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Online Teaching Quickstart Guide

How Do You Move Your Classes Online? A Quickstart Guide for Brand-New Instructors

Is it your very first time teaching online? Consider three simple suggested options for shifting your classes online:

Option 1: Run Your Class Session Live With Zoom

This option works especially well for small discussion-based classes, though it’s also effective for large lectures, especially if you have a moderator. You might want to consider spending a shorter class time as a "live" session than you'd usually do in person. 

The Tech Side: 

If you're new to Zoom, start by going to the Stanford UIT website to download the Zoom software. This Zoom Cheat Sheet can help guide you through setting up Zoom on your computer or mobile device and will familiarize you with essential Zoom features for getting started. 

Teach Anywhere has detailed information on using Zoom for your course; it's a good place to check back as you have questions. 

For many instructors new to Zoom, the easiest way to use it is from within your Canvas course.

  1. Log into your course and find "Zoom" on the side menu.
  2. Click the blue "Schedule a New Meeting" button to set up your class meeting. Make sure "recurring meeting" is checked.
  3. If you want to record your sessions (recommended for accessibility reasons and to help students with poor internet catch up), you might want to also check the "Record automatically" checkbox.   
  4. Set up another meeting for your office hours. Don't set those to record.

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Use slides and screen sharing within Zoom to make sure discussion questions are visible to students who may have a slow Internet connection or who may struggle to hear the audio for the initial question. (Look for “Share Screen” at the bottom of your Zoom call.)
  • On your first slide, display an agenda at the start of the class session so that students know what to expect of the shared time together.
  • Use the chat (bottom of your screen). See In-Meeting Chat.
    • Moderate discussion, i.e., “call on” a student with a comment to speak, to help them break into the conversation. 
    • For larger classes, assign a Fellow or TA to moderate the chat and make sure important questions and comments are addressed. Even for smaller classes, it may be worthwhile to ask a student (or two) to take on special roles as “chat monitors” to voice if there are questions that arise that the instructor has missed.
    • You might use the chat to troubleshoot technical problems. For example, if a student is having trouble connecting via audio or video, the chat might be a space for you as the instructor or for fellow students to work together to problem-solve. This may, again, be an opportunity to assign a student to a special role, especially if you have students eager to help on the technical aspect of things. 
    • If you have a TA or a Fellow who can support the class instruction with technical help, this would also be a good person to respond to troubleshooting tips in the chat.
  • Use Zoom Breakout Rooms to help students talk in smaller groups (just as they would do break-out groups in a larger class environment). See Managing Video Breakout Rooms
  • Rethink your classroom activities to make the class more interactive even if Zoom students don’t have ideal connections and aren’t able to hear and see everything perfectly.
    • Have students write and comment together on a shared Google Doc. 
    • Try using a live poll or Google Forms to collect student responses, and then share results with both in-person and online students. 
  • Consider making discussion questions available in advance in Canvas, etc. so that students can access the questions if screen sharing does not work. If sharing slides in advance to Canvas, share as accessible PDFs, as students will be able to access the material on their phones. 

A Few Troubleshooting Tips: 

  • If your microphone is not working, use the phone number listed in the Zoom invitation when you set up a Zoom call. You can use your phone as the microphone and audio source for your call rather than your computer’s built-in microphone if necessary. 
  • If your Internet connection is slow or lagging, consider temporarily turning off your video stream and only maintaining the audio stream. Sometimes, running the web camera on your computer will use up the Internet’s bandwidth in a way that might make communication challenging. Turning off the video should improve communication quality and consistency. 
  • If you have earbuds or a headphone set, wear them! Wearing earbuds or headphones will reduce the amount of noise that your computer will pick up, which will make it easier for your students to hear you. Similarly, you may want to advise your students to wear earbuds or headphones during the call. 
  • Advise students to mute their microphones if they are not speaking and unmute the microphones when they wish to speak. Students may be joining Zoom calls from all kinds of different locations, many of which may create background noise that could be distracting. Encourage students to mute themselves if they’re not speaking to minimize unnecessary or distracting background noise. Using the “raise hand” feature (under the "Participants" button in Zoom) or simply seeing the microphone unmuted will give the group a visual cue for when a student wishes to speak. 
  • Check the “chat” space for student questions and contributions. Some students may not have working microphones and, therefore, may be unable to contribute via voice. The chat room is a good place for students to contribute, ask questions, and be involved.
  • Check the Zoom Help Center 

Accessibility Suggestions: 

  • Captioning. Students who need live captioning should go through the Office of Accessible Education. Zoom does generate automatic captions and transcripts for sessions as long as they're recorded to the default "cloud." These captions are very helpful for all students for reviewing the material. If you want an automatic live caption, your best option is to use Google Slide's automated option--see Present Slides with Captions (via Google Drive support).

  • For students who are blind or have low visibility, narrate the material that you’re displaying visually on the screen. Just as you might read materials aloud in class, read screen material that you share on-screen just in case students are not able to see essential text.

Learn More: Crash Course in Accessibility

Option 2: Pre-Record Your Lectures

If you are not comfortable presenting live, or if you want to "flip" your classroom and reserve live time for discussion, a good option is to pre-record any lecture material and upload it to Canvas. We recommend that you pre-record lectures using Zoom to minimize the technology learning curve. However, if you already have a favored method for recording video (such as using Quicktime on a Mac), you can also record that way and then upload your recorded video using Panopto (called "Course Videos" on Canvas). Either way will generate automatic closed-captions after uploading.

The Tech Side: 

Basically, you’ll want to open up your PowerPoint or slides, make sure you’re recording to the cloud, and then use Zoom’s “Share Screen” tool. See this Video from a Stanford Academic Technology Specialist: How to Pre-record Your PowerPoint Presentation in Zoom

If you follow the steps, in a few minutes to a few hours (depending on the length of the video), completed videos will be automatically uploaded to your Canvas course -> Zoom -> “Cloud Recordings” tab.

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Keep videos short and lively. It is often harder to focus on a video than on a person! Check out some tips for creating lively short online videos from online educator Karen Costa.
  • Test your microphone to make sure that you have good sound quality. Consider using a headset with an external microphone to capture better audio.
  • Consider accessibility. Automatic closed-captioning is not perfect. Speak clearly and not too quickly to make the content as accurate as possible. 
  • Integrate interaction with the lecture material. You might consider setting up a Canvas discussion board with some specific questions, using a quiz, or setting up a chat session for a text-based live discussion. 

Option 3: Skip the Video and Teach Entirely in Canvas

Many online courses do not have a video component at all and can be run entirely within the learning management system, Canvas. If you are not sure you have the right equipment and are uncomfortable with the tech setup, this might be a good option. If you're new to Canvas here are some tips to help you get started and check out our resources for getting Canvas help when you need it.

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Create slideshow-based content for lecture-based material and use the speaker notes to offer annotations and/or a "script" of what you might otherwise say during an in-person class session. You can upload these slidedecks to Canvas, either in the "Files" section or in a series of "Pages." You'll want to offer clear instructions to students on how to find these slidedecks, but basically, you can "flip" your lecture-based content and turn it into written content that students get assigned to read and discuss.
  • Set up a discussion for students in Canvas. Use specific, structured questions, and let students know expectations for their responses. 
  • Share links to outside resources. Encourage students to watch videos, read articles, etc. that are related to your course content. In other words, put together a syllabus that asks students to consult with outside materials and texts related to your course content.
  • Use chat to have a live, text-based chat session with students, instead of a live class session. See our recommendations on Chat