painting of leighton hall in spring

Planning for Instructional Continuity – Spring 2020

The information below will help you get started in planning for remote instruction. Please contact Melissa Eblen-Zayas or the Academic Technology staff with questions.

Basic Competencies for Remote Instruction

Must-know basics for faculty:

  • Use Google Hangouts Meet from home
    • send a Google Hangouts Meet invitation to others via Google calendar
    • send a Google Hangouts Meet invitation via email, Moodle announcement, etc.
  • Scan a document and create a pdf from home, even if you don’t have a scanner (recommend Adobe Scan app)
  • Log in to Moodle, upload documents to the course Moodle page, and set up student assignment submission in Moodle
  • Read, edit, and share files in Google Drive
  • Create and edit Google Calendar events
  • Request a Google Group for your course (Group membership updates automatically based on enrollment)

Instructional Continuity Planning Guide

Preparing for remote instruction:

  • All courses need to have a single online location for sharing course materials, submitting assignments, providing feedback, and making announcements: 
    • Moodle is recommended
    • All hand-outs, assignments, and the syllabus must be available in digital form
    • Consider using Moodle forums for some course communication to allow all members of the course to see announcements & common questions (rather than email)
  • Be explicit about your expectations for electronic communication and online engagement 

Course design principles:

LTC & AT Resource: Course design for online teaching & learning

  • Start with student learning objectives — do they need to be modified from an entirely face-to-face course?
    • What do you want students to be able to do by the end of your course? 
    • How will you have students demonstrate their learning to you?
  • Moving online involves thinking differently about your courses. Do not try to reproduce what you do in face-to-face classroom in a remote instruction situation.
    • Make choices about synchronous versus asynchronous activities. Design your courses so that most of the required engagement is asynchronous. Plan synchronous activities with flexibility in mind.
    • Include more formative assessments and feedback so both you and the students have a sense of what they are understanding and where they are confused.

Modes of engagement

The resource page below highlights how you might use technology to foster six different types of course engagement. Online resources you might find elsewhere will mention a huge variety of tools. We encourage you to use the technologies that are included in the LTC & AT Resource: Planning for Instructional Continuity, unless you have very particular needs.

The LTC and AT have begun offering a number of workshops for faculty about structuring online courses. Here are resources from the workshops about facilitating synchronous and asynchronous instruction:

Here are slides from some of the workshops that the LTC and AT have offered:

Tools & Software

We encourage you to start with a small set of tools as you build your course.

  • Your course should be built out in Moodle. We encourage course communication between faculty and students through Moodle (Announcement and Q&A forums, QuickMail block) in order to make it possible for both students and faculty to track communication more clearly.  
  • Google Hangouts Meet or Zoom can be used for video conferencing. If you just want the basics, Google Hangouts Meet will serve your needs, and in the Chrome browser it allows closed captioning. Zoom provides breakout rooms, polling, and digital whiteboarding options.
  • Panopto is what we recommend for lecture capture and sharing videos.

Moodle skills micro-lessons

Carly Born has created a Moodle class that you can self-enroll into in order to see short videos about how to make the most of Moodle as you move your courses online. In addition, Carly has created an area in that course where you can play the role of a student and submit assignments (which Carly will “grade”), engage in discussion forums, etc. to get a student perspective on Moodle.

Videos about using Google Hangouts Meet and Zoom

On PEPS event support page, Dann Hurlbert has created a number of short videos about both Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet. You will need to scroll down the page to find the videos.

Videos about using Panopto

Panopto can be used by faculty for lecture capture or instructional video. Students can also use Panopto to make videos. Dann Hurlbert has made a number of short videos about how to use Panopto.

Information about software

ITS has assembled information about how to install and access software on your personal computer. This information is being updated regularly.

Examples, Resources, & Links

Sneak peek inside an online course:

The Carleton Undergraduate Bridge Experience (CUBE) has included an online course for a small group of incoming students every year since 2016. Students take the course remotely in the summer before they arrive on campus, and most of the instruction is asynchronous. The materials below are provided for those of you who would like some help visualizing what an online course might look like. The documents include some annotations to help provide some additional insight. Please note, however, that more than three weeks were available to prepare for the CUBE course. Your course needn’t look anything like this.

For those who are new to Moodle, we do not recommend that you look at the Moodle pages, but the course syllabus might still be helpful. For all materials, we recommend you download the linked PDFs so that you can enlarge.

Example of a course introduction video:

When developing and teaching an online course, it is important for faculty members clearly let students know what they can expect. One way to do this, while also helping students get to know you better, is to film a short introductory video welcoming students to the course. Julia Strand (Psychology) has gone above and beyond in making a welcome video for the Psych 220 course, and Andy Flory (Music) also has a high production value welcome video for Music 341. You need not think about creating something quite so fancy, but you might want to convey a similar message to students in your class — a quick recording with your webcam would do. Creating short videos is a great way to build your social presence and help students have a better sense of the lay of the land throughout your course.

Here’s a tip sheet for creating a simple welcome video for your course from Dann Hurlbert.

Example of an online learning tip sheet:

There are so many elements beyond the logistics of your course that contribute to student success in the much more unstructured environment of online learning and teaching. Sarah Meerts (Psychology) developed a tip sheet for online learning to share with her students.

ITS resources and links:

Examples of H5P interactive content for Moodle (Note: this is for more advanced users)

ITS and COVID-19 website

Technical Support Documentation for Students Learning Online

Events — May 2020

Programming for the remainder of the term

Drop-in hours to get help with the basics, course design, pedagogy, or technology tools for instructional continuity.

