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Teaching Strategies

Here are some ideas for thinking through the best alternative for quickly preparing your class for online delivery. Remember that these are suggestions to help you in this unusual circumstance. You may not be able to accomplish everything you’d like to do or suggested here. Try to find the best approach for you and keep it simple. Contact the CTLA/DLAC [] with questions or to schedule a conversation.

How do I...

  • Consider using Kaltura, WeVideo, Collaborate, or Webex to record a voice-over PowerPoint.
  • Divide your presentation into shorter segments. A typical online presentation might only be a few minutes for each topic. Ideally, there would be some activity (short quiz, reflection question, journal entry, discussion response, etc) for students after the presentations that would reinforce the concepts presented.
  • Post captioned video content on P-Web.
  • Think about low-bandwidth options for sharing content with students.
  • Blackboard provides a space to organize and share access to class readings, web links, documents, and other resources to support your class.
  • Add Blackboard Course Files
  • Consider scheduling a live online class at the same time as your current class time and use Collaborate or WebEx for web conferencing.
  • Consider using the Threaded Discussion tool in Blackboard. You can post questions for students to discuss.
  • Microsoft Teams also allows for synchronous chat or instant message communication.
  • Determine whether your students will have access to all of the content and materials they will need to complete the project.
  • Consider making a project folder on Blackboard with instructions, and all the digital content they will need to finish the project. If they will need other physical content, determine whether it is feasible for them to acquire it. Projects may need to be modified to accommodate limitations.
  • Think about low-stakes mechanisms for evaluating or checking in on project work, whether this is breakout group work that would normally happen during class time or larger cumulative projects.
  • Consider using the group tool in Blackboard to create online groups. The students can use tools like Collaborate, discussion boards, and collaborative documents to work together on projects.
  • You may have to reconsider hands-on assignments and think creatively for ways that students might reach learning outcomes. For instance, perhaps a video tour of the lab and video demonstrations of experiments.
  • If your primary goal for a lab activity is for students to learn and apply techniques, consider using online simulations and video demonstrations.
  • If your primary goal for a lab activity is to reinforce concepts, consider video demonstrations, virtual labs or case studies.
  • If your primary goal is data analysis and interpretation, consider providing students with data to analyze or use published datasets.
  • If your primary goal is for students to understand and conduct scientific research, consider asking students to propose experiments, make predictions about results and write up results and discussion.
  • For additional resources, visit the Specialized Resources page on this site.


  • Consider adding very short quizzes after each lecture to reinforce the main points.
  • Discussion threads can be used to have students discuss concepts from the lectures.
  • WebEx or Collaborate’s chat functions can allow student to pose questions while content is being shared.
  • Blackboard allows you to collect, manage, grade, and provide feedback on assignments for your students separately or in groups. Blackboard also provides tools to create and deliver online quizzes and exams.



  • WebEx and Collaborate are options student presentations.
  • Either platform allows for synchronous video and audio sharing.
  • Both Collaborate and WebEx will include the option to record meetings if needed.

Having students deliver final presentations in real-time virtually introduces a significant number of things that can go wrong, particularly for students who have technology access barriers and just are not comfortable/do not have significant experience with these distance learning tools.

There are a few options for mitigating  these factors and still allowing synchronous conversation and feedback on student presentations.

All of these options involve having students pre-record their presentations:

  • One option is to have the class gather synchronously and screen the presentation videos, with time for conversation and feedback after each presentation
  • Another option would be to have students post or submit the pre-recorded presentations in a shared online space. Then students could watch the presentations on their own time and come together for a conversation that includes feedback and other kinds of engagement/conversation.
  • If you need online materials such as ebooks, streaming videos, articles, etc. for your course, please see Library’s Distance Learning Guide for more information.
  • ITS is maintaining a list of remotely-accessible software on SharePoint.
  • Contact the Library if you have questions about content access. Contact the CTLA/DLAC [] if you have questions about software access.

