The following links offer resources for teaching, learning, and student support at a distance. Many focus on making a quick transition to online teaching and the basics of doing so. Some focus specifically on the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Several provide in-depth information, advice, and insight.
We’re not ending the semester as we had hoped – and it is worthwhile to pause and acknowledge what, to many, is a sense of disappointment. It is also important to note that, given the shift to online class meetings during Finals Week, many faculty are engaged in rethinking how they will assess student learning at the close of the semester. It is also true that many of your students may be experiencing illness related to being Covid positive, and may be asking for extensions on that work.
This message provides some critical information, suggestions, and guidance.
Final grades are due to be submitted on Wednesday, May 18th at 10am. If a student or group of students in your class needs an extension for turning work in, it would be appropriate to use an Incomplete. When you enter an Incomplete, you will be required to enter a deadline for the extension and a default grade if the work is not completed. I recommend not choosing the “default” extension deadline, but rather choosing a deadline that is appropriate to the situation (yours and the students’) and the level of work to be accomplished in service of a grade. I acknowledge this – entering an Incomplete – requires an extra step for faculty as tyou are entering grades, and it requires follow-up on your part; but this the most accurate representation of the grade-in-progress, a humane and compassionate way to deal with student needs, and it gives faculty the ability to update the grade via Self Service once the work is complete.
Faculty may also want to rethink the way that we assess student achievement of learning outcomes in the course. Faculty could consider offering open book/note/resources essay exams rather than a traditional in-class, resource blind format, for instance; faculty could consider presentations over Zoom in place of in class finals and presentations, or alternative assignments to group projects where groups are impacted by Covid. Faculty may also want to engage in online assessment, and I’m happy to provide here some guidance from our Instructional Technologists, to accomplish that.
Recommendations for creation and use of online assessments
For directions on how to create assessments please see the Blackboard support page.
Please use these resources which provide the best practices in online testing preparation for instructors.
Please provide these resources to students, re: best practices in online testing. And, please share these resources for students prior to your testing period so that they may be prepared ahead of time as well.
As always, please remember that the Academic and Emerging Technologies team provide support and Drake Online have instructional designers and technologists who can help with troubleshooting both technical and pedagogical issues that involve educational technology use.
To request help from Academic and Emerging Technologies, please use: https://drake.teamdynamix.com/TDClient/2025/Portal/Requests/ServiceDet?ID=51078
To request help from Drake Online, please use:
To request help in designing or rethinking end-of-term assessments, conversation about meeting students’ needs in reasonable ways, or moral support and gratitude in general from the Deputy Provost, please email: email@example.com
These resources and documents are designed to help you develop and design courses for virtual instruction.
What can students expect in your online class environment? How can they show they are participating, and how can they expect to receive feedback? What if they have to be late or can’t join the online session at all? We have compiled some suggestions for how to make sure both you and your students are clear on what to expect from the class. As with all teaching, the clearer you can be about what is expected and why, the more successful you and your students will be.
You may wish to record a short video, which you could distribute to your students before your first online course meeting, in which you talk them through any new features or expectations of the course, and encourage them to join a Blackboard or Teams discussion during which time they can test their hardware and software and ask you purely logistical questions.
In the meantime, consider the following things as you work on this transition:
As instructors and students adjust to the experience of online teaching and learning, many considerations around diversity, equity, and access are more important than ever. Here are some contextual points to bear in mind and some recommendations for how to adapt your teaching to foster an equitable and accessible online learning environment.
Contextual points to bear in mind
Ensuring Equal Access Resources
In many courses, in-person class time provides students and instructors with a "home base." While Blackboard sites are, in many cases, beginning to fulfill this role, for many courses—particularly those which are smaller—class times are where students get their "map" of the term: what has happened, what will happen, what they have to do. It's also where they get a sense of belonging, a sense that the class is a community of which they are a welcome part. In-person course meetings are filled with dozens of small conversations and micro-interactions that give students this "map" and this sense of belonging, many (most?) of which don’t even involve the instructor: a student might quickly look over a peer's shoulder to see which PDF he or she has open, ask a student sitting nearby to confirm the deadline for a paper assignment, or venture a guess to their neighbor before daring to answer an instructor's question in front of the whole class.
In-person meetings also provide instructors and students the opportunity to give and receive immediate feedback, whether through a quizzical look, a sea of raised hands, or staying a few minutes after class to ask a question. This type of feedback is much more difficult to capture online, so providing additional time for questions within an online lecture or discussion boards on Blackboard will help everyone stay connected and on the same page.
Instructors looking to recreate these aspects of face-to-face course meetings online might try some of the following:
As we have moved our courses online, we have been compiling tips and strategies to apply the same principles we care about in our classroom teaching (interactivity, inclusion, efficiency and organization) to our teaching on Blackboard:
Here are some ways to increase interactivity and inclusion in your online classroom. You might think of these as the "grammar" for our new "language" of teaching online.
This tutorial introduces polling in Blackboard Collaborate. Polls are great to engage your participants and keep them interested. You can use a poll that gives participants yes or no as their response choices. You can also select to give participants two, three, four, or five responses to choose from. Immediately after starting your poll, you can see an overview of poll responses. This overview gives you a response count for each choice. It even tells you how many participants haven't responded yet. If you want to see how each participant's response, or even who hasn't responded, go to the Participants panel.
COLD CALLING AND WARM CALLING
Even if you feel reluctant to normally use cold calling, it can be an important way to hear from your students while teaching over an online platform. As always, be transparent with your students, and feel free to tell them that you may start calling on them at random because you value their contributions and you know it can be awkward for people to speak up as they normally would in an in-person class.
One way to hear from more students than just those who are quickest to raise their hands is to ask a question and then give everyone a minute to write down their thinking before you ask for volunteers to share their answers. If no one volunteers, this also makes cold calling less upsetting to the students because at least they’ve all had a minute to gather their thoughts before being called upon
Another way to mitigate the stress of cold calling is to call on a subset of students. For example, unmute five random students whose faces appear on your screen (even when sharing a screen, you can enlarge the window with your students’ faces to include at least five students). Tell your students “OK, on my screen I can see Alex, Jamie, Steve, Jose, and Maria, so I’m going to unmute you five” and then ask your question to these students. This mitigates the stress than at any one student would feel by being put on the spot.
Another way to warm call on students is to assign them small group work and break the class into breakout rooms (see below). As the students are working in their small groups, you can enter their rooms to check in on them. When you find a student group that has a correct answer, ask them if they’d be willing to share their thoughts when you return to the main room.
GROUP DISCUSSIONS AND BREAKOUT ROOMS
In situations when students have their mics muted and are unable to see everyone, consider asking them to raise their hands before speaking AND/OR invite them to ask questions via the chat window. You can call on students after they raise their virtual hand or submit their question on chat, and then they can unmute themselves to speak to the class.
Open group discussion with more than 10 students can be a real challenge—there are either too many or too few voices speaking up—so rather than have whole class discussions with a large class, it can be helpful to use Breakout rooms of 4–6 students each anytime you want them to collaborate and discuss something together.
SCREEN SHARING AND VIDEOCONFERENCING FROM HOME
The fact that we are all teaching and learning from home means that we might want to think even more intentionally than usual about how we set up both our electronics and our physical environment to share only what is germane with our students. When sharing screens and video conferencing at home:
Consider turning off your notifications. This way nobody needs to see all of your desktop notifications (email, texts, slack messages, etc.) and you get rid of that annoying dinging. (If students are often sharing screens, this could be made a class norm.)
Be mindful when sharing your screen of what you are showing. While you can choose what you share when you start screen sharing, in general, it's likely a good idea to resist opening your email or other things that you don’t want students to see.
If you are using an iPad or other tablet to do boardwork, make sure that the lock settings are such that it won’t keep going to sleep and making you enter your password every time you take a short break.
If your background might distract students—e.g. it is busy, or might reveal something about you which you do not wish to share with students—you might try a virtual background (if your computer supports this feature).
Content Adapted from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning: Harvard University
Knowledge Base Article - Drake
Given the importance of sustaining a sense of community among your students (and course staff), it is a good idea to seek out ways in which your students can interact with you beyond the confines of the formal class period. Below we suggest three variations on the conventional idea of “office hours” which you might employ in order to compensate for the loss of the face-to-face interactions, sidebar conversations, and chance encounters you might have had were you teaching on campus: individual office hours, group helprooms, and questions after class.
Individual and/or small group office hours outside of class time
Faculty should continue to offer weekly office hours so that students can discuss course material and assignments, as well as any questions about the revised course format and expectations. It may be easiest to set aside blocks of time during which students can "drop in" to a Microsoft Teams meeting; for continuity, you may want to continue to offer the same time slots as originally designated in your syllabus. Here’s how to do it:
Group helprooms/meet-ups/assisted study groups outside of class time
Many courses rely somewhat less on individual office hours than they do on group helprooms or meet-ups, during which clusters of students can work together on a problem set or other kind of assignment with guidance from one or more roving instructors. Here’s how to recreate this experience:
Questions after class
One of the joys of teaching is lingering after class to answer questions or elaborate on a concept at the request of your students. Microsoft Teams makes this quite easy, and it is a great way to mimic some of the sociability that ordinarily is hard to port over into the online space. Here’s how:
Content Adapted by The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Excellence: Harvard University
Many types of out-of-class assignments that you have planned will not need to change when teaching online. The kinds of work that students would have completed individually—assignments such as response papers, problem sets, or essays—might not require modification, particularly when they assess students' ability to do things with readings, data, and/or concepts already found on the syllabus and available through your Blackboard site. Things may become more complicated, however, in those cases in which you have asked students to work together, to present their final product interactively in class, and/or to draw on research or other kinds of resources found exclusively on campus. In these cases, you may have to introduce modifications into your original plan, directing students to alternative resources (e.g. online documents in lieu of research in special collections) or alternative platforms (e.g. a voiceover recorded in Powerpoint in lieu of an in-class group presentation).
Here are some considerations to bear in mind as you think about how to preserve/revise your remaining assignments.
Focus on what you want to assess
As you begin thinking about which parts of your assignments you wish to preserve or modify, you'll want to identify, as clearly as possible, the competencies you really care to assess. If it seems too difficult for your students to complete the group podcast you had assigned, you may ask yourself: what were you most interested in learning about your students from that assignment? Was it their ability to engage in collaborative groupwork? Their ability to demonstrate a mastery of audio recording and sound editing? Their ability to interview someone? Their ability to tell a compelling story? Depending on your answer(s), you might arrive at different paths forward. If the core of the assignment was about groupwork, then it might be a good time to start preparing students to hold group meetings by Microsoft Teams; if the core was the storytelling, perhaps you could allow students who won't have the benefit of a cancelled workshop on sound recording to submit a script instead?
Connect students with the resources they need
Make sure that students have access to any software, technology, or other physical resources that are required to complete assignments. Ideally, aim to use software or other resources (e.g. library databases) that are freely available to College students from remote locations. In the event that software packages or e-resources require students to login through VPN while off-campus, make sure that students know how to do this: Drake VPN Access. In the event that none of these (relatively) open access, self-serve options seems feasible, please contact the Center for Teaching Excellence to think through your options, or seek help from the Cowles Library.
Create many opportunities for dialogue
Whether we recognize it or not, frequent, low-stakes feedback is the currency on which all assignments run. It can be easy, when moving online, to underestimate the many avenues, informal as well as formal, that our students utilize to ask and answer questions when we are teaching face-to-face. Whether it's buttonholing a coursehead at the end of lecture, turning to the classmate in the next seat, or participating in an ad hoc study group, students in face-to-face environments benefit immensely form the opportunity to talk through their ideas. How can we make sure that students retain at least some simulacrum of these resources when we are teaching remotely?
If you're concerned about how students will submit their assignments while they are away from campus, Blackboard may be just the solution.
Content Adapated from The Derek Bok Center for Teaching & Learning: Harvard Univeristy
Cowels Library makes it possible for faculty teaching remote classes to connect seamlessly through direct engagement with library staff, access to digital content, and collaboration across the University.
Looking for immediate help from our staff? Find answers to commonly asked questions and ask your own. Library staff members are also available via chat during posted library hours.
Our staff of experts is here to help you find digital materials, create course guides, and provide online library instruction and virtual library visits. Talk to your library liaison and together we'll figure out a plan to connect your students with the best tools and materials.
Faculty of instruction engaged in online and remote teaching in spring and summer, 2020, are invited to connect with one another to share ideas, ask questions, and reflect on their experiences in unstructured, open conversations.
Every Thursday and Friday through the end August, any time from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, you can use this link to join a virtual Teams gathering. Feel free just to drop in or to contact others in advance and arrange to meet there together.
Please do not share this link with others outside Drake.
If you encounter disruptions during a meeting, please contact Craig Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org.