Strategies for Remote Teaching and Learning

As you make plans for remote learning and teaching, focus on your instructional obejctives and what tasks you are trying to accomplish:

Featured Resources

Over the past several weeks, we've gotten lots of questions from faculty members, many of which share common themes. The following tips address those commonly-asked questions:

Students of Concern

  • If there are students from whom you have still not heard, please submit a SHARE form as soon as possible.



Other Resources

Deliver lectures

Live Lectures

You can use Zoom, CIT's recommended video conferencing platform, to conduct live class meetings. Visit the Oberlin Zoom support page to learn more about how to get started with Zoom and how to use its features to engage your students.

Hold a recurring Zoom session at your regularly scheduled class time to maintain a sense of continuity for both you and your students. Add information on how to join the Zoom session to your Blackboard course as an Announcement or Content item.

Record Lectures

Use Zoom to record video of yourself giving a lecture or record just your voice as you present content on your computer. 

Upload your recorded video to Blackboard (Original view/Ultra view) to distribute it to your class.

Communicate with students

Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es)—whether a planned absence on your part, or because of a crisis impacting all or part of campus. 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.

  • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email or Blackboard and how quickly they can expect your response.
  • Share answers to frequently asked questions with the whole class: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. Use Blackboard’s Announcement (Original view) or Messaging (Ultra view) feature to communicate with your entire class. When you add an announcement, you can also send it as an email to students in your course. Students receive the announcement even if they don't log into your course.
  • Encourage your students to use apps for easy access to course content: Students can download the Blackboard app to view course material and can set app notifications to remind them about new content, grades, due dates, and more.

Distribute course materials and readings

You will likely need to provide additional course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more instruction online.

  • Organize materials so they’re easy to navigate: Use Blackboard folders/containers to organize uploaded content by topic or time period.
  • Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in Blackboard, be sure to let students know what you posted and where. You might even ask that they change their Blackboard notification preferences to alert them when new materials are posted.
  • Keep things mobile friendly: In Blackboard, you can upload any document type to your course site and permissions are managed for you. However, be aware that not every document type may be viewable by your students and in a crisis many students may only have a phone available. To ensure broad compatibility with computers and mobile devices, consider saving files as PDFs and keep audio and video sizes small.

Facilitate discussions

Live Lecture Engagement

Yes, it is relatively easy to give a PowerPoint lecture in Zoom. It is also relatively easy to use Zoom to have your students engage in a classroom debate, analyze a real-life case, participate in a think-pair-share activity, collaborate on group work, play games and simulations, take a virtual field trip, give student or group presentations, and much more.

Zoom engagement features include:

  • Breakout rooms
  • Chat
  • Whiteboard
  • Screen sharing
  • Polling
  • Non-verbal feedback

Refer to the Teaching with Zoom at Oberlin guide for more on using Zoom to facilitate active learning, student discussions, groupwork, and more.

Pre- and Post-Live Lecture Engagement

Fostering communication among students is important because it allows you to reproduce any collaboration you build into your course, and maintains a sense of community that can help keep students motivated to participate and learn.

  • Use Blackboard Discussion Boards to replicate conversations that take place in the traditional classroom: For smaller course groups, you can also offer group discussions where only members of the group may access the discussion.
  • Link to clear goals and outcomes: Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. How does this activity help them meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments?
  • Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Blackboard Discussions can be graded or ungraded.

Collect written assignments

  • Manage coursework and grades together using Blackboard Assignments: Blackboard Assignments allows you to manage the grades and feedback for each student separately. You can also create a group assignment and release it to one or more groups in your course.
  • State expectations, but be ready to allow extensions: In the case of a campus closure or other crisis, some students will undoubtedly have difficulties meeting deadlines. Make expectations clear, but be ready to provide more flexibility than you normally would in your class.
  • Require specific filenames: It may sound trivial, but anyone who collects papers electronically knows the pain of getting 20 files named Essay1.docx. Give your students a simple file naming convention, for example, FirstnameLastname-Essay1.docx. If you are collecting assignments through the Blackboard Assignment feature, filenames do not need to be managed because files will be renamed to reflect assignment and user that submitted the assignment.

