Moving to Online Instruction

As you begin to prepare your response to your students’ needs to having access to coursework online, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the process. That’s why it’s best to begin by taking a deep breath and realizing you’ve got this. You’re not being asked to radically change your teaching behaviors and use a bunch of new technologies all at once. Instead, you’re being asked to consider what you will offer your students in a two-week period.

It is also important to emphasize that many of your students are going to be overwhelmed by this too. Trying to simplify your approach will help everyone–no one needs to try out everything. Think about what you use already, such as email and Canvas, and what it can do. In the end, we want students spending less time learning the tools and more time on the course material. We’ve prepared some additional resources, too:

So let’s begin this process by looking at your syllabus. Identify the lecture material, in-class activities, as well as the homework and assessment. Once you’ve identified them, look below to find strategies divided into categories. These sections will give you both low-tech options and high-tech options while keeping in mind that you should choose what is best for you and your students.

Lecture Material

Generally speaking, most of your lecture material will be covered by the assigned readings and resources already. Build off of the assigned readings by providing one of the following:

  • a lecture component in the form of a Microsoft Word document, i.e., lecture notes, or
  • a reading guide with questions students should be able to answer after they’ve done the reading, or
  • a PowerPoint slide deck with presenter notes with/without a voice-over, or
  • a recorded video lecture using Panopto or YouTube.

In-class Activities

Many of your in-class activities will require interaction on the part of your students. You can move class discussions to Canvas using the discussion tool or use a video conferencing tool such as Zoom. It’s helpful to know that if you can Skype/FaceTime, you can Zoom. This will allow your students and you to “see” each other in real time to conduct lectures, discussions, presentations, and activities. You can also use collaborative software like Google docs to have students build information together.

It’s also important to stress that not all of your classroom activities will have an online equivalent, you may find that you have to redesign or substitute it for something else entirely.

A note about labs: if possible you’ll want to delay these assignments until on-campus instruction resumes. Otherwise, you could find videos on YouTube or LinkedIn Learning or use a free online Virtual Lab or PhET that demonstrates what will be learned.


You’ll want to consider how much students will be turning in to you. If you’re using something like email this can eventually become a bit overwhelming especially if you’re teaching multiple classes (and as such Canvas is our preferred method.) Think about what is absolutely essential for students to show mastery of the learning concepts and then require those items be turned in.

As stated before, you can have students email or set up the Canvas’ assignment feature to have students turn in work for each assignment. These can be in the forms of images, audio, video, and/or written work.


Perhaps you planned to test your students through a multiple-choice quiz or scheduled an exam during this time period. You can redesign your exam to be a take-home, fill-out in a Microsoft Word document and submit via email or Canvas. If it’s timed, you can set it up by using the Quiz feature in Canvas, which allows you to set time requirements as well as how many attempts are available.


Send an email to your students discussing what you have in mind for the next two weeks. Try to gauge how comfortable students will be with the changes. For example, if you’re using a video conferencing tool, ask them about it. You can also “practice” with students to reduce the anxiety of starting out the gate picture perfect. You may find that acknowledging the stress of the change will help reduce anxiety and keep your students achieving.

Also you might decide students will need an individualized response more than what email can provide during this time. You can use a video conferencing tool (e.g., Google Hangouts Meet) to quickly meet with your students online and have them share their screen with you.

Beyond Two Weeks

You may be wondering about teaching your course online beyond these two weeks. For this, you will need to consider how you can make the online experience just as rich and high-touch as your face-to-face classes. This may require learning a little more tools and being creative with the strategies you employ in your classroom. This article can help you consider the options of Teaching Remotely more fully when you’re ready.

We’re Available to Help!

As always, the Instructional Technology team is here to help you with whatever new tool you decide to pick up as well as with redesigning some of your face-to-face activities to online. Together, we can ensure that our students continue to have the quality education that St. Edward’s University provides.

Special thanks to Jennifer Jefferson of the Center for Teaching Excellence for helping shape this article.


4 thoughts on “Moving to Online Instruction

    • Yes, James, you can totally use PowerPoint during Zoom. 🙂 However because of buffering, we recommend you send students a link to the video on the web to watch it on their computers. This will help the video appear normally to students without cutting in and out.

  1. Thanks! One of my F2F Tuesday night ethics students heads back to Europe, so starting next week I need to record Zoom classes Tuesday 630-920pm so she can watch them later. How do I do that?

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