  • Monday-Friday, 9-10 am, online: The online link will allow you to join a Google Hangout Meet. From there you will be directed to the appropriate person for one-on-one consultations about your needs.
  • Monday-Friday, 3-4 pm, online: The online link will allow you to join a Google Hangout Meet. From there you will be directed to the appropriate person for one-on-one consultations about your needs.

15 minute Moodle Appointments with AT Student workers to get one-on-one help with Moodle assignments, settings, etc. Signup for an appointment slot via Google Calendar.

  • Monday and Wednesday, 10am-12pm, 3pm-4:30pm
  • Tuesday and Thursday, 12pm-1pm

Questions with a * are new, or have updated answers, as of May 1.

FAQs — online teaching during the term

I want to be flexible and accommodating of students’ circumstances, but I don’t want students to fall through the cracks.

Direct communication with students should be a priority. However, if you are not able to get a response from students when you email, you might consider looking at the Moodle logs to see if the student has been regularly accessing the course Moodle site. To access the Moodle logs, go to the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of the Moodle page where you would turn editing on and go to More. Select the Reports tab of the Course Administration page, and select the logs for the student you are concerned about. If the student has not accessed the Moodle site recently, you might consider connecting with the Class Dean to see if there are known issues with internet connectivity or other challenges that might be getting in the way of the student engaging with the course.

How can I make the most of synchronous class meetings? *

Students value the opportunity to connect with faculty and peers during synchronous meetings. However, it can be difficult to stay focused on a screen for an extended period of time. If possible, try to keep synchronous sessions to an hour or less. If your class synchronous sessions are much longer than an hour, consider giving students a five minute break during which they can turn off video and move away from the computer if they want. 

When the LTC Fellows observed synchronous class sessions, breakout rooms were a key element of making these sessions engaging and encouraging more interaction in a large class. However, the quality of engagement in the breakout rooms varies immensely, and unlike in a face-to-face class, the professor isn’t always able to tell when students in a breakout room need some guidance. 

Breakout rooms work best when expectations are clear and activities are carefully structured to make sure the experience is productive for students.  Without much structure, students can flounder. Here are some ideas to help breakout rooms run more smoothly: 

  • Consider giving students roles in the breakout rooms, and rotate roles. 
  • Clearly outline what you want students to do or discuss in the breakout rooms. If you want students to collaborate, specify how you want students to collaborate. Should they be sharing their screens with each other? Using the Zoom whiteboard feature? If you want students to discuss, include specific discussion questions. 
  • Consider providing a Google Doc or a set of Google Slides that will help guide the activities of the group, and can be accessed by everyone. Some faculty have found it helpful to designate a representative from each breakout room as the recorder for the group. That individual can be responsible for writing down the group’s key discussion points on the shared Google Doc. This approach allows the faculty member to see where groups are, even if the faculty member isn’t in a particular breakout room. 
  • Bring the full group together after the breakout sessions to report out (either about content or about progress). This serves as an important incentive for groups to keep focused and working together. 
  • Match the length of time for breakout activities with what you want students to do, and let students know in advance how much time will be available for working on activities in the breakout rooms.  

How can I get a read on the room during a synchronous session?

If you are using Zoom, you can adjust how many students you see in the gallery view. Login to the Zoom desktop client, click on settings (gear icon) and then select Video settings. There you have the option to select “Display up to 49 participants per screen in Gallery View.” This allows you to see many students in a large class all on one screen. In Google Hangouts Meet, you can change the configuration of screens in your Meet, but you cannot create a gallery view like you do in Zoom. 

Using a thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs sideways, can be a quick visual way to quickly poll students about some topic with a three-way response. In Zoom, you can also use the Reactions option and assign meaning with your class to the thumbs-up and clapping symbols, which will appear in the upper left corner of a student’s window. There are also a number of preset feedback icons in the Participants window that can be helpful if you open that option.

How can I manage students joining a synchronous session late?

We recommend leaving a chunk of time at the start of the session as a buffer to allow everyone to connect. This time can be used to build social connection with students before moving to the content of the session. Depending on the size of your class and how you’ve configured your session, you may not be able to see new students joining the synchronous session once it has started in either Hangouts Meet or Zoom. If you use Zoom and are using the “waiting room” feature, you will get a notification when a new person enters the waiting room and can add them to the session at any time. You can also send a message to students in the waiting room using the Chat feature to let them know you know they’re there. It may also be possible to ask for a student volunteer to monitor and admit students from the waiting room; you can make a participant a co-host once a session is started.

If I don’t want to sit in front of a screen while waiting for students to come to drop-in office hours, what are the options? 

One option to consider is monitoring either Slack or Google Hangouts during office hours. If a student has a question, they can send you a chat message, and then you can join a designated video conference call to talk face-to-face. That makes sure you are available for a single student or groups of students to drop by, but you don’t need to be quite as on-call as if you are waiting with a video conference call open during the entire time window for office hours. 

How might I use Slack? How does it compare to Google Hangouts?

Slack and Google Hangouts are both messaging tools that allow you to chat with individuals or create a chat that involves a group of people. They allow more informal conversation than what might occur on a Moodle forum. 

If you are trying to keep the number of tools to a minimum, Google Hangout is part of the existing Google suite that we use at Carleton, and you can find Google Hangout in the same window as your Carleton Google email. Slack is a separate application that you need to sign up for, but it is one of the suite of tools that the LTC/AT team is supporting. One advantage of Slack is that it allows threaded discussions, and you can have multiple different Slack channels for discussions on different topics. For example, some classes use one channel for discussion about class activities, one channel for office hours discussions, one channel for discussion around lab activities, as well as having a #random channel to allow class participants to develop a social presence that isn’t tied only to course content. One additional benefit of Slack is that it has some optional plugins that allow for more diverse forms of messages and more robust connections to other software.  

I have students creating __________ (video recordings, podcasts, slideshows, posters, websites, etc.) as part of an assignment. What support can you provide? 

Academic Technology supports these types of assignments in a typical term, and they continue to have a range of resources that they can share with you and your students. Contact with a description of the nature and scope of your assignment, and they will get in touch with information about the relevant resources that they have available.

What are the options for managing culminating projects or presentations in an online environment?

In a face-to-face setting, you might have a poster session, a series of talks, a show or exhibition, with goals of:

  • Showcasing student work
  • Q&A or discussion around student work
  • Providing feedback on student work
  • Celebrating the students & their efforts

In an online environment, think about asynchronous/synchronous components:

  • Showcase student work in an asynchronous manner
  • Q&A, discussion, and some types of feedback occur synchronously 
  • Organize multiple shorter synchronous events, rather than a marathon event
  • Identify the audience that you want to be able to access these events

We encourage you to look at the culminating project resource document that the LTC/AT team has developed to help you think through the possibilities.

FAQs — course design and planning

I’m not sure where to start my planning.

Start by taking a look at the LTC & AT Resource: Course design for online teaching & learning, which will help you think about course planning when your students are located around the globe. The LTC & AT Resource: Planning for Instructional Continuity was designed before we knew the exact details of what Spring Term 2020 might look like, but it outlines different types of engagement and the tools that might be useful for fostering that engagement. Feel free to stop by the LTC & AT virtual drop-in hours, which are listed underneath the “Events — March 2020” tab at the top of this page to chat with someone in-person.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and some additional one-on-one support would be valuable, please contact Melissa. There are several Carleton staff members who have experience with online teaching and learning who have participated in the LTC/AT workshops and we can pair you up with one of them. 

I’m confused about expectations for meeting with students during class time.

We encourage all faculty to design their courses so that the bulk of instruction and engagement occurs asynchronously. However, if you want to have required meetings where all students are expected to interact with you and with each other in real-time, hold those class meetings during the regularly scheduled course meeting times. Small group or one-on-one meetings may be scheduled outside of the scheduled course times.

How should I think about balancing synchronous and asynchronous instruction?

We encourage all faculty to design their courses so that the bulk of instruction and engagement occurs asynchronously. Synchronous meetings can provide opportunities for enhancing course engagement, but they should be designed for flexibility.

See “Will students have the necessary resources for engaging in online learning?” to learn more about the factors that led to the recommendation that faculty design their courses for asynchronous engagement.

Asynchronous activities might include having students: watch instructional videos that the instructor created with Panopto, engage in Moodle discussion forums, annotate a text (individually or collaboratively) with Hypothesis, collaboratively create and edit documents or slides using Google Drive, record their own instructional videos in Panopto to share with peers, practice skills through problem sets or other offline activities, write and peer review papers. Faculty members should design their course so that most of the required course engagement is asynchronous.

Faculty generally think of videoconferencing (and associated features such as real-time digital whiteboarding) when they think of synchronous class activities. However, there are lower bandwidth ways to engage in synchronous activities with your students, such as audio-only conferencing or collaboratively editing or annotating in real time. Faculty should consider how they can design opportunities for synchronous engagement flexibly so as not to significantly disadvantage those students who have low quality or intermittent access to the internet.

Additional LTC & AT resources relevant to this question: Planning for Asynchronous Discussion and Planning for Synchronous Discussion and Asynchronous Course Design Q&A slides

My course typically involves interactive lectures. What should I think about?

We are used to having students interact closely with each other and with us in real time so the immediate tendency is to start designing courses around videoconferencing because that approach comes closest to replicating an in-person classroom. However, videoconferencing assumes that all of your students have newer computers and fast, reliable internet at home; it also assumes that students can join online at a particular time and respond quickly. We recommend you start by considering how you could use low bandwidth or low immediacy activities to achieve the same goals as interactive lectures. (See the question “Will students have the necessary resources to engage in online learning?” for more information.)

Here are some low bandwidth options for a course that involves interactive lecture. Consider posting notes, slides, or links to sound or video files on Moodle, and be clear about exactly what materials students need to review and by when. The Moodle forums can then be used as a way for students to ask questions, respond to each other, and identify which topics they found most confusing. Classes that focus on close reading of texts might want to use Hypothesis, an online annotation tool, to allow whole class annotation of texts or websites. After you have identified where there is confusion or a desire for more discussion, you might consider creating a lecture capture (using Panopto) that responds to the asynchronous engagement.  Find ways to check student understanding using low stakes assignments or quizzing (group or individual). 

Once you have determined how you might use low bandwidth or low immediacy approaches to help students understand course material and practice skills, then consider how to strategically add higher bandwidth, higher immediacy modes of engagement. Zoom allows polling and digital whiteboarding, but be mindful that not all students will be able to get high quality videoconferencing to work regularly given their internet situation. Are there ways you can create opportunities to connect high bandwidth synchronous activities with low bandwidth or asynchronous activities? 

My course is primarily discussion. What should I think about?