Assess student learning and engagement

  • Take attendance for live Zoom sessions: Use the Blackboard attendance tool to keep track of who is attending the live Zoom sessions. 
  • Gauge student progress: Create and deploy Blackboard Quizzes/Tests (Original view / Ultra view) to gauge progress and assess student knowledge.  Multiple choice, open-ended, matching, essay, and fill-in-the-blank question types are possible. You can control when each quiz/test is available to students, if the questions are presented one at time or all at once, and what feedback is provided.
  • Grade, review work, provide feedback: Using Blackboard to collect and grade assignments, quizzes, and tests can facilitate:

Office hours and peer instruction

  • Use a Zoom Waiting Room and Google Calendar's Appointment Slots features to hold office hours, advising meetings, or tutoring sessions: The Zoom Waiting Room feature allows you to have a single meeting ID with a waiting list, but admit just one student at a time to the session.  If you are with a student, the next student will not be part of the conference but will be ‘waiting’ for the student in the conference to leave. Once the student in the conference leaves, Zoom will admit the next student on the waiting list. You can combine the Waiting Room with Google's Appointment Slots feature to make easy work of scheduling individual students and communicating your open hours to your classes and advisees.
  • Encourage OWLs, Writing Associates, and/or TAs to use Zoom: Tutors can work remotely with individuals or groups of students. All Oberlin students are eligible for a Zoom Basic account and can host meetings up to 40 minutes long. Additionally, the tutor can be added to your Blackboard course as a ‘Content Creator’ so that they can add the Zoom information for their session directly to the relevant course.

Project-based learning activities (labs)

One of the biggest challenges of teaching during a building or campus closure is sustaining the lab components of classes. Since many labs require specific equipment, they are hard to reproduce outside of that physical space.

  • Take part of the lab online: Many lab activities require students to become familiar with certain procedures, and only physical practice of those processes will do. In such cases, consider if there are other parts of the lab experience you could take online (for example, video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations, analysis of data, other pre- or post-lab work), and save the physical practice parts of the labs until access is restored. The semester might get disjointed by splitting up lab experiences, but it might get you through a short campus closure.
  • Investigate virtual labs: Online resources and virtual tools might help replicate the experience of some labs (for example, virtual dissection, night sky apps, video demonstrations of labs, simulations). Those vary widely by discipline, but check with your textbook publisher, or sites such as Merlot for materials that might help replace parts of your lab during an emergency. Middlebury College has created a list of Online Labs and Simulations that may be a good fit.
  • Provide raw data for analysis: In cases where the lab includes both collection of data and its analysis, consider showing how the data can be collected, and then provide some raw sets of data for students to analyze. This approach is not as comprehensive as having students collect and analyze their own data, but it might keep them engaged with parts of the lab experience during the closure.
  • Explore alternate software access: Some labs require access to specialized software that students cannot install on their own computers. In these cases it is important to assess the goal of the activity and determine if an alternative assignment is possible. If no alternative is available, an open source equivalent may be available. For instance, the open source equivalent to MatLab is Octave
  • Increase interaction in other ways: Sometimes labs are more about having time for direct student interaction, so consider other ways to replicate that level of contact if it is only your lab that is out of commission.

Teach using on-campus collections

  • The Allen Memorial Art Museum Academic Programs staff is available to brainstorm relevant objects and teaching strategies to meet your learning goals, instruct you how to navigate eMuseum, our online museum database, provide PowerPoint-quality images for works not accessible in high resolution on eMuseum, co-facilitate class visits via Zoom, and provide support for students completing assignments that utilize museum collections. Learn more about teaching using a digital AMAM visit.