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Teaching Essentials

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These resources support the delivery of online courses at Red River College. Sign up for the Teaching Online RRC Course, learn about educational technology tools available at RRC, and discover ideas to move common in-class activities to an online learning environment.

Teaching Online RRC Course

Created by the Manitoba Flexible Learning Hub, the Teaching Online RRC Course provides strategies to support the delivery of your online course.

Register for the Teaching Online RRC Course ›

Educational Tools Selection Guide

RRC has reviewed and compiled a range of educational technology that instructors may find useful in delivering online courses. These approved tools meet privacy, security, and educational standards and are released College-wide; they are supported by the CLPE and ITS.

View Educational Tools Selection Guide ›

Online Teaching Activities

Select a teaching activity from the list below to learn about online remote options, best practices, tools and resources.

Instructor Presence and Communication

Communicating with students is an important part of teaching a course. When teaching remotely, there isn’t the opportunity to communicate with students face-to-face. Use alternative methods of communication and consider how you will communicate your expectations for yourself and your students.

Online and Remote Options

  • Update your course outline, email it to your students, and upload it to your LEARN course in the Course Introduction module.
  • Email your students either through RRC email or the Classlist tool in LEARN.
  • Post news items and announcements for students in LEARN.
  • Use the Calendar tool in LEARN to schedule assignment deadlines.
  • Create a welcome video or post.

Best Practices

Create community in the classroom:

  • Introduce yourself by sharing your professional qualifications and personal interests.
  • Give students the opportunity to introduce themselves to the class (e.g. through the Discussion tool).
  • Plan an icebreaker activity for the first class so students can get to know each other.

Establish expectations:

  • Let students know how you will communicate with them.
  • Let students know how they can communicate with each other.
  • Inform students where they can find important course information like when assignments are due and how participation is graded so that they know what success looks like.

Online etiquette:

  • Establish what respectful conversation and dialogue looks like.
  • Create expectation that dialogue will be respectful even when opinions differ.
  • Respond to and address instances of disrespectful communication.

Pitfalls

  • Not holding yourself to the same communication guidelines you have set out for your students.
  • Being hands-off can be perceived as a lack of presence or activity. Students want to know that their instructor cares about their success.

Tools

Resources

Office Hours

Office hours are designated times outside of regularly scheduled classes for instructors to meet with students. Office hours are important not only in face-to-face classes but also online courses, too. It is important that you are available to students to answer their questions and address any concerns they may have.

Online and Remote Options

  • Schedule weekly remote office hours using Microsoft Teams or WebEx to meet with students
  • Create a Q&A using the LEARN Discussions tool

Note: We do not recommend recording Office Hours sessions. If important information comes out that needs to be shared with students who were not present, consider posting it in the News tool or in the Discussion forum. When recording, consider student privacy by asking for consent with a signed consent form.

Best Practices

Before office hours:

  • Determine if you will be offering individual meetings, small group meetings or open meetings where students can ‘drop in’ and stay as long as they wish.
  • Determine purpose (casual chat, specific Q & A, other) and time per appointment.
  • Post your hours and advise if you will not be available.
  • Provide regular reminders regarding office hours (I.e., add to your weekly update messages).
  • Advise students how to prepare for a one on one meeting with you by writing down their questions and if possible, sending to you in advance.
  • Practice using the technology beforehand, and ask students to do the same so nobody is struggling with technology during the meeting.

During office hours:

  • ‘Arrive’ on time
  • Adhere to the time and the ‘agenda’

After office hours:

  • Students tend to have more questions before an assignment or a test and if you notice a trend on certain questions, you can prepare and post a document for all students to read.

Pitfalls

  • Managing your time is key – students may miss an appointment or students may show up unexpectedly. Determine in advance how you will address these changes.
  • Technical issues.

Tools

Resources

Lessons and Modules

Lessons and modules are the basis for content delivery in an online course. Lessons might be based on topics, themes, or chunks of the whole course. In an online course, lessons are grouped into Modules so that students can progress through the course in a logical manner. Well-designed modules usually have a mixture of text, images, and other multimedia to engage the learning preferences of many students.