We are used to having students interact closely with each other and with us in real time so the immediate tendency is to start designing courses around videoconferencing because that approach comes closest to replicating an in-person classroom. However, videoconferencing assumes that all of your students have newer computers and fast, reliable internet at home; it also assumes that students can join online at a particular time and respond quickly. We recommend you start by considering how you could structure discussion using low bandwidth or low immediacy approaches. (See the question “Will students have the necessary resources to engage in online learning?” for more information.)

Here are some low bandwidth options for a course that involves a lot of discussion. Consider using Moodle discussion forums to engage in discussions of topics. See the LTC & AT Resource: Planning for Asynchronous Discussion for more details. Classes that focus on close reading of texts might want to use Hypothesis, an online annotation tool that can allow class annotation of documents. If you start discussion with some opening remarks, consider recording those remarks with Panopto and making them available for asynchronous engagement. 

Once you have determined how you might use low bandwidth or low immediacy approaches for discussion, then consider how to strategically add higher bandwidth, higher immediacy modes of engagement. Try to design the course so that a student who is not able to engage in high quality videoconferencing during the scheduled class meeting time will not feel left out. Are there ways you can create opportunities to connect with high-bandwidth synchronous activities with lower bandwidth asynchronous activities?

My course typically involves a lot of group work. What should I think about?

We are used to having students interact closely with each other and with us in real time so the immediate tendency is to start designing courses around videoconferencing because that approach comes closest to replicating an in-person classroom. However, videoconferencing assumes that all of your students have newer computers and fast, reliable internet at home; it also assumes that students can join online at a particular time and respond quickly. We recommend you start by considering how you could structure your course to use low bandwidth or low immediacy approaches for collaboration. (See the question “Will students have the necessary resources to engage in online learning?” for more information.)

Here are some low bandwidth options for a course that involves a lot of group work. The group features in Moodle allows you to have groups of students discuss topics and engage in peer review collaboratively in different discussion forums, as well as allowing group submission of assignments. You can choose whether or not you want students to  be able to see the forums of other groups. Google Drive is also a low bandwidth way for groups of students to collaboratively edit documents or slides. Classes that focus on close reading of texts might want to use Hypothesis, an online annotation tool that can allow either whole class or group editing and annotating of documents. 

Once you have determined how you might use low bandwidth approaches to foster collaboration, then consider what are the trade-offs as you add higher bandwidth, higher immediacy modes of engagement. Think through how your goals for collaboration would be impacted if a student is not able to make high quality videoconferencing work regularly during the scheduled class meeting time. Would synchronous audio or texting be sufficient? Are there ways you can create opportunities to connect with high-bandwidth synchronous activities with lower bandwidth asynchronous activities? 

How can I help students engage responsibly and ethically in my online course?

Just as many faculty collaborate with students to develop ground rules for classroom discussions and classroom behaviors in their face-to-face classrooms, faculty need to do the same thing in their online courses. We encourage you to work with your students to collectively construct a social contract that will outline the behavioral norms that will regulate the learning community in your online course. Developing the social contract should occur collaboratively, perhaps beginning with collaboratively edited document where everyone can provide ideas. After initial input has been collected, the instructor can draft the shared class expectations and provide on additional opportunity for student input, through online commenting and/or through synchronous discussion. Once you have agreed on a social contract, you should also discuss how to respond when someone breaks the contract.

LTC Resource: Developing a social contract for online learning

How can I preserve the closed classroom environment that allows for difficult conversations about challenging topics when teaching online?

The reality of teaching online is that you can’t control the environment in which your students will be engaging with the course. For some students, their only computer access may be a single desktop computer in a central family living area. Therefore, you need to be aware that family members may be in close proximity and hear anything that is discussed via videoconferencing. If your course includes the discussion of sensitive topics, you and your students will want to come to some agreement about whether collectively you are comfortable having these discussions via videoconferencing where anyone might be listening or if it would be better to use other discussion methods (e.g. Moodle discussion forums).

We have also heard concerns about the potential recording of class activities without permission or dissemination of class materials beyond their intended audience. See the question, “What are the recommendations with regards to recording class activities?”

All of these issues should be considered when you develop the social contract for the class. When discussing expectations around video conferencing, discuss expectations around sharing access and links to synchronous sessions both within the course and externally to preserve privacy levels. There are also features in the video conferencing tools that can help with this. In Zoom, for example, there are several settings you can use to structure the video session, including requiring a password to join the meeting and setting the default to prevent screen sharing until the appropriate time for students to share their screens. See “How can I help students engage responsibly and ethically in an online course?” for more information about developing a social contract for your class.

I’m concerned about student mental health in the face of these circumstances. What can I do as I design my courses to help support student well-being?

  • Keep up the rigor, but be aware of confusing rigor with rigidity. Carleton students want and need to be challenged and academically engaged, especially now. At the same time, flexibility will be extremely important; options will help students feel like their situation is not a barrier to their education. 
  • Physical distance doesn’t have to mean social distance.  Students will want social connection – so any way that you can build that in to your course and interactions is great. Think about connections between you and your students, among students, and between students and the wealth of resources they will still have access to.
  • Consider using this as an opportunity to demonstrate/model growth mindset and persistence.  Openly acknowledging any mistakes or struggles you have in moving to a remote course format may be beneficial in helping students address their own perfectionist tendencies.

How do I take into account students using tablets or smartphones as their primary device for my class?

It is likely that, at some point during the term, students will access course materials or participate via a tablet or smartphone. Materials and activities that use platforms and tools that are low immediacy and low bandwidth are better accessible on mobile devices. ITS has developed documentation for students on how to install common apps (Microsoft Office tools, Google Apps) on their tablets and smartphones. We recommend anyone accessing Moodle on a tablet or smartphone use that device’s web browswer — we do not recommend using either the iPhone or Android Moodle app at this time.

I’d like some guidance about what I should include in my syllabus.

In moving online, some topics that you might usually take for granted in a face-to-face course — particularly with regards to communication — you need to spell out in great detail, and other details that you might normally spell out in the syllabus you can instead include in updates that are posted on the course Moodle site. 

Faculty contact & course communication:

  • How will you make announcements to the class? Recommended: Moodle announcement forum. Not recommended: email. Why? Moodle announcement forum keeps a record so students who add the course late or lose an email can still find all core information.
  • How will students ask questions about course logistics and assignments? Recommended: Course information discussion forum that the instructor sets up in Moodle; Not recommended: email. Why? Many students will likely have the same questions so answering a public forum limits the number of times of you have to answer the question. In addition, students can respond to one another in that Moodle forum. Also, if students lose an email they can still find all the relevant information on Moodle.
  • What will your office hours look like? Recommended: Two types of office hours via video conferencing — drop-in office hours via a video conferencing link available to the whole class (for community building and shared discussion of course content) and sign-up appointments with a unique video conferencing link for each sign-up (for discussion of personal issues or individual performance in the course). Hold your office hours at various different times of the day to accommodate students in different time zones.
  • Frequency of communication: How often do you expect students to check the course Moodle site and their Carleton email? How often will you check the course Moodle site and your Carleton email? What is the expected time for a response? 
  • If you are using Slack, be clear about what it should be used for and whether you will be monitoring it or not. 

Course structure: 

  • What are the course learning goals and how do key activities and assignments contribute to the course learning goals? Make it clear why you are asking students to do the assignments and activities that you are. 
  • Create a regular weekly structure for engagement and clearly outline that structure for your students in the syllabus. Help students understand what aspects of the class they should be engaging with throughout the week — both asynchronously and synchronously. For some students, asynchronous engagement can be an invitation to procrastinate so anything you can do to provide guidance about when to work on activities is helpful. 
  • What aspects of course engagement are required and what are supplemental? Minimize the number and length of required synchronous activities, and articulate how you will accommodate those who are not able to participate synchronously or how you will support students who might only be able to phone in to a synchronous session. 

Assignment design, deadlines, and flexibility: 

  • Provide regular, small assessments so that you and students have a sense of how they are doing as the course progresses. Build in flexibility to the requirements for these assignments (for example, students only need to complete X number of the small assessments). 
  • For large projects, outline a scaffolded series of deadlines throughout the term. Realizing that you may need to change deadlines if the circumstances change, it is still helpful to students to provide tentative guidance about the structure and timeline of larger assignments. 
  • For major assignments, we are encouraging faculty to include a deadline plus a 48 hour penalty delay. (For example, the assignment deadline is on Friday, but there is no penalty to the student grade as long as they have it turned in by Monday.) This built-in flexibility takes you out of the position of having to decide whether personal issues or tech issues merit an extension. 

Expectations and policies: 

Highlight the relevant policies for accommodations for disabilities, academic honesty, etc., as well as any course policies or expectations not outlined elsewhere in your syllabus. If your class will be developing a social contract, you should outline that process as well. 

Sources of support: 

In addition to your office hours, identify the other sources of support available for the course and how can students access those resources: 

  • R&I librarians
  • Peer support (prefect, writing assistant, etc)
  • Relevant academic support — writing center, math skills center, quantitative resource center, departmental structures. 

Syllabus statements: 

Can you provide a template for an instructional continuity syllabus statement?

Feel free to modify this statement in a manner that is appropriate for your course:

In these unprecedented times, we will need to exhibit flexibility and patience with each other throughout the term. I have done my best to design the course so that everyone can be successful, regardless of personal circumstances. Communication will be key; please keep me updated about your situation in addition to reaching out to the other relevant offices on campus. If you experience significant technological problems that limit your ability to participate, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 507-222-5999 or For announcements of known technical issues, visit the Helpdesk portal. If your personal situation (due to COVID-19 illness or other circumstances) begins to impact your ability to engage with the course, please contact the Dean of Students Office. 

I expect you to log in to Moodle every day for updates on activities and assignments. When engaging with course activities online, use your Carleton Gmail/Google account; do not use other personal email accounts.  We will show each other civility and respect in both asynchronous and synchronous discussions [instructors may want to add more specific details here] Whole class synchronous activities will only be scheduled during designated class meeting times, but opportunities for small group or one-on-one synchronous engagement may be scheduled flexibly at other times. I look forward to working with you to find ways for you to effectively engage with the course given your circumstances. 

What if I have a prefect assigned to my course?

There will still be prefects. Prefect sessions will be held via videoconferencing (either Google Hangouts Meet or Zoom). Details are still being worked out. 

What should I do for office hours?

We are encouraging faculty to think about two types of office hours: 1) drop-in office hours that allow for discussion of course content by anyone and build community, and 2) sign-up appointments to discuss personal situations around engagement with the course. You will need to let your students know the difference between these two situations so that students don’t get into personal discussions when engaging in a Google Hangout Meet or Zoom meeting where others might drop in.

We are encouraging faculty to schedule drop-in office hours through a Google calendar invite to the entire class that includes a link to a Google Hangout Meet or Zoom session. Any member of the class can join the meeting at any time during the designated period. We encourage you to consider at least a few drop-in hours that are available to everyone. This is a great way for students in the class to build connections with you and each other.

Sign-up appointments are better arranged using Google calendar appointment slots. Once a student has signed up, you can invite them to a Google Hangout Meet or Zoom meeting at that time. That ensures the meeting is just between you and the student.

How should I think about exams for my course?

When moving a course online, the general recommendation is to offer more low stakes assessments to check student understanding of course material.

It is not advisable to have only one or two high stakes exams. Consider using regular quizzes. The testing effect shows that students recall more after testing than after re-reading and studying material without testing. To lower student anxiety, but still get a sense of student understanding, consider designing short Moodle quizzes using the following guidelines:

  • Pull questions from a pool. (Not every student will get the same questions and students can take the quiz multiple times.)
  • Apply a time limit to the quiz that precludes students from looking up most of the answers before the time runs out. The quizzes are open book, but the time limit forces students to be familiar with the material. (Moodle allows you to apply different testing times to different groups of students so you can easily adjust for those who have testing time accommodations.)
  • Leave the quiz open to students for a finite period of time (48 hours, one week).
  • Provide students with immediate feedback indicating which questions they have answered correctly or incorrectly (but without providing the correct answer).
  • Allow an unlimited number of attempts on the quiz.

Using this quiz format encourages students to engage with the quiz in a way that fosters learning, rather than incentivizing one-time performance. 

For midterm or final exams, consider whether you might be able to get the information about student learning through projects, papers, or video presentations by students. If you want students to take larger exams, you are encouraged to design the exam as you would design a take-home exam.

FAQs — student readiness and support

Will students have the necessary resources for engaging in online learning?

ITS and IRA sent a survey to all students about their needs on March 13. ITS is working to support students in terms of hardware, software, documentation, and they will be shipping computers to students who need them.  Key survey results from the students enrolled in your classes were sent to department chairs on Friday, March 27. It may be helpful in course planning to know that your students will have remote access to all of the software that was available while they were on campus, and that some software companies are providing free software downloads during this time. ITS has assembled information about how to install and access software on your personal computer

One notable result from the ITS/IRA survey is that only 55% of students have a reliable, high-speed internet connection. With the heavy demand for internet access, infrastructure will likely be stretched to its limits. Even students who normally have access to high quality internet may face performance issues, or may have to share a single home computer with parents who are working remotely or siblings who are also engaged in virtual learning environments. Because of these factors, we are encouraging all faculty to design their courses so that the bulk of the engagement can occur asynchronously. It is easier for students with lower quality internet connections to fully engage in courses where there is not a heavy reliance on real-time video conferencing.

Daniel Stanford of DePaul University developed an excellent graphic (found in this blog post) that helps visualize the relative bandwith and immediacy — how quickly one can respond online — that various online teaching techniques require. We’ve adapted the graphic for the Carleton context, with help from Doug Foxgrover.  

This images show four quadrants (high/low immediacy and high/low bandwidth) and where various online teaching tools fall within these quadrants.

In order to make your course as accessible as possible to all students, start by thinking about how you’d structure your course using low bandwidth and low immediacy activities from the lower left quadrant of the graph. Then consider when you might add activities from other quadrants to make the experience richer and what the trade-offs are, particularly recognizing that not all students will have high quality internet connections.

What happens when tech or personal issues get in the way of students doing work?

We encourage you to design your course with built-in flexibility. Try to build your course having many core elements that are low immediacy and low bandwidth. Then, students who can’t engage online in a particular moment, either because of tech or personal issues, will not be significantly disadvantaged. 

Include frequent low stakes opportunities for formative assessment and feedback. For those low stakes assignments, you might consider designing them so that students can skip some number of assignments without penalty. For high stakes assignments, you might consider setting a deadline plus a 48 hour penalty delay. (For example, the assignment deadline is on Friday, but there is no penalty to the student grade as long as they have it turned in by Monday.) This built-in flexibility takes you out of the position of having to decide whether personal issues or tech issues merit an extension. 

What kind of tech documentation is being provided to students and what kind of documentation should I provide?

You can find the documentation that ITS is providing to students on the Technical Support for Online Learning web page, which is being updated regularly. There has also be a request for more general tips for engaging in online learning to share with students. On the instructional continuity “Examples, Resources, & Links” tab towards the top of this page, we have included an example of an online learning tip sheet that Sarah Meerts developed for her spring term course. You might want to consider something similar for your courses.

LTC & AT Resource: Remote Learning Recommendations for Students

Will students have the opportunity to practice using some of the technologies before the first day of classes?

Yes! On April 3-6, ITS is offering students the opportunity for “drop-in sessions” to test video conferencing and ask other questions about the technology that will be used in spring term. In addition, PEPS will offer live support for Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet from 8 am – 6 pm Monday through Friday throughout the term. Both students and faculty can take advantage of the PEPS support to make sure they are ready for video conferencing.

How will accommodations for students with disabilities be handled?

Chris Dallagher will be in touch about students in your classes who need accommodations. Designing your course with flexibility not only helps students facing tech challenges, it also helps support students with disabilities.

One of the most common accommodations is additional time on test. Using the group feature in Moodle, you are able to set up different testing times for different students to meet this accommodation.

If you have students who need captioning for synchronous sessions, Chris will be in touch with you. Be aware that although some of the tools (such as Google products when used in the Chrome browser) will provide auto-captioning, the captioning is not at a level that is ADA-compliant.

FAQs — video recording and video conferencing

What are the pros and cons of using Google Hangouts Meet versus Zoom for working with students? 

Google Hangouts Meet is very easy to use and integrates well with Google Calendar. In addition, participants can turn on auto-captioning if they are using Google Hangouts Meet in the Chrome browser. For those who aren’t comfortable with video conferencing and don’t need many bells and whistles, Google Hangouts Meet is a good place to start. 

Zoom, with a Pro license, which is available to all Carleton faculty members now, has many more features, including polling, digital whiteboarding, and breakout rooms. In addition, the video resolution for Zoom is higher so if you are working with digital images and media, Zoom may be preferable. 

Both platforms provide the option for participants to dial in via phone, which allows students without a high quality internet connection to participate in the audio portion of the conversation. Both platforms allow recording of sessions, although the defaults about who gets to record are different. Please see the question, “ What are the recommendations with regards to recording class activities?” for more information on that topic. 

In short, we encourage you to choose the video conferencing platform that works for you and your students. 

Should I be concerned about security and privacy issues with Zoom?

There have been recent media reports and concerns about Zoom security and privacy issues, including “Zoom bombing”. ITS has been following these issues closely. We are encouraged that Zoom has taken these concerns seriously and addressed them quickly.

To take advantage of the latest security patches, you will need to ensure your application is up-to-date. Zoom updates are not uniformly sent automatically. Instructions for updating Zoom for macOS and Windows can be found here:

We recommend Zoom’s Best Practices for Securing Your Virtual Classroom for those teaching (or meeting) with Zoom, particularly enabling a waiting room, restricting attendance to invited guests, and using random meeting IDs and passwords for each session.

What are the recommendations with regards to recording class activities?

There are three significant factors at play when considering under what circumstances one might allow recording of class activities: 

  • accommodations for students with disabilities, 
  • equitable access for students who cannot participate in synchronous sessions, and 
  • concerns about privacy of the instructor and students. 

In compliance with Federal law, qualified students with disabilities may record classroom activities as a legitimate academic adjustment once verified by the Office of Disability Services. In these situations, Chris Dallager will reach out to the instructor and work with you to determine if classroom recording is an appropriate and reasonable accommodation given the individual student’s documentation and the particulars of your course. 

When there is not a disability accommodation that includes recording, the key factor in deciding whether or not to record the session is to consider whether your session includes core content that is essential for student success in the course. 

  • If your synchronous session includes essential content intended for the entire class, and students are not able to attend, either because of personal circumstances or because of tech issues, we recommend that you record the session. In this situation, you would want to make students aware that you will be recording the session and what aspects of the session will be recorded (e.g. the first half of the session). If a student has concerns about being recorded, the student could remove themselves from the videoconference and watch the recorded session at a later time. 
  • If your synchronous session enriches the course but does not include core content that is essential for success in the course, we recommend that you do not record the session. This is true whether the session involves the full class or small groups. 
  • If you are having students meet in small groups for essential engagement without the instructor present (e.g. practicing a language), you may ask students to record the session and share the recording with you. 

For any course recordings that are made, we encourage that the class comes to agreement on how the recordings can be used. This topic is often included in the development of a social contract for a course. In general, class members should not share, replicate, or publish the recording, in whole or in part, or use the recording for any other purpose than for class-related studying. Recordings of class sessions that include student participants should not be saved or used past the end of the term.

Some details about recording video conferences:

  • In Google Hangouts Meet, any individual using a computer (not a mobile device) can start recording the session, and when they do, they will get a message about the benefits of obtaining consent. Recording will proceed regardless. After the session is completed and the recording file is generated, the recording link will be made available to the person who initiated the recording and to the meeting organizer.
  • In Zoom, the default setting is that only the host/co-host can record, although permission to record can be granted to others or revoked. After the session is completed and the recording file is generated, the recording link is made available to the host. 
  • Even if a student does not record through the videoconferencing interface, be aware that there are other ways of recording screens. Tools will not solve all of your concerns. Having a conversation with your students about guidelines is the best way to develop shared expectations about responsible and ethical engagement. 
  • Processing times for recorded video can be significant. If you record a session, it may not be available for sharing until hours after the session is completed. 
  • Recorded video conferences can result in large files. Depending on internet connectivity, it may take a considerable amount of time for students to download or stream the video.

It’s taking forever to upload videos I’ve recorded.

In general, video files are big and upload speeds on most home networks are slower than download speeds. We will be developing and sharing recommendations to optimize upload speeds, but you should expect that, whether you are processing and uploading a video in Panopto or a Zoom recording, the processing and upload time could take several hours. 

One way to address this issue is to keep your videos short. Instructional videos should be kept to 6-10 minutes. Research shows that students do not engage with longer videos, so even if you have lots to say, try recording it in smaller chunks. In addition, for students with low bandwidth internet connections, shorter videos with their smaller file sizes are easier to download for later watching. 

I’ve heard about [fill in the tool you read about]. Should I be using it?

To record and upload instructional videos, you are welcome to use whatever tools you would like. However, please be aware that AT will not be able to provide support for tools that are not part of the regular suite of technologies that we are recommending. Panopto is the lecture capture and instructional video tool that AT supports. 

For student-facing tools, we encourage you to limit the number of tools you ask students to use. If every faculty member finds 10 tools to use in their online teaching, then students are having to learn 30 different tools for the term. That is overwhelming! 

FAQs — course resources & support

What should I know about required course materials?

