Teaching Remotely

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.

General Approach

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.

PowerPoint slide illustrating Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
Generating new ideas, products, or ways of viewing things​
Designing, constructing, planning, producing, inventing​
Justifying a decision or course of action​
Checking, hypothesizing, critiquing, experimenting, judging
Breaking information into parts to explore understandings & relationships​
Comparing, organizing, deconstructing, interrogating, finding​
Using information in another familiar situation​
Implementing, carrying out, using, executing​
Explaining ideas or concepts​
Interpreting, summarizing, paraphrasing, classifying, explaining​
Recalling information​
Recognizing, listing, describing, retrieving, naming, finding​

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.

PowerPoint slide illustrating goal-oriented teaching strategies
Think “one level up,” in a broader, more goal-oriented fashion.

  • Instead of “lecture”​, think “present content”​
  • Instead of “discussion”​, think “exchange ideas and perspectives”​
  • Instead of “quiz”​, think “check for understanding; processing; reflection”


Identify a Mix of Synchronous and Asynchronous Tools

The advantage of synchronous tools like Zoom is that it more closely approximates a face-to-face learning experience than students consuming content on Canvas or watching a pre-recorded video from Panopto. But synchronous tools have limits: internet bandwidth requirements for video; students being in different time zones; and student attention and engagement being taxed in long Zoom sessions. When you do go synchronous, consider limiting it and intentionally supplementing with an asynchronous follow-up. For example, you might do a 20-minute Zoom lecture during your canonical class time, and then ask students to complete an activity on their own which they upload to Canvas. Be sure to record the session and make it available to students who missed.

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?

Student Suggestion

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.

Lecturing Online

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

Student Suggestion

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

Bridge the time between class sessions with low-stakes writing, review quizzes, discussion forums, and other activities and exercises. This will provide a way for students to demonstrate their learning, ask questions about what may still be puzzling to them, and build on skill sets and knowledge just acquired. It will also help them better prepare for upcoming higher stakes projects, tests, papers, and labs.

Managing Discussion-Based Instruction

Online Approaches for Discussions

Whether you decide to deliver content with a synchronous zoom discussion session, or incorporate discussion elements with asynchronous tools, helping students read, reflect, and prepare will be critical.

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

After a discussion you may want to provide opportunities for students to review, reflect, and continue the discussion with their peers. A low stakes quiz is another way to make sure students mastered material covered in a live discussion or asynchronous module. Asking students to follow up on work done during a live discussion can improve learning and retention; requiring students to post on canvas and respond to peers offers another way to bridge class sessions or modules.

Assessing Student Learning

Approaching Assessment

Assessment of student learning means thinking about the work we ask students to complete so they can practice and get feedback on their learning, and so that instructors can evaluate their understanding. This captures both graded student work—essays, quizzes, exams, projects—which can help students be accountable for their learning, as well as low-stakes, informal, ungraded activities that allow students (and instructors) to check-in on their understanding.

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.

Student Suggestion

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.

Additional Resources