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 Canvas 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? Canvas 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, Canvas 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
- Consider adding this statement to your syllabus: Alongside the Aggie Honor Code, Texas A&M university observes proper netiquette, internet etiquette. Hold yourself to the same standard online as you do in everyday life. Remember there is another human on the receiving end of your content. Make yourself look good! This is an opportunity to put your best foot forward and grow as a professional. Respect other people’s time, bandwidth, and privacy, all the while giving them the respect that you would also like to receive. Share information that is worth someone else’s time. Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes, because you will make them too.
3. Consider where you are planning to post your lectures for your students to access. It must be a secure location such as Canvas, a secure Google Drive, or the Zoom Cloud.
- When deciding whether to record your course or not, keep in mind that large lecture based courses are easy to set up in Zoom to hide student information. If your course is small and discussion based in Zoom, it will be impossible to hide student information. Lectures that have student information and faces must be carefully stored in secure areas noted below, and your students should be notified that they are being recorded.
- The students who need to access these videos (due to illness, internet issues, etc.) should be notified that further distribution or recording of these lectures is in violation of FERPA.
- Cameras installed in large classrooms (BSBE 115, etc.) face forward towards the instructor and will not be recording student faces. Nevertheless, it is best practice to notify the students that their presence in the course is being recorded.
- YouTube is not an available option if your lecture includes student information (e.g. student names or faces visible during a Zoom lecture).
- Canvas is another great option, the dashboard will store your zoom cloud recordings in an easy place to find for your students. Instructions for using Zoom in Canvas Module
- 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.
4. Grades should be posted on Canvas 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 or written assignments. Do you want to do send home exams via email, or timed exams via Canvas?
7. Consider how you want to proctor exams in Canvas.
- Academic Innovation’s Proctoring Site with options for proctoring and instruction sets
- Using TAMU’s Aggie Proctoring Center
- This is a service from TAMU providing trained undergraduate students to help proctor your exams via Zoom. This service is meant for exams that are 10% or more of the total course grade and if you do not have TA’s to help virtually proctor. This service does not provide proctoring at any time like Honorlock, it is for adding proctors to your normally scheduled exam time in Zoom.
- 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 Canvas exam, making it so they have to answer one question at a time and they cannot go backwards.
8. Consider how to increase student engagement in your course. Engagement is an important determinant of student learning but it can be challenging for faculty to maintain high levels of engagement in courses taught online or in a hybrid format. For example, approaches to foster engagement must account for class size and available technology, and access to lecture recordings must be carefully considered. Surveys indicate that students want access to lecture recordings, but faculty prefer that students use recordings only as a supplement to real-time class participation. Below are guides for three levels of student engagement that faculty may consider. Regardless of the approaches used, faculty should define their expectations in class and in the syllabus.
- Low Engagement
- Ask students to keep cameras on during class when possible, but this is not checked.
- Ask an occasional question via the chat or polls function.
- Record all lectures and allow all students access as soon as the recording is available using Canvas dashboard.
- Pros: Minimal effect on class timing, easy to implement in large classes.
- Cons: Student engagement is likely to be low.
- Medium Engagement
- Require that cameras be on during specific times (beginning, end, during poll questions) to create a “check in” process.
- Ask a poll/chat question at least once each class period.
- Place Zoom recordings on Google Drive then make available X days after the lecture.
- Pros: Flexible timing, check-ins encourage engagement, delayed access to recordings may encourage real-time attendance/participation.
- Cons: Cannot enforce camera use. Delayed access to lecture recordings cannot be done with the Canvas dashboard – must schedule the Zoom meeting using the app or tamu.zoom.us, download each lecture, and then upload it to a Google drive.
- High Engagement
- Require that cameras be on at all times.
- Check lecture attendance and total time logged in via Usage Reports on tamu.zoom.us – inform students that this will be done.
- Ask a poll/chat question worth points at least once each class with random timing.
- Place Zoom recordings on Google Drive then make available only if a student has a valid excuse for missing class.
- Pros: High student engagement, great for small classes.
- Cons: Cannot enforce camera use. Cannot use dashboard Zoom recording feature. Arranging individual access to recordings is time consuming for large classes.
9. 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, workflows, and video resources, and there are sets of instructions for the tools you may use in the workflows below.