Other Strategies for Adjusting to Remote Learning

In this section we discuss some of the most common class assignments and tips for adjusting these assignments for remote learning. If you are using an assignment not addressed below, please reach out to the CTlA/DLAC staff at and we are happy to talk through an assignment adjustment with you.

Class discussions can be conducted synchronously through Blackboard Collaborate or WebEx, or asynchronously through Blackboard discussion boards and email threads.Threaded discussions in Blackboard or through email allow students to reply to each other, build on their responses, and conduct discussion, with the added benefits of allowing students to engage at their own pace, on their own schedule, and for you and your students to review the discussion at a later date.

  • If you don’t typically offer online discussions, it may be helpful to offer guidelines for participation as well as appropriate behavior. This can help to set students up for success, and indicate to students that you take online discussions as seriously as in-person ones.
  • Consider a simple structure for weekly discussion. For example, begin with an open-ended prompt asking students to comment on an idea or passage in that week’s reading assignment that provoked curiosity, interest, or puzzlement of some kind. Have students respond to one another’s posts with further ideas and questions on the topic at hand. At the end of the week, have each student make a further post in which they describe their “take away” of learning from the week’s readings and forum conversations.
  • Participate in discussions with your students! Staying active in the online space (e.g.,commenting on student posts, giving feedback to students) will keep students on track and help build a sense of community in the online space. However, be realistic about how much time you can spend in discussion forums. Read all student posts, but do not feel that you have to reply to all or even most of them.

Group work can be broken down into individual assignments – writing, data collection, presentations, posters, etc. Group meetings and collaboration time can be conducted synchronously using WebEx breakout rooms. For asynchronous group work, the Groups section in Blackboard allows students to communicate and work on documents together. Office 365 tools can also be used to help students collaborate in groups when meeting in person is not possible.

  • Have groups develop a “team contract” to keep each team member accountable and on task as they work remotely.

Writing assignments are perhaps the easiest assignments to adjust to course disruptions. However these assignments may also pose some unique challenges.

  • The Grinnell College Writing Lab is available online to help you work through the design of writing assignments with your students. Contact them at
  • Research papers that involve data collection or the use of the libraries physical resources will be difficult for students to complete. Consider the key goals for the paper and how they might be achieved through alternative means. For example, if your most important goal is source-related, an annotated bibliography might also function well as a substitute assignment. If asking and answering questions is most critical, consider if a research proposal—laying out the key intended aims and approaches of the project—might meet similar objectives.
  • A very helpful resource that we have found is the Center for Academic and Professional Communication at Rice University, which provides an extensive set of online resources to help students with academic writing, presentations, and communication.

To replace in-class presentations you can ask students to record their presentation using simple technology (even a cell phone) and send it to the instructor or full class. If oral communication is less of a core objective, ask students to do one of the following: (1) submit a script of their presentation to assess content knowledge and other skills like persuasive thinking, or (2) create a poster in PowerPoint addressing the main points and research for the presentation.

  • The Committee on Academic Standards is recommending open-book and open-note exams. You should remind students of the general principles of academic honesty, but we do not recommend any formal proctoring or surveillance in these circumstances. Consider how you can create assignments and exams that do not lend themselves to plagiarism.
  • Exams may be timed or untimed, and may be submitted via Blackboard or email. The Blackboard training sessions will cover the creation of assignments and exams in Blackboard. Contact Gina Donovan at for further support with creating assignments and exams in Blackboard.
  • In the case of a timed exam, an instructor might distribute problems or prompts to students by email, then give students a certain amount of time to return their responses.
  • Some courses may be able to have students complete a series of smaller assignments that can be completed remotely in lieu of comprehensive exam.
  • For classes with significant writing (weekly responses, multiple papers, etc.), one option is to give students the opportunity to revise a certain number of assignments and compile them into a final portfolio.
  • Ask students to use a standardized file name for assignments [Lastname_Firstname–Assignment Name] to make files easier to identify when downloaded.

Additional Resources

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