Remote Teaching shouldn’t mean “always on” – 24/7.

Experienced online instructors will tell you how important it is to find a balance between being available and responsive to your students and taking time for yourself – taking care of yourself. If you are always on and available 24/7 you run the risk of burning out. 

“Frazzled” CC-BY Bark on Flickr

Here are a few things to consider to offer students an engaging and interactive learning experience and at the same time, avoid burning out.

  • Establish a clear communications plan. Let your students know the best way to contact you, whether using your campus email account, instant messaging (e.g. Google Hangouts), or by phone. Avoid using your personal email and encourage students to use their campus email accounts. If you prefer not to use your cell phone number, have your work phone forwarded or consider using Google Voice. Voice permits you to screen calls as well as forward messages to your email. There is also a “do not disturb” feature for down time and you can set up a personalized voicemail greeting.
  • Include in your syllabus when students may expect a response to their email or instant messages. Although many online faculty respond to student inquiries throughout the day, most tell students that they can expect a response within 24 hours. Let them know about exceptions for holidays, vacations, travel, etc. Post these exceptions in an announcement, on the calendar, and set up an auto email response.
  • Set and maintain regular virtual office hours using web-conferencing technology such as Zoom which includes a virtual “waiting room”. Google hangouts is another great way to connect with students and provides for both instant messaging and web-conferencing. You can create a menu item within the LMS specifically for “office hours” including the link and schedule.
  • Be present – use the grade book, post personalized messages, provide feedback with assignments. Post short video announcements. This lets students know that you are present and fosters a sense of student-instructor immediacy – especially important in the online learning environment.
  • Set assignment due dates and times at times when you are available for questions. Rather than setting the due date and time for Sunday at midnight, try noon on Fridays. If students run into trouble or don’t understand something about the assignment, they can contact you. Or should they run into a technical issue, they can contact the help desk during regular office hours. Added benefit –  you and your students can relax over the weekend.
  • Finally and maybe most importantly, schedule some down time. Take breaks throughout the day – especially if you take the time to respond to email and student inquiries after-hours. Put the phone down, turn it off during meals and family or personal time.

Over time you will find your new normal – your own rhythm, one that makes sense for you, providing balance and is healthier for both you and your students.

Take care!

Recent webinar recordings

DLIT sponsored a series of webinars recently on the topic of Remote Teaching, including: Assessing Online Learning, GRCC’s Distance Learning Standards, and Remote Teaching – Lessons Learned. All three sessions were very well attended and provided an opportunity for faculty to share their own experiences teaching online. We will continue to post links to theses recordings and upcoming webinars as they become available.

Remote Teaching – Lessons Learned

No one actually planned to teach remotely this past winter semester but in the middle of March, and within just a few days, we found ourselves shifting unexpectedly from face-to-face to remote instruction. This sudden shift required many of us to quickly learn and adopt new tools, methods, and processes in an effort to continue providing students with continuity of instruction and support. 

This panel discussion focuses on what we did, what worked, what didn’t work so well, and what we need to consider going forward.

Ideas for Assessing Learning Online

Description: Whether you’ve been teaching online or suddenly find yourself having to teach remotely, this Zoom session is for you! Hear from experienced faculty who teach and assess learning online. Share your own ideas and ask questions. 


  • Proctoring options
  • Refining existing assessments to reduce cheating
  • Tools (e.g. Bb discussions, Relay video quizzing, Zoom)
  • Innovative assessment (beyond a tool approach)

GRCC’s Distance Learning Standards

Description: GRCC standards for distance learning focus on quality assurance in the design and delivery of online learning. These standards are integrated into both the Online/Hybrid Certification Course (OHCC) and the Distance Learning Course Development (DLCD) processes. There are eight general standards:

  1. Course Overview and Introduction
  2. Learning Objectives (Competencies)
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Instructional Materials
  5. Learning Activities and Learner Interaction
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility and Usability

Preparing for Remote Teaching

I don’t believe anyone actually planned to teach remotely this winter semester but in the middle of March that’s where we found ourselves – within just a few days, shifting unexpectedly from face-to-face to remote instruction. This sudden shift required many of us to quickly learn new tools and processes in order to continue providing students with continuity of instruction and support.

We have not been alone in this sudden migration from the physical to the virtual classroom. Educational institutions from across the country (in fact, across the planet)  have also made this shift. Much of what we have delivered outside the physical classroom this past semester has become known as “emergency remote teaching”

In contrast to experiences that are planned from the beginning and designed to be online, emergency remote teaching (ERT) is a temporary shift of instructional delivery to an alternate delivery mode due to crisis circumstances. It involves the use of fully remote teaching solutions for instruction or education that would otherwise be delivered face-to-face or as blended or hybrid courses and that will return to that format once the crisis or emergency has abated.  EDUCAUSE Review

To efficiently shift from face-to-face to remote instruction and back again as needed requires a good deal of planning and preparation.

A man working from home on his laptop.
Home Office by David Martyn Hunt on Flickr CC-BY

Remote instruction may leverage synchronous technologies such as Zoom or Google Meet, permitting classes to continue meeting virtually – oftentimes during their regularly scheduled meeting times.  ERT also makes use of recorded lectures to a greater extent than the typical online course.

Preparing for such a sudden shift is necessary to reduce the anxiety level that both faculty and students may experience during unplanned campus closures. A well thought out plan with clearly defined steps can help both instructors and learner know what to expect in the event of a sudden campus closure.

1) Make use of the LMS (Blackboard) for announcements, course materials and grades. Encourage students to install the Blackboard App on their phones. This will help to ensure they receive timely notifications. Use responsive and accessible content that can be viewed on their smartphones. Your students didn’t sign up for an online class and may not have access to all of the technology that supports online learning. Chances are good, however, that they do own a smartphone.

2) Use web-conferencing software such as Zoom or Google Meet for short instructional lessons, small group discussion, and faculty office hours. Even when teaching an on-campus course, it is a good idea to help students become accustomed to the virtual meeting environment. Many students sign up for on-campus courses because they prefer the face-to-face interaction; real-time remote sessions can offer some of the same advantages as as in-person meetings.

3) Use video content. Streaming video and / or audio works well for students whose main internet connection is their smartphone. There is a great deal of professionally developed licensed content (e.g. Khan Academy, NBC Learn, Films on Demand, etc.) available that can be shared in Blackboard via your TechSmith Relay library.

4) Consider using Google Apps (docs/slides/sheets/forms/jamboard) for student group projects and collaboration outside of the classroom. These apps work well with smartphones and can be linked from within your Blackboard course pages and assignments. Google Apps will permit students to collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously, whether in-person or remotely.

5) Consider limiting the number of proctored exams. Quizzes that might normally be delivered in the testing center can be converted to formative assessments and delivered in Blackboard. Students who didn’t sign up for an online class may feel especially anxious about taking their exams online. By permitting them to take their quizzes multiple times, students may test their own knowledge of the material before taking higher-stakes mid-term or final exams. Consider contacting the tutoring center about embedding tutors into your Blackboard course to help students improve weak areas.

6) Look at alternatives ways of assessing learning. Student presentations, research projects, essays, and other types of assessment can be used in place of exams as evidence of student understanding and application of knowledge. For writing projects such as research papers, consider asking your library liaison about embedded librarians in your Blackboard course. Librarians can help to provide assistance with information literacy and related student support for writing and research.

Other resources:

Online Education and Authentic Assessment – IHE

Good questions for Better Essay Prompts (and Papers) – Faculty Focus

Student Centered Remote Teaching: Lessons Learned from Online Education – EDUCAUSE Review

Securing Your Zoom Remote Classroom

I heard from a faculty member yesterday that some unwelcome visitors hacked her Zoom virtual classroom. “Zoombombing” – as it is referred to – is when uninvited attendees join and disrupt the Zoom meeting and begin annotating, sharing screens and inappropriate images. The instructor removed the guests but they repeatedly logged back in and she was forced to end the meeting early.

There are number of things that the meeting host can do to prevent this from happening by modifying the meeting settings and learning how to manage the meeting once it has started.


In meeting settings:

Require attendees to enter a password to join the meeting. Although one of the settings permits embedding the password into the meeting URL, it might make sense to send the password in an email to your students, separately from the meeting URL / ID.

Another option is to require meeting attendees to register for the meeting. Rather than posting the meeting URL publicly, send an invitation to your students requiring them to register for the meeting. Each attendee is sent an unique link and only those registering for the meeting will be admitted.

Turn off “File Transfer”. One concern is that uninvited attendees can post malicious files in the chat window. Instead of sharing course materials within Zoom, post them to Blackboard or in a Google Drive folder set up specifically for your class.

Turn off Screen Sharing except for the Host. This is something that can be modified and turned back on from within the Zoom meeting once the meeting is secure.

During the meeting:

Once all of your students are present and accounted for, Lock the Meeting and evict any unwelcome visitors. This prevents anyone else from joining or rejoining after being evicted from the meeting.

Turn off “Allow Participants to Un-mute Themselves” and then Mute All. This will require students to use the chat feature to post questions and comments but will also prevent others from making loud and offensive sounds or language.

For more information on how to prevent your meeting from Zoombombing. see our YouTube Playlist , and check out Zoom’s blog post – How to Keep Uninvited Guests Out of Your Zoom Event.


Teaching in the Virtual Classroom Using Campus Technologies

GRCC has adopted a number of technologies suitable for faculty and students to continue teaching and learning as we move to virtual learning environments during campus closure.


It is important to note that every course section has a Blackboard shell that can be used for posting announcements, sharing course materials, class discussion, quizzing, and posting grades. By encouraging students to download the Blackboard app to their phones, students can receive just-in-time notifications when their instructors post announcements to their courses. DLIT provides Blackboard Basics workshops each semester with both online and in-person options.



Vendor resources:

Bb Webinar Series: Accelerate your Transition to Remote Instruction

Creating Tests in Blackboard

Google Meet

Google Meet is a video-conferencing tool that can be used to host a live virtual classroom experience. Meet is simple to learn, permits up to 250 attendees and there is no time limit for the session. Meet has a number of useful features, including real-time captioning, desktop sharing, and recording. The video files are automatically posted to Google Drive with an email notification when the file is ready for viewing.


Vendor Resources:

Zoom Web-conferencing

Zoom is another video-conferencing solution to support the real-time virtual classroom experience. The basic version permits up to 100 participants and for up to forty minutes. The Licensed version (formerly Pro version) permits up to 300 participants for an unlimited time. Zoom has exceptional video quality and is compatible on any platform and device. Advanced features with the licensed version include break-out rooms, whiteboard, and a waiting room.


Vendor resources:

TechSmith Relay

TechSmith Relay can be used for lecture capture from the classroom or desktop and seamlessly integrates with Blackboard Learn. Instructors can manage their Relay library through a web interface, that permits uploading and importing video from various sources, as well as posting media directly into their Blackboard course. Additional Relay features include adding quizzes to video and engaging students in asynchronous discussions (conversations). Look for more information on upcoming TechSmith Relay workshops on the DLIT calendar of events.

Vendor Resources:

Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor

Respondus LockDown Browser is designed to lock down a computer during a Blackboard exam, preventing the test-taker from accessing other applications including messaging, screen-sharing, virtual machines, and remote desktops. Printing and screen capture functions are also disabled as well as copying and pasting anything to or from the assessment.

Respondus Monitor is a remote proctoring solution that integrates seamlessly with Blackboard. Students access exams within the LMS as they normally would. The exam is recorded and monitored using the webcam and advanced artificial intelligence technology. advanced artificial intelligence technology. Monitor AI analysis dozens of factors, others in the video, changes in appearance of the exam taker, keyboard and mouse activity, etc. The data flows through a Review Priority system to provide instructors with the means to evaluate proctoring results.

Vendor Resources: