Keep Teaching


As you make plans for moving your class online during an unplanned circumstance, it is helpful to focus on what tasks you are trying to accomplish:

  • Communication with Students

    Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es) whether a planned absence on your part or because of 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. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety, and save you dealing with individual questions.

    Keep these principles in mind:

    Communicate early and often:

    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 swamp 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, 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. Let them know, too, if you are using the Canvas Inbox tool, since they may need to update their notification preferences.

    Manage your communication 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 or creating an FAQ Canvas Discussion Board so that everyone has access to the information.

    This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider creating an information page in Canvas, and then encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing you.

  • Distributing Course Materials and Readings

    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 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 Canvas, be sure to let students know what you posted and where. You might even ask that they change their Canvas notification preferences to alert them when new materials are posted. Consider using the announcement tool in Canvas to provide detailed information that can be linked directly to the new material. 

    Keep things phone-friendly:

    In a crisis, many students may only have a phone available, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats, PDFs being the most common. Consider saving other files (for example, PowerPoint presentations) to PDFs, which are easier to read on phones and tablets, and keep the file size small.

    It is fairly easy to reduce the size of PDF files using Adobe Acrobat, and there are online tools that do the same thing (for example, search Google for "PDF file size"). Videos take lots of bandwidth, please stream videos rather than uploading them to Canvas. Check out Echo 360 or YouTube for streaming videos that can easily be placed inside of Canvas

  • Delivering Lectures

    As we think about instructional continuity in the light of potential disruptions of classes due to weather, illness, or other factors; let’s look at ways video can help the efforts of continuing your course work.

    Being there for your students is important for effective online teaching and video is one way to make it happen. Using a webcam, pressing the record button, and teaching for the first time can be intimidating for some, but it’s easier than you might think. Here are some tips and ideas to think about that will soon have you recording video like a pro for your course.

    Prepare well and then be ready to improvise:

    Some professors like to start out with a script, but sometimes this can look and feel artificial. A short outline taped next to your webcam may be all you need to stay on track without sounding like you’re reading from your notes. Remember, the video does not have to be “perfect,” and if the video is short, you could re-record until you get it right.

    Keep it short:

    Many students have been raised on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Try to keep your videos brief. Analytics have shown students will not sit through long videos; try to keep them under 10 minutes. If you have a lot to say (and sometimes we do!), chunk up the message. Look for the natural breaks in topics or concepts and create videos that cover smaller pieces of the material. Make a video into mini-lectures with 5-10 minute chapters.

    Be aware of camera positioning:

    Position the camera at eye level or slightly above the eyes, so you look slightly up at it. Avoid looking down at the camera. Your students do not want to look up your nose. If you’re using a laptop, put a stack of books under it so you raise the camera. Position your head to appear at the top third of the screen so the recording includes your face and most of your torso. Here is a link describing some ideas on creating good looking webcam recordings.

    Location, location, location:

    Your home office is usually a safe choice as a background for the recording. Outdoors can be a nice change but maybe challenging with lighting and sound. Try putting your back to a neutral wall with the light source in front of you. Avoid positioning yourself in front of a window, as the glare will make you appear as a silhouette in an America’s most wanted TV show. Also, be aware of your surroundings; don’t record with your bed, pajamas, laundry, or bathroom in the background. Here is another link describing some ideas on creating good looking webcam recordings.

    Say “cheese":

    Smiling helps everything. Whether you’re recording a webcast of your face or just your voice, smiling makes you look and sound better. Let your personality shine through. Remember, you are the reason that students are coming to class! They get to learn from your passion and expertise. Use this time to make the content come alive.

    Consider adding in humor, stories, and personal connections to engage your learners with both you and the content. The camera tends to “steal a little of your enthusiasm”, so don’t be afraid to go over the top. It may seem silly when you’re recording it, but the level of engagement for your students will appear natural.

    Cover your screen and look right at the camera lens:

    Many students have been raised on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Try to keep your videos brief. Analytics have shown students will not sit through long videos; try to keep them under 10 minutes. If you have a lot to say (and sometimes we do!), chunk up the message. Look for the natural breaks in topics or concepts and create videos that cover smaller pieces of the material. Make a video into mini-lectures with 5-10 minute chapters.

    Creating accessible videos:

    It is important to note that when creating videos for instructional purposes that all students should be able to access the material.  Here are some tips to increase the accessibility of your videos.  We are here to help you with the process of creating accessible content.  If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to email us. 

    • Provide closed captioning and/or transcripts.  The good news is that DEeL provides this service for you!  Just fill out the ticket to request captioning services and we’ll take it from there.  
    • When speaking clearly describe the visuals on the screen.  Try to avoid using language like “see what I’m pointing at here” and instead use explicit language like “the part of the map where Wilmington is located”. 
    • Stream videos rather than upload them.  Please do not upload your videos to Canvas as students will have to download the videos to view them.  Video files are large and downloading them can lead to time out errors and an inability to view. Instead, use Echo360 or another streaming service (like YouTube) and embed your videos on a Canvas page
  • Running Lab Activities

    One of the biggest challenges of teaching during a building or campus closure 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), and save the physical practice parts of the labs until access is restored. The semester might get 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 sites such as Merlot for materials that might help replace parts of your lab during an emergency.

    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.

    Explore alternate software access:

    Some labs require access to specialized software that students cannot install on their own computers. Depending on the nature of the closure (for example, a building versus the entire campus), you might be able to set up in alternate computer labs that have the software your students need.