Online and Remote Options

Best Practices

Writing and grouping (chunking) content:

  • Using a lesson plan or structure (e.g., BOPPPS) helps to present lesson information to students clearly
  • Break course content into a manageable number of Modules (commonly 1/week)
  • Larger lessons should be broken down into sub-modules.
  • Write clearly and effectively (try using the Hemingway App)
  • Consider the timing of each lesson/module by reviewing the course as a student.
  • Only include as much content as you would have covered in a face to face class.

Design and layout:

  • Display the relevant course learning outcomes at the start of each of each module
  • Build links to readings and other supplementary material as items within each module (but don’t overload them).
  • Use built-in page templates to create uniform module pages. This prevents students from being distracted by the layout.
  • Choose an order for modules and their components. Students should be able to move through modules easily and follow the ideas throughout.

Multimedia:

  • Consider recording audio over slides using the built-in feature in PowerPoint or using Mediasite Desktop Recorder. This can be helpful to address reading ability among your students.
  • Creating video lectures using Mediasite Desktop Recorder, which can allow students to see you deliver the content. This is one way of being visible to students.
  • Using images and videos from other sources can be useful. Citation and credit are important.
  • Consider using Open Educational Resources (OERs) from MERLOT, OASIS, Manitoba Open Textbook Initiative, etc.

Pitfalls

  • Don’t include a course-worth of information in each module. It’s easy to include supplementary materials that can seem mandatory to students and increase the time they require to take your course to unsustainable levels.
  • Creating text-only modules can be very dense and off-putting for students. Break it up with different kinds of media and activities.

Tools

Resources

Content Delivery and Online Lectures

Lecturing is a traditional method of content delivery. For many instructors (and for some students) lecturing is a preferred classroom activity because it is how they were taught. When structured and performed well, lecturing can be very effective. In an online course, though, lectures need to be designed differently. In short, even if technologies allow you to lecture for three hours live, it doesn’t mean that is effective for learning.

Decisions:

  • Should you lecture at all? If you do choose to lecture online, you have several other choices to make.
  • Should your lectures be live (synchronous) or posted for viewing on an individual basis (asynchronous)? How long should your lectures be?

Online and Remote Options

  • Record all synchronous lectures and post them to LEARN when the session is over. See these instructions on recording lectures using Microsoft Teams and WebEx.
  • Record audio, video, or screencast lectures using Mediasite Desktop Recorder or Microsoft PowerPoint, and embed them into your LEARN modules. See the “Lessons and Modules” tab on this page.
  • Supplement audio or video recorded lectures with other asynchronous content resources.
  • Chunk content and follow accessibility guidelines when developing your own content delivery resources. If using developed resources, you may need to enhance their original format.
  • Design active learning techniques to engage students in the lesson.

Best Practices

  • Plan your online lectures to support your course design:
    • Clearly align lecture content with the learning outcomes and scheduled assessments so that students see the value of the lectures 
    • Include formative assessment (LEARN Quiz, LEARN ePortfolio reflections, self-assessment, peer-assessment) to prime learners for lecture material 
  • Where possible, choose asynchronous lecturing methods and alternative content delivery methods and sources. Students do not necessarily study between 9 and 5, and online delivery gives students the opportunity to choose their own pace. The more flexible and easily accessed your materials are, the more likely students will be to engage with them.
    • Record content without an audience using Mediasite Desktop Recorder or Microsoft PowerPoint and post them for asynchronous viewing. This will allow students to review content when it is convenient for them.
    • Post handouts, slide decks, and presentation materials in advance so that students can access them and make notes on their own time
    • Use already developed resources such as websites, books, online articles, manuals, simulations and guides, and OERs (MERLOT, OASIS, Manitoba Open Textbook Initiative, etc.)
    • If you use choose to use a synchronous meeting, post the timing of any synchronous sessions well in advance (poll students for time) and send out an email communicating length and frequency of the meetings. When recording synchronous sessions, please review RRC IT Policies and instructions for recording WebEx and recording MS Teams.
  • Make your lectures accessible:
    • Provide captions and a text transcript for audio / visual materials to make the content accessible for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, who have information processing problems and for EAL learners
    • Avoid language that is not inclusive, speak as though you assume that everyone is engaged
    • Remember that some students will replay content more than once to overcome language fluency issues.
    • If you use PowerPoint, use the built in Accessibility Checker to check your presentation for accessibility issues that need to be resolved. You should also provide a textual transcript or closed captioning for your voiceover, or have the transcript of slides in the notes section of the slides. See UCF’s Create Accessible Narrated PowerPoint for a good example.
    • Avoid large files that might require high internet bandwidth or cellular data (this will be mitigated by chunking, see below)
  • Chunking lecture content can promote engagement and increase student attention:
    • Create and post lecture content into 4-7 minute segments (Mayer principle) to help promote notetaking and reflection as well as maintain enthusiasm
    • Use the attention curve to your advantage. Students tend to remember the first and last things that were mentioned. If you chunk things, you can create a series of firsts and lasts.
  • Embed active learning strategies into your lecture to engage students in doing and higher-order thinking skills:

Pitfalls

  • Mandating students to attend synchronous lectures. There are all sorts of issues with this practice, including difficulty maintaining engagement, extracurricular student commitments, and internet access. Marks should not be given for synchronous lecture attendance because in many cases you’re not rewarding learning but instead people with the life circumstances that give them the flexibility to attend.
  • Requiring that students should sit through as many hours of lecture as would happen in a traditional classroom setting. Lecture runtime is not an indicator of engagement time. In an online course, it is common for students to review recorded lectures and replay sections. Accounting for multiple interactions with lectures (and other content items) will also promote deeper knowledge.
  • Not including meaningful ways for students to participate. In many offline settings, learning takes place in active ways, by engaging with others and doing physical activities. Active types of learning usually ask students to demonstrate more complex, real-world skills that are aligned with the higher-order levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Online, there is a risk of overemphasis on listening or watching, which promotes lower order skills like recalling, remembering, and listing versus the ‘doing’ skills that the College values. We encourage you to think about how you might have students actively connecting the course content to real-world applications.

Tools

Resources

Presentations and Discussions

Presentations and discussions are opportunities for students to engage with one another about course content. In an online course, presentations and discussions can be live (synchronous) or self-paced (asynchronous). While the preference might be to mimic what happens in a physical classroom meeting, there are benefits to both styles and timing methods. In an online course, students can and should develop effective communication and presentation skills.

Online and Remote Options

  • Use LEARN’s Discussions tool to facilitate your class discussions
  • Host a live online lesson using Microsoft Teams or WebEx
  • It is usually best to do your recordings without students present. If recording, consider student privacy by asking for consent or signed consent form (pending)
  • Allow students to take an active role in the online session by presenting their work or asking questions

Best Practices

Presentations:

  • Your program or department will have chosen a standard virtual meeting platform – Microsoft Teams or WebEx. It is important to maintain consistency throughout the courses in a program.
  • If you choose to have synchronous sessions, clearly communicate their structure and purpose.
  • Depending on your class size, you can give students the ability to lead a portion of the synchronous discussion.
  • If necessary, plan synchronous discussions while mindful of student workload, accessibility needs, and non-academic commitments (family obligations, etc.).

Discussions:

  • Plan discussions that align with the course learning outcomes. Discussions should help students think about course topics in a deeper or different way.
  • Discussion boards or “slow chat” style conversations are more effective for application or thinking type questions where there isn’t only one right answer. See this as an opportunity to ask probing questions, provoke ideas, and challenge thinking.
  • Give direction and structure so that students know what a “good” discussion post or comment looks like.
  • Step in when the discussion is going off the rails or clarification is necessary.
  • Provide a summary at the end of the discussion period.

Pitfalls

  • Holding mandatory live “check in” sessions without a clear goal. Students need to know that their time will be respected.
  • Lack of instructor presence in discussions can cause some students to wonder if their comments are wrong.
  • Discussion questions where there is one answer, leading to a thread of identical answers.

Tools

Resources

Hands-on Activities

Hands-on activities in the classroom can include labs, tutorials, seminars, field trips, design labs, and demonstrations. These activities help students see the real-world application of what they’re learning. In online learning, you can record videos yourself or use videos and simulations from open access resources. Students can also record videos themselves to submit for assessment.

  • Videos show demonstrations of processes or situations.
  • Simulations are interactive software that changes based on what the user does. It allows students to apply their learning in engaging and low-risk ways.

Online and Remote Options

Videos:

  • Use Microsoft Teams or WebEx to show students hands-on demonstrations
  • Record videos using Mediasite Desktop Recorder
  • Find videos through open access resources

Simulations:

  • Use simulations to help students visualize abstract concepts, systems, and real-world environments.
  • Use interactive simulations to encourage students to learn through practice and experimentation.

Assessment:

  • Use simulations for assessing and providing students immediate feedback on their learning.
  • Have students submit video or digital recordings of their presentations or hands-on demonstrations through Dropbox.
  • Use LEARN’s Discussions tool for critique and analysis.

Best Practices

Make it clear why students are engaging with this content or activity. Explicitly connect it to a learning outcome.

Existing labs:

  • Modify existing labs so students can perform them on their own with materials they have at home.
  • If existing labs cannot be modified, find virtual labs that are connected to the course learning outcomes.

Technical concerns:

  • Do not use software that is likely to cause students technical issues.
  • Be consistent with online platform used (Microsoft Teams or WebEx) and use the platform agreed upon by the program you teach in as laid out in our standards.

Providing support:

  • Make instructions as clear as possible since students may struggle with this new format.
  • Create a discussion board for students to post questions that you a well as other students can answer.
  • Be available to answers questions.

Pitfalls

  • Students not knowing why they are viewing or engaging with this content.
  • Not following guidelines for creating effective educational videos.
  • Using videos and simulations that do not connect to the course learning outcomes.
  • Technical issues.
  • Students struggling to complete labs without immediate instructor support.

Tools

Resources

Group Work and Group Projects

Group work and projects can include discussions, papers, presentations, etc. Group work can help students feel less isolated when working online; however, students may find group work more challenging in an online environment. They may struggle with connecting to their group members and completing their work on time. That is why it’s important to provide guidance to help students better collaborate with one another and succeed.

Online and Remote Options

Best Practices

Make expectations clear:

  • Make assignment expectations very clear.
  • Tell students they must invest a significant amount of time in order to succeed in their group work.
  • Tell students they must manage and schedule their time well in order to succeed in their group work.

Provide tips for success:

  • Teach students how to work in groups, and what group activity looks like specifically in your course. Establishing expectations early on is one way to prevent group misunderstandings.
  • Highlight one or two tips referring to Tuckman’s stages of group development.

Once groups are assigned, tell students to:

  • Meet right away to get to know one another.
  • Divide the work evenly amongst group members, assign tasks, and set milestones.
  • Decide what tools to use to connect and collaborate.
  • Create shared documents to facilitate collaboration.
  • Exchange alternate contact information (emails, mobile numbers, etc.) in case systems are down.
  • Schedule regular meetings and connect often.

Encourage active participation:

  • Tell students they will be using self and peer evaluations to evaluate their own productivity and that of their group members as this will make students more accountable for their work.
  • Consider using a checklist or rubric to identify group members’ contributions to the project.
  • Ask students to justify their own contributions to the project and ask how they could have worked more effectively as a group member.

Netiquette:

  • Remind students of the importance of respectful online communication. Clearly outline your expectations for communication.

Pitfalls

  • Groups that are too large – organization becomes difficult.
  • Not providing enough guidance to students.
  • Students will feel burned if their team members don’t pull their own weight.

Tools

Resources

Assignments and Feedback

Assignments are tasks given to learners to assess their achievement in your course. Good assignments are deeply connected to the course content. Assignments also allow students to demonstrate their achievement of the course learning outcomes.

Feedback is the process of describing student achievement. Good feedback is timely, ongoing, and provides constructive comments. Receiving effective feedback can be a great learning experience. It also connects course assignments to practice by promoting growth and development.

Online and Remote Options

  • Use LEARN’s Dropbox tool to create assignments.
  • Set up the Grades tool in your LEARN course and connect items to their respective assignment.
  • Have students submit their completed assignment documents for grading use the LEARN Dropbox tool.
  • Have students submit video or digital recordings of their presentations or projects.
  • Use the Rubric tool in LEARN to grade student assignments that have been uploaded to Dropbox.
  • Provide written, audio, or video feedback on student assignments.

Best Practices

For successful assignments:

  • Make your expectations clear, both for content and format of assignments.
  • Give students a reasonable amount of time to complete the assignment.
  • Allow for some choice or flexibility in topic or format.
  • Consider accepting draft submissions to provide formative feedback (to improve and guide).

For effective feedback:

  • Include comments on students’ work, not just a mark or percentage.
  • Explain positive and constructive aspects of the student’s work, rather than just justifying the assigned grade.
  • Provide comments that are clear and balanced.
  • Make your feedback timely and ongoing so that students can improve their future work.
  • Consider using audio or video feedback while marking submissions in the Dropbox tool.
  • Let students know when they can expect to receive feedback.

Pitfalls

For assignments:

  • Activities that are not related to the course learning outcomes.
  • Unclear or incomplete instructions.
  • Using a rubric that isn’t shown to students.

For feedback:

  • Numerical grades without comments.
  • ‘Canned’ comments (e.g. “vague” – what about the work is vague?)
  • Using language that belittles or ignores students’ effort

Tools

Resources

Assessments: Tests, quizzes and final exams

Tests, quizzes, and final exams are formal tools used to determine the level of student learning. Traditional formats usually include test-type questions. Other assessment formats might include communicating in written, oral, or visual formats. In any case, the assessment you use should align with your course outcomes and course content.

In an online course, it is important to consider the format of assessments, as well as the conditions. Course timing (time of day, week of term, etc.) and student demographics (year of study, class size, etc.) also factor into how you design your assessment.

Online and Remote Options

  • Use the LEARN Quizzes tool to create assessments.
  • Explore other kinds of online assessments such as group projects, reflective writing, written or photo essays, research reports, critiques, simulations, scenarios or case studies, presentations, demonstrations, and ePortfolios. These are often more effective tools for assessment and learning than quizzes or exams.

Best Practices

Design:

  • Align the assessment activity to the learning outcome(s).
  • Create a mix of formative (with feedback to identify strengths and highlight opportunities) and summative assessments (with grades).
  • Don’t forget to include ungraded activities (drag and drop, true / false) where students can test their knowledge.

Practical considerations:

  • Timed quizzes and exams vs. Assignment-style assessments.
  • If using timed quizzes, using a clearly communicated time window can help to accommodate learners who have work or family commitments, or who need accommodations.
  • Create large test banks and pull random questions from it so that every student gets a different quiz.

Pitfalls

  • Technical glitches (internet crashes, software issues).
  • Group work online takes more time and guidelines regarding teamwork are recommended.

Tools

Resources

Assessments: Math

Best Practices

Best practices for assessing math in an online or blended format:

  1. Match assessment to learning outcomes.
  2. Make the assessment something that can be done with low bandwidth (text or images, avoid video if possible).
  3. Choose an assessment format that can be submitted to LEARN either via Dropbox or the Quiz tool.
  4. Don’t ask students to purchase software or hardware unless absolutely necessary.
  5. Digitizing an analog piece of work (i.e. taking a photo of work on paper) is still effective. (McMaster, 2020)
  6. Assessment formats should be popular file formats rather than something that requires specific software to open (Western, 2020).

Techniques

Low Bandwidth (ideal)
High Bandwidth
  • Use smartphone to record a video of handwritten work 
  • Use a Wacom tablet or similar tablet, this is expensive so should be optional
  • Use Smartphone as “document camera” to stream live handwritten work during MS Teams or WebEx session
  • Give students the option to attach an audio recording explaining their proof or work.

Note: If accepting for photos or videos of work, ask the student to write their initials or name in view so that you can identify it is their own work.

Technologies

Flipgrid

Flipgrid allows students to post video responses to questions or prompts. Students can also add video-based comments on their peers’ responses. The Flipgrid recording interface includes advanced features such as whiteboard, screenshare, custom stickers, filters, and the ability to split-screen video and whiteboard or screenshare.

EquatIO

EquatIO is a free application that allows students to complete digital equations and graphing. Features include integrated graphing, handwriting recognition for formulas, and LaTeX format. The application is available for Windows, Mac, Chrome, and as a web version. See their support documentation ›

Resources

Online Teaching Activity References