Teaching Continuity - Resources for Teaching Remotely

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Roanoke College has closed the campus to all face-to-face meetings of classes effective 3/12/20. Students have been sent home and faculty are now tasked with rapidly developing a remote learning strategy to be in effect for at least three weeks, and quite possibly for the remainder of the term.

The Teaching Collaborative is dedicated to helping faculty with this difficult transition. Below, you will find a listing of a variety of resources and links that we have been collecting. We'd like to add your suggestions!  Please email Chris Lee (teaching@roanoke.edu) links you find that would be of value to your colleagues, we'll get them added here.

This page is not clean and polished, and that will be the same for your courses! 
We are in triage mode.  But, the faculty and staff at RC are an incredibly talented and dedicated group - we will be successful.

Do You Have a Question, or Want to Talk?

Have a specific technical question? If you have a specific technical need or question, Information Technology has staff on hand who can help! Please submit a support ticket so they can track the request and quickly respond.  It is tempting to just call them, but trust us, it is faster and more efficient to submit a ticket.

Members of The Teaching Collaborative are available!  While moving forward we are not doing face-to-face meetings, we are available for individual consultations.  Currently Director Chris Lee is setting aside time to talk via Zoom with individual faculty. If you'd like to chat, email clee@roanoke.edu to set up a time.

Want some emotional support and to see that you are not in this alone?  Visit and join the rapidly growing Facebook group The Spring 2020 Online Learning Collective.  Excellent ideas being exchanged.

A Candid Statement from the Director of the Teaching Collaborative

(warning - opinions run rampant through this narrative, scroll past for resources)

Let's get this out of the way - this sucks!  We are all at RC precisely because we love the personal interaction with our students.  But, a wrench has been thrown in to that and it is time to rapidly adapt to new circumstances.  I can tell you that in my 26 years here I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing group of faculty and staff, and I have zero doubt that "we got this".  We have the ability and drive to finish the semester with a positive outcome for our students.

So, what do we do? We continue to teach.  We are NOT switching to online education, I would much rather we call it remote learning.  Online education carries with it a very specific set of skills, pedagogies, and methodologies that we are not going to master by this Tuesday.  Instead, we all need to take a deep breath, assess what material we really want our students to experience, and figure out how the learning/delivery and assessment will happen. Let me start with a few points and tips I've picked up from close to 48 hours straight of rapid networking and reading...

  • No, you are not going to get through everything you were planning on covering - some material must be cut.  But, don't just pick what is "most important", be sure to carefully consider what will work best in a remote learning environment, and consider what may be needed most by future classes.
  • Your assignments will change.  Students have very mixed access to specific software, hardware, resources, and labs.  Consider doing portions of the work for them, and letting them focus on other portions.  For instance - complete the lab or data collection for them, crunch the data, and let them focus on the analysis.  Ideal?  No, but that ship has sailed.  For each assignment ask yourself: what is the critical part that you'd like them to tackle?
  • Avoid synchronous activities as much as you can.  Internet connectivity, home life, sick friends and family, all will make it difficult for an entire class to get online at an exact moment.
  • Switch to all open book/open note assessment.  It is simply impossible to fairly put in play an expectation that students will have no resources out when they are sitting in the same environment in which they are studying.  Students still learn a lot in an open book setting, questions may need to be adjusted.
  • Be consistent with deadlines.  For the weeks we are remote, find a routine and stick with it, having material always due on Sunday nights for instance.  Students are juggling 4 or 5 different classes with different remote implementations, they will have a hard time keeping track of it all.  Send lots of reminders!
  • Set  and communicate expectations for daily activity.  Our students are used to structure and now that is all gone.  If you're thinking that your work should be taking them 1-2 hours a day, tell them that!
  • Be extremely transparent in how your students grades are going to be determined - it is a huge concern for them. As I hope you are all going to be generous given the circumstances, let them know that.

And finally, as our Dean and others have said, be kind to yourself and your students.  This is not going to be your best work, and this is not going to be their best work.  But, we are an excellent faculty and staff, and we have excellent students who truly want to learn.  We can make that happen.

Please feel free to contact me at any time with questions, comments, concerns, or ideas to share.  There is a very specific reason we called this a Teaching Collaborative.

Chris Lee,  3/14/2020


Resources, in no specific order...

Video Conferencing with Students Using Zoom

Virtual classrooms, office hours, and group work.  If you would like to do have face to face interaction with your students, by far the most popular implementation is to use the software Zoom. With Zoom you create a "room" that you then invite your students to join.

  • Here is an excellent .pdf tutorial written by faculty member Rama Balasubramanian. She uses Zoom to remotely interact with her students in groups and provides a wonderful easy-to-follow introduction.

  • And, provided by Zoom, here are some great instructions on joining a meeting, you may want to share this link with your students.


Testing, Quizzing, and Assignments

Our recommendation is to use Inquire to collect all graded assignments.  While this can be accomplished by simply having your students email you attachments, your email inbox will quickly get overwhelmed and will lose organization. Built in to Inquire are a variety of options for assessing your students, from simple to high-tech you can choose your comfort level.  These are all achieved by adding an activity to your course.  In all of these approaches work submitted is only visible to you, for discussion forums see the next section.

  • Simple text entry.  Suppose you just want students to comment on an article, or enter free-form text to answer a question.  The simplest and easiest approach is to add an assignment and under "Submission types" select Online text.  You can specify a word limit if you'd like.  These responses will only be visible to you.
  • File Upload.  You may wish for students to upload a file.  This could be a word or pdf document, or a simple .jpg from the camera on their phone.  I would encourage you to allow multiple file types as you don't know what technology students have access to at home. As above, create an assignment and for submission types select File Submissions.  You can set the maximum number of files they can upload.
  • Built-In Quizzes.  This is by far the most complicated approached, and if you have not done it before I do not recommend you learn now.  That being said, on Inquire you can create live online quizzes that have a large variety of question formats, and automatic grading.  The upfront work is worth it if you're going to use these over and over, but may not be worth it in these stop-gap times.  Here is tutorial on setting up a quiz activity on Inquire.  Also, you may want to submit an IT support request to learn this.


Providing Feedback on Assignments.

This can be challenging, but there are a variety of options available to you.

  • Direct Feedback in Inquire.  This is the simplest approach.  When creating/editing an assignment, under feedback types select Feedback comments.  You can then view their submission and type comments in a box shown in a window next to the preview. 
  • Download - Markup - Upload.  More complicated, but effective.  You can download their submitted assignment, mark it up via pdf annotation, writing on printed paper, etc... and then upload this response to their work.  Start multiplying the number of students times the number of assignments... this requires many steps and a large amount of time.


Discussion Boards (Open Forums) on Inquire

Built in to Inquire are fully featured and easy to use discussion boards.  You get set up a simple discussion board in which you ask a question and allow them to respond. Or, there are more advanced features in which you can set "completion requirements" of each student having to comment/reply a specific number of times and then check your roster for completion.  Here is a help page on adding open forums, and you can also submit a support request for help getting started.


Lecturing - Content Delivery

No, hopefully none of us were relying solely on lecturing anyways, but we now have a new specific challenge of delivering content to our students.  Each course will have already have resources being used (textbooks, novels, papers, etc...), but now is the time to think creatively about alternate ways to enhance the content for your students.  And, now is not the time to re-create the wheel!  There is a LOT of excellent content available online.  A healthy mix of these resources will increase variety and interest for your students, and most of them have already has experience with these.  Consider:

  • TED Talks
  • Podcasts / Famous Lectures
  • Khan Academy
  • Kahoot
  • Youtube
  • Quizlet

Using Video

Undoubtedly many of us are thinking about creating videos to provide content and lecture-style presentation to our classes.  We also may want to use video screen capture to demonstrate software or show the working of solutions.   There are a variety of options available, stay in your comfort zone.  Remember - we're not looking to create and edit video masterpieces at this time. 

Creating Video

  • The simplest method is to use the video camera in your cell phone, propping it up and aiming.  For this and other solutions the audio may suffer so definitely consider a bluetooth or USB microphone to better capture your voice.

  • Narrating powerpoint.  Powerpoint has an easy to use built-in narration, you can work through a presentation and record and embed in the presentation what you'd like to say.  Here is a pretty simple introduction to Powerpoint narration.

  • Zoom.  Above you saw instructions for using Zoom.  An interesting option is to create a Zoom meeting, be the only one to join it, and record the session.  This ends up creating a nice screen capture video of what you're looking to present or demonstrate.

  • Snag It.  The software SnagIt is currently available for free and is reasonably intuitive to use for video screen capture.  This is the most complicated of these three options, so decide how deep in to new technology you want to get.

  • QuickTime.  On a Mac?  Mac's have video capture software QuickTime built in.  You can record your screen and do simple editing.  Here is a pretty straightforward tutorial.

Sharing Your Videos

Now that you've made your videos, how are you going to share them with your students?  While you can directly upload video files to Inquire, this is not a recommended approach.  With only a few minutes of video you can easily surpass the allowed maximum file size.  Two possible options are:

  • Upload you video to a streaming provider, most popular are YouTube or Vimeo.  You can than share a link to your video on your Inquire page.  Of, if you are uploading multiple videos you can simply have your students checking your YouTube channel.  I guarantee they know how to do this!
  • Or, you can add your video file to your Microsoft OneDrive account, and then share this file with your students.  There will not be file size problems.  But, the viewing isn't as convenient as it is not a streaming service, so when a student clicks the link they will have to wait for the entire file to download to their device before they can watch.


Links To (NEW) Technology

First, now is NOT the time to be taking huge leaps in to uncharted technology areas.  Carefully assess the skills you have, and only tackle new technology if it is needed to achieve a goal you have identified.  Do not start with new technology and then find a use...  That being said, vendors are flooding academia with offers and enticements to help us out, and to get us to begin using their products.  More useful though are the abundance of articles that are appearing to help us consider and select new technologies. ( PLEASE NOTE - our Information Technology Staff is not in a position to provide support if you choose to use a new technology/software that is not part of our college offerings.)


Access To Your Electronic Files

We may quickly get to the point (or you may already be there), that you do not want to come in to your office yourself.  You do have the ability to remotely access your files on either your office computer or the college network.  Here is a good internal document on accessing your files and the network remotely.

NOTE:  It may more efficient though to in a single visit to your office transfer all your files to MS Onedrive.

If you need access to specific software that the college licenses but you do not have on your at-home computer, see this article on Roanoke College Remote Computing (RCRC).

Note - office desktops are configured to run on our network and can not simply be unplugged and taken home, they will not work without reconfiguration and some software installed will not be able to access licenses.  For this reason college desktops should not be taken home at this time.  If you have a College-provided laptop, it is configured for mobile use and may be used at home.


Reading List

There is no limit to the articles you can now find from colleagues and organizations regarding the rapid transition to remote learning.  Here are some we recommend, and please send ( teaching@roanoke.edu) us links to any you find that you think may be of particular interest to RC faculty.


Have other ideas / resources to share?  Please drop an email to Chris Lee at teaching@roanoke.edu