There are many things to consider when developing a remote teaching plan or an online learning course. Below are some essential things to think about as you begin this process.
In order to support quality teaching in an online/remote environment, you may need to think about your technology needs in a way that you haven’t needed to in the past. In preparation for your teaching this summer, we’d ask you to consider the following:
- High quality microphone – often the microphones that come in our laptops or home computers are not high quality, and students may struggle to hear what you are saying. A recommended external USB microphone is the Blue Snowball. Many external microphones are available for purchase through Amazon.ca and other online suppliers.
- Home internet speed – If you are planning any synchronous (e.g., live) activities in your class, you will need a consistent internet speed of at least 2 Mbps. You can do a self-assessment of internet speed, or we can help you with this process. Remember – others in your household using the internet at the same time as you will have an impact on your internet speed. If you are doing a synchronous session, you may want to ask that others avoid using this internet as much as possible during this time.
- Recording space – To enhance the student learning experience, we should consider how we set up our technology. Factors such as camera angle, microphone positioning, lighting, etc. should be considered in a home recording environment. If these are not effectively set up, it can distract students and put additional cognitive load on them during the learning process. You can read about some simple tips (or more advanced tips) for how you can set up your home recording environment.
- You may notice in the article referenced above, it talks about how to use a digital camcorder or DSLR camera for high-quality video.
- Presenter account – You may wish to set up a separate user account on your computer that is only for recording presentations. This will avoid capturing any notifications that may normally come into your usual user account (e.g., email messages notifications, text messages, etc.), and these notifications won’t distract you when you are in the middle of a recording. You can do this yourself on your Windows or Mac
- Computer health check-up – a healthy stable computer is necessary for the creation of high quality online/remote learning tools. If you need any support updating or assessing the system health of your computer, please let us know. This article will outline how to perform a computer health check.
- Shared online learning environment for students and instructors
- Instructors lead a live lecture using video and/or audio with questions and discussions with the class similar to an in-person classroom experience
- This synchronous experience does not preclude instructors from recording and sharing the lecture to allow for asynchronous viewing
- Instructors can also deliver and record a lecture without a student audience to be viewed by students later asynchronously
- Recorded lectures will be closed captioned automatically by video recording tools
- Students will need a strong and stable internet connection and a device that allows them to access and participate in the lecture
- In this instance, a day and time are scheduled for the class
- Instructors should specify expectations for scheduled times in the course outline
- A course designed for the online environment
- Learning occurs in a self-paced manner with instructors guiding students through the learning
- This asynchronous classroom experience allows instructors to pre-record their lecture modules that may contain interactive elements including quizzes and activities
- Pre-recorded lecture modules will be closed captioned by the video recording tools
- Students will need a strong and stable internet connection and a device that allows them to access and participate in the lecture
- In this instance, a day and time may or may not be scheduled for the class, but instructors should indicate timelines and checkpoints for learning
- Instructors should specify expectations for accessing pre-recorded lecture modules in the course outline
- Virtual and Online Classrooms methods can be combined
- A tutorial may be scheduled for a specific time through a virtual classroom even as core lecture is available through pre-recorded online modules
There are two basic formats in an online learning environment – synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous happens in real-time whereas asynchronous provides a self-paced approach to completion of content and activities. This handy infographic, adapted from Concordia University, can help you discover which is best for what. We do recommend asynchronous approaches whenever possible as they are more accessible and flexible.
- Asynchronous course delivery is recommended under the current circumstances
- While synchronous learning using live lectures and discussions can be highly beneficial, students who are displaced from their usual accommodations may face complications
- Students may encounter barriers such as difficulty accessing the internet, computer software, or technology and tools that can make synchronous participation and course work possible
- Recording lectures is a good alternative to synchronous learning, but try to keep it short and focused where possible
- Captions should be added/enabled so videos are fully accessible to all learners
- Learn more about the unique communications considerations for asynchronous and synchronous modes of teaching in this article from Stefan Hrastinski
- As you plan for remote online teaching, select the mode of communication based on the strengths and merits of each approach. Consider asynchronous activities for complex content-related topics to provoke deeper information processing and reflection. Use synchronous activities to encourage community building with less complex issues or when immediate impressions, feedback, and planning are advantageous.
- Consider completing or revisiting Accessible Education Training for Instructional Staff through McMaster’s Accessibility Hub and in particular the eLearning section.
- Want to learn how to create accessible documents using Microsoft O365 applications? View this asynchronous series on Accessible Document Creation – developed jointly by our Equity and Inclusion Office and the Faculty of Science.
- See the Accessible Campus Teaching Tips and The Learning Portal AODA Resources for guidance on creating accessible learning environments
- Find out more about how to develop digital materials with accessibility in mind and learn how to make your presentations and documents accessible
Accessibility Hub: Covid Response – Our partners in the Equity and Inclusion Office have curated a series of online accessibility and disability-inclusion focused resources to support McMaster community members during the transition to online and virtual classrooms and spaces. Learn how instructors can engage digital formats, technologies and platforms to enhance the accessibility and experience of individuals with disabilities.
Remote Teaching and Captions
There are differences, however, between and among McMaster e-learning and meeting platforms in terms of captioning features that can be accessed in order to:
- Caption in real-time
- Caption through auto-generation after a video has been recorded
Remote Teaching and Captioning
The following resource on Remote Teaching and Captioning has been developed by the Faculty of Sciences to helpfully guides learners and instructors through captioning capabilities for institutionally-supported teaching, learning and meeting platforms McMaster.
This guide is particularly helpful for proactive accessibility measures applied to online learning environments and virtual classrooms, and is not a replacement for Student Accessibility Services’ academic accommodations for video / audio captioning.
If a learner in your teaching and learning environment requires captioning as part of an academic accommodation, both Student Accessibility Services and Library Accessibility Services will support their accommodation needs.
- Check out the MacPherson Institute’s PowerPoint Design for Learning video series (from EDU600 Workshop)
- This resource uses principles of educational psychology to help you design presentations that are engaging and user-friendly
- McMaster also offers a Brand Guidelines Resource Library for slide templates
For students who are registered with Student Accessibility Services in your course(s):
- Review student accommodations on the SAS website through the instructor login
- Implement extra time for online tests/exams where needed, if applicable
- Consider requests for extensions of assignments
- Keep in mind some students will have accommodations for 1 test/exam per day; 24-hour rest between tests/exams; or 1 full day of rest between tests/exams and will require spacing between your final evaluation and that of others
- If you encounter difficulties coordinating these requests, please contact the SAS Program Coordinator:
- If you have questions or concerns about how to provide academic accommodation for your students contact the SAS main-line at ext. 28642 or email email@example.com
- Universal Design for Learning is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn
- Incorporating UDL principles into online courses can help create more inclusive learning environments and support learner variability
- Use UDL guidelines to design and develop courses that have flexible goals, teaching methods, content, activities and assessments
Learn about the User Experience Design for Learning (UXDL), from the University of Waterloo (Centre for Extended Learning) https://cms.cel.uwaterloo.ca/honeycomb/valuable.aspx
The UXDL framework steps through six elements that contribute to creating well-designed online content:
- Useful – how to organize your content to reduce distraction and how high–quality design can help students to process and scaffold new information
- Desirable –key principles for creating beautiful yet functional content that encourages reflection
- Accessible – covers the underlying principles of universal design critical to creating an inclusive online learning experience
- Credible – not only selecting quality content sources but also adopting evidence-informed pedagogical principles
- Intuitive – how to create an easy to navigate course
- Rather than create something new, consider finding Open Educational Resources to use in your course
- McMaster’s OER Committee has assembled a collection of quality repositories
- OER content from eCampus Ontario, BC Campus OpenEd and copyright free classics are also available through Campus Store – see more about this in the “Support from Campus Store” section below.
LinkedIn Learning is available for all McMaster students, faculty, and staff as part of a collaboration between LinkedIn, eCampusOntario, and Ontario’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. LinkedIn Learning is an industry leader in online training, with a digital library of over 13,000 courses and videos covering a wide range of technical, business, software and creative topics. Its courses help users to refine professional skills, learn new software, and develop personal skills for success.
The opportunities for LinkedIn Learning’s use are many:
- Faculty can assign videos to help support students online learning, or access videos to help their own transition to teaching in a virtual environment. For example, see this Teaching with Technology course.
- Employees working remotely can access content about working from home, using Office 365, or learn new skills for professional development. For example, check out this Microsoft 365 Essential Training course.
- Students can take courses to help further refine and distinguish their CVs, learn time management skills, or develop self-care practices to mediate stress. For example, check out this course for Time Management Fundamentals.
To access LinkedIn Learning, visit https://www.mcmaster.ca/uts/linkedinlearning. For resources in getting started, FAQs, and curated content streams for faculty and staff, visit https://libguides.mcmaster.ca/linkedinlearning.
“Teaching with Technology” Course
- Instructors who are just beginning to teach with technology may find it useful to take this introductory course.
- This training course offered by LinkedIn Learning highlights how technology can enhance the teaching experience online and guides instructors on best practices and fundamental principles of course development. Designed for those with a novice level of experience in online course delivery, it’s a great place to start your transition to teaching virtually.
- The focus of this course is to provide instructors with everything they will need to effectively teach online using technology. Starting from identifying how to use technology to meet learning outcomes, the course provides a deep dive into applying UDL principles (Universal Design for Learning) in course development.
- Learn More
Digital Distribution Platform
- Faculty and instructors can access a cutting-edge digital distribution platform that contains dynamic content from a large number of Canadian Publishers
- OER content from eCampus Ontario, BC Campus OpenEd and copyright free classics are also loaded into this system and can be adopted by faculty for free distribution to students
- Platform enables publishing and distribution of materials digitally while ensuring DRM, copyright management, royalty management and secure transaction processing is in place
Digital Course Packs
- MPS can also develop digital e-course packs that can be distributed through Campus Store digital platform and are a great digital alternative to printed course pack
- Staff and faculty members are encouraged to reach out to the Course Materials team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- They can help with locating a digital resource or finding a suitable digital alternative to print
Free eBook Access
- Campus Stores across Canada worked with Publishers to get students access to eBooks through April 30th
- Students just need to log in with their McMaster email address to access the free materials
- Keep in mind that these are flat file e-text books that do not have the interactive learning tools that many of the faculty members at McMaster adopt
- This work has been done in partnership with a company called Vital Source in the US
- Although end-of-term course evaluations have been cancelled for the Winter 2020 term, you may choose to collect student feedback yourself
- The MacPherson Institute provides recommendations for Collecting Student Feedback at the End of Term in extraordinary times
- Need more survey question inspiration? Check out this master list of example Statements and Questions compiled by York University
- Some traditional forms of assessment are not possible under the current circumstances
- There are lots of possibilities for alternatives to final exams, student presentations, small group assignments, essays/reports, reflective journals, take home exams and more
- Consider the format that suits your course best and explore the options on our Alternative Assessments page
- Find more information about administering tests and exams through Avenue to Learn in our guide.
McMaster’s copyright office has helpful information that will guide you through the considerations to keep in mind as you navigate the pedagogical and technical shift from in-person to online teaching.
- While the physical library facilities remain closed, instructors continue to have access to the Library’s rich course content, robust technological tools and expert assistance – albeit delivered in sometimes new ways. You are encouraged to reach out to library staff with any specific questions or needs you may have.
Students may not have continual robust connection to the Internet. We encourage instructors to take the steps necessary to ensure that their materials are available for students to download and view offline as needed.
By default, many of our institutionally-supported tools are configured so that students cannot easily download content to their devices and must instead stream directly from the Internet. We have pulled together some short tutorials and resources to open up the possibility for students to download content should they not have reliable access to the Internet:
Collecting feedback from your students in the middle of the term allows you to understand how students are responding to your pedagogical approaches, reflect on their suggestions while your experience is fresh, and subsequently implement changes to your course or teaching that can enhance student learning.