Digital Learning & Design

Teaching Continuity Guide

Last updated: April 1, 2020 at 11:12 a.m.

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Teaching Continuity Resource Index Emergency Remote Instruction Checklist


Teaching Continuity Considerations

Our guidance below builds upon our recommended implementation for Canvas in a residential course. Instructors can ensure their course is “contingency ready” every semester by posting their syllabus in Canvas and providing all course materials online in Canvas or a platform of their choice. 

Please note that internet stability is critical when working remotely.  If you experience network slowness while working from home, you can also try turning off internet-heavy devices or services on your home network, like Netflix streams or video game consoles.

Communicating with Students Off-Campus

During a potentially disruptive event, it is important for instructors to establish and maintain open communication lines with students.  Instructors can choose to create a Room in Google Chat where they can directly communicate with students.  To communicate effectively in this tool, instructors would first need to create a Google Course Group, which they could then add to the Room within the Chat interface.  Similarly, instructors may use a course email list to email course-related announcements and updates to the class.  

Tips for effectively communicating with students online: 

  • Be consistent with the digital tool selected for online communications, and be sure to post this information in a prominent location, such as the Syllabus page in Canvas. 
  • Set expectations for how students should engage in the communication, including how they should contact the instructor. 
  • Set expectations with students for how quickly the instructor will respond to online communication.

Delivering a Virtual Lecture

There are many ways in which instructors can host lectures with their students, either synchronously (live, in real time) or asynchronously (pre-recorded), using digital tools provided by Brown. 

Accessibility recommendation | If discussions are held online through Zoom, record the Zoom session to the cloud. The audio will automatically be transcribed with machine-based captions. You may edit the transcription after the meeting to correct errors. Having lecture capture or video captioned as soon as possible after production is important for students with hearing concerns. If you have students who require human-based captioning, please contact [email protected] for assistance.

Security notesZoom: Enhanced Security Settings for Teaching

For a synchronous session:

Zoom web conferencing is a great solution. In a Zoom meeting, both instructors and students can share audio, video and screen presentations. There is also an option for the host of a Zoom video to record the session(s), which can be saved and posted to Canvas after the session ends. 

To optimize your online lecture experience, we recommend that you:

  • Use headphones or earbuds with a microphone to minimize surrounding noise and maximize your voice.
  • In your Zoom settings, opt to Mute Participants upon entry into the meeting.  As the host of the meeting, instructors are able to mute and unmute participants at any point. 
  • As the host of the meeting, instructors can turn on the Breakout Rooms  feature in their Zoom settings for group discussion or group problem sets. In a Breakout Room, instructors can split the large meeting into separate rooms for small groups of students to work collaboratively. 

For an asynchronous session:

Instructors can choose to record a lecture using the Panopto Personal Recorder tool or upload a pre-existing video or audio file through Panopto within the Media Library in Canvas. Within Panopto, instructors have the ability to edit and enhance their lecture content with embedded media, text resources and quiz questions. 

To optimize your recorded Panopto lecture, we recommend that you:

  • Draft a script or an outline of your ideas for your lecture before recording. 
  • Use headphones or earbuds with a microphone to minimize surrounding noise and maximize your voice.
  • Record longer lectures into smaller, separate video lectures, organized by topic, idea, or skill.  By watching video lectures of less than 15 minutes each, learners are more likely to maintain focus and retain key information.
  • Include quiz questions throughout your lectures to engage learners and allow them to check for understanding as they watch. 
  • Upload PDF files, websites and media that support the content of your lecture to provide your learners a comprehensive and immersive learning experience.


Engaging Students in Virtual Participation

Some courses rely on rich, classroom discussion to enhance students’ learning and peer engagement. Through Canvas Discussions, instructors can simulate an in-class discussion in a digital environment.  If you are not a Canvas user, you may prefer some of the alternatives to Canvas Discussions listed in the Sheridan Center's resource, Ways to Support Student Assignments During Disruption.

Tips for administering effective online discussions: 

  • Communicate clear guidelines in the prompt that establish your expectations for students’ contribution to the discussion. Many instructors choose to provide details about the writing style (e.g., formal/informal), number of posts, length (e.g., number of words), frequency, tone, and content (e.g., elements that constitute “value added”). 
  • Use threaded discussion responses to allow students to respond to one another multiple times in an organized way in each discussion board post. 
  • Be present in the discussion board by providing feedback and coaching to student responses.
  • Encourage students to participate in a variety of ways that work for the individual student, including text, audio, or video. 
  • Create questions and prompts that require complex thinking and application of ideas to avoid repetitive student responses. 

Assessing Students Digitally

For more information regarding assessing students digitally, review our Remote Class Exams Guide.

The Sheridan Center's Ways to Support Student Assignments During Disruption offers approaches to help students complete key assignments.  Alternatively, for formative and summative assessments, instructors may leverage Canvas tools to assess student learning.  For a low-stakes assessment of student learning, instructors may use the Assignments tool in Canvas to collect student work.  Instructors can then use Speedgrader to make annotations and comments on students work, as well as provide rich feedback in written, audio, or video format.  For high-stakes assessment of student learning, instructors can create exams using the Quizzes tool in Canvas. Additionally, for courses that contain in-depth problem sets, instructors can create student-submitted Gradescope assignments.

Tips for administering effective exams online: 

  • Create complex questions that require deep, analytical thinking skills to complete.
  • Use time limits for the exam availability to maintain students’ focus during the exam.
  • Allow students multiple attempts (e.g., 2) to allow for troubles with internet connectivity.
  • Randomize the questions of a quiz to maximize academic integrity.


If you have questions or need assistance with online instructional design, contact Digital Learning & Design