Online-Teaching Best Practices

When it comes to teaching online you have several options of lecture delivery to choose from, such as synchronously with Zoom, or in the case of a backup, asynchronously with Microsoft PowerPoint or pre-recorded Zoom sessions. We will go through your options and best practices when setting up your online course.

There are best practices that apply to every course, regardless of how you deliver lectures. They are the following:

1. Instructors must communicate with students via email or eCampus Announcements. Be sure to set expectations with your students on the following communications protocol:

    • Communication Frequency
      How often the course instructor will send information out to student?
    • Communication Channel(s)
      Where students should expect to see communication from the course instructor? eCampus announcements, email, etc.?
    • Student Engagement
      How students should engage with communication, including how they should contact the course instructor?
    • Course Instructor Response Times
      How frequently students should expect to receive a response from the course instructor, including on weekdays and weekends?

2. Send your students information on the resources they are required to interact with. A great start is sending them this page from Office of Academic Innovation’s Keep Learning Program. This link should take them directly to an area with instructions with how to use Zoom and eCampus for classroom, assignment, and exam purposes.

    • Please remember to be flexible with your students. They may not have reliable internet access every moment of every lecture and exam. There have been multiple instances of students taking exams near restaurants or libraries and the signal dropping mid-exam. Be prepared to answer emails during exam times and to take these instances into account when deciding about makeup exams.
    • There are COVID-19 related internet resources for access to internet for students who do not currently have it at home.
      Guidance to Districts on Providing Internet to Students
    • If your students do not have a webcam, please refer them to this document How to Turn Your Cellphone Into a Webcam

3. Consider where you are planning to post your lectures for your students to access. It must be a secure location such as eCampus, a secure Google Drive, or the Zoom Cloud.

    • YouTube is not an available option if your lecture includes student information (e.g. student names visible during a Zoom lecture).
    • eCampus is a good option, but gets very slow when you begin adding large files such as Zoom recordings. This option works well for those who are recording over PowerPoint slides.
    • Google Drive is another good option, as long as your sharing settings are set to be available to your students via sharing a link and the settings are that the students “can view”, which will let them access the recordings, but not remove or change anything in the folder.
    • Zoom Cloud is a great option if you are recording lectures via Zoom and would like the ability to edit the lectures or add captions and then share it with your students

4. Grades should be posted on eCampus only. Discussions about Grades must still take place in a secure setting, such as a breakout room in Zoom office hours.

5. Office hours must still be conducted. Zoom meetings are recommended for office hours and for one-on-one communication with students. These do not need to be recorded. You may not give out your personal phone number to students to use for communication.

6. Consider how you will give exams. Do you want to do send home exams via email, or timed exams via eCampus?

7. Consider how you want to proctor exams in eCampus.

    • Using Zoom for proctoring:
      • You can use Zoom as a tool to watch students as they take exams. You can have them show the camera their ID and do a room scan before they begin to minimize the chance of having cheating material nearby.
      • You can create breakout rooms with TA’s as proctors in larger classes to create Proctoring rooms where students are more easily watched while taking the exam.
        • One device Proctoring- Having the student log into Zoom on their computers to be watched as they take their exam
        • Two device Proctoring- Having the student complete the exam online on their computer, and using Zoom on their smartphone, with the camera set up to view the student’s computer and work area as they take the exam.
      • Please read these instructions on best practice for Zoom Proctoring from Office of Academic Innovation
      • You must record your proctoring session and store it in a secure location for 1 year after the course ends, as it contains student information. Please reach out to your Department’s IT to establish how they would like you to do this. For Biology, the Webmaster will reach out at the beginning of the semester to establish a plan to retrieve the recordings for storage at the end of the semester.
    • Using the timing of the exam to prevent proctoring:
      • Carefully make the exam so that it should take the time allotted to prevent students from having the time to search for answers
      • You can also prevent backtracking of questions during an eCampus exam, making it so they have to answer one question at a time and they cannot go backwards.

8. If you would like to learn more about how to use the tools at your disposal for online-teaching, the Office of Academic Innovation’s Keep Teaching site has many helpful instructions and video resources, and there are sets of instructions for the tools you may use in the workflows below.

Workflows for delivering and posting lectures

Teaching Synchronously

For synchronous teaching, Texas A&M recommends the use of Zoom to hold your class at its assigned time, with students signing in to join the lecture.

Difficulties to be aware of for Synchronous Lecture via Zoom:

  • Large classes of students can be difficult to interact with via Zoom (100+ students)
    • Consider whether you want to ask students to wait to ask questions, or use the hand up button to ask a question mid-lecture
  • Chats and student feedback during lecture can be distracting
    • Consider muting all participants at the beginning of the lecture, and let your students know when you will be able to check on the chat (during or after lecture)
  • Some students may not have adequate internet resources to join a live Zoom session
    • Consider recording your lecture to give them an option to view the recording at a later time

Workflow for Synchronous Teaching

  • Give, record, and Save your Lecture
    • Instructions on hosting and recording a Zoom Lecture
      • Consider recording your lecture to post for students who may have internet issues and cannot join synchronously, or who become ill, etc.
    • How to Turn Your Cellphone Into a Webcam
    • Instructions on Zoom Security
    • Instructions on Zoom Settings that removes Student Information
      • This will ensure that your recordings are not under FERPA guideline issues, useful for those who teach synchronously but do not call on students. These recordings can be used for future classes.
    • For those who wish to be very interactive with students during lecture and your recordings DO include student information or video, these recordings must be kept securely and archived for one year. Please contact your Department’s IT staff to determine how your recordings need to be securely stored.
      • FYI: recordings with student information visible (their name, video, or voice) CANNOT be used in your course in the future.
    • Some tools to be more interactive in your lecture include:
  • Post your Lecture on Google Drive
  • Posting a Lecture to eCampus
    • Use the Course Menu on the left to navigate to and add content to your course
    • Start Here can be used to add your Syllabus, Course Schedule, and other important information
    • Course Materials can be used to add File, Readings, and Assignments

Teaching Asynchronously

For asynchronous teaching, you can record your voice over PowerPoint, or record a Zoom session with no students. This must be uploaded by normal class time, and as a reminder asynchronous instruction should be used ONLY as a backup.

Workflow for Asynchronous Teaching

Tools for a More Interactive Online Course

  • “At-home” Field Trip
    • Example: Invertebrate Zoology Course
      • Procedure was simple, the student could get 2 bonus points (for a total of no more than 10 points) for each clear photograph of a different local arthropod (“local” meaning Texas) with some sort of identification
      • Purpose was to give point opportunities that might relieve some of the tedium of being stuck at home and give the students a chance to use some of the information they had learned.
      • Example Assignment Turned In 1
      • Example Assignment Turned In 2