A desk scene with laptop, pad of paper and stationary.

Remote teaching

We have all survived the emergency experience of moving our teaching and learning to a remote delivery. It was not easy and there are many things we learned and many things we would do differently. We all did the best we could using approaches that worked in the short term and allowed us to complete our courses.

As we start the winter 2021 semester, there is more time to prepare and plan for the semester. We recommend you keep things simple and manage what you can. There are so many options, ideas and technology you can consider. It is key that you find what works for you and balance quality, engagement and simplicity for both you and your students.   

Remote instruction

Remote and Online teaching are different and it is important to make the distinction. Remote teaching is used as a short- to medium-term solution when interruption of face-to-face class delivery occurs and the only option to continue delivery is through remote means. It is an alternate delivery mode that uses synchronous and asynchronous technologies to best meet the learning outcomes. The goal is to complete teaching and learning of the course learning outcomes through a variety of remote techniques leveraging Blackboard and other technologies (e.g. WebEx, Screencast, etc.) as much as possible. The understanding is that courses taught in this manner will eventually return to the delivery model for which the courses were designed.  

Laptop on a desk in an office style setup.

Online teaching is an instructional delivery format where all material, interactions and learning occur in a virtual (not face-to-face, with the use of technology) format. Effective online teaching and learning requires careful instructional design and planning, using a systematic model for design and development. At Georgian, participation in the intense Online Course Development Program (OCDP) supports faculty in the effective execution and delivery for online learning following the Quality Matters requirements. 

When planning for your remote course, considerations and flexibility should be given that neither students nor instructors have a choice about using remote teaching and learning approaches. In contrast, online courses are designed for their medium.  

Before you begin

When designing a course for remote instruction, flexibility is important. In this pandemic situation, students have not chosen to take a remote course. They are being required to take courses remotely and many have not even have encountered remote learning or an online course before. 

In a recent survey by Georgian College (October 2020), the top three academic issues concerning remote students were:

  1. difficulty focusing or paying attention to remote instruction;
  2. unclear expectations around course requirements and assignments; and
  3. lack of motivation or desire to complete coursework.
"Chapter 1 Where do we begin" written on the pages of a book.

Requirements of remote learning

Accessibility matters. Students may have limited access to essential materials for an online course or even to an environment that is suitable for concentration and learning. For example, students may not have a printer, have poor or no internet access, not have a calm place to work, or not have a suitable device. 

It is vital to remember that we are working through a global pandemic. Students, their family members, and/or their friends may experience risky health challenges related to COVID-19 as well as those that otherwise arise. Because of pandemic-related travel limitations, some students will be working in a different time zone. In addition to challenges that such time zone differences create that relate to delivery of live (synchronous) content, students also have other obligations associated with their presence in those remote locations (e.g. caring for family members or helping with a family business). 

printer icon

Printer

wifi icon

Internet access

calm face icon

Calm place to work, free of distractions

computer with checkmark icon

Computer

stethoscope icon

Health (student and family members)

clock icon

Time (family responsibilities, business, time zones)

Many students are living with pandemic-induced challenges in addition to accessibility needs. Georgian College offers full support for students through Student Services, and designing your course by considering these needs from the start can benefit everyone and save time later. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework and set of principles that maximizes learning opportunities for all learners.  

This section is adapted from Remote teaching: a practical guide with tools, tips, and techniques by Authors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Learning Online to Teach Remotely (LOTTR)

The Centre for Teaching and Learning offers a four week online series, Learning Online to Teach Remotely (LOTTR) and Learning Online to Teach Remotely: next steps (LOTTR next steps).

The series will help guide you through the process of designing and developing a remote course.   

How to register 

Please register using the Halogen system. If you need assistance with registration, please contact Debora Moore

Communicating expectations

What can students expect in your remote/online class environment? How can they expect to receive feedback? What if they have to be late or can’t join the online session at all? As with all teaching, the clearer you can be about what is expected and why, the more successful you and your students will be. 

Humanizing your course means “faculty intentionally cultivate an inclusive learning environment that fosters psychological safety and trust and forms connections that grow into relationships and a community. With an emphasis on presence, empathy, and awareness, faculty become warm demanders and students apply themselves at a higher level to not let down their learning partner.”

You may wish to record a short video, which you could distribute to your students before your first class, in which you introduce yourself, you talk them through any new features or expectations of the course. Review some sample welcome videos. You can also encourage students to complete a pre-course survey or a Flipgrid, which invites students to share information about themselves and demonstrates that you are interested in them as humans. A week before course begins is “high opportunity zone” for contact (Pacansky-Brock & Torres,  2020). Sharing by email promotes equity and ensures access for all. 

Questions? 

Please email any member of the Humanizing team (Jill, Kelly, Kim or Tracy) with questions. We hope to see you in any or all of the upcoming sessions! 

Communicate classroom expectations

It may not always be obvious to students that joining a WebEx or Microsoft Teams session is functionally equivalent to walking into a classroom. It’s a good idea to remind your students that the same principles apply to online courses as to on-campus meetings; they should behave professionally, treat others with courtesy and respect, use language thoughtfully, wear appropriate clothing and avoid inappropriate surroundings.  

View more information and tips on creating safe spaces in the virtual classroom

Woman pointing at a whiteboard in a meeting.

Pacansky-Brock, M. (2020). How to humanize your online class, version 2.0 [Infographic].  https://brocansky.com/humanizing/infographic2 

Syllabus

A well-designed syllabus serves as a road map for the semester and communicates to students the expectations to be successful in your course. It should reflect thoughtful course and instructional planning, which facilitates achievement of course learning outcomes. Which aspects of the course require logging on at a specified time, and which can be completed asynchronously? This is especially important given that your students may be distributed across many different time zones. The syllabus should be revisited with each course delivery. 

Elements of a well-designed syllabus

Some common items to include in your syllabus are:

  • basic information (e.g. your name, office location, email, voicemail) 
  • required instructional resources (e.g. texts, tools, software) 
  • your educational philosophy and instructional approach 
  • weekly learning topics 
  • types and number of assessments (e.g. quizzes, essays) 
  • value of each assessment 
  • due dates 
person wearing a blue knit sweater writing notes and holding a white coffee mug

Syllabus statements during remote delivery

The following sample adjusted syllabus statement is shared open access by Brandon Bayne (@brandonbayne on Twitter), associate professor of Religious Studies at UNC – Chapel Hill and is available for all to use and modify. 

Nobody signed up for thisGeorgian College Chevron
  • Not for the sickness, not for the social distancing, not for the sudden end of our collective lives together on campus 
  • Not for an online class, not for teaching remotely, not for learning from home, not for mastering new technologies, not for varied access to learning materials 
The humane option is the best optionGeorgian College Chevron
  • We are going to prioritize supporting each other as humans 
  • We are going to prioritize simple solutions that make sense for the most
We cannot just do the same thing onlineGeorgian College Chevron
  • Some assignments are no longer possible 
  • Some expectations are no longer reasonable 
  • Some objectives are no longer valuable 
We will foster intellectual nourishment, social connection and personal accommodationGeorgian College Chevron
  • Accessible asynchronous content for diverse access, time zones, and contexts 
  • Optional synchronous discussion to learn together and combat isolation 
We will remain flexible and adjust to the situationGeorgian College Chevron
  • Nobody knows where this is going and what we’ll need to adapt 
  • Everybody needs support and understanding in this unprecedented moment 

Students may struggle during this pandemic and other times, too and require assistance beyond the classroom. Consider supporting students by connecting them to resources available at Georgian College.  Here is a sample you may consider adding to your syllabus: 

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. Furthermore, please notify the professor if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable her to provide any resources that she may possess.

Adapted from Basic Needs Security and the Syllabus

Building community

In a remote learning setting, students don’t have the opportunities to connect with each other that they’re used to, such as conversations between classes. Here is one way to help students build connections with each other in an online space:   

  • You may wish to start with a land acknowledgement .
    • NativeLand.ca includes an interactive map that can be used to identify Indigenous territories. 
  • You may also wish to explicitly tell students that they are welcome in the course. 
  • Next, you can help students feel welcome by making introductions between students.
    • It works well with everyone together for small classes (less than 15 students), and in breakout rooms for larger classes.
    • Alternatively, you can use Flipgrid for an interactive, asynchronous activity. 

Building community and ensuring a good experience in an online environment includes a number of concepts, including building online presence both synchronously and asynchronously. 

You are welcome here
You are welcome here, a periodic table that demonstrates and invites diversity in science, by Anne McNeil and John Megahan.

Trauma-informed teaching in remote courses

Trauma impacts a student’s ability to learn which means difficulty with planning, focusing, remembering, time management and self-regulation. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the social isolation and loneliness during these times present significant emotional and physical health risks that make us feel disconnected and put us on high alert, triggering the body’s stress response. 

As teachers, we need to recognize that everyone is under some form of stress and that everyone deals with and reacts to stress in different ways. Most importantly, we must acknowledge that this will show up in our classrooms. 

Trauma-informed teaching. Grey background with a head made of puzzle pieces. Colourful butterfly on top of the head.

Georgian offers many services to support students throughout the school year.  Review Georgian’s remote learning and supports for students.   

Additional sourcesGeorgian College Chevron

Trauma-informed teaching and learning podcast with Mays Imad https://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/trauma-informed-teaching-and-learning/ 

KQED. (n.d.). Four Core Priorities for Trauma-Informed Distance Learning. Retrieved from KQED: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/55679/four-core-priorities-for-trauma-inf… 

ResilientEducator. (n.d.). Essential Trauma-Informed Teaching Strategies for Managing Stress in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://resilienteducator.com/classroom-resources/trauma-informed-teachi… 

Teaching Tolerance. (n.d.). A Trauma-Informed Approach to Teaching Through Coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/a-trauma-informed-approach-to-teachin… 

Asynchronous learning

Instructors prepare course materials for students, which they can access at their own time and pace and will interact with each over a longer period (usually one week). Instructors may choose to engage their students both synchronously or asynchronously depending on the course content or material that needs to be taught.  

Advantages of asynchronous teaching 

  • Higher levels of temporal flexibility, which may simultaneously make the learning experiences more accessible to different students and make an archive of past materials accessible. 
  • Increased cognitive engagement since students will have more time to engage with and explore the course material. 

Disadvantages of asynchronous teaching 

  • Students may feel less personally exchanged and less satisfied without the social interaction between their peers and instructors. 
  • Course material may be misunderstood or have the potential to be misconstrued without the real-time interaction. 

College-supported tools for asynchronous teaching 

Screencast-o-Matic

Screencast-o-Matic is a free service. However, you are limited to creating 15-minute videos. To record longer screencasts and access other features, you will access to the Pro Recorder. To get the Pro Recorder, please email Alissa Bigelow.

Before you begin, you will need: 

  • a laptop (or desktop computer) and a microphone. We recommend a good quality USB microphone;
  • a free Screencast-o-matic account. You will need that to be able to share your screencast with students and faculty. Alternatively, you can use YouTube to store your video, which requires a YouTube account to do this; and
  • optional: earphones or headphones for listening to the audio of your screencast. If your earphones or headphones have a built-in microphone, you can use it to improve the sound of your screencast. 

Other tools for asynchronous learning 

To learn more about the many digital learning tools available to facilitate asynchronous online and learning, please visit the learning technologies section of our website. 

Synchronous learning

Instructors and students gather at the same time and interact in real time, with a very short or near real time exchange between instructors and students. 

Advantages of synchronous teaching 

  • Immediate personal engagement between students and instructors, which may create greater feelings of community and lessen feelings of isolation.
  • More responsive exchanges between students and instructors, which may prevent miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Disadvantages of synchronous teaching 

  • More challenging to schedule shared times for all students and instructors. 
  • Some students may face technical challenges or difficulties if they do not have fast or powerful Wi-Fi networks accessible.

College-supported tools for synchronous teaching 

At Georgian all faculty, staff and students have access to WebEx.

To log in, use your standard Georgian College credentials.

For tutorials on WebEx including getting started and how to schedule and join meetings, review help resources on the WebEx website or the WebEx support section of Georgian’s website. 

student wearing a brown hijab and headphones looking at a laptop screen and taking notes with a pen

Delivering lectures

Depending on your course, you may need to deliver some lectures to keep the course moving along. Be aware, though, that a 45-minute live lecture sprinkled with questions and activities can become grueling when delivered online without intellectual breaks.

Ways to improve online lectures

Below are a few suggestions to help you improve your online lectures.

Record in small chunks

Even the best online speakers keep it brief; think of the brevity of TED talks. We learn better with breaks to process and apply new information. To aid student learning, record any lectures in shorter chunks (e.g. five to 10 minutes each) and intersperse them with small activities that give students opportunities to process the new knowledge, make connections to other concepts, apply an idea, or make some notes in response to prompts. Smaller chunks also lead to smaller files, especially when using voice-over PowerPoint presentations. 

Be flexible with live video

Lecturing live with WebEx is certainly possible, and it best approximates a classroom setting, since students can ask questions. However, a crisis might mean some students won’t have access to fast internet connections, and others may have their schedules disrupted. So, record any live classroom session, and be flexible about how students can attend and participate. 

It’s not just about content

Information related to COVID-19 is constantly changing and faculty may find they need to change their delivery. This may mean faculty need to move their lecture from synchronous to asynchronous but recognizing that lectures are more than just providing course content; they also establish a sense of normalcy and a personal connection. Instructor presence is important  so, consider ways that you can use lectures to make students feel connected and cared about: acknowledgement of current challenges, praise for good work, and reminders about the class being a community. This effective work can help their learning during a difficult time. 

Do's and don'ts for remote learning

Handwriting online 

Being able to hand write and share online is important for many disciplines such as math, physics, organic chemistry or art.

  1. Consider having two or three options for students to balance the technology they may or may not have available. 
    • The lowest tech option involves handwriting on paper,  photographing, then uploading the image.
    • Some students will have tablets (e.g., iPad, Microsoft Surface).
    • Use the video conference platform whiteboard.
  1. Identify a method for students to share their drawings.
    • Consider screen sharing, dropping files into the video conference chat, posting into a collaborative document (e.g. Google Docs), uploading to Blackboard (e.g. as an assignment, in a forum) or uploading to a submission folder. 
  1. Alternatively, use a software designed for collaboration.

Behaviour issues 

Serious issues

  • Serious issues like uninvited participants making rude, racist or sexist comments:
    • Remove the participant and either lock the video conference or enable the waiting room so that you control any other entrances.

Off-topic

  • Participants getting off-topic, spamming the chat with emoticons, etc.:
    • Ask participants to keep the messages focused on the conversation at hand.

Disruptions

  • Student being disruptive, lacking professionalism: 
    • Gently ask them to return to the topic at hand or to stop the action (e.g. scribbling on whiteboard, talking over someone else). Assume the best, and that the student doesn’t realize the effects of their behaviour.
    • Send an individual chat message or email.
    • If the behaviour is really inappropriate (e.g. racist comment), tell the student to stop immediately and publicly; this not only stops the behaviour, but shows all participants that you will protect them and the learning space.
    • Remind the student that everyone is there to learn, has paid for the course, committed time and energy, and given up other activities to be here. 
    • If needed, mute their microphone; sometimes people leave their microphone on by accident and start talking to someone in their household, a pet, etc. 
    • You could also send out a general reminder to all students about the importance of mutual respect in the course.

This section is adapted from Remote teaching: a practical guide with tools, tips, and techniques by Authors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


Plan ahead when teaching or discussing sensitive topics

  • Advise students of the topic ahead of time and make participation optional. 
  • Remember that some students may have an academic accommodation that gives them the right to audio record. If there are conversations where personal information may be shared, here are some options: 
    • If the personal information being shared is unrelated to course content, you can request that students stop recording. 
    • If you want to use real case examples where identity could be compromised, take precautions to preserve the confidentiality of individuals or don’t share the particular case if confidentiality or identity may be compromised. 

View more information and tips on creating safe spaces in the virtual classroom