Strategies

When selecting a strategy, consider your style of teaching and the specific needs of your course and students. You may be able to adopt one or multiples of these general approaches to begin teaching remotely on short notice.

Strategies by Common Course Types

If your course is mostly online, with some face-to-face components, consider how you are using your face-to-face time with students and consider your options for replacing those activities as you expand your use of Blackboard to facilitate your course.

Lecture/Discussion
  • Conduct an online synchronous session using Blackboard Collaborate during the time in which you would have previously met face-to-face
  • Upload PowerPoint or other presentation document file to VoiceThread, then for each slide record either audio or video narration. Share the link to the created VoiceThread presentation with your students
  • Implement or expand your use of Blackboard Discussion Forums
Software Demonstration
  • Search LinkedIn Learning for a software demonstration that addresses your demonstration need
  • Use a screencasting tool like Screencastify or Screencast-o-matic to record your demonstration, post the recording to VoiceThread and share with students.
Communication with Students
  • Expand your use of Blackboard Email, Announcements and Messages to communicate with your students
  • Hold virtual office hours using Blackboard Collaborate
Students Making Presentations
  • Create an Assignment in Blackboard where students can upload PowerPoint or other presentation document file to VoiceThread, then for each slide record either audio or video narration. Share the link to the created VoiceThread presentation with your students.
  • Host a Blackboard Collaborate session and allow students to make presentation within that platform. These sessions may be recorded for grading.
Giving Tests
  • Create and deploy tests in Blackboard to check student’s knowledge and skill. Provide students with instructions for completing a test in Blackboard.
  • Use publisher-created tests and quizzes, if available.

If you only use Blackboard minimally and your face-to-face class sessions are dedicated to student discussions, consider how you can add more resources to your Blackboard course to spark discussion and reelect a tool that supports student discussion either synchronously or asynchronously.

Replacing Lectures
  • Upload PowerPoint or other presentation document file to VoiceThread, then for each slide record either audio or video narration. Share the link to the created VoiceThread presentation with your students.
  • Use University Libraries LibGuides and your subject-specialist librarians to curate resources as an alternative to lectures
  • Discover content and materials from LinkedIn Learning Paths and Playlists and Kanopy which are offered to NIU through subscriptions.
  • Explore Open Educational Resources as an alternative to in-class activities and materials, such as MERLOT.org and MIT Open Courseware
Sharing Content and Documents
  • Create a folder in Blackboard for a given class period, week, or unit and upload your content and documents to share with students inside the folder
  • Ask the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center for easy to follow navigation tips.
Communicating with Students
  • Use Blackboard Email, Announcements and Messages to communicate with your students
  • Use Outlook and Microsoft Teams to email or message your current students, teaching assistants or other staff
  • Create a Blackboard Announcement to let students know how often you will communicate with them asynchronously
  • Create a Blackboard Discussion Board to allow students to ask questions
Giving Tests
  • Create and deploy Tests in Blackboard to check student’s knowledge and skill. Provide students with instructions for completing a test in Blackboard.
  • Use publisher created tests and quizzes, if available.
Students Making Presentations
  • Create an Assignment in Blackboard where students can upload PowerPoint or other presentation document file to VoiceThread, then for each slide record either audio or video narration. Share the link to the created VoiceThread presentation with your students.
  • Host a Blackboard Collaborate session and allow students to make presentation within that platform. These sessions may be recorded for grading.

If you currently teach a large interactive lecture course, consider how you could leverage the tools available in Blackboard to shift your course activities online.

Lecture/Discussion
  • Conduct an online synchronous session using Blackboard Collaborate during the time in which you would have previously met face-to-face. You can use Collaborate to present content, share their screens, and use the polling features to get feedback from students
  • Upload PowerPoint or other presentation document file to VoiceThread, then for each slide record either audio or video narration. Share the link to the created VoiceThread presentation with your students
Recitation/Discussion Sessions
  • Ask facilitators to conduct synchronous Blackboard Collaborate sessions during the regularly scheduled recitation time to allow students to ask questions, discuss content with the instructor and gain additional clarity and feedback on assignments and content
  • Use VoiceThread to allow students to comment and discuss content
  • Use a gradable Discussion Board to provide a space for students to discuss a topic
Communication with Students
  • Use Blackboard Email, Announcements and Messages to communicate with your students
  • Hold virtual office hours using Blackboard Collaborate
  • Create a Blackboard Discussion Board to allow students to ask questions
Giving Tests
  • Create and deploy tests in Blackboard to check student’s knowledge and skill. Provide students with instructions for completing a test in Blackboard.
  • Use publisher created tests and quizzes, if available.

Many supports are available if you would like to begin using Blackboard tools for your teaching. If you however don't use Blackboard and prefer not to, there are other tools that can be used.

Communicating with students
  • Create an email list for students using a Microsoft Office 365 (O365) group. Add your students' NIU student email addresses available from your course roster in MyNIU to your course group and to then be able to email your class.
  • Use a messaging app like Remind or Campuswire for your class that students can join and then ask questions as well as use for informal discussion during the course.
  • Meet with students virtually using Microsoft Teams or any other platform or app that you and your students are already familiar with and using.
Sharing content and documents
  • Use a Microsoft Office 365 (O365) group for your class to share files. With a class group in Microsoft O365, you can share documents, spreadsheets, and any other file formats. TIP: To help students easily locate files, create sub-folders for each week or unit of your course and use easily understood file names.
  • Collaborate on documents using O365. Shared documents, spreadsheets, etc. can be collaboratively edited in O365.
  • Use a shared class notebook in OneNote. OneNote Class Notebooks have a personal workspace for every student, a content library for handouts, and a collaboration space for lessons and creative activities.
Collecting assignments
  • Use a Microsoft Form for a quiz, survey, or file submission. Microsoft Forms can be setup in O365 and allow for files to be submitted.

Strategies by Need

The easiest transition to teach remotely is to hold class sessions virtually using a web conferencing tool. Blackboard Collaborate allows you and your students to communicate with two-way audio, multiple webcam video feeds, PowerPoint slides, and application sharing. Students can participate in Blackboard Collaborate sessions on their mobile device in the recommended browsers or the Blackboard app.

Keep in mind that some students may not have access to fast Internet connections, and others may have their schedules disrupted. We recommend recording virtual classroom sessions and being flexible about how students can attend and participate.

Equipment: You will need a computer if you have slides to present or if you want to use application sharing. To be heard in the session you will need a microphone (preferably a headset with microphone for best results) or a telephone that you can use to dial in. You can use a smartphone or tablet if you are only participating via audio and not sharing any content.

If you would prefer to record lectures or videos instead of meeting live (particularly if the circumstances prevent you from meeting during your usual class session), you can create recorded lectures or videos quickly using a variety of tools. Just as you would break a lecture into multiple sections with interaction and activities when meeting face-to-face, we recommend breaking recorded content into short segments of 5-10 minutes in length as opposed to recording long lectures.

The easiest way to do this quickly is to use VoiceThread. You can upload PowerPoint slides or other documents and media then add audio narration. Students can respond and discuss the content via text or audio. VoiceThread is integrated into Blackboard for quick access to create and post materials. Equipment: You will need a computer and either a microphone or telephone to record audio.

If you need to demonstrate software or show students something else on your computer screen, use Kaltura Capture to capture screen activity, narration, and/or webcam video and publish the recording to your course. Equipment: You will need a computer and a microphone to record audio.

Instead of creating new content, you may be able to find articles, websites, videos, or blogs related to the content that you would have presented in class.

University Libraries can provide research instruction and support through remote formats.

  • Library tutorials – Short, YouTube videos about how to navigate library resources.
  • Online Library Orientation Blackboard Module – Includes four, self-paces modules of tutorials and/or readings on basic library skills and a short quiz. For additional information, contact Larissa Garcia (larissagarica@niu.edu).
  • Ask a Librarian Reference Services - Chat, Text (815-782-0396), or use the Ask A Librarian Submission Form
  • Contact the Subject Specialist – Post contact information for your subject specialist librarian so students can contact them directly for assistance.

If your face-to-face course includes student discussions, you can still hold those discussions online. While you may be most familiar with the traditional Discussion Board in Blackboard, there are a few alternatives that you can use for more dynamic and interactive discussions.

You can use Blackboard Collaborate for live discussions or debates. Because Blackboard Collaborate has integrated telephony and mobile access, it is really easy for students to participate in a session via audio and engage in a lively discussion. Equipment: There are a lot of options. You can use a computer with a microphone (preferably a headset with microphone for best results), a computer and a telephone to dial in, or a smartphone or tablet. Wifi is usually recommended over cellular data for anyone using a smartphone or tablet, due to the high bandwidth required.

You can hold asynchronous discussions using VoiceThread. You can post slides with narration, video, or other documents and media, and ask students to answer specific questions or submit comments. Students can use a computer and microphone or a telephone to record their responses, or they can reply via written text. VoiceThread is integrated with Blackboard for convenient grading of student participation.

Blackboard Assignment - Create assignments in Blackboard so students can turn work in electronically. The assignments can be graded from anywhere you can access Blackboard, and you can provide feedback by commenting directly within any Word or PowerPoint file using Inline Grading. Consider using Safe Assign to avoid plagiarism and promote academic integrity. Blackboard Interactive Rubrics take a little time to set up, but can make grading faster. If students are completing work better suited to hand writing on paper as opposed to typing, ask them to scan or take a photograph of their work and submit the file.

Blackboard Discussion Board - In addition to being used for traditional discussions, the Discussion Board is an excellent way for students to submit work that is visible to their classmates. With grading enabled on the forum, it is straightforward for you to provide a grade for their work.

VoiceThread - In addition to content and discussions, VoiceThread is the simplest way for students to create and submit presentations. They can upload slides and add narration, or record and upload a video file. Using the graded VoiceThread integration in Blackboard, you can review and assess their work.

Blackboard Tests allow you to ask objective questions (like multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, or matching) as well as open-ended questions (like short answer or essay).

Delivering a secure exam online can be difficult without a good deal of preparation. To ensure academic integrity, we recommend setting clear expectations, using a timer, and building Question Banks (Ultra Course View) or Pools (Original Course View) to randomize the questions that each student answers. You may also consider writing questions that move beyond simple facts that they can quickly look up and allowing students to use their textbook or other materials while taking the exam.

For just-in-time remote teaching, we do not recommend proctoring services that lock down students' computers or monitor them via webcam while they take the exam. These services require specific technology, such as a webcam, and administrative access on the computer to install software or provide permissions to the proctor. Students may not have access to these on short notice. In addition, the services usually incur a fee to students that should not be required without prior notification.

Scenarios

Every course is different, but you may find some inspiration from these examples of how faculty responded to an unexpected campus closure. All scenarios and names are fictitious.

Introductory History Course - Interactive Lectures

Scenario: Dr. Martin teaches an introductory history course to about 100 students in a large lecture hall on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 75 minutes. In each class session, she lectures for about 50% of the time, broken up frequently with discussions and asks practice questions via a student response system (together these activities take the other 50% of class time). Dr. Martin gives scantron quizzes once per week and uses the student response system to record attendance in each class. Dr. Martin's Blackboard course primarily contains her syllabus and links to extra resources from the course textbook.

Solution: In response to an extended campus closure, Dr. Martin decided to use her Blackboard course to facilitate the course activities online. She created a folder in Blackboard for each week of her course and included instructions for each week's activities and links to tools and resources for each week. Dr. Martin used Blackboard Collaborate to hold a live (synchronous) online session each Tuesday, in a similar style to her face-to-face class sessions, with a mix of lecture and discussion. Instead of the student response system, she asked practice questions via the integrated polling tool. She also used Collaborate for 2 hours of online office hours each week.

To replace her Thursday sessions, Dr. Martin recorded a 10-minute content presentation using VoiceThread and posted the link for students to watch and respond to. Students read in their texts as usual and responded to question prompts in the VoiceThread using a microphone or telephone. Dr. Martin converted her paper quizzes to Blackboard quizzes and provided students a 24-hour window within which to complete them.

Applied Information Systems Course - Software-Based Course

Scenario: Professor Landis teaches a business analytics course that meets one night per week for three hours. In most class sessions, Professor Landis provides a brief lecture, a brief software demonstration in Excel, and provides support while students perform analyses on their own laptops individually and in groups. Students are also provided time to work on their group project, which is a data-analysis project requiring a written report and a group presentation.

Solution: In response to an extended campus closure, Professor Landis used her Blackboard course to facilitate the course activities online. She created a folder in Blackboard for each week of her course and included instructions for each week's activities and links to tools and resources for each week. She used a screen casting tool called "Screencastify" to capture short screen recordings of Excel analyses and uploaded these to VoiceThread for students to playback. Students were able to pause the video and ask questions by posting a comment if there was something in the demonstration that they did not understand. In addition, Professor Landis found videos on Microsoft's help site and in LinkedIn Learning that she shared with her students as additional examples of the analyses.

Professor Landis created detailed assignment instructions allowing students to work independently through the analytic assignments, documenting their results for submission to Blackboard. Students used Blackboard Collaborate to virtually meet and work through their project. Professor Landis also held office hours in Blackboard Collaborate. Students uploaded their final project presentation slides to VoiceThread and narrated the presentation using the built-in narration tools.

Graduate Course in Communications - Student-Created Media and Discussions

Scenario: Dr. Lawrence teaches a graduate course in Communications that meets Mondays and Wednesdays for 75 minutes. Generally, Dr. Lawrence plays a short media clip or film which that serves as the impetus for small group and class discussion. Assignments in this course include student-created media and reflective writing, along with individual project presentation.

Solution: In response to an extended campus closure, Dr. Lawrence used her Blackboard course to facilitate the course activities online. She created a folder in Blackboard for each week of her course and included instructions for each week's activities and links to tools and resources for each week. Working with the library, Dr. Lawrence identified media available both publicly and via the Library's Kanopy subscription and embedded this media in her weekly folders. Students watched these clips and discussed in Blackboard discussion forums. Students created media and uploaded the videos to VoiceThread to share with classmates and prompt further discussion. Students submitted writing assignments via the Blackboard Assignment tool, which Dr. Lawrence graded using an interactive rubric and inline grading annotations to provide students with extensive feedback.

Introductory Science Course - Lab

Scenario: Dr. Lopez teaches several sections of a biological science lab to students in a campus lab space once per week for 110 minutes. Students use microscopes, laboratory tools and chemicals, and work in groups to conduct experiments, analyze results, and write lab reports. Every other week students complete a paper-and-pencil quiz.

Solution: In response to an extended campus closure, Dr. Lopez decided to create a simple Blackboard course to facilitate the course activities online. He created a folder in Blackboard for each week of his course and included instructions for each week's activities and links to tools and resources for each week. Dr. Lopez worked with the biology textbook publisher to get access to a package of virtual lab videos and simulation that accompany the textbook and substituted these virtual labs for several of the in-person labs he had originally planned.

Unable to find a virtual lab or simulation for two specific labs, Dr. Lopez found one demonstration lab on Lynda.com and posted it in the course, and made a recording of himself conducting the final lab using his cell phone, posted the video to VoiceThread, and linked to the video in Blackboard. Instead of working in a group on the virtual labs, students worked individually to complete these replacement labs, including writing and submitting lab reports in Microsoft Word, and discussed their individual findings in a Blackboard discussion forum based on question prompts supplied by Dr. Lopez. He also created Blackboard quizzes in place of the paper-and-pencil quizzes and used Blackboard Collaborate to conduct an hour of online office hours twice per week.


Considerations for Just-In-Time Remote Teaching

Switching a course from face-to-face to a just-in-time remote course requires adjustment and adaptation on the part of faculty and students alike. Here are a few considerations to make the transition smoother.

Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es). You'll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety, and save you dealing with individual questions.

Communicate early and often, even if all the details are not yet in place. At the same time, balance frequency of communication so that you do not overwhelm students with minor updates. You can manage your own communication load by compiling frequently asked questions from individual students and sending the responses out to everyone.

Students were not prepared to complete this course as an online course, and they may not have access to the right technology. Whenever possible, plan your course so that students can complete it from a smartphone, a borrowed laptop, or a public computer (such as at a library). Test whether you can view any files or videos from a smartphone and limit specific technology requirements (such as having a webcam or installing a particular software).

All digital files used for a course should be accessible to all students, regardless of disability. While accessible teaching is a really broad topic, the most common issues are compatibility with a screenreader and captions for audio content.

First, if you have any students in your course who have an accommodation identified with the Disability Resource Center (DRC), be sure to work with the DRC to ensure that the students' needs are met when you teach the course remotely. For example, a student who requires CART services in your face-to-face course will likely also require them when you hold a virtual class session (Blackboard Collaborate has features built-in to accommodate this).

Screenreader Compatibility: NIU has guidance on how to create accessible Word documents. Scanned PDFs are not accessible if the page is an image of the original document; verify whether you can select the text on the page and try copying the text into a Word document to see if it makes sense. If you use images or graphs, be sure to add descriptive alt text so that the student using a screenreader knows what the image contains.

Captions for Audio or Video Content: Any media that has audio should be captioned (or transcribed if there is no visual content). Some tools, such as VoiceThread or YouTube, will create automatic captions for you. Automatic captions are a helpful shortcut but they are not accurate enough to be used as-is. You should always review and edit any automatic captions to provide accurate and complete captions for media that you create. Consider whether media is captioned when you are choosing to use media created by someone else, such as a video on YouTube or a resource provided by your textbook publisher.


Portions of the guidance on this page are adapted, with permission, from the Indiana University keepteaching.iu.edu website. "Keep Teaching" content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License by the Trustees of Indiana University.

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