When circumstances prevent you or your students from attending class in-person, keep teaching. This guide provides tips and resources for teaching online.
Before you get started, here are few things to think about:
What is your communication plan?
What are your realistic goals for continuing instruction?
Identify your priorities during the disruption: providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc.
How will you need to modify your syllabus?
How will your expectations for your students change?
- How will you ensure Inclusive Excellence so that all of your students can succeed?
First things first: make sure you are prepared to work remotely. Visit this ITS website for answers to frequently asked questions about working remotely.
There are two modes of instruction you can choose: teaching a live/synchronous (in real-time) class using live video conferencing or delivering your class asynchronously (not in real-time) using the university's Learning Management System, Canvas. You can also mix and match these providing some synchronous and some asynchronous elements in your course. You choose whatever works best for you and your students!
Finding and publishing your Canvas course
If you’ve never used Canvas before, you may not know how to find your Canvas course. In addition, you will need to publish your course and course material. Here are a couple of short videos to get you going:
- How to find your Canvas course (canvas.unl.edu)
- How to publish your Canvas course and course material
An important difference when teaching online instead of face-to-face is that you can no longer rely on being in the same place at the same time to convey important information. It is essential that you stay in close communication with your students about changes to the course, and it is recommended that you use multiple modes of communication to ensure that all students are receiving all pieces of information. Using a combination of email, Canvas announcements, and Canvas Inbox will allow you to create a sense of continuity from the classroom to the virtual world.
Whether you rely on email, announcements, or inbox messaging to communicate with your students, make sure you let them know when and where they can expect to receive updates. This is also a good opportunity to review your Canvas notification settings (and encourage your students to review their notification settings) to ensure reliable channels of communication.
Host a Live Session Using Zoom
You can schedule a virtual “live” class meeting or office hours using the Zoom video-conferencing application. You’ll need a computer with a microphone and webcam for this to work best (if you don’t have a webcam, you can still use this tool; your students will still be able to hear you, they just won’t be able to see you). Your students can join using a computer, tablet or even phone.
- Self-paced comprehensive Zoom training
- Instructions for setting up a Zoom meeting
- Create an announcement in Canvas announcing the virtual class session and including the URL to join. Your students can see the announcement in Canvas and will likely also receive it via email.
- Record your session so students who aren’t able to join in real-time can watch it later. Then share your recorded Zoom session by uploading the recorded video to the university's online video platform, Vidgrid. (Here are instructions about how to access Vidgrid.)
- Zoom Breakout rooms can be used to facilitate small group discussions. You can quickly and easily break your class up into groups and then bring the whole class back together when you’re ready.
Deliver Class Material Asynchronously Using Canvas
You can use Canvas to send announcements to your students, share course materials with them, collect assignments/assessments, or even facilitate online discussions. The easiest way to get going with Canvas is through the Modules page on your course. Here you can create and organize all of your course material and activities.
- How to find your Canvas course
- How to add a module to your Canvas course
- Adding Content
- How to add a file (document, spreadsheet, Powerpoint, PDF, etc.) to your canvas course. Note: Please see the "Record a Lecture" section below for information about sharing videos with your students.
- How to create a page in Canvas
- After you create your page, you will want to add it to your Modules page
- "Libraries Course Materials" provides a way to integrate libraries materials and other resources connected to your course in Canvas. This new tool is open for instructors and their courses in January 2022. To create a Libraries Course Materials list, contact Zach Eden (email@example.com) or submit a form through the Libraries Course Reserves page.
Make sure the "University Library Resources" link is accessible in the main navigation panel of the course
Facilitate a Class Discussion
Creating class discussions in Canvas allows students to respond to you and each other asynchronously (i.e., not in real-time). You can provide a prompt that asks students to discuss course material, reflect on how key concepts are linked to other fields of study or to their own experience, or share their works in progress, among other things.
- Instructions for creating Canvas discussions
- Check out these tips for creating and facilitating online discussions
Record a Lecture - Using Videos in your Course
For creating an online lecture or screencast, VidGrid allows you to record and share video and audio of your computer screen and webcam with your students. This makes creating a screencast and sharing it with students quick and easy.
- Instructions for accessing your VidGrid account
- Recording your first video & adding it to your Canvas course
- If you have existing videos that you want to share with students, you can upload those to VidGrid as well. Do not put those videos in your Canvas files area as that area has limited storage.
Have Students Submit an Assignment
You can avoid overloading your email inbox by requiring students to submit assignments using the Canvas Assignment tool. Students can submit multiple types of files (Word Docs, pdf, PowerPoint files, etc.) or just enter a plain text response:
- How to create an assignment in Canvas
- How to give feedback on and grade assignments in Canvas
- How to create an assignment rubric
You can give exams or quizzes using the Canvas Quiz tool. The quiz tool in Canvas is used to assess student progress through quizzes, exams, or surveys. If you currently use the campus testing center to proctor your exams, you should consider whether you want to modify your exams or perhaps consider another type of assessment.
- How to create a quiz in Canvas (ignore the Select Quiz Engine step in these instructions).
- If you want to use the quiz feature to create more complex tests that can help prevent cheating, check out these instructions to create question groups.
The Canvas Gradebook is a comprehensive resource that allows you to add, edit, and review grades. You can also provide feedback to your students in this environment, which helps alleviate student questions and helps them identify areas for improvement. Speedgrader is directly integrated which assists with time spent grading, consistency, and ease when grading assignments submitted online.
- How do I use the Gradebook?
- How do I manually enter and edit grades in Canvas Gradebook?
- How do I hide grades while I am grading?
Creating Groups of Students in Canvas
There are many reasons why you might want to create groups in Canvas. Maybe you have a group project you want students to work on. Maybe you are teaching a high enrollment course and want to break your students into discussion groups. Whatever your motivation, Canvas has a robust group tool that can help.
- How to create Groups in Canvas
- How to create Group Discussions in Canvas
- How to create Group Assignments in Canvas
Where to Get Help
Canvas Live Support
If you need help using Canvas, Canvas Live support is available 24 hours a day. You can access Canvas live support by clicking the question mark button in the lower-left corner of your Canvas menu. There you will find information about calling Canvas support or chatting with them online.
The Center for Transformative Teaching Instructional Design Team
Instructional Designers from the Center for Transformative Teaching are available to help guide you through the process of moving your course online. Visit the Center for Transformative Teaching's directory for information on how to get in touch with an Instructional Designer.
Information Technology Services (ITS)
Information Technology Services (ITS) offers a broad range of services including Canvas, Zoom, Box, VidGrid, and more. To get help with these services, submit a request at https://its.unl.edu/canvas-support-request/
In addition to the resources listed above, some colleges have their own resources to provide support for faculty:
- Arts & Sciences
- Engineering: Engineering and Computing Education Core
- Business: College of Business Instructor Resources "Keep Teaching" or Schedule a meeting with an Instructional Designer
If you're looking to step-up your online teaching, we recommend also reviewing these resources:
- Getting Started
- Where to Get Help
- College-Specific Resources