Shifting your Classes Online

Updated: March 15, 3:50 p.m.

You have three options for shifting your classes temporarily online:

Please note that while the online course delivery method is an instructor's choice, the University of Alberta is recommending that instructors adopt asynchronous delivery of course material (record a lecture or presentation and post it on eClass for students to review at their own time), supplemented by a synchronous online class discussions using video conferencing or eClass forums. We are recommending Google Meet for video conferencing at this time as Adobe connect (eClass live), while it is available and can be used has connection limitations and was not designed for the scale we are now trying to provide. To address this, the University of Alberta will be rolling out Zoom video conferencing as a replacement for Adobe connect (eClass Live) in the near future. You will be informed when Zoom is available.

Option 1: Run Your Class Live With Video Chat Software

This option works especially well for small discussion-based classes, though it’s also effective for large lectures, especially if you have a moderator. 

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Use slides and screen sharing within Google Meet 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. 
    • 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 feature in the video chat platform (such as Google Meet) you are using.
    • 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 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 ‘Breakout’ Rooms to help students talk in smaller groups (just as they would do break-out groups in a larger class environment). 
    • In Google Meet, the best way to achieve this is to have separate rooms created for students to meet in. We suggest having a google document made with group names and assigned meeting room URLs posted on your eClass. 
  • Rethink your classroom activities to make the class more interactive even if 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 ePoll 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 on eClass so that students can access the questions if screen sharing does not work. If sharing slides in advance to eClass, share as 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 Google Meet invitation when you set up a 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 during your call, 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 video 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 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.

Accessibility Suggestions: 

    • Automatic live captioning is available with Google Chat (turn on the CC feature at the bottom of your screen). 
      • If using another video chat platform, You may wish to use Google Slides and enable the live captioning feature within Google Slides. If you share your screen using Google Slides, your voice will be captured and live captions will appear. See Present Slides with Captions for more information.
  • 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.

Option 2: Pre-Record Your Lectures

If you are not comfortable presenting live, another good option is to pre-record any lecture material and share it on eClass. We recommend that you pre-record lectures and add captions that are needed for accessibility reasons

Pedagogical Recommendations

      • Try to keep videos to a maximum of 10 - 15 minute videos as uploading large videos can take quite a long time and even crash web browsers.
  • 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 EDI compliance. Automatic closed-captioning is not perfect. Speak clearly and not too quickly to make the content as accurate as possible. If using a tool other than Google Meet for recording your lecture, consider uploading your videos to YouTube to take advantage of their automatic (though not perfect) closed-captioning. 
  • Integrate interaction with the lecture material. You might consider setting up an eClass discussion board with some specific questions, using a quiz, or setting up a chat session for a text-based live discussion. 
  • Remember to consider accessibility requirements for students as they are watching videos. 

Option 3: Skip the Video

Many online courses do not have a video component at all. If you are not sure you have the right equipment and are uncomfortable with the tech setup, this might be a good option, at least for the short-term.

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Annotate your slideshow with notes and share this with students using eClass or email
  • Set up a discussion (a.k.a. Forum) for students in eClass. Use specific, structured questions, and let students know expectations for their responses. See our recommendations on Written Discussions. 
  • Share links to outside resources. Encourage students to watch videos, read articles, etc. 
  • Use Chat to have a live, text-based chat session with students. See our recommendations on Chat

Office Hours

Set up virtual office hours to meet with students using your webcam, share your computer screen or collaborate using Google Docs. If you are more comfortable, you can also give students your phone number to call, or you can set up an online chat. 

Pedagogical Recommendations 

  • Keep the link to the video chat room you’re using for your students in a central place on your course eClass page. The main factor to consider when holding office hours or conferences with students via video chat is your accessibility as an instructor. Make sure they know how to find your “office” (just as you might offer them directions to your office on-campus). 
  • Encourage students to share their screen with you. Screen sharing is possible not just for the instructor in Google Meet, but for students too. Help your students navigate towards a screen sharing option so that they can show you their written work on their screen.

Written Discussions

To remove technical hurdles and to ensure that students are able to engage with peers and each other in a discussion-based class (even without a strong Internet connection), you might choose to move student discussion to an asynchronous format. Create an eClass Forum to facilitate communication, encourage students to interact, ask questions and respond to discussion prompts.

Pedagogical recommendations:

Chat

You may not currently use a chat function in your class, but it can be a useful tool, especially for student office hours or for students who may be more comfortable asking questions via chat compared to by phone or video calls. 

In eClass, there is a Chat tool available that functions as an instant messaging platform. The messages in chat are visible to the full class community and can be read in real time.

Learn more: How do I use chat as an instructor? 

Scheduling Tools for Student Tutorials/Conferences

Asynchronous

Recommended Tool: Google Docs

If you usually send around a physical sign-in sheet, you might be looking for alternatives that let you schedule appointment slots with students. 

You may book and reserve time with students in three different ways: 

  • Embed a Google Doc/Sheet into the course eClass page/an eClass announcement. Create an openly editable Google Document or Sheet with a table of available appointments for students to sign up for appointments. The link to edit the Doc or Sheet could be shared via an Announcement in eClass or could be directly embedded as a URL within eClass. 
    • Note, this will allow ALL students to sign up at the same time (and edit each other’s submissions). Be very clear with students about not deleting their peers’ names after they are posted. 
    • For assistance, see the Sharing files from Google Drive Help Page

Peer Review

Synchronous Recommended Tool: Google Docs & Google Meet

Asynchronous Recommended Tool: eClass Workshops or Google Docs

Pedagogical Recommendations

  • Write out clear and specific instructions about the expectations for peer review. This means specifying the qualities of writing that students may want to look for in each other’s work. Distributing guiding questions or a worksheet that students can fill out as they review their peer’s work can be a valuable supplement to guide students’ virtual reading. 
  • If you are introducing peer review synchronously (via Google Meet or another teleconferencing platform) and having students work in real time in Google Docs, consider: 
    • Engaging the students in a chat-based or video-based conversation about their expectations for peer review
    • Have students use the chat box feature to share ideas about what makes for effective peer review
    • Use a polling tool, like ePoll or Google Forms, to collect ideas about students’ impressions of and expectations for peer review
  • If you are introducing peer review asynchronously, consider: 
    • Opening up a discussion forum with a prompt that invites students to share their past experiences with peer review. What worked? What didn’t? What are their goals this time? Aggregate student responses to create a document that outlines the class expectations and understandings of effective peer review experiences. 
    • Ask students to include questions for their peer reviewers at the top of their document so that their reviewers can have a sense of what the author would like them to focus on.
  • Include links to technical documentation and support so that students can troubleshoot if they are not able to access peers’ documents.