Pedagogical Guidance for Teaching Remotely
The Chicago Center for Teaching has provided the following Pedagogical Guidance for Remote Teaching (pdf) and Considerations for Inclusive Teaching in Remote Environments (pdf). Additional effective pedagogical practices are available below.
Articulate Your Learning Goals
Rather than starting with the tool (Zoom, Canvas, etc.), begin by thinking in concrete terms about what you want your students to know or be able to do as a result of the course. It is especially important to be mindful of and explicit about your learning goals in a remote setting, which is a less familiar context to students. A helpful framework for articulating learning goals is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Use it to help spur your own reflections on the specific intellectual aims you’d like to set for students in your course.
Align Teaching Strategies with Learning Goals
Articulate your teaching strategies at a goal-oriented level. Rather than “lecturing,” for example, think about “presenting content.” Notice that this allows you to conceptualize multiple possible teaching strategies for your course. For example, if your goal is to present content, you can do this with text and images on a page in Canvas; with synchronous video lecture in Zoom; with asynchronous video lecture in Panopto; etc.
Identify a Mix of Synchronous and Asynchronous Tools
Asynchronous tools include:
- Canvas pages with text, images, and/or video
- Discussion boards on Canvas
- Pre-recorded lecture videos using Panopto
- Polls, quizzes, and surveys in Canvas, Google, and Panopto
- Low-stakes writing uploaded to Canvas or a course blog
Set and Communicate Expectations
Transparent expectations are even more important in unusual circumstances, so consider posting these in an announcement on Canvas. Identify the “regular” expectations you establish for students and think through how to adapt those to a remote context. Some areas to consider:
- What are the various ways that students may participate in class (e.g. verbal discussion and/or text chat during a Zoom session, posting reflections in Canvas, etc.)? Good practice is to identify more than one option for students to engage with you and their peers and to practice and demonstrate their understanding.
- How might you adjust your deadlines and policy on late work?
- How can you allow for flexibility if students are in different time zones, are having difficulty accessing technology or the internet, or are otherwise facing challenging circumstances?
- What are the materials you expect for students to have access to? How can you provide these materials or different options for accessing them?
When you state expectations, try to account for different learning situations. For example, many students are unable to find quiet space at home from which to attend a Zoom class. Acknowledging this and providing alternate ways to engage will allow room for students to meet and exceed expectations.
Create an Inclusive Learning Environment
How can you design your course and your teaching to ensure that every student feels a sense of belonging and has an opportunity to learn? Think about the materials, norms, and practices that structure your students’ learning and that open up (or close off) opportunities to participate. To learn more about providing courses and materials accessible to all students, consult Planning Accessible Courses and the guidelines provided by Student Disability Services.
Some additional considerations:
- Provide asynchronous options for participation.
- Establish and maintain classroom community. Allow space and time for students to connect with you and as a class.
- Students might record or write a short reflection (perhaps posted on Canvas) on where and how they are working on course-related assignments.
- Engage students in a “temperature check” weekly. It is harder to tell how students are doing when you are in a virtual space, so this can help to get a read of the virtual room. It can also help students to feel more comfortable, warming up to speak online.
- If making videos, try to use a program that allows you to show your screen and your face, remembering that you are the human connection to the curriculum. Consider posting short videos in response to questions students post on a discussion forum.
- Articulate norms for your online space. Consider offering norms such as:
- Be present. Each class will be packed, so prepare yourself to be engaged throughout. Be free from distractions such as driving and/or multitasking.
- Call on students using the blue “raise hand” function in Zoom.
- Listen carefully to whomever is speaking in the virtual room.
- One mic. Try not to interrupt, and if you do, apologize.
- Use personal pronouns and gender-conscious language.
- We start on time and end on time.
- Gather feedback on how the class is going. Ask students for feedback on how well discussions are going and any technological or interactive challenges students may have. Offer opportunities for feedback in a variety of forms, including 5-minute free-writing posts to Canvas, an anonymous Google form, a targeted email, or using class time to invite students to text or talk on the phone with a peer in the class and then reporting out.
Online Approaches for Lecturing
Lecture based classes can rely on synchronous zoom lectures, deliver content asynchronously with recorded lectures, videos, PowerPoints, or audio, or combine formats that engage students in different ways.
If lecturing synchronously, consider:
- Building in elements of active participation to help students engage and follow material better:
- Interactive polling through Zoom or Poll Everywhere
- Zoom breakout rooms
- Accepting real-time questions with Zoom’s chat feature, and/or asking a course assistant to monitor chat functions and communicate with students
- Asking students to use Zoom’s “raise hand” feature to trigger discussion
If lecturing asynchronously, consider:
- Using Canvas discussion boards to create participation opportunities
- Including lecture comprehension checks with Panopto’s in-video quiz features
- Prompting review and reflection with quick-writes, digital-one minute papers, or Canvas surveys reflection
If using asynchronous tools in conjunction with synchronous lectures, ensure your content is still bounded within normal “in-class” time parameters. Students are continuing to manage a full course load remotely and extended lecture time via asynchronous/synchronous content pairings can create significant challenges.
If lecturing synchronously, ask a student or course assistant to keep time so that students can log on to their next class or get to other commitments.
Whether delivering content synchronously or asynchronously, however, it will be important to help students prepare for the learning experience. Consider:
- Using Canvas’ features to organize content with modules for each class session or topic addressed
- Clarifying learning goals and desired student outcomes in each lecture by pointing out topics or problems students should be prepared to tackle at the lesson’s conclusion
- Incorporating bridge activities that ask students to review the new material between class sessions to help prepare them for future classes and enhance learning and retention
Before a Class Session
- Consider providing key terms, unfamiliar words, dates, maps, images, or other information in advance on Canvas that you would have provided in real time on the board or in a PowerPoint presentation
- Assign pre-reading activities and other low-stakes class preparation such as study or discussion questions on Canvas to help students retain material better regardless of delivery mode
- Ask students to post questions on Canvas in advance of lecture to give you regular opportunities to gauge students’ level of engagement and evaluate if some would benefit from individual contact or support
After a Class Session
Managing Discussion-Based Instruction
Online Approaches for Discussions
Before a Live Discussion Session
- Consider providing questions to guide the reading students will be preparing or supplementary material that you may have brought in for consideration during a discussion
- Ask students to carry out low-stakes assignments to prepare. They could:
- develop their own discussion questions
- share questions with small groups to engage with peers
- post in a discussion forum
- Respond to others’ posts and upvote posts they’d like to discuss
- Consider asking students to try certain tasks outside of class that are challenging on Zoom, e.g. working out a math problem, listening to a music excerpt, etc. Use class time to discuss the task.
During a Live Discussion Session
- Share online annotation of texts or images for shared close readings and analysis
- Use Zoom’s breakout rooms for small group work
- Use polls or designate a small group “chair” to post group responses in the chat feature
After a Live Discussion Session
Assessing Student Learning
Translating Assessment Online
- Low-stakes quizzes are easily translatable online, as are reading reflections, essays, or other projects that students can submit using assignments on Canvas
- Grading and providing feedback is made easy using speedgrader
- Higher-stakes exams, on the hand, can pose challenges, given the difficulties with remote proctoring
Assessment Plan Ideas
Consider the following for your assessment plan (adapted from Indiana University):
- Embrace short quizzes. Short, low-stakes quizzes are a great way to keep students engaged and have them reflect on the material, particularly if they are interspersed with short video lectures.
- Move beyond simple facts. Basic recall questions can leverage the retrieval effect, helping students to reinforce new knowledge. But it is tempting to look up the answers to such questions, so think about moving higher up Bloom’s Taxonomy, with questions that ask students to apply concepts to new scenarios.
- Adapt expectations for student work. Remote instruction may limit students’ access to resources they need to complete papers or other projects. Team projects may still be possible—and an excellent use of time—but be flexible as teams face challenges with communicating and meeting. Be ready to adapt assignment expectations based on the limitations posed by unexpected or evolving events.
- Consider alternate exams. Delivering a secure exam online can be difficult without a good deal of preparation and support, so consider giving open-book exams or other types of exams.
Evaluate your assigned readings and other materials to ensure they can be accessed easily while students are remote. Bookstores and other content providers are experiencing significant delays and some students may be unable to access materials. Consider assigning materials that are available at low or no cost to accommodate students who would typically use the library copies.
- Flower Darby, “How to be a better online teacher,” Chronicle of Higher Education, .
- Flower Darby and James Lang, Small Teaching Online. Applying Learning Science in Online Classes (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, ).
- Jo Handelsman, Sarah Miller, Christine Pfund, Scientific Teaching (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, ).
- Kathryn E. Linder, Hybrid Teaching and Learning (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, ).
- Claire Howell Major, Teaching Online: A Guide to Theory, Research, and Practice (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, ).
- Michelle D. Miller, Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ).