Teaching online

Last changed: 18 August 2020

The outbreak of the corona virus means that all teaching at SLU must be conducted online with digital tools. On this page you will find tips on how to change your teaching from the traditional classroom to online teaching.

Things to consider when you teach online

Now that we all have to teach online so that students do not need to come to campus, there are some things to consider.

Create a clear structure

When teaching is conducted online and students are mainly working from home, courses and course sections need to be very clearly organized. Often, experience shows that organization is very important in all online teaching.

Give clear instructions

Detailed syllabi with schedules, instructions, and dates for deadlines, synchronous video meetings, etc. are extremely valuable. When students are sitting in different locations, they may also need help setting up collaboration opportunities with other students. If students are expected to work in groups or give each other feedback on written or other work, they may need clear guidelines for how this is expected to occur.

Activate your students

When teaching online, it is more difficult to hold students’ attention for longer periods of time. Therefore, consider having shorter teaching sessions with planned pauses for questions or discussions among students. Another pedagogical concept that works well by distance is “flipped classroom”, where students can watch a filmed lecture, read texts, or write something that will be submitted for others to read. You can use the time during online meetings for whole-class discussions, group discussions, or other group work. It is easier for students to stay focused if they themselves are active.

Accommodate special needs

When making a sudden shift to online teaching—which is now the case for most—teachers need to pay extra attention to students with special needs. Which adaptations of teaching or which special solutions will be needed for these students? Structure can be especially important. It may even be useful to provide extra time for different tasks.

Another consideration is to not have online meetings that are very long. It can be difficult to stay concentrated online, as there are many things that can distract us when we sit at our computers. Avoid sudden changes, even if you wish to address current events or issues. Provide texts that should be read in advance so that those who need time to read do not need to do it during the lesson. Also, test your sound and video before your start teaching online.

Assignments to be submitted

Traditional home exams as a learning activity

Home exams can be given in many different ways. Different exams can be more/less useful depending on the disciplinary content and on students’ previous experiences.. A more comprehensive home exam often works well as a regular learning activity for the course. It is not unusual for students to work on home exams for a few days, or even up to two weeks. However, it is important to be clear when the teaching activity is over, when the actual exam begins, and when it is time for evaluation.

A common type of home exam is one where students receive three or four general questions to work with. Answering questions of this kind should normally require students to use a breadth of knowledge that they are expected learn during the course. Most often, students have several days to provide the often comprehensive answers that are expected. In order to encourage students’ interest and prevent cheating, many teachers often add a personal element to the question, e.g., that students should provide answers based upon a garden close to where they live, reflect upon a personal experience, or comment on a company/organization that they have experience working with.

Of course, home exams can occur in many other forms, but teachers always need to prepare the exam with consideration to the fact that students have literature, the Internet, people around them, etc. Therefore, home exams are rarely appropriate for testing factual knowledge. However, teachers can effectively test even factual knowledge under the conditions that this part of a more comprehensive analysis that students are expected to conduct.

Assignments in Canvas

Assignments to be submitted in Canvas are suitable when the student is expected to write longer texts. These can be checked with Urkund and be organized by date and time.

Project assignments

Students can work with different kinds of project tasks online, both individually and in groups. Group project assignments can be a good way to create a social context for students who are working from home; otherwise, there is a risk that loneliness and the feeling of being left to fend for oneself can negatively affect students’ motivation. If teachers can use project assignments to help students begin interacting amongst themselves, it is also possible that student cooperation will continue with other academic work.

Project assignments are often used to help students learn how to collaborate in ways that will prepare them for working life, and students often experience project work as being more authentic. Project assignments can be of a practical or theoretical nature. Students can use different kinds of locally-collected data and then analyze it online in relation to the course; students can also do theoretical analyses or literature reviews.

Assignments in Canvas
Assignments to be submitted in Canvas are suitable when the student is expected to write longer texts. These can be checked with Urkund and be organized by date and time.

Groups in Canvas
You can divide students into different working groups in Canvas. Each group will receive their own work space where they can discuss, collaborate, and share files. As the teacher, you can follow the students’ group work.

Read and write

If we go further back in time, distance teaching meant that students received literature and material by mail, read, and completed different kinds of written assignments related to the literature. These completed assignments were then sent back to the teacher for correction and feedback. We can work with this basic method today as well and make use of more modern features such as peer feedback, collaborative writing, or serial writing (where one student builds upon what others have written).

Assignments in Canvas
Assignments to be submitted in Canvas are suitable when the student is expected to write longer texts. These can be checked with Urkund and be organized by date and time.

Lectures

Live

A quick way to convert planned lectures into online teaching is to lecture online. When lecturing online, keep in mind that it can be more difficult to engage students and get them to ask questions or participate in other ways. It can be helpful to have longer pauses for students’ questions, or you can even ask students for direct feedback.

At SLU, the best tool we have for giving live lectures online is Zoom. In Zoom, teachers can create a room where they can lecture and interact with students. If the teacher wishes, all who participate in the lecture can both speak and write in the meeting room chat. Also, the teacher can allow students to discuss in small groups by using what are known as breakout rooms.

Zoom for teaching
With Zoom, you can share sound and use your video camera and screen for presentations, and you can also record your lectures while you teach.

Zoom breakout rooms
Let students discuss in small groups by joining breakout rooms.

Record video in advance

Another solution can be to record your lecture in advance as a video film; this way, PowerPoint presentations can be shown. If you record a film, consider that it can be tiring to listen to a recorded lecture— even more so than when attending a live lecture with the possibility of interaction. Divide your recorded lecture into several shorter films (max 20 minutes).

Use Kaltura Capture

Upload films in Canvas

Record in PowerPoint

Filming your computer screen

Educational Media (”Utbildningsmedia”)
Educational Media can help you to record high-quality lectures with a more professional result.

Record sound

You can even record your lecture only using sound; if you wish, you can also give students access to your lecture slides in addition to the sound recording. The advantage with sound-only recordings is that it does not require the same kind of Internet access, and students can complete the learning activity even if they are not sitting in front of a screen. In principle, it is sometimes even better to have longer, more structured lectures with only sound than having these as video lectures.

Start by recording 30 seconds and then listen to the result. It is important that you are satisfied with the quality. Try to minimize any noticeable background sounds.

Your mobile phone 
Today, nearly all mobile phones can be used to record sound with good quality.

Kaltura in Canvas
Video tool in Canvas that can also be used to record only sound.

Audacity
EA free, open-source program to record and edit sound.

Seminars

Live

The fastest way to move a planned campus seminar online is to use Zoom. A seminar with a limited number of participants often works quite well in Zoom, much in the same way as it does in an actual classroom environment. Most importantly, the teacher should have already become familiar with Zoom ahead of time, and the teacher and students should all be ready to use a videocamera and headset. It is also important that all participants enter the Zoom room ahead of the scheduled start time so that any technical difficulties can be resolved without using the seminar time.

Zoom for teaching
With Zoom, you can share sound and use your video camera and screen for presentations, and you can also record your lectures while you teach.

Discussion in written format

To conduct seminar discussions in a discussion forum usually requires extending the time so that participants do other things when not contributing to the discussion orally. In this type of discussion, participants are not as focused on the actual conversation; on the other hand, they have more time for reflection between their own contributions to the discussion. This different kind of discussion structure means that discussion forums are not suitable for all kinds of learning that a teacher hopes will occur in a seminar.

Many teachers experience the other alternative for distance seminars in written form, the chat forum, as being difficult to work with. However, this can work well contexts where each contribution to the discussion is expected to be brief, or when participants do not have a good Internet connection.

Discussions in Canvas
Discussion forum where students can discuss, collaborate, and complete assignments together.

Groups in Canvas
You can divide students into different working groups in Canvas. Each group will receive their own work space where they can discuss, collaborate, and share files. As the teacher, you can follow the students’ group work.

Field work/excursions

Filming

Different kinds of outdoor or off-campus exercises are a common occurrence in many education programs. Completing such exercises online and from home are a challenge, especially when these are usually done in groups. You can choose to film these visits/excursions that you would have visited together so that students can complete work at home using such films as a starting point.

You can even have students find places and objects that they themselves can film and submit (remember to tell students that they themselves must be present in the films, and that these recordings should be short). Similar to the flipped classroom method, films can serve as starting point for online discussions, student films can serve as a response to questions related to the film(s) that you yourself have put on Canvas.

Having direct contact via mobile phones is possible, but the quality of the mobile network reception and the size of the group may pose challenges. Therefore, such contact is uncertain and difficult to plan for. Unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary to substitute an excursion or fieldwork with project work or an assignment for submission. In some cases, visits cannot be substituted when students are required to train certain manual skills, use olfactory senses, or to make judgments based upon being inside a particular physical location.

Record with a mobile phone

Upload films to Canvas

Online assessment

When assessing online, there are some things to keep in mind. Here is some brief information and advice for each step of the process: 1) preparing, 2) conducting, and 3) giving feedback after an online assessment. In this summary you will find ideas and suggestions, but it is important to remember to always adapt the assessment to the type of knowledge you would like the student to show and produce.

External resources

SVERD
Resources and advices from experts for digital transformation. 
Online resource

Page editor: LD-WEBB@SLU.SE