Digital Learning & Design

Online and Remote Accessible Learning - Student Guide

You will likely be taking online or remote accessible courses. See these definitions for further information about what each entails. This guide provides students with information about what to expect from an online or remote accessible learning experience and how to best plan and prepare. Regardless of which type of course you take, there is a focus of inclusivity, accessibility, continuity, and flexibility.

  1. When registering for courses, review the course information, format, and meeting times to determine what will work best for your schedule and time zone. Courses are being designed for maximum flexibility. Ex: Some courses that are designated “online” may have minimal or no synchronous meeting times. Courses that are designated “remote accessible” may only meet once or twice a week and you could join in-person or virtually over Zoom. 
  2. For remote accessible courses with in-person meetings on campus at Brown, there will be a limit to 20 people in the classroom at one time. Classrooms are being outfitted with technology which will also enable students to join class remotely and participate. For example, there might be 15 students in-person in the classroom and five students joining over Zoom remotely.   
  3. All meeting times for online or remote accessible classes are in Eastern (EST) time zone. If you are going to be off-campus in a time zone where there’s a significant scheduling issue (ex: class time is at 1am for you) please contact the instructor ASAP to discuss options and accommodations. Alternately, seek out courses that are offered online with minimal or no set meeting times.
  4. If you are in a different time zone than Eastern Time (ET) and your course is using Canvas, you may need to make adjustments to your settings in Canvas to reflect your new time zone. Canvas does not automatically adjust your time zone. All dates and times in Canvas show as ET because of Brown’s location in Providence. For example, if the deadline for your paper is 11:59pm on Friday and you are now on the West Coast, which is Pacific Time (PT) and 3 hours behind ET, your paper is actually due at 8:59pm (PT). Submitting later then that time would show as “Submitted late” in Canvas. 

If you are in a different time zone, it’s important to communicate with your instructor to let them know. They are likely to be flexible and make recommendations for accommodations. One common accommodation they may make is that the deadline can be observed relative to the time zone you are in (i.e., you can submit at 11:59pm in your current time zone). It would technically show as “Submitted late” in Canvas, but your instructor could ignore that, knowing you are in a different time zone.

From a technical standpoint, there’s two ways to approach time zones:

  1. Adjust your time zone setting in Canvas so it will automatically adjust all Eastern Times to show in your time zone. For example, the “due date” would show as 8:59pm for the paper if you are on the West Coast (PT). If your instructor has put text on a page (e.g., in the syllabus) adjusting the time zone won’t affect that. Here’s the instructions for how to adjust your time zone in Canvas. If you adjust your time zone and then come back to Providence, you will need to adjust it back to Eastern Time (ET). 
  2. You can leave the time zone as Eastern Time (ET) but be aware of and mentally calculate the time zone difference.

Given the nature of this situation, instructors understand the importance of establishing and maintaining open communication lines with students. Your instructors will let you know how they plan to communicate with you. Some examples of communication channels include: creating a Room in Google Chat, sending emails from a course email list, or using Canvas announcements or inbox.

Your instructors are aware of how important the following are:

  • Consistency with the digital tool selected for online communications and to have this information in a prominent location, such as the Syllabus page in Canvas. 

  • Guidelines for the communication channel(s) selected and how they are best used

  • Identify how you should contact the instructor or TAs and expectations for how quickly they will respond

For each of your courses, your instructor will be deciding what is the best way to continue the course virtually. How each of your courses are continuing virtually will be communicated to you by each of your instructors. 

    How to Attend Class Virtually using Zoom

    The following are common approaches that may be used:

    • Your class is a remote accessible class and you meet twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. When attending class, 10 of the students are in-person in the classroom with the instructor and the other eight students are joining class on Zoom. This mix of in-person or remote attendance could vary week-to-week. Before attending class, you might watch the recorded lecture(s) and review materials shared in Canvas to prepare. Class time would be used for discussions, activities, etc. The instructor would facilitate an experience where both in-person and remote attendees would be able to participate equally. After class, you might go to Canvas to review follow-up materials posted, add ideas to a discussion forum, or submit assignments. 
    • Your class is an online class and you meet once a week virtually on Zoom and you complete other classwork over Canvas. With this type of online class, it would be a synchronous experience where everyone would meet together at the same time. While on Zoom for class, your instructor can host lectures and share audio, video and screen presentations. Questions and discussions can be shared over chat and smaller breakout room discussions can occur as well. The Zoom sessions can be recorded, saved, and shared after the session is over. It has been recommended that recordings are posted to Canvas. 
      • If you are not comfortable with your name or video being recorded, we encourage you to talk with your instructor about turning off your video during a Zoom session and/or renaming your account during each session to "First Name, Last Initial." 
    • Your class is an online class and there is no set meeting time. With this type of online class, there is maximum flexibility and different time zones are less of an issue. For this class, you would log into Canvas and interact with the instructor and your classmates completely asynchronously. You as a student might log into the course before the first day and read through the introductory materials like the syllabus and read an announcement with a welcome video from your instructor. Each week, you might watch recorded lectures and participate on the discussion forums twice by posting ideas or follow-up questions. There are weekly assignments always due on Sundays at 11:59pm. These weekly deadlines are set the same days/times to help keep you on track. There is a final group project and the instructor surveys the class to help mitigate time zone concerns so it’s easier for students to work together. You might connect with your group to figure out a time that works for everyone to meet together on Zoom to work on the project. Projects are shared in Canvas and everyone reviews and provides feedback, kudos, and asks questions. The only time you as a student ever met synchronously with anyone from class was for your group project and once for office hours with your instructor. The instructor offered office hours every week, posted video announcements regularly, and provided feedback on discussions and assignments.

    Other items worth noting:

    • Your course may feature recorded lectures that have been shared within the Media Library in Canvas (using a tool called Panopto). Ex: Your instructor might share a pre-recorded video lecture on Monday for you to watch in order to prepare for class meeting times at 11am on Wednesday and 11am on Friday.  
    • Your course may contain additional assignments, discussions, or quizzes in Canvas. You can receive feedback on your assignments in Canvas through annotations, written comments or via audio or video format. Some courses rely on rich, classroom discussion to enhance your learning and foster peer engagement. The Canvas discussions feature can help to provide a digital environment for reflection, sharing, and asking questions.
    • Your course may include a whiteboarding component (either individual or collaborative). Whiteboarding can be done digitally using Zoom’s whiteboard tool or Google Jamboard (iOS/Android apps or browser version), together with a mobile device and stylus or digital writing tablet.
    • There could also be instances where other digital tools are used to support your learning or facilitate the course experience. If another tool is used, it will be communicated to you by your instructor. The use of Canvas as a “home base” for a course has been highly recommended. This provides additional continuity for all and a single access point to reduce complexity.

    Access to library and research support is available to all Brown University Library users. You can connect to databases and other eResources from any location with internet access. 

    To make your research effective and efficient, the following resources may be useful:

    • Get library and research help

    • Find and use ebooks

    • Apply strategies for getting better search results

    • Select a database

    • Understand the differences between Google, Google Scholar, and Library Databases

    • Find an article from a citation

    Library chat and FAQ

    For the latest on Library operations, check the Brown University Library website

    Making the Most of Your Equipment and Connection for Learning Remotely

    Internet stability is critical. If you experience network slowness while attending class virtually, you can try turning off internet-heavy devices or services on your network, like Netflix streams or video game consoles.

    Check to make sure you meet the following baseline technical requirements for remote learning:

    1. Computer with reliable, high-speed Internet connection

    2. Up-to-date Internet browser supported by Canvas

    3. Camera for still and video images (or smartphone)

    4. Headphones or earbuds (ideally with built-in mic)

    5. Webcam (external or built-in to your computer)

    6. Word Processing application to save and open Microsoft Office formats (.doc,.docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx). Brown students have free access to Microsoft Office 365 

    7. Courses can also be accessed on tablets and mobile devices. These devices can be used as supplemental access points in order to complete most coursework.

    Learning to use remote technologies may be as new to you as it is to your instructors. Additional time and flexibility will be taken into consideration so you can get comfortable and proficient with Zoom and other tools. You will be provided with resources for learning these tools and getting help. 

    The IT Service Center provides support for Brown technology as well as general tech help.

    (401) 863-4357

    Other helpful resources: