Teaching Through Disruptions

The Center for Teaching & Educational Technology hosts a Zoom online meeting room from 8 AM to 5 PM every weekday to provide instructional technology support to faculty. We will also host all of our training sessions in this Zoom room as well.

Need even more support? You may find 24/7 Canvas support via the Instructure faculty support hotline at 1-833-263-0708 or by visiting the online Canvas Instructor Guides. If you have difficulty accessing any of these resources, please let us know by email, ctet@sonoma.edu.

Begin Here
Ensure access to course content
  • If you use Canvas, make sure to upload your syllabus and post grades and assignments.  If you do not use Canvas, ensure this through other means, or learn the basics of Canvas (see below).
  • Ensure that papers, assignments, and exams can be collected and graded even if you or your students are ill or quarantined.
  • The Center for Teaching & Educational Technology is available to assist you to adapt exams or assignments such that they can be offered remotely.
  • Adjust course attendance policies such that students who are ill or quarantined are not penalized.  
  • Keep in mind that not every student has reliable internet or a personal computer at home, and be open to requests for alternative assignment types.
  • In the instance of short-term disruptions (similar to the fires last year), adjust your course to remove content or assignments such that students are not overburdened with content that was not taught.
  • Stanford's Teach Anywhere: Best Practices webpage is an excellent source of guidance on how to deal with sudden disruptions to courses. We'll be adding much of this material to our page over time; but for now, we encourage you to read through the advice there for guidance related to student communication, course meetings, managing labs, and many other potential challenges.
  • Technology is not the only, or even most important, part of adapting to disruption. The most important questions are about academic rigor and fairness, and we’re actively working with your fellow faculty to develop resources to help you decide how to answer these questions for your courses. As we develop these resources, we will post them here. If you have any suggestions or questions in the meantime, please let us know at ctet@sonoma.edu.
Find Support for Learning the Basics of Canvas and Remote Teaching

There are several options available to you.

  • Attend a new Canvas 101 workshop, tailored to new users around the basics of getting started with Canvas. We will broadcast all of our workshops in Zoom for the foreseeable future.
  • You can get 24/7 Canvas support using the Instructure faculty support hotline at 1-833-263-0708.
  • You can find the Center for Teaching & Educational Technology staff and student workers in our Zoom online meeting room from 8 AM to 5 PM on weekdays for technical support.
  • We've created a faculty-only resource site, including a discussion forum, in Canvas. You can find a lot of advice there about using Canvas and teaching remotely.
Supporting Your Students

As frustrated and confused as you are, your students are probably worse. Here are some things to keep in mind that will help them stay on track.

  • SSU Resource Guide for Students During Class Cancellations
  • Students have access to a 24/7 Canvas support hotline, too! If you use Canvas for your instructional materials, students can call (833) 263-0709 to get help with their technical difficulties.
  • Create a straightforward communication plan. Tell students what medium you'll use to communicate (email, Canvas, etc.) and how often you'll communicate, and then stick to that plan. That will reduce your students' risk of panicking, which will in turn help them keep up with their work.
  • Be flexible. Not every student has a laptop or web camera at home. If a student says that they couldn't complete an assignment, be open to alternate ideas for how they can demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter, without sacrificing academic rigor.
Technology Basics for Online Teaching
Basic Instructional Tech Support

This is a good time to learn to adjust courses for more lengthy potential disruptions.

  • If the campus is closed due to an emergency, you will probably not be able to reach the Center for Teaching & Educational Technology by phone. However, you should still be able to reach us by email at ctet@sonoma.edu.
  • Address correspondence to ctet@sonoma.edu which will be checked regularly by any staff who are able to work.  Individual staff may be unavailable.
  • You can also get 24/7 Canvas support from the Instructure faculty support hotline at 1-833-263-0708, or by live chat via the Help link in your Canvas navigation menu.
  • Canvas Instructor Guide. This is the manual for using Canvas as a teacher, compiled by Instructure, the company that manages the service.
Recommended Technology Solutions

You have a lot of different technology tools available to help you and your students navigate a disruption in teaching. Below are some of our favorites:

  • Canvas. We like Canvas because it can do almost everything: you can distribute and receive files with it, you can send and receive messages with it, you can create and take tests with it, and you can record and publish grades with it. You can get support from us; you can teach yourself with their robust online documentation, or you can get 24/7 support via their hotline. See our Canvas guides below.
  • Email. Good old fashioned email is pretty hard to beat as a communication method. If you’re comfortable, you can use it to update students individually or as a group, and send and receive files. However, if you have a lot of students, the volume might become overwhelming. In that case, look at Canvas instead.
  • Google Drive. Google Drive is a great, low-overhead solution to send and receive files and provide students with feedback on their work. Students can easily share their files with you, and you can then provide them with feedback. If you find that the volume of shared files is becoming overwhelming, however, look into Canvas’ Assignment tool.
  • Adobe Scan mobile app. This free Adobe mobile app works on mobile devices, scans documents into PDFs and automatically recognizes text. Google Drive also has a solution for scanning that saves the scanned document right to Drive.
  • Zoom. We strongly recommend Zoom for live, interactive videoconferencing. You can easily show your desktop or turn on a digital whiteboard; break your class up into breakout rooms for small group discussion, and record your video for later viewing by students who couldn’t attend at the time. See our guide below on online lecturing.
  • YuJa. We recommend YuJa for managing your video collection, since you can upload videos (including Zoom recordings) to YuJa, and for recording video that you want to distribute to your students later. YuJa not only lets you easily store, find, and distribute video files within Canvas, it also makes video captioning much easier. It uses AI to automatically try to caption videos recorded or uploaded, and it has an easy-to-use caption editing tool so that you can clean up the automatic captions before they get to your students. See our guide below on online lecturing.
  • We've created a fully asynchronous Canvas course to help you plan for a longer period of remote teaching. It includes both technology and pedagogy guidance.
Grades and Gradebooks

Managing your students’ grades and graded work via Canvas can help reduce the impact of a disruption on everyone. Most importantly, if you suddenly find yourself unable to teach, your department can easily access your students’ work so far and ensure that they have instructional continuity and receive their final grades in a timely fashion.

It’s easy to migrate your gradebook into Canvas. The best way is to recreate your various graded activities, such as homework and tests, as Canvas Activities. Canvas will automatically create entries in its Gradebook for each of these activities. You can easily fill in the grades for previous work by just clicking in the box and entering the grade. See below for a series of detailed how-to videos and guides.

Videos and guides

Readings and Files

Just because you can't meet in person doesn't mean that your students can't keep up with course readings. Here are some things to keep in mind as you try to move your content online:

  • Suggestions for Remote Teaching During the Covid-19 Pandemic
  • You can email files to your students, but be prepared to deal with tech support issues if a student doesn't receive the file. It's just as easy to distribute files through either Google Drive or Canvas, and students can get help from IT for the former, and the Canvas support hotline for the latter.
  • If you use Canvas, make sure to publish your files after you upload them!
  • Remember that students might not have a full computer at home, and may have to interact with files on a mobile device. Text files are much easier to read on a phone than PDFs, because the text files can scale to the new screen size.

Guides and Videos

Offering Lectures Online

In case of a disruption, you need to plan for two different challenges related to lectures: what to do if a portion of your class can no longer attend lectures, and what to do if you can’t attend lectures.

If you plan to teach your class remotely via live online lectures, we recommend that you use Zoom to do this. Zoom will facilitate a live videoconference with a large group, and create small breakout “rooms” to facilitate smaller group discussion. You can also record your Zoom sessions so that students who can’t attend live can access the material afterwards.

If you want to record videos to distribute later, or if you want your videos to be captioned for accessibility, we recommend that you use Yuja. YuJa has very easy to use editing and captioning tools, and you can easily embed videos in Canvas pages. You can also embed quiz questions in videos, to help your student stay engaged as they watch.

If your Zoom resources were affected by the recent Zoom service issues, we've added new guides below for cleaning up your students' access to Zoom and downloading backup copies of your videos from both Zoom and YuJa.

Videos and Guides

Discussions

Active discussion is one of the foundations of college education. Unfortunately, there's no simple way to "move" an active discussion online, especially for a larger class. Recreating the exchange of ideas and depth of thought from a good face-to-face discussion requires you to combine a few different tools.

  • Canvas' built-in Discussion Board tool is easy to use for asynchronous discussions, either for the whole class or for small groups. In order for an online, asynchronous discussion to approach the quality of a face-to-face meeting, you need to think very hard about your discussion prompt(s). Since you won't be there to gently steer them back on track, students will need very specific instructions to make sure that they both stay focused on the right topic.
  • Also, consider how you will get your students to engage with an asynchronous discussion over time, i.e. coming back to read what other people had to say. Maybe your assignment can have multiple stages, where they have to post their own thoughts, then respond to two posts, and then write you a short essay weighing the main points of the discussion after it closes.
  • The Zoom videoconference platform lets you create multiple “breakout rooms,” effectively dividing a large videoconference up into a bunch of small meetings. Can you give your students a discussion prompt in a large group, then break them out into smaller groups to discuss, and finally bring them back and have one person report to the whole class on the group's behalf? You could potentially do this multiple times in one online class session, guiding students deeper and deeper into an idea every time.
  • Remember, students can potentially get together online outside of regular class time. You can use the Group Assignment tool to give them a homework assignment that requires them to meet with other students, discuss the topic, and collaboratively write and submit a response.
  • Think about how you can combine these techniques with other tools to create more effective online discussions. Can you ask students to reflect on the reading in the asynchronous forum for a few days before you gather the class together on Zoom? That way, all of your students will have already engaged with the discussion material before you ask them to go to their breakout rooms and think about more complex questions.

Videos and Guides

Assignments and Exams

In case of a disruption, some or all of your students may not be able to submit their assignments or come to campus to take exams. Many assignments can be moved online without significant change, but exams aren't so straightforward. If the obstacle is primarily one of access, consider the below ideas to help your students stay on track.

  • If your students suddenly aren’t able to submit their assignments to you in person, you can collect them via Canvas, instead. The Canvas Assignment tool lets you set granular due dates; review the submissions online or download and print them out; and give your students feedback on their work, up to returning marked-up copies of their assignments to them. 
  • If your students’ assignments include presentations or portfolios, consider letting them demonstrate on video via YuJa. They can install YuJa on their personal computers and send you their videos via Canvas.
  • If you have a rubric that you use to grade assignments, include it with the Assignment using Canvas’ Rubric tool. Not only will you be able to easily grade using the rubric, but your students will also see the rubric as part of the assignment prompt. This will help them understand what success looks like and produce higher quality assignments, even if you can’t connect with them directly to discuss the assignment.
  • One of the easiest ways to reduce cheating is to break a big, high-stakes assignment into a number of smaller, lower-stakes assignments. Because students feel less pressure, they're less inclined to cheat; and they (and you!) get earlier feedback about their learning progress, too.
  • The Canvas Quiz tool can not only accommodate a variety of question types, it also has a number of anti-cheating features. You can draw questions randomly from a pool, decreasing the likelihood that two students will get the same questions. You can set a time limit for completing the test, to limit students’ ability to search for the answers in their notes or on Google; and you can limit the window during which a test is available, to prevent any students from sharing the questions with a friend. Some of these solutions take more time to implement than others, however, nor can every exam can be realistically moved online "as is." See our links below for more information, and don't hesitate to contact us to discuss your particular situation.
  • Could you allow your students an alternate method of demonstrating their mastery of your course material? You and your students have access to software enabling easy text and video transmission. Consider whether, given the circumstances, these would enable your students to demonstrate their mastery level with sufficient rigor.

Videos and guides

Labs and Studios

We're still developing guidance for lab and studio classes, and similar active learning experiences. As we develop that guidance, we'll post it here.

Videos and Guides

Student Equity and Success
Student Equity and Success Guides

Watch Faculty Fellow Matthew Paolucci Callahan and Senior Director of Student Success and Advising Jamie Zamjahn discuss student equity during remote teaching.