Resources for Faculty on Remote Teaching

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 a Flexible Fall 2020

Kate Hudson and Fred Zinn are available this summer for individual and group consultations. Email us at DigitalLearn@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. Additional support events and resources are in the works. These will be posted on this page and announced via email to the ED-FAC list.

The College's EdTech group can help with network access, computers, and software. Email questions any time to EdTech-ITHelp@umass.edu--our quickest response will be from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.  Monday - Friday. Drop-in Zoom hours are available Monday - Friday 10:00 a.m. - noon (request link via email). Check the EdTech resources page for answers to frequently asked questions.

If you are ready to start working on your own, start working through the short (5-10 minute) activities on this Preparing for Remote and Online Teaching choice board designed by Torrey Trust and Fred Zinn. 

Additional resources at UMass Amherst:

The Center for Teaching and Learning is offering phone and Zoom consultations and posts resources for remote teaching on their Keep Teaching  page. 

The Instructional Media Lab (instruct@umass.edu or 413-545-2823) provides help with tools such as Moodle, Zoom, and Echo360 (and is staffed by supernaturally patient consultants).

The IT Help Center (it@umass.edu or 413-545-9400) can help with general technology, software, troubleshooting, and accounts issues https://www.umass.edu/it/support.

Be mindful of possible phishing scams that take advantage of us all being at a distance. To report a suspicious email, forward as an attachment to ITProtect@umass.edu.

Addressing Uncertainty & Providing Structure

As of this writing, Fall 2020 is uncertain. No matter how much we plan, we don’t know exactly what will happen during the semester. The best approach will be to prepare elements of a class so that the essential objectives can be met if all or some of the students need to participate remotely. The benefit of this is that any structures you put in place to make a course work remotely will still work if it is face-to-face, and may even help make those face-to-face elements even more effective and precious. 

As in Spring 2020, this is still an emergency response. We have more time to prepare, but societal norms are still upended, and 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. 

As in Spring 2020, our focus is on students. Their lives will continue to be disrupted even as they continue to pursue their educational goals. Based on student experiences in Spring and early Summer 2020, what students want most is clear structure, social connection, and reassurance that their teachers will be flexible if necessary (Inside Higher Ed, 2020).

Read more: Michelle D. Miller, Northern Arizona University, Going Online in a Hurry: What to Do and Where to Start, Chronicle of Higher Education March 9, 2020.

Steps to take to plan for Fall

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 

In Spring 2020, most classes had the benefit of starting face-to-face, in Fall 2020, you may need to establish social connections remotely. 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 her students to her 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. With small classes a live Zoom session can replicate the give and take of an in-person class.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Resources 

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:

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.

 

This page will be updated regularly. If you have questions about this page, or resources to suggest, contact Fred Zinn at zinn@umass.edu