Digital Learning & Design

Online Learning Guide

In the event of an emergency that disrupts the residential learning environment, this guide provides students with information about what to expect from a remote learning experience and how to best plan and prepare. The transition focuses on the foundation of inclusivity, accessibility, continuity, and flexibility.


Remote Learning Resources Index

  1. Your virtual class, if meeting synchronously, will take place at the same day/time as your class would have taken place here on campus. This also means 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 now at 1am for you) please contact your instructor ASAP to discuss accommodations. 
  2. 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.

During a potentially disruptive event, 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 may take place as a virtual class on Zoom (a web conferencing platform). This would be a synchronous experience where everyone would be together at the same time. 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 course may feature recorded lectures that have been shared within the Media Library in Canvas (using a tool called Panopto). Part of your course meeting times could be replaced by these pre-recorded videos or they could be used in addition to meeting virtually together on Zoom during class time. Ex: If your course meets MWF 11am-11:50am, your instructor might share a pre-recorded video lecture on Monday for you to watch in order to prepare for class meeting times via Zoom 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.
    • There could also be instances where other digital tools are used to support your learning or facilitate the virtual 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

    [email protected]

    Other helpful resources: