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STEP 1: Getting Started

The Four Steps of Online Teaching

Moving some of your instruction online can seem daunting, especially if you hadn’t initially designed your course to be delivered virtually. Below are some tips to help you in shifting to a new mode of instruction without losing engagement or progress in learning.


Check with your department

Check with your department for guidelines about the situation and their expectations.


Communicate with Your Students

Inform your students early about possible changes and your method and expectations for class communications.  Communicate your new expectations for the students such as deadlines and class participation.

Plan your communication with the students: inform them about any changes or interruptions, the methods (e.g. email, conference call, web meeting, discussion board) and frequencies of your communication with them, how they will communicate with you, and how they can communicate with each other.

Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in Canvas or another shared resource (e.g., Google Drive or OneDrive), be sure to let students know what you posted and where.


Review Course Schedule

    • Review your course schedule to determine which topics and activities may need to be modified for online delivery or should be rescheduled.  Identify what must temporarily change in your syllabus, such as policies, due dates, or assignments, and communicate those changes to students.
    • Set realistic goals: To what extent can you maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? How will you keep them engaged with the course content?
    • Determine priorities: Whether it be providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc., what activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer than expected to resolve. Restate the key learning outcomes of the course to guide priorities.
    • Reset expectations for students: As you think through your changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to equitably handle requests for extensions or accommodations.


Consider Technologies

Select technologies and approaches that are familiar to you and your students to minimize disruption to your teaching during a stressful time.

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 including PDFs and leveraging the learning management system.  Consider saving other files in two formats, its original application format and a PDF.  PDFs are easier to read on phones and tablets and keep the file size small, and the original file format often has application features that are helpful to students who use accessibility software.

Also note that videos take lots of bandwidth, so only require them if you are confident students will have the network and computing resources to access them during the current situation.