.
Additional strategies for motivating students to keep up with the work for your course include:
- Making sure to enter zeroes promptly after deadlines pass to communicate to students that they’ve missed assignments and that it’s impacting their grades. In order to use this strategy, your online gradebook should include gradebook columns for each assignment that are VISIBLE to students and gradebook columns that show students their current grade – based on all work completed (or missed) to date.
- Providing personalized outreach and feedback that lets students know that you are aware of them as an individual AND their academic progress in your course. This strategy is especially effective when you express concern for the student and their progress in the course, give specific feedback on what they’ve fallen behind on, offer additional forms of support–such as office hours, tutoring, or additional course materials–and gently remind them of consequences.
- Providing feedback to the whole class via email or Bb Learn announcements when it’s more than a small cohort of students falling behind. This strategy is especially effective when you mention that while some students ARE keeping up with the work, there are a number who’ve gotten behind. This helps students in both situations feel less like they’re “the only one.” It also sets an expectation that keeping up is expected and that some are already doing so successfully. It’s also important to express concern for students’ progress, and offer solutions that allow students to get caught up in a timeline that is reasonable for both their workload and yours.
For more examples of how to re-engage students in your online class and keep them on track, go to Resources for Already-Online Faculty.
How can I develop rapport with my students in a fully online environment? Accordion Closed
Build in regular opportunities for connecting with your students virtually, including announcements, office hours, and, if/when needed, individualized check-ins with students who seem to be struggling, and flex your policies as needed to communicate empathy.
Learn more about ways to maintain or increase engagement and interaction online here. Or view a recorded webinar about ways to sustain your online presence (scroll down on the page to find the “Communication Tools to Sustain Online Presence” webinar).
I want to keep my students up-to-date on what they should be doing for my course. How can I send written and audio or video announcements to them? Accordion Closed
There are multiple ways to make announcements to students, and it’s a good idea to do so at least once a week, to remind students to stay engaged with the course and to provide them with an overview of the week’s learning activities. The most low-tech way is to send written announcements to your students via email. You can also post written and audio or video announcements in Bb Learn.
How can I hold office hours online? Accordion Closed
There are multiple ways to hold virtual office hours. The most low-tech method is to talk to students on the phone, but it’s a good idea to check with students to make sure they are comfortable with this version of office hours communication.
You can also use Zoom or Collaborate Ultra (in your Bb Learn course shell) to open online “rooms” where you can meet with students. You can find out more about how to host a Zoom meeting here and here. Both Zoom and Collaborate Ultra can support synchronous text chat as well as audio or full video interactions. Another option is to use the Gmail accounts you and your students have through NAU, which have audio and chat capability.
You can also view a recorded webinar about using Collaborate Ultra in Bb Learn.
Always keep in mind, however, that FERPA regulations require that you not share grades or other sensitive student information via phone or email or in public spaces like online rooms. To communicate information about grades, be sure to set up and refer your students to the online gradebook in Bb Learn.
I want to find ways to make my textbook and other course content available to my students. Who can help me with this? Accordion Closed
Cline Library is your best resource for finding virtual content and negotiating concerns about copyright. They have provided detailed guidance on fair use of copyrighted materials, including what publisher resources can be made available for free during this abrupt shift to remote teaching.
Additionally, the NAU Bookstore offers some free eBooks through a partnership with RedShelf and provides information about the use of Lumen Courseware for faculty who would like to transition to Open Educational Resources.
I want to make content available to my students that isn’t in their textbook. How do I do that in Bb Learn? Accordion Closed
You can use the Create Content function in order to embed files, images, video and audio in Bb Learn and provide your students with essential or supplementary handouts, articles, photos, videos, or podcasts (or other recordings). Also consult this Cline Library webpage for guidance on any copyright concerns.
I want to ensure that my course content is accessible to all my students, regardless of their disability status. How can I best do this? Accordion Closed
Ally can help you make digital documents accessible to students who use e-readers or prompt you to offer the same documents in multiple formats. If the videos you use as part of your course content do not already have captioning, the Usable Materials Center in NAU’s Disability Services can help (though it’s important to note that this process takes a significant amount of time). Kaltura can help you caption any videos you create for your course, as well, or you can provide written transcripts to your students for any video.
For more information on the principles of Universal Design for Learning that ensure access for all of our students, you can enroll in this self-paced Bb Learn course, UDL in My Course.
I want to communicate with students about their grades, but I don’t use the online gradebook in Bb Learn in my face-to-face classes. How do I set it up for my online class? Accordion Closed
The online gradebook is automatically included in your Bb Learn course shell. For guidance on how to navigate to and within the Bb Learn Grade Center, click here.
The online gradebook automatically populates with any assignments, tests, quizzes, or discussions you create in Bb Learn. You can also create grade items (called “columns”) in Bb Learn for assignments and other assessments that you do not create or grade in Bb Learn. You can use this method to update student grades to reflect their progress toward course completion before the shift to all online learning. For guidance on grade columns and how to create columns for previous assignments, click here.
You can also prompt Bb Learn to send emails to students who have missing coursework.
For more information about the Bb Learn Grade Center, go to the Grade Center section of NAU’s A-Z list of support links, or view the Bb Learn Grade Center recorded webinar (scroll down on the page to find the webinar).
I use rubrics to grade student work. Is there a good way to use rubrics in Bb Learn? Accordion Closed
Yes! Using rubrics in Bb Learn is actually more efficient than using paper rubrics. You can create your rubrics in Bb Learn by copying and pasting rubric criteria from your existing rubric into Bb Learn, then associate rubrics with particular assignments, or associate rubrics with particular grade columns in your Bb Learn gradebook. Then you can grade assignments using the rubrics directly in Bb Learn, and the grades are automatically entered into the Bb Learn gradebook.
I usually distribute assignment handouts and collect and return student work in class. How do I set up assignments online? Accordion Closed
You can create and edit assignments in Bb Learn. This tool allows you to copy and paste your assignment guidelines into Bb Learn and also creates a grade column in the Bb Learn gradebook so that you can grade the assignment in Bb Learn. If appropriate, you can also allow students to revise and resubmit assignments. You can also download your students’ assignment submissions from Bb Learn and give students feedback before you release their grades.
I’m used to leading class discussions in person. How do I facilitate class discussions online? Accordion Closed
This Faculty Focus article provides suggestions for promoting student engagement in online discussions. For technical guidance on how to set up discussions in Bb Learn, learn how to make the discussion board available to students. Also, watch this video or read this article about how to use Bb Learn discussion boards. For guidance on how to create, respond to, manage, and grade discussions, click here. You can also learn more about how to set up small group discussions in Bb Learn, and learn more about facilitating online discussion in this recorded webinar (scroll down on the page to find the “Re-imagining Discussions Online” webinar).
My students often participate in small group discussions. / My students are working on a group project/presentation. How do I facilitate group work online? Accordion Closed
There are multiple options to facilitate group work online. For focused group work about specific course content, like the kind of work you might have students do in face-to-face classes in small-group discussions, it might make sense to use the Bb Learn groups tool with the Bb Learn discussion board tool.
To provide groups with a virtual space to work on group projects or presentations, it might make sense to use Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, either by setting up group sessions or providing your students with access to the Course Room. Before you use Collaborate Ultra for group work, you’ll need to make it available to students. Click here for additional guidance on how to use Collaborate Ultra.
Google tools are another option for facilitating group work, since all NAU students and faculty have Google accounts. Students can use Google Groups, Google Hangouts Meet, or Google Docs to collaborate on group projects.
My students have been working on presentations for my course. How can they do their presentations online? Accordion Closed
I use in-class quizzes / exams. How can I give tests and quizzes online? Accordion Closed
You can create tests, quizzes, and surveys in Bb Learn. This tool allows you to copy and paste your existing test questions. Once you have created the test, you’ll need to make it available to students. Once you have made it available to students, a grade column will appear in the Bb Learn gradebook. If your tests include short answers or answers, you will need to grade these manually. Other kinds of test questions, such as multiple-choice questions, are graded automatically.
If you have students who need extended access to tests (for accessibility reasons), you can set special permissions for them.
For final exams from textbook publishers or other existing tests with a lot of multiple-choice questions, you can use Respondus to create Bb Learns tests without having to copy and paste each test question into Bb Learn.
I am really concerned about cheating and plagiarism in online classes. What steps can I take to prevent or minimize the likelihood of academic dishonesty? Accordion Closed
There are productive steps you can take to minimize pressures on academic integrity, such as:
- integrating more low-stakes assessments in preparation for or in place of high-stakes exams,
- giving open-book/open-notes exams to eliminate the need for high security proctoring, and
- developing assignments or test questions that ask students to apply knowledge to a current case study, problem, or scenario from your discipline so that the answers can not be easily looked up in textbooks or searched for online.
High-stakes multiple-choice exams are not the only, or even the best way to assess student learning, but there are also strategies to use in these testing situations, such as creating a random block of test questions, using question sets, or drawing from question pools.
For more guidance about how to minimize cheating in any testing situation, including online, see this blog post by NAU’s Alice Gibb, chair of Biological Sciences, and watch recorded webinars about online assessment (scroll down to find “Rethinking Tests,” “Cheat-Proof Online Tests,” and “Redesigning Your Online Exams”) or view webinar slides.
- Remind students that NAU offers online tutoring services to support their academic success, and the NAU Writing Commons offers online support for student writing.
- Check for plagiarism in written assignments with the help of SafeAssign.
- Have students complete the self-paced Bb Learn course, Academic Integrity @ NAU.
I usually give in-person proctored exams. How do I do that online? Accordion Closed
Given the student-level technological and logistical requirements and the expense for these services, we recommend minimizing reliance on proctored examinations in online courses. (Please see the previous FAQ entry for more guidance on alternatives to proctored high-stakes testing.) However, if proctored exams are necessary, you can adopt one of the following strategies. Please note that the following three options require that each student have a good internet connection, a computer with a webcam, and a quiet solitary place to be alone during the exam. You can also view a recorded webinar (scroll down on the page to find the “Online Proctoring Options for COVID-19” webinar).
Online proctoring for small-enrollment courses or make-up exams (1-40 students)
- All students and faculty can access Zoom at nau.zoom.us, and Zoom can be used to proctor online exams.
- For exams with more than 10 students, proctor in Zoom only with support from other instructors or FERPA-certified teaching assistants. When there are more than 10 students in the class, you can move portions of the class into Zoom breakout rooms, and have those students monitored by other instructors or FERPA-certified TAs or student assistants assigned to the course.
Online proctoring for medium- and large-enrollment courses (40+)
- Honorlock ($7.50 per student, per test) is an online AI-enabled proctoring service that prompts a human observer to drop in when it identifies questionable activities by the test-taker. This service must be enabled in Bb Learn before it can be used in a Bb Learn test. Other testing environments will require the assistance of the NAU LMS Faculty Help Desk. For more information on using Honorlock, you can also view a recorded webinar (scroll down on the page to find the Honorlock webinar).
Online proctoring for exams that must be live monitored 100% of the time for accrediting requirements.
ProctorU ($30 per student, per test): This service provides a live observer 100% of the time and must be requested and approved. ProctorU guidance for NAU instructors can be accessed here, and guidance for NAU students can be accessed here.
I teach a lab class. / I teach a studio class. / I teach a class with a performance or fieldwork component. How do I do this online? Accordion Closed
First, think creatively about the learning goals for the activities you do in person. What might students be able to do at home in order to achieve those same goals? They may be able to do things in their kitchens, living rooms, backyards, and other outdoor spaces, and take/upload pictures of their results.
Click here for online resources that may help you simulate the experiences you want them to have in a lab, a studio, or the field.
Is there a comprehensive list of NAU’s support resources? Accordion Closed
Yes! Check our A – Z list of support links.
Is there a comprehensive list of NAU’s faculty tools? Accordion Closed
Yes! Check out our list of online tools for instructors.
What other recommended resources are out there for moving to remote teaching? Accordion Closed
Please consult these excellent resources for a wealth of support and guidance, with our thanks to these sites for sharing.
How can I support my students in non-academic ways during this stressful time? Accordion Closed
- Share the facts with your students and keep things in perspective. Communicate with your students about identifying reputable sources and encourage them to cut down on their exposure to inflammatory social media.
- Stay healthy and connected. Regularly wash your hands and use hand sanitizer as frequently as needed. Avoid crowded places if possible, but stay in touch with family and friends to stay positive. Remind your students to do the same.
- Be aware that international students may have particularly acute stress about their travel limitations, their families’ exposure, and long-term health and safety concerns. Be flexible with these students as they attempt to complete coursework.
- Remind yourself and your students to be mindful of our assumptions about others. Someone who appears sick or looks a certain way does not necessarily have coronavirus. For information and teaching materials about the rise in racial profiling as a result of the coronavirus, check out this teach-in guide: “Treating Yellow Peril: Resources to Address Coronavirus Racism”, founded and curated by Jason Oliver Chang an Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut.
(Thanks to UC Berkeley, University Health Services for these suggestions.)