Understanding your best approach

Looking at remote learning models and planning the best approach for your course.


The following four scenarios will help you pick the best approach for moving your course into a remote model (adapted from Tannis Morgan).  You can read a detailed version of the ways to approach a remote course in an online environment in this PDF or Doc.

How My Course is Organized

I use PowerPoints, worksheets, pdfs, you name it. 50% or more of my class involves students working with my materials.


How can I distribute my course materials?


  • Avoid dumping an entire set of course materials into one location and instead organize content into weeks.
    • At the most basic level you might consider emailing weekly content to your students using the Email Tool in Blackboard which is already populated with your class list. Using clear subject lines like, EDFT 101 Week 8 Course Materials, will help students stay organized as well.  
    • A better option is to create content folders in Blackboard to organize and distribute your content. Build content folders to house files, videos, links, and library resources in weekly chunks of content. The files should be renamed to clarify when students will use them (i.e. week8_PPT, week8_reading1, week8_worksheet).
  • You might make use of your OneDrive cloud storage account to share content with students. If you choose this option, it would be ideal to create folders in line with the recommendations for Blackboard.

How should I communicate with students?

  • Categorize the types of messages you might have for students whether they be housekeeping items, adding context to course materials, providing clarity around assessments or providing feedback on students work.
  • Use Blackboard announcements to communicate were possible, and set them to expire when they are no longer needed or stay up permanently.  This will save you emailing back and forth with students.

How students should communicate with me and their peers?

  • Organizing your students into peer support groups can help to alleviate a lot of questions. You may want students to solve their problems in a group first before emailing you in order to make emails to you more manageable.
  • Alternatively, you can create a shared document that students can add their comments and questions to, and invite students to answer each other’s questions or challenges.
  • Tell them their questions/muddiest points have to be in by a certain day, then compile all of the class group questions into one doc and respond. This document could be called Week 8 Question responses. A short video or audio recording can also be a good way to answer questions and improve your connection to your students without vastly increasing time answering email.


Organize and communicate a discussion structure

  • Consider whether you would like your course to discuss things synchronously (all at the same time), or asynchronously (able to read and post at different times). Asynchronously is much easier for everyone and is recommended.
  • Structure the discussion around a key question or two per week and ask everyone to reply in that thread.
  • Designate a student or group to summarize the discussion or part of the discussion at the end of the week and post to everyone. Rotate that role. Consider doing your own wrap up email (Subject Line: Week 8 – Wrap Up) to capture any topics that didn't get addressed or need further exploration.
  • If you're wanting to keep your format of discussions live, then a web conferencing tool like WebEx will need to be employed. Lag may be an issue at times, especially for larger groups.
  • Organizing the questions into weeks and scheduling expectations, for example 'Post a response to the question by Wednesday and reply to the two other posts by Friday', will keep things moving in an asynchronous environment.
  • If you want discussions to be actively used, consider assigning marks for participating in, and/or leading discussions.  You will need to clearly communicate your expectations for what a good contribution looks like, and how long it should be.

Here are a variety of methods to use a discussion board in your teaching.

Make groups and communicate the tools that will be used to facilitate them. Be sure to communicate your expectations and the schedule of activities.

  • Easily set up groups using Blackboard Groups
    • establishing groups allows you to better monitor group work as you can “pop in” to group discussions and activities
    • have a variety of tools with which they can interact, share files and information and have discussions.
  • Use email in Blackboard to correspond with student groups you can get your groups established with a group introductory message, copying all the group members.  Communicate some initial instructions and expectations, asking them to connect and begin planning their strategies.
  • USask also supports the use of Wikis as a collaborative space for students to work together. Students may also prefer to use something like Google Docs for this purpose. If they use Google Docs, you can ask to be added to the document.
  • Another option would be to set up a WebEx room for each group to use and then add them as moderators.

Providing feedback and facilitation to groups can be as simple as responding to a “Check In” email that you can request student groups to send you each week. Like in face to face teaching, you will need a plan for what you will do if students do not participate equally, and a way to tell who has contributed what.


What Tools Can I Use?

How to communicate the instructions and expectations of lab work?

  • Provide details around the schedule of activities
  • Schedule and communicate virtual office hours and tools to communicate

How to demonstrate techniques or lab practices?

  • Consider creating video demonstrations of techniques using Panopto. In addition to desktop recordings, Panopto can be used to record and distribute videos taken on your phone’s camera. These videos can be linked and uploaded directly to your Blackboard course or shared via email with a link.

How to find and provide virtual labs, online content, or design at home lab alternatives?

  • Search online for relevant video demonstrations or simulations already created.
  • Consider the use of existing open source virtual labs that might support your students’ work.
  • Provide your students with raw data sets that they can analyze and summarize when active data collection is not possible.
Your teaching story is valuable! Click the button below to open a fillable pdf to download.  Fill it in and share with GMCTL your remote teaching experiences. We are looking for your great ideas, tips you may have to share and any struggles that you may have so we might inform, share and assist with best practices for remote teaching with our campus community.