Resources for instructors at the UMass Amherst College of Education who need to shift to using remote teaching methods to address academic disruptions.
Preparing for Spring 2021
Kate Hudson and Fred Zinn are available for individual and group consultations. Email us at DigitalLearning@umass.edu with with questions. We have regularly scheduled consultation hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 1:30-3:00 p.m. and Thursdays 10:30-noon. Reserve your slot at https://educ-remoteinstruction.as.me/. If you can't meet during the posted times, email us to make other arrangements.
This choice board: Preparing for Remote and Online Teaching is a good place to start working on your own (designed by Torrey Trust and Fred Zinn).
NEW THIS SEMESTER: Preview Week starts January 25, 2021
In Spring 2021, Moodle and Blackboard classes will be opened to students one week before classes begin so that students can review materials and find out what is expected of them. Make sure to prepare your course site for this release by making sure the top of the first page has the following:
- a link to your syllabus (in PDF or other accessible format)
- a clear statement on any attendance requirements - will you have live/synchronous meetings? are they required?
- a clear method for contacting you if students have questions (email, Zoom room, office hours)
- descriptions and links (if ready) to any other tools you will be using in the class, such as Google Docs, Echo360, Teams, or Flipgrid.
You should also prepare to hide anything that will not be ready for student eyes before January 25. Content can be easily hidden in Moodle and Blackboard, and then revealed when ready.
Addressing Uncertainty & Providing Structure
No matter how much we plan, we don’t know exactly what will happen as the pandemic continues. The best approach is to focus on essential objectives for a course so that they can be accomplished synchronously, asynchronously, face-to-face, and remote. Keep in mind that everyone is still dealing with local, national, and international emergencies. A typical fully-online course takes more than a few months to prepare even in the best circumstances. The recommendations on this page are to help you adapt however you can within your emotional and practical means. First and foremost, take care of yourself and your students.
Student lives will continue to be disrupted even as they continue to pursue their educational goals. Based on student experiences in 2020, what students want most is clear structure, social connection, and reassurance that their teachers will be flexible if necessary (Inside Higher Ed, 2020).
EdTech and UMass IT Support
The College of Education EdTech group can help with network access, computers, and software and can also help answer some remote learning questions. Check the EdTech resources page for answers to frequently asked questions.
The UMass Amherst IT Help Center can help as well, especially with problems related to NetIDs and SPIRE. UMass IT has also created a Technology Resource Hub for teaching, learning, working, and living at UMass. Contact the Help Center at IT@UMass.edu, 413-545-9400, or explore their extensive online documentation at their website: www.umass.edu/it/support.
Windows Virtual Desktop - All members of the University community can apply to have access to a comprehensive windows desktop and app space available virtually. Students can log in to virtual UMass computers that will allow them access to University licensed software required for classes.
Classroom Specialized software - If you are a faculty member that has a class that requires specialized software, you can work with UMass classroom to create a virtual classroom access.
College of Education Virtual Kiosks - The College of Education has repurposed our windows computer classroom to act as remote kiosks. These will allow for 29 simultaneous students to access the computers. These are not to replace the use of the students own computer but to supplement it with access to software they can not use themselves. Software on these computers include: Office, Adobe Creative Suite, SPSS, STATA, NVivo, R, and RStudio.
NOTE: if you have students that don't have a computer that is adequate for regular browsing and access to cloud products, please let them be aware of the emergency student fund.
Steps to take when preparing to teach remotely
First, Provide stability and structure
Create a Moodle class that serves as the hub for your class with contact info and links to important tools and resources. Review your syllabus and revise as needed to allow for flexible remote and/or face-to-face formats. Plan out communications for the semester so that you are regularly sending updates to students and they know what to expect.
Second, Promote online social connections
People learning remotely need social connections with instructors and classmates. There are many communities that are online and robust, even though their members may never have met in person. Creating spaces in Moodle (or other online platforms) where students can communicate casually will help build a more cohesive community, even if in-person meetings are still on hold.
Third: Make connections between learning objectives and activtities clear
The learning objectives in your syllabus should be clearly expressed and measurable. Make sure that when students start an activitiy, there is a clear description of how it links to the objectives for the course and future applications outside the course. If a student is unable to complete an activity as described (because of technical or personal issues), provide a clear alternative that is also an acceptable way to meet that objective.
Specific areas to consider when redesigning aspects of your class:
Facilitating Communication: Make sure your contact information and plans for remote learning are listed in a block at the top of your Moodle class. Set up an open Moodle discussion board where students can ask questions about the course and stay connected to each other. Consider recording a short casual video for students expressing support and outlining your plans for this remote learning period.
Course Materials: Confirm that all readings and resources are available online by uploading files or adding links to your Moodle site. If you only have paper versions, check the library for digital versions, or use the Furcolo copiers to scan digital versions.