The Bookstore still needs adoptions, is still ordering books, and remains committed to getting students what they need to successfully participate in class. Contact Tracy Fossum with any questions related specifically to your course.

How will students get their course materials?

Students have been asked to order through the Bookstore website, as usual. Textbook orders will be shipped to the students free of charge via UPS. Students remaining on campus can choose the in-store pick up option or can shop in the store.

Will students have full access to Library resources?

Almost all of our electronic resources are accessible off campus. Please use the library’s website to access databases, journal articles, and ebooks and you will be asked to log in. If you are connected to Carleton’s VPN, you may use the library’s online resources as you do on campus. More information can be found on the library webpage about off campus acccess. Carleton students, faculty, and staff may request journal articles and book chapters from our collection or other libraries through their Interlibrary Loan account and we will deliver them electronically.

Please note: Requests for items we do not own may be significantly delayed due to library closures throughout the country.

If I typically have students work closely with R&I librarians in our courses, how should I think about that for spring term?

Please reach out to your R&I liaison librarian directly. We are planning to offer appointments via Google Hangouts or Zoom. We can offer a variety of online options to support your course: research guides, synchronous or asynchronous instruction, a discussion within your Moodle discussion board, and more.

Can I make digital copies of films, audio, books, etc to distribute to my students?

There is no change to copyright law or to Carleton’s Copyright Policy and Copyright Guidance. For the most part, anything that you could legally copy or display in your classroom you can display in your online classroom.

In general, proceed as you have always done

See the Copyright Committee’s FAQ page for details about multimedia viewing and also about copyright issues with regards to images or videos you might use in lecture captures that you create. As usual, the Copyright Committee can consult with you about any questions you have (

For more information, see the University of Minnesota’s copyright guide on Rapidly Shifting Your Course from In-Person to Online.

Will there be a virtual equivalent of the Writing Center, the Math Skills Center, and the Quantitative Resource Center for spring term? *

Yes! Writing consultations, math tutoring sessions, and QRE/R programming help will be held via videoconferencing (either Google Hangouts Meet or Zoom).

General Instructional Continuity Information

Students and faculty working closely together in a face-to-face setting is a centerpiece of the teaching and learning environment at Carleton. Occasionally circumstances arise that prevent faculty members from being on campus at a time when they are scheduled to teach.

The two options that often come to mind for faculty when they cannot make it to campus are either to find a colleague to cover class or to cancel class. However, technology has opened new avenues for thinking about how to structure instruction and ensure course continuity in those rare situations when you cannot be on campus on a day when you would normally meet your students.

This guide is designed to provide you with information about resources available to you, and how you might use them. Some of these resources are more relevant if you know in advance that you will be gone (e.g. for a conference or a medical procedure) and can plan alternate activities ahead of time, while others can be employed if there is an unexpected emergency that prevents you from getting to campus (e.g. disruption due to severe weather).

Preparation & available tools

As noted in the introduction, the circumstances surrounding any given absence from the classroom vary. This checklist provides some things to think about to prepare yourself and your students for possible interruptions to face-to-face classroom teaching and learning.

  • In your course expectations, be clear about how you will communicate with students.
  • Make the course calendar and all relevant resources available digitally.
  • Designate a centralized location where you will collect student submissions of assignments or other work.
    • Possibilities include Moodle (which allows you to specify the type of submission, as well as set deadlines and cut-offs for submission), Google drive, Dropbox, or a course blog or website.
  • Consider options for moving course activities into a digital space. (More suggestions in the next section.)
    • If your class is largely discussion based, consider if would you want to arrange for a synchronous discussion using Google Hangouts or if you want to organize online asynchronous discussion through Moodle forums, blogs, or other tools?
    • If your class includes a lecture component, consider using Panopto to record your lecture so students watch the content remotely. (There are other reasons you might use Panopto as well.)
    • If class time usually includes activities to evaluate student learning, consider whether online quizzing or student lecture capture might provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they know and identify areas for questions.

Online or hybrid activities & assignments

This list is meant to give some ideas of how you might plan for a class when you cannot meet with your students face-to-face. It is by no means comprehensive. If you have found particular techniques or approaches effective in fostering course continuity when you could not be on campus, please let us know so that we can add to this resource.

  • You could meet synchronously with your students via Google hangouts for virtual office hours or a virtual class meeting.  
  • You could post your lecture notes, handouts, and/or slides as resources on Moodle, and add questions for reflection to guide students through the material.
  • You could use the forum discussion feature in Moodle to foster an asynchronous discussion. For more guided discussion, you might consider asking students to write one-page response papers on a particular topic, post their response in a Moodle discussion board or on a class blog, and then you could ask each student to respond to at least one other student’s paper.
  • If you or your students are unable to meet face-to-face to discuss drafts of written work, you can use Moodle to create a peer review workshop, which will allow each student to provide feedback on another student’s work. Or you could ask students to share their work with you via a Google doc, and you could use the comment and chat feature to review the work.
  • You could ask students to create a voice or video recording on a particular topic, and then ask students to watch or respond to each others recordings.
  • You could have your students use an online annotation tool such as for shared annotation and discussion of text.


If you want more information about particular tools or ideas presented here, contact academic technology. The following staff have particular expertise:

  • Carly Born (cborn): Moodle
  • Dann Hurlbert (dhurlbert): Panopto; instructional video, faculty or student recordings; Zoom or Google Hangouts
  • Celeste Sharpe (csharpe): Edublogs; universal design for learning, online and hybrid course design & pedagogy

Header image created by Wenxuan He.