Academic Preparedness for Teaching and Learning

Quick Start Guide

If UWM needs to close for an extended period of time, you may need to quickly move your course online. What should you do to engage students in the online environment?

Start Now

There is still time to start using Canvas this semester! Adding content to Modules in the course Home page is an easy way to get started in Canvas; doing so could help ease the transition should you need to move your course online in a short amount of time. Take 30 minutes now to acquaint yourself with the Canvas tools that are unfamiliar to you. Register for a Canvas workshop through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning if you need some training. You can also self-enroll in a Canvas course site that will help you Move Your Course Online.

Be Flexible

Be as flexible as possible when you adjust your objectives, assignments, and due dates. You will need to prioritize the most important content and activities.

Communicate with Students

Contact your students immediately about how the course will be changing and what they should expect from you as the instructor. Post an announcement in Canvas outlining new assignments and due dates; using the Rich Content Editor to record a webcam video in an announcement could alleviate some student anxiety. Be sure to message students directly through the Canvas Inbox or PAWS. Develop an action plan for communicating with students and then inform them about that plan. Provide them with strategies for how to be a successful online student.

Develop a Plan

Decide on what mode(s) of delivery will best suit you and your students: asynchronous, synchronous, or a mix of both. Asynchronous delivery means that you and your students are accessing content and contributing to online discussions at different times; synchronous delivery means that students are required to participate online during the specific time when class would normally meet. Asynchronous activities are the preferred method for most online courses at UWM, which means that students are more likely to adjust quickly to this mode of online delivery. Synchronous sessions are best used when your students need immediate interaction with you or other students, but keep in mind that students may experience connection issues if they have low internet speeds, which could limit their ability to participate. You can mix both asynchronous and synchronous delivery methods as needed; just be sure to clearly communicate with students how they will be expected to participate in the course.

Asynchronous Delivery

Use asynchronous discussion forums in Canvas to lead online conversations about key course concepts and questions. Scaffold your discussions so that students have one deadline to post and a second deadline to respond to other students’ posts; often, these deadlines are two or more days apart. If you have a large class, break your students into groups of 10-15 to ensure that everyone has a chance to contribute in a unique and meaningful way.

If you teach a course in which you provide lecture material in class and you would prefer not to lecture in a synchronous environment, you may need to distribute your content through Modules on your course Home page in Canvas. Type what you would normally say in your lecture into the Notes area of your PowerPoint and export the file as a PDF; alternatively, record your narration in a voice-over PowerPoint, export the file as a video, upload it into Canvas using My Media, and embed it into your course site. Post these lectures in a conspicuous place in the Modules area of your course Home page. Keep in mind that bullet points alone are usually not enough to communicate your ideas in PowerPoint.

Synchronous Delivery

Host synchronous sessions in Canvas using Collaborate Ultra during regularly scheduled meeting times from your office, your home, or in some cases, a UWM classroom. Both you and students can share audio, video, text, and documents through this campus-supported tool, which means that you can still give a lecture on course content and facilitate small-group and large-group discussions. As an alternative, Classroom Services may be able to provide assistance with lecture captures and/or live streaming from a UWM classroom using Mediasite from a UWM classroom.

Students should not be expected to take part in synchronous discussions outside of regular class meeting times. If you are concerned that some of your students will face barriers in the synchronous format, including students who need an accommodation documented by the Accessibility Resource Center, try facilitating asynchronous discussions instead. Note that Collaborate Ultra includes accessibility features that can accommodate live captioning and/or remote interpreting. 

Move Assessments Online

Ask students to submit their essays and other assignments online through Canvas. Use the SpeedGrader and Rubrics features in Canvas to provide quick and effective feedback on student work. Canvas provides a space for students to work together on group projects. If you assess students using quizzes and exams, the Canvas quiz tool has several question types to choose from, including multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and essay (short answer) questions. If you are concerned about students cheating in the online environment, you can develop randomized pools of quiz questions and restrict what students see when they submit their quizzes. As an alternative, consider assigning more qualitative assessment types, such as essays, in lieu of high-stakes quizzes and exams.

Keep Virtual Office Hours

Students may be in greater need of support during this time, so be sure to keep and perhaps extend your office hours. Provide students with your home or mobile number in case they need to reach you, or use a synchronous communication tool like Collaborate Ultra to hold a virtual meeting during your normally scheduled office hours.

Enroll in the CETL Online Resource Site

CETL has developed a Canvas site with further resources to help you move the remainder of your courses online. By clicking the button below and accepting the course site in Canvas, you will have access to additional materials that will take you step-by-step through the process of making decisions about content delivery, online activities, and key assessments.

Self-enroll in the Move Your Course Online Canvas site

Support Your Students

To help your students be successful this semester, share with them a resource on how to be a successful online student. Students may be anxious about the move to online, so do what you can to help them with the transition.

Find Help

In short, there are many tools at your disposal for quickly moving your course online should UWM close for an extended period of time. For questions about Canvas or about converting your course to an online format, please contact UWM’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. For questions about using classroom technologies, contact Classroom Services. If you suspect that your course would not be effective in the online environment, contact your department chair.