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Plan Your Course

Where to begin

Whether you’re teaching remotely or in person, start planning your course by asking:

  • What do I want students to know and be able to do?
  • How will I know if they have learned those things?

You want to start here because your answers will shape nearly all other decisions, such as what activities you will use to engage students in learning, how you will sequence and scaffold these activities, how you will assess student learning, and what technologies you’ll choose. Keep coming back to these questions as you plan; they will help you focus on what is most essential in your course.

Transform your pedagogy

  • Familiarize yourself with key principles – these key principles for remote teaching and learning span all aspects of course design and will provide you with a sense of what differs in an online environment.
  • Review the suggestions on this site – Read through the recommendations on this site. See which ones you would like to try.
  • Reflect on your original design and identify what you will need to change in order to support students in remote learning.
  • Get help and guidance – In places where you feel you need support to make your plans work smoothly, seek out help so that you feel more confident in your decisions.

As you know already, planning a course takes time. Make the changes you feel are most important to you and your students’ success, knowing that no plan is perfect.

Below are some other top-level elements to consider as you plan your course.

Pace course activities

  • Plan to spend longer on each activity: Online activities take longer, because you need to check in with students more frequently, to make sure they’re clear on what you’re asking them to do and why, to build in active learning, and to address tech issues (yours and theirs).
  • Build in time for connection. Give students chances to connect to you and each other.
  • Use class time for activities other than real-time lecture. You don’t have to be synchronous the whole time. Zoom fatigue is real.
  • Chunk lectures. Break 30-60 minute lectures into 5-12 min. Videos, one per lecture subtopic. In addition or alternatively, integrate active learning into the (live or prerecorded) lectures. created to keep viewing times under 15 minutes or, ideally, under 10 minutes. Consider what other active learning strategies you can employ.
  • Build in time to gather feedback from students about how the course is going so you can make adjustments if necessary.
  • Build in time for extra communication.
  • Aim for consistency. Post information, assignments, FAQ, & more in the same place, so that students always know where to find each element of the course. Create a rhythm where certain activities happen on the same day each week (e.g. assignments are always due on Tuesday).

Plan synchronous vs. asynchronous activities

What is the difference?

  • Synchronous instruction refers to an educational experience where students are online, in the same space, engaging content at the same, specified time. Frequently facilitated by video conferencing software such as Zoom.
  • Asynchronous instruction refers to an educational experience where students access content at times that suit their individual needs. Asynchronous learning can occur within larger time constraints, such as a week-long module, and does not preclude the assignment of deadlines. The term simply means that students are not required to all be in the same online space at a specified time.

Can I choose whether to go live or record?

  • Ultimately you are the best judge of the pedagogical needs for your course. Determine what is required to achieve the desired learning outcomes and best supports student learning. Consider your own comfort level in working with the technology necessary to achieve your course objectives.
  • Consider student needs, and learn whether students have any concerns. Survey students directly to learn whether they may have internet connectivity issues, difficulty accessing certain online content, and/or may be dealing with illness or family emergencies, or live in different time zones, and any other concerns. This survey can include questions on the level of experience students have with specific Canvas tools, Zoom, and/or Panopto. Let them know that their responses will guide your instruction and will be anonymous.
  • Create new content or borrow it? As you are planning how you will structure and distribute this content, consider what content you would like to design from scratch vs. what already exists elsewhere and can be borrowed. There may not be a reading or video that exactly captures how you usually communicate about a particular topic, but if you can adapt something that is “good enough” and already posted online, you’ll be able to focus on creating the content that is more difficult to substitute.
  • Create small chunks of video content. If you do decide to record lectures, be sure to break these up into 10-15 minute videos that cover different topics or parts of a topic.

Must live instruction occur during the assigned day/time? POLICY

  • Yes. If instructors elect to use synchronous instruction they must do so during their assigned day/time in the UW time schedule (Pacific Time Zone) to avoid creating schedule conflicts for students.
  • In some cases, it may be appropriate to record and post a live lecture for review later by students.

What else can I do to prepare?

  • Clearly communicate with students what technologies they will use and how to access those technologies.
  • During the first week, test the technologies with your students, and determine if any changes will be required.

Diversify assessment

Assessment of online learning looks different from assessment conducted in person. While some instructors worry about students cheating in virtual environments, other instructors teaching online have found themselves adopting new, and often more authentic, ways of collecting evidence of what their students know and are able to do. Learn to diversify your assessment while also adopting best practices in the field.

Provide access & equity

It’s easy to assume that students can organize their lives around their studies. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, particularly during a global pandemic. Students do not all have the same access to high-speed internet or privacy. Some students may be living in crowded conditions with family or roommates, in different time zones. Others may be working part- or even full-time to support family. As you plan and carry out your remote course, keep in mind the varying situations your students may be studying in and use these access and equity strategies and resources.

When to consider technology choices

Think about technology only after you:

  • articulate learning goals,
  • identify how you will assess whether students have met these goals, and
  • map out which course activities will be synchronous or asynchronous.

Consider access, accessibility, and equity at each point.

Then, make technology choices while deciding on class activities, graded assignments, and ungraded assignments.