    Increase interaction in other ways:

    Sometimes labs are more about having time for direct student interaction, so consider other ways to replicate that level of contact if it is only your lab that is out of commission.

  • Fostering Communication and Collaboration Among Students

    Fostering communication among students is important because it allows you to reproduce any collaboration you build into your course and maintains 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 Canvas Discussions or VoiceThread allows students to participate on their own schedules. In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.

    Link to clear goals and outcomes: 

    Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. How does this activity help them 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 collaboration with the additional effort such collaboration will require on everyone else's part. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit.

  • Tips and Tricks for Synchronous Sessions

    General Resources

    Here are some general suggestions for hosting a synchronous (live) class meeting. 

    Before Hosting A Synchronous Class (using Zoom)

    Download and familiarize yourself with Zoom, a cloud-based platform for hosting and recording video and audio meetings. Check out host controls, but also be aware of what sort of controls class attendees have available to them (e.g., mute/unmute, start/stop video, raise hand, etc.).  

    Test Your Equipment: Before holding your first class using Zoom, you can join a test meeting to make sure your microphone and camera are working. Encourage students to perform the same tests before the class meets.  

    Consider scheduling your Zoom Meeting from within Canvas. See the “Using Zoom in Canvas” section of the DEeL Zoom FAQ document for more information about enabling Zoom within your course. 


     Participation: Decide how students will participate. Will they use the “raise hand” button? Will you call on them? Will you assign students to breakout rooms for discussion?  

    Create a conservative agenda with built-in time for troubleshooting any technical issues. Keep in mind that facilitating Q&A sessions of the lecture may take longer, especially in the beginning when all participants become more familiar with the technology.  

    During Hosting A Synchronous Class (using Zoom)

    • Record your Session: If you would like to record your class, be sure to enable either a Cloud Recording or a Local Recording (stored on your computer). 
    • Minimize Distractions: Students and instructors should silence phones, close other windows on their computer, and ensure they are comfortably located in an area (with good wireless connectivity) that will be conducive to focusing on the class. 
    • Welcome & Introduction: Welcome the class to this new method of meeting. In the initial session of smaller classes, a brief round of audio checks/introductions may be a beneficial practice for everyone. 
    • Emphasize Audio Discipline: Too many audio channels can quickly become overwhelming so Zoom mutes the audio of all participants by default when they join the class meeting. Let students know that they should only unmute themselves when they are speaking and that they should mute themselves again after finishing their thought.  

    After Hosting A Synchronous Class (using Zoom)

    • Share: If the class was recorded through a Canvas Zoom meeting, students can view it by clicking their Zoom tab and then the “Cloud Recordings” tab. If the meeting was recorded through other means, you will need to post a link on a Canvas page or send it to students via a Canvas Announcement. 
    • Reflect: Do you have any follow-ups to communicate to students about the content of the lecture, the discussion, or the technology? Are there any changes you would like to make prior to the next meeting?  Tips and Tricks for Synchronous Sessions
  • Basic Accessibility Strategies

    Creating accessible online learning content serves individual student needs while simultaneously adding flexibility and improving the learning experience for all students. There is a list of Accessibility “How-tos on the DEeL Website.   The U.S. Department of Education has released a webinar and fact sheet to help protect student's civil rights during COVID-19 efforts. Here are some additional guidelines and resources. 


    • For your main content, use 12 px font for readability  
    • Limit the use of red or green fonts and use a font color with high contrast to the background color (e.g., black text on a white background) 
    • Using Heading Styles in Canvas can help to organize your content and make it accessible

    PDFs, Word Documents, and PowerPoint 

    Images and Videos

  • Zoom Netiquette and Zoombombing

    Netiquette refers to the guidelines on how to interact clearly and respectfully with others in an online environment. It is important for the same reason etiquette is important in live social interaction. It is significant to online classes because it ensures communication to be more professional, clear, and polite enabling you as students to exchange ideas freely and in a safe environment.

    Sample Netiquette Guidelines

    Netiquette looks differently in a synchronous class vs. an asynchronous class.  Here are some examples that you can consider when creating your own guidelines.

    Samples for General and/or Asynchronous Netiquette:

     sample statements that can be used in a netiquette statement

    Samples Statements for Synchronous Sessions: 

    • Be on time.  Log in a few minutes early to troubleshoot any audio or video problems you may have prior to class starting. 
    • Test your microphone/audio connection and camera (if you have one) ahead of time. You will, at the very least, need an audio connection. Use earbuds or a headset if possible.
    • Pay attention to what’s “in the frame”. Be mindful of what is behind and around you in your video window.  It will be visible to the entire class so beware of bathrooms and bedrooms. 
    • Dress appropriately. Make sure that you are dressing as if you were in the room with others. 
    • Be prepared.  Have access to your materials handy and consider taking notes in a learning journal via computer document or notebook.
    • Choose your set-up space carefully.  Eliminate interruptions to your physical space as much as possible.  Other housemates, pets, and ambient noises can create distractions for you and your classmates.
    • Mute when entering the space. To minimize distractions for other learners, turn your mic off when you enter the “room”. Only turn it on when you need to ask a question, offer a comment, or respond to your teacher. 
    • Use appropriate non-verbal communication. Remember you are in the classroom with others. Be aware of your body language and expressions. Stay engaged while others are talking - nod or give a thumbs up to indicate agreement as others are speaking.


    Zoombombing and Meeting Security

    A new form of trolling in which a participant uses Zoom’s screensharing feature to interrupt and disrupt meetings and classes.

    Please check out this knowledge base article for tips and advice on how to prevent Zoombombing in your synchronous class sessions and in professional meetings.