Teaching Remotely

Course Management for Teaching Remotely

Syllabus and Course Expectations

Syllabus: Instructors found it helpful to include the following types of information in their syllabi during Spring Quarter 2020. Please use these suggestions if they are helpful for you as you prepare for future courses. Possible sections to include in your syllabus:

Class Time and Possible Disruptions

In this section, you can describe how class time will work for your students. This is where you can lay out the format of the course for students and give them an idea of timing on both synchronous and asynchronous parts. For example, you might say, “This course is scheduled to meet from 12:45 pm–3:00 pm Central Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Discussion board posts are due each Sunday by 11:59 Central Time.”

You could include here what students should do if their ability to attend class at the scheduled time is disrupted by technology challenges or for other reasons.

Class Policies


Given possible challenges your students might experience related to class participation, consider addressing how you will handle things like a student’s unreliable internet connectivity, students who live internationally and are in different time zones, and the potential for students or their families to experience illness or other challenges.


For classes with participation components, you can include your class participation expectations in this section. Given possible challenges your students might experience related to class participation, consider addressing how you will handle things like a student’s unreliable internet connectivity, students who have other tech issues, or students who live internationally and are in different time zones.

You can break these components down into categories like Zoom participation, Canvas participation, etc.

Readings, Presentations, and Other Course Materials

Please include the link where your course materials can be found (for most instructors, this will be your Canvas site). If students should visit sites other than Canvas for your course readings or other materials, you can note that in this section.

Office Hours and Other Student Inquiries

If you have a preference for how you would like to conduct office hours or hear from students, describe that in this section. You can also link to a Google document or any scheduling application you use for students to sign-up for office hours.

Two frequently used options include:

Disability Accommodations

For Students with Disabilities

The University of Chicago is committed to ensuring equitable access to our academic programs and services. Students with disabilities who have been approved for the use of academic accommodations by Student Disability Services (SDS) and need a reasonable accommodation(s) to participate fully in this course should follow the procedures established by SDS for using accommodations. Timely notifications are required in order to ensure that your accommodations can be implemented. Please meet with me to discuss your access needs in this class after you have completed the SDS procedures for requesting accommodations.

To contact SDS:

Planning for Accessibility

Accessibility for Students with Disabilities

When you need to move coursework online quickly, it’s easy to lose track of everything that needs to be completed. Visit Planning Accessible Courses to learn more about providing courses and materials that are accessible to all students.

Accessibility for Instructors with Disabilities

We recognize that instructors with disabilities are also quickly transitioning to remote courses. If you need any changes to an accommodation or need to request an accommodation (pdf) please contact Jacqueline Hennard, the Associate Director of the Office for Access and Equity. If you are experiencing any accessibility-related issues with instructional technology please contact the Center for Digital Accessibility.


General Guidelines for Communication

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 will want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations.

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.

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, or as a Canvas Announcement to the class.

Class Management Tips

Before, During, and After Class

Before Class

Before you begin your class, remember to have everything you need to teach remotely and that your preferred Zoom settings are configured the way you’d like. Also, have close by the contact information for your unit’s IT support.

During Class

During class make sure to welcome your students and ensure your preferred Zoom settings are functioning the way you’d like. Set expectations for the class should your or their technology malfunction or should there be other unanticipated interruptions during class.

After Class

After class, if you scheduled the Zoom meeting through Canvas and recorded to the Zoom cloud, the recording will be made available to students in Canvas, in Zoom navigation, under recordings. For more information see Use the Zoom-Canvas Integration.

If you are not using the Zoom integration in Canvas, please see this page for more information on managing your cloud recordings.

Solving Technology Problems During Class

  • If you lose your connection to the computer audio, you can wait 90 seconds and Zoom will automatically attempt to reconnect you.
  • If the audio and video are unstable for your connection, and you are not using the recommended Ethernet cable, move the computer closer to the Wi-Fi router. Getting closer to your router can improve signal strength and network speed.
  • If your Zoom connection is unstable, try turning off your webcam video. Turning on your webcam video uses more bandwidth than audio only. Switch it off by clicking Stop Video in the toolbar at the bottom of the meeting screen.
  • If your Zoom connection is unstable, leave the meeting and join it again. If you are the host, end the meeting and start it again.
  • If you have problems with audio, switch your audio source. Click the microphone icon in the toolbar at the bottom of the Zoom meeting window and select a different connection type. For instance, if you’re having issues with computer audio, join by phone. Alternately, if you have connected with phone audio and your cellular connection is poor, switch to computer audio.
  • The Zoom website has additional troubleshooting tips.

Office Hours

Office Hour Considerations

When creating online office hours there are two major considerations: if your office hours are only for students who are in your registered course, then you should use Canvas to schedule the office hours. On the other hand, if your office hours are open to all students, not in a defined course, then you may prefer to use Microsoft Bookings. Below are the details for using both.

Class Discussions and Engagement

Synchronous Engagement

Use Canvas Conferences to hold virtual office hours quickly and easily.

  1. See: How do I create a conference in a course?

Use Canvas Chat to converse synchronously with students.

Asynchronous Engagement

Create a Canvas Discussion and allow students to comment on your discussion prompt.

Create group assignments in Canvas to foster collaboration among your students.

Enable Peer Review on Canvas Assignments to allow students to assess one another’s work.

Students can work collaboratively in a Google Doc with Canvas Collaborations.

You can also create Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. outside Canvas Collaborations using the UChicago Google Suite for collaborative work.

Creating and Grading Assessments and Exams

Considerations for Assessments and Exams

Assessment of student learning means thinking about the work we ask students to complete so they can practice with the material, show their understanding of the content and get feedback to improve. This includes both graded student work (essays, quizzes, exams, projects), as well as informal, ungraded activities that allow students (and instructors) to check-in on their understanding.

  1. Think of assessment as a tool for learning.
    Summative assessment means measuring and evaluating students’ learning likely for a grade, while formative assessment means providing feedback to help students improve. Exams and quizzes can be used for both purposes, if clear, timely feedback is provided.
  2. Use it as another way to communicate with students.
    There is evidence that providing students with regular retrieval practice leads to more enduring learning. Frequent quizzes that do not deeply impact grades are a great learning opportunity because the stakes feel low for students and instructors have additional opportunities to communicate and provide feedback.
  3. Be thoughtful with exam questions.
    • There is always concern with online testing that students are pulling their answers from the textbook or the internet. One way to get around this is to ask questions that require deeper analysis of text or data, as opposed to basic facts. Some other things you can do are: Randomize questions for each exam, and randomize answers for multiple choice questions
    • Create different versions of questions (same question, different values) for different groups of students
    • Consider allowing the use of books and notes
    • Verify that your questions aren’t “Googleable”
  4. Be mindful of exam length and timing.
    Shorter exams are recommended for learning remotely, because they provide more frequent learning opportunities and are easier for students to complete. It is important to be mindful when creating exams that not all students have unlimited access to computers or internet, and some students are in very different time zones.
  5. Accessibility
    You are responsible for ensuring that your course is accessible to all enrolled students. Please visit Planning Accessible Courses to learn more about providing courses and exams that are accessible to all students.

Creating Assessments and Exams

Canvas Quizzes

Canvas Quizzes is a robust assessment tool that allows instructors to design online assessments for students with a variety of question types and options. Instructors can choose from 11 question types, including multiple choice, fill-in, and essay, and Quizzes allows file uploads (great for showing work). (Please note that we use Classic Quizzes and not New Quizzes in our Canvas instance.)

Get Started with Canvas Quizzes:


For some subjects, assessing students is easier with hand-written work. Gradescope is a tool that facilitates the grading of hand-written work in an easier, more efficient, and more consistent way. It also allows better feedback for students with robust rubrics and comments. It can be used by any instructor and integrates with Canvas for roster sync and to push grades to the Canvas Gradebook.

Get Started with Gradescope:

Academic Integrity

Consider starting the exam with a Statement of Integrity which each student must read and acknowledge before starting the exam. Asking students to read a brief statement that reminds them that the exam is expected to reflect their own work and ideas—and having them confirm this as the first exam question—can help to remind them of the values of academic integrity and that they should honor them in taking the exam.

Grading Tools and Tips

You can choose to download all submissions in bulk or grade and provide feedback online using Canvas’ SpeedGrader. Here are some links that may prove useful: