Keep Teaching UAlbany
Effective March 23, 2020, all University at Albany courses will be delivered remotely until further notice. This page is a guide to help faculty prepare to move their courses to a distance learning delivery model.
Planning to Move Online
Shifting your course to an online environment in a short time frame can feel overwhelming, so it is helpful to break this task down into four functions that are essential to delivering your course.
Note that most of these functions are available in Blackboard, the University’s Learning Management System. Instructors are strongly encouraged to use that system for online instructional functions.
Communicating with students
First and foremost, you need to keep your students informed about what is happening in your course, including changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, or expectations. Frequent and straightforward communication can help reassure students that they can be successful in completing your course and can also limit the number of individual emails you have to respond to.
- Set clear expectations for communication. It is useful to ensure that students will know how you plan to communicate with them and how often they can expect to hear from you.
- Manage your communications load. If you try to manage all communications with students on an individual basis by email, you will quickly become overwhelmed. Instead of responding to every individual question you receive, consider sending out a daily “Frequently Asked Questions” email to all students, which includes responses to all the questions you received.
The Blackboard Email tool allows you to send email to other people directly from your course. You can send email to individual users or to groups of users.
The Blackboard Announcements tool allows you to send time-sensitive information to all students in a course.
Educational Technology Services has additional information about communicating with students.
Sharing course content with students
If you are not meeting face to face with your students, you will need to provide the materials they need to complete the work of your course. This includes making your course syllabus and schedule, readings, lectures, or videos available to students.
- Make sure students know when new materials are posted and where they can access those materials. You might send an announcement or an email to the class to alert students when you have posted new materials.
- Provide students with context to help them make sense of the materials you post. When we introduce new content in a face-to-face course, we tend to give students a great deal of verbal context that helps them understand the relevance of that new information for their work in the course. When we are teaching online, we need to make sure that we provide this same context so that students see what they are supposed to do with the content.
- Remember that students are likely to be using mobile devices to do some of their work. This is not ideal, of course, but it is reality. PDF files tend to be more easily read on mobile devices, so consider converting files to this format whenever possible.
- Remember that materials you post online should be accessible for students with disabilities.
Assessing student learning
You will still need to assess student learning, whether through exams, assignments, papers or some combination of methods.
- Be clear about your expectations, but be flexible and reasonable. Our students’ lives are already complex, and shifting instructional modes in the middle of the semester will increase complications. Some students may also, unfortunately, become ill. Be prepared to provide more flexibility than usual.
- Use Blackboard to collect assignments rather than asking students to email their work to you. This is especially important if you are teaching a larger class, where the sheer number of emails coming to you can easily become unmanageable.
- Remember to consider any test that students take online to be open-book. To mitigate concerns about academic integrity, it is best practice to make sure that test questions require students to do more than simply recall information and that students can’t succeed merely by looking up information.
- Keep in mind that students who leave campus may not have access to the same kinds of software that they have access to on campus. Give assignments or tests that students can complete with commonly-available software.
The Blackboard Tests tool allows you to create assessments in a variety of formats with different kinds of questions.
The Blackboard Assignments tool allows you to collect work from and give feedback to individual students on small or large assignments.
The Blackboard Grade Center allows you to communicate grades with students.
Educational Technology Services has additional information about assessing student learning.
Creating interactions with and among students
If students have been interacting with each other frequently in your face-to-face course, it is very important to maintain this sense of community when your course moves online. This helps preserve a sense of continuity and can also reduce students’ sense of isolation if they are no longer on campus. Most importantly, it can give students continued opportunities to articulate and examine their thinking in relation to that of their peers.
- Make sure students know the purpose of these interactions. Just as in face-to-face class discussions and activities, students will only invest their time and energy in these interactions if they see how they will help them learn and prepare for course assignments and assessments. Be explicit in explaining to students to value of their interactions and the role those interactions play in their success in the course.
- Remember that meaningful interactions are built around disagreement or debate. Students will have no reason to interact with each other if the goal of the task is simply to regurgitate information. If you want students to interact with each other, make sure you are designing prompts that require them to articulate different points of view and compare ideas.
- Use asynchronous tools when possible. While the idea of having students communicate synchronously sounds more dynamic and appealing than a discussion board or other asynchronous collaboration, making this work can be complicated, both logistically and technologically. Only attempt synchronous discussions when there is a sound pedagogical reason for doing so.
- Be reasonable in your expectations. Keep in mind that the dynamic of an online discussion is different from one that happens in a face-to-face class, so make sure that you are prepared for that. This also means keeping things simple and not adding complex technologies to your course that students will only be using for a short time and haven’t practiced before.
The Discussions tool in Blackboard allows students to engage in written discussion.
VoiceThread is a multimedia discussion board.
Zoom is a videoconferencing software that can be used to facilitate synchronous interaction.
Educational Technology Services has additional information about creating interactions with and among students.
Use the Right Technology
Blackboard: Use the University's Learning Management System (LMS) to store and organize course content, communicate with students, and to manage and grade assignments. Students can access course materials, contact professors and submit assignments. Even if you have never used Blackboard before, it's easy to get started:
Zoom: Now professors can add Zoom class meetings to Blackboard courses.
Ensemble Video: This video management and streaming platform makes it easy to link videos and playlists within a Blackboard course. Get started.
VoiceThread: A multimedia discussion board facilitates interaction by connecting audio and video comments and other media files to online conversations. Get started.
Software: Four popular software titles are now temporarily available for installation on personally-owned machines enabling use from off-campus locations. Visit the ITS Software Catalog for more information or to request a temporary license for any of these titles:
Adobe Creative Cloud and/or Acrobat Professional: All members of the UAlbany community who currently hold an Adobe license will receive instructions from ITS on accessing a temporary, cloud-based version available through May 31, 2020.
Additionally, a limited number of licenses are now available for home use for the following statistical software packages: SAS, SPSS and STATA.
ITS Educational technology consultants are conducting workshops and webinars to assist you in teaching remotely. Check the Ed Tech Workshop schedule and your email for more information.
Zoom Remote Conferencing: Zoom provides remote conferencing services that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat and mobile collaboration.
Zoom is fully integrated into Blackboard and Office 365. Faculty can now add a Zoom session directly within their course. It’s also easy to include a Zoom link to Outlook calendar invitations.
All members of the campus community can activate a Zoom license at albany.zoom.us.
Please also review the guidelines for protecting the security of your Zoom meeting.
Microsoft Teams: Communicate, collaborate and conference with others using audio calls, instant messaging and online presentations on a single platform. It's easy to conduct meetings, share materials and connect with colleagues. Get started.
Telephone Services: The University's telephone system offers many advanced features, including call forwarding, the integration of voicemail and UAlbany Mail, and mobile options to use your business number from any location. Get started or learn more about the advanced features your telephone has to offer.
Jabber: Bring all the features of a telephone directly to your desktop. Integration with Outlook reflects calendar information and availability status. Learn more with the Jabber Quick Guide and training video, or download Jabber onto a personal device.
OneDrive for Business: All members of the campus community have access to this document library, which is intended for creating, organizing, storing and sharing files. OneDrive for Business can be accessed from anywhere, and files can be shared with anyone. Get started.
Connect to File Shares: The University provides each division with file space for shared folders (the V: drive), and individual file storage (the U: drive) for all faculty/staff. Computers can be mapped to automatically connect to these folders. From off-campus locations, use GlobalProtect VPN (see below) to access these resources.
GlobalProtect Virtual Private Network (VPN): Use GlobalProtect VPN to access information as if you were on campus, even when working remotely. This is a useful way to access files stored on network shares, especially those containing sensitive or confidential information. Get started using GlobalProtect for Windows or Mac devices. Note that some services require the use of GlobalProtect VPN to be accessed from off-campus.
Remote Desktop: Some University machines are set up to use Remote Desktop. In such cases, connect using GlobalProtect VPN. Remote Desktop sessions will be tunneled through VPN, making it possible to connect to your University computer. Learn more.
The ITS Service Desk is the first point of contact for all technology-related questions.
A number of webinars have been scheduled to assist faculty in teaching remotely. Visit ITS Teaching with Technology to sign up, access a recorded session or learn more about new Tools for Remote Teaching.
Also, on Monday, March 23, 2020, faculty can also make an appointment for an individual consultation with an instructional designer.
Virtual Office Hours: Consultants are available for virtual “walk-in” office hours from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. No appointments necessary. Email email@example.com and we will send you a link to a Zoom meeting.
Virtual Consultations: To schedule an individual or small group consultation meeting, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete a Consultation Request. In your message, please include information about your questions and concerns, and note what days and times you are available. A consultant will follow-up via email within 24 hours.
Consult by Email: If you have a question that can be answered by an email exchange, please feel free to email your question to us at email@example.com. You will receive a response to within 24 hours.
The ITLAL team will host virtual "brown bag" discussions on remote teaching from noon to 1 p.m. on Fridays, beginning March 27.
Join the conversation each Friday by using this Zoom link. No advance registration is required.
Feel free to enjoy your lunch or a cup of coffee during this informal conversation with colleagues, where we will share our successes and challenges as we transition to remote learning. ITLAL staff will facilitate the sessions.
Note: These resources continue to be updated.
Guides to Adapting Your Pedagogy
These one-page guides are designed to help you make a sketch of one week of activities in your online class before you build in Blackboard.
Guides to Using Technology
These are instructions for using technologies that can help you deliver your course remotely.
To learn more about finding the right tools to help you deliver your course online, Educational Technology Services (ETS) is offering a series of webinars.