Every course has learning goals, whether the instructor articulates them or not. When the delivery mode is interrupted, instructional continuity is maintained by remaining focused on those goal. This section outlines overarching ideas about moving from face-to-face to fully online.

For specific tools and technologies, refer to the Instructor Resources section. For some self-assessment, try this Online Course Preparation document.

There are three key interaction points in any teaching situation: instructor-to-learner, learner-to-learner, and learner-to-content.

Communicate with Students

The instructor is the first line of communication between the University and students in a crisis situation. They will check with you before they check any other announcements. What you report is what affects them most. Early and timely communication creates calm and establishes a sense of direction in times of chaos. Plus, clear messages at the right moments save you time dealing with individual responses.

Here are some general approaches:

  • Communicate early and often, but not too often. Students will be getting plenty of email from the University and from their other instructors. One core email regarding your course per week is a good pace.
  • Frequently reference to the course syllabus. Much of that information still applies regardless of course modality. Be sure to re-establish your communication policies and response times.
  • Create a general use forum anyone can post and respond to. This can be a great way for students to feel connected, practice using communication tools in an online environment, see and respond to common questions, and save you work.

Collector Assignments

All courses collect artifacts to assess learning. In the event of campus disruption, the collection of digital artifacts and assignments hinges on whether students have access to computers and steady internet. Student work can be collected using Moodle, through email, through online collection (using tools like Dropbox, and through document sharing (using tools like Office 365 and the Google Suite

Be aware collecting assignments via email or via document share can be really messy in large-section situations or times when assignments are due at the same time in multiple courses. Collection via Moodle is the simplest option.

Assess Learning

Quizzes in Moodle are nice for assessment as they are self-grading and provide students with an instant score. They create challenges because students will use books and materials to take the exams, they may take them collaboratively, and if the course is using publisher materials (for example a question bank provided by the textbook publisher) then students may be finding those answers on the broader internet.

High stakes exams can use remote proctoring services. Please contact the CSTL instructional designers for more details.

The most difficult to cheat assessments are large-scale, scaffolded projects that are due in pieces across several weeks. These can be more work to grade but are more academically honest. Ultimately the assessment method should match the nature of the course and the discipline.

Encouraging Communication and Collaboration

Encouraging communication among students is critical as it’s the foundation of any online community. In an emergency, any face-to-face class time has already established some sense of community, in which case any online interactions can and should capitalize on that. It keeps students motivated to interact and to learn.

Here are some general approaches to facilitating interactivity in the online environment:

  • Asynchronous tools work best. Not everyone can be online at the same time, and not everyone thinks the best during a specific time of day. The flexibility of asynchronous tools allows for thoughtful responses.
  • Any required interactions should meet course goals in some way. Interaction for the sake of interaction feels like busywork.
  • Outline clear expectations for required interactions. This can be done using rubrics and examples. There is no universal grammar for online communication, so it’s important to be clear what’s expected from students.
  • Consider creating groups in Moodle. Group settings can be a bit of work, and they can make a course feel like only six people are taking it instead of 30. This can lead to meaningful discussion in forums and worthwhile interaction. Plus, it allows the instructor to reply to groups instead of individuals.
  • Collaborative documents in Google and in Office 365 can be highly effective.

Course Materials

Moving face-to-face teaching online requires additional support materials. What once could be verbally delivered now needs to be written down. This creates challenges as it can be time consuming to curate necessary course materials. This creates opportunity because online course can take advantage of the wider resource pool of the internet. Online library resources will still work.

Consider the following when collecting and creating online course materials:

  • Notify students that content is available and where they can find it. These materials can be made available through OneDrive or through Moodle.
  • Keep materials as mobile-friendly as possible. Because of poor internet access, some students may only have access to the course through smart phones. This means posting files as PDFs and providing video content via streaming platforms like YouTube and Microsoft Streams. Ideally that content should be ADA compliant, meaning there’s a transcript, captions, or an alternative means to interact with that content. In a pinch we’re all doing the best we can.


There are two options for instructors to facilitate class sessions remotely:

  • Synchronous: instructors and students gather at the same time and interact in “real time” with a very short or “near-real time” exchange between instructors and students.
  • Asynchronous: instructors prepare course materials for students in advance of students’ access. Students may access the course materials at a time of their choosing and will interact with each over a longer period of time.

There are advantages and disadvantages to asynchronous and synchronous teaching options. Synchronous lectures more closely replicate the face-to-face format, meaning instructors have less to adapt. Because these exist solely online, they can become exhausting. Students have a variety of distractions available and will do other things. Synchronous lectures use webinar tools like Zoom and rely heavily on strong internet connections. Students in areas with poor internet (if they have any) may not be able to participate in a meaningful way.

Asynchronous lectures take a lot of time to create. They take the form of narrated PowerPoints, typed narratives, or interactive lessons (using tools such as the Lesson activity in Moodle Narrated PowerPoints are usually in video form and should be distributed using a streaming platform like YouTube, otherwise students have to download the entire video which can be prohibitive. Narratives occur in text documents and PDFs and are the most flexible for rural learners. Interactive lessons are less internet-dependent than video but cannot be downloaded and completed offline.

Lab Courses and Demonstration Courses

Labs are one of the most difficult teaching situations to try to replicate in the online environment. They often require specialized equipment and materials that are difficult or illegal to possess outside a controlled learning environment.

Consider the following alternatives to a lab:

  • Remove the data creation aspect to the lab activity. Provide students with the necessary data sets and focus more on the data analysis and manipulation.
  • Provide video demonstrations of techniques, simulations, data analysis, and pre- and post-lab work to cover any crucial activities so when campus reopens, students are at least familiar with them.

Plan for Implementing Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Moodle is very ADA compliant and nearly all tools in it accommodate most learning challenges. The captioning/transcription accommodation is the most difficult to implement quickly. Do the best you can. In severe cases, contact Disability Services and the CSTL when extensive accommodations are required.

The most common accommodation is extended time on exams and quizzes. Moodle Quizzes add accommodations simply