Lectures: How can content that was going to be delivered during class as a lecture be delivered remotely? Before recording your own lectures, check online to see if there are videos or podcasts online that cover similar content. If you are already comfortable recording and posting videos, consider making a brief video expressing your support for students, or introducing some lighter moments (e.g., one instructor spent time introducing students to their dog.)
In-Class Discussions: For each reading or course topic, remind yourself of the key themes on which you want your students to reflect. Using discussion boards in Moodle is an effective approach. Live Zoom sessions can replicate the give and take of an in-person class in a small class, or by breaking a large class into groups. Since going remote, we've seen participants be more reluctant to speak up on camera, so using more structure (calling on speakers, setting a sequence of speakers) or text chat can help break the ice.
Assignments: Determine which assignments are relatively simple to complete remotely (e.g., a lit review.) You can have students pair up to support each other and review each other’s work either via email or assigning groups in Moodle. Consider making deadlines more flexible in case students need more time to complete their work.
Assessments: If you have high-stakes quizzes or exams, consider adjusting them to allow for open-book assessment. If you are tempted to implement some form of proctoring or surveillance to ensure "academic integrity" please talk to us about alternatives, surveillance tools and techniques are more effective at harming struggling students than they are at catching or discouraging dishonest activity. (See Resisting Surveillance Pedagogies for more information.)
In-Class Activities: Review the essential skills that you want students to learn and practice. Some may be able to be duplicated in an online platform. Others may involve students keeping a journal or videotaping themselves performing a task and submitting this for review and feedback.
Accessibility: Remember that all students will be under a lot of stress adapting to these disruptions. This can be especially disorienting for students with disabilities. Be flexible and as accommodating as possible. We are available for consultations.
If you find yourself stumped on how to replicate an essential teaching or learning activity remotely, we are happy to help you brainstorm and design a reasonable replacement.
Additional Instructional Support at UMass Amherst
Instructional Media Lab provides help with tools such as Moodle, Zoom, and Echo360 (and is staffed by supernaturally patient consultants).
Building Remote Community
- Creating Community in an Online Environment
- Developing Group Guidelines for Online Learning
- Preparing for Difficult Conversations during remote teaching
- Managing Difficult Conversations during Remote Teaching
- Tools and Techniques for Online Community Building
Remote Teaching Techniques
The Provost's Office provides a simple, straightforward approach on their Disruption-Resilient Instruction page. Including essential links to documentation for Moodle, Blackboard, and Zoom.
Torrey Trust gives excellent instructional advice this slide deck: “Teaching Remotely in Times of Need”. Including an overview of many tools that can support a variety of instructional objectives.
Rebecca Barrett-Fox, Arkansas State University, outlines some common sense advice to keep things simple in "Please do a bad job of putting your courses online"
Using Moodle to Manage a Course
Moodle is the simplest default method for supporting remote teaching and learning. Use Moodle to communicate with students, post course content, host written discussions, collect assignments, and more.
General Moodle Support - https://www.umass.edu/it/moodle
Requesting a Moodle course - https://www.umass.edu/it/support/spire/request-a-moodle-course-through-spire.
Different activity types in Moodle - https://www.umass.edu/it/support/moodle/activity-types-moodle.
Using Zoom to Host Live Discussions
Zoom is a fully functional video conferencing tool that can be used to hold live office hours and discussions. Features include creating break-out rooms within a conference, recording sessions, side text chat, live captioning, and transcriptions.
College of Education Zoom Tip Sheets:
- Zoom Tips for Hosts
- Zoom Tips for Participants
- Zoom Tips for Facilitating Video Discussions
- Zoom Tips for Security Settings
- Zoom Tips for Hosting Student Presentations
- Zoom Tips for Assessing Student Participation
- Zoom Tips for Captioning Recordings
- Zoom Tips for Using Breakout Rooms
- Zoom Tips for Using a Waiting Room
General Zoom Support - https://www.umass.edu/it/zoom
Using Zoom in Moodle - https://www.umass.edu/it/node/8433.
Accessibility features of Zoom - https://zoom.us/accessibility
Using Echo360 to Record and Post Videos
Echo360 offers more than in-class recording of lectures. Echo360 provides an easy way to post any kind of video content, as well as a “personal capture” tool that you can use to record you or your computer screen.
General Echo360 Support - https://www.umass.edu/it/lecture-capture
Requesting an Echo360 course - https://www.umass.edu/it/support/classroom-technologies/requestlecturecapture.
Downloading Echo360 Universal Personal Capture - https://admin.echo360.com/hc/en-us/articles/360035406011.
Other tools to consider
Google Apps at UMass Amherst provides a variety of tools that make it easier to do group work and collaborate from a distance. Using UMass Amherst accounts in Google Apps provides privacy protections for you and your students, and is FERPA compliant.
Otter.ai can provide transcripts from live recordings (via the app) or from uploaded audio files.