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Teaching Remotely

Designing an online course? Find steps to get started, virtual instruction resources, technology help, and more.


Five steps for designing an online course

Step One

To get started, you need a Canvas site populated with your readings and materials. You will also need to decide whether to use Zoom or BlueJeans for your synchronous (live) meetings.

Recommended video: Getting Started with Online Learning (Bluejeans & Canvas)

Step Two

Your Canvas site needs to be organized to help students easily find their readings, assignments, and other resources for the course. Some best practices include:

  • Using modules for each week
  • Clearly indicated dates for topics and assignments
  • Using announcements to communicate with students

Recommended video: Doing More with Canvas

Step Three

Zoom and BlueJeans are offered by Penn GSE as options for virtual meetings. All PennKey holders have access to BlueJeans. If you would like to get a license for Zoom, please contact Penn GSE IT and click the red box that says “new support ticket.”

  1. Zoom allows for breakout rooms, and it also lets you pre-populate the groups. There are many advanced features in Zoom, and you need to be familiar with the settings to utilize Zoom to its full capacity.

    Recommended videos: Online Learning with Zoom (basic topics), Zoom tutorials (advanced topics)

  2. BlueJeans is more basic (and many people find it simpler to use). It is easy to navigate and set up. BlueJeans also integrates into Canvas.

    Recommended videos: Doing More with BlueJeans, Getting Started on Course Design: Imagining Online Courses Part I. (To learn how to integrate BlueJeans in Canvas, start at minute 36:00.)

Note: The breakout feature in BlueJeans is not as robust as the one on Zoom. People have reported problems with it. If you plan to have small group breakout sessions in your live sessions, we encourage you to use Zoom.

Step Four

Design your course to include synchronous activities (where all students are logged in at the same time, and working with each other, or with you) and asynchronous activities (where students can comment on a discussion or participate in an activity at their own convenience, usually over the period of a few days).

Recommended videos: Getting Started on Course Design: Imagining Online Courses Part I and Reimagining Classroom Practices: Imagining Online Courses Part III

Step Five

Once you have your Canvas site set up, your virtual platform ready, and learning activities designed, you can now begin to explore other optional tools and apps that you can use to further engage your students.

Recommended videos: Apps and Tools for Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning, Embedding External Tools in Canvas

Need help? The GSE IT Team is here for you.
Schedule a faculty consultation with the GSE IT Team

Virtual instruction resources for Penn GSE faculty

Catalyst @ Penn GSE produced 13 videos to guide faculty and staff in creating effective virtual instruction through Canvas, BlueJeans, Zoom, and more. Featuring Dr. Betty Chandy, Catalyst’s Director of Online Learning, and other Penn GSE digital learning experts, most videos are less than an hour and can be viewed at your own pace by clicking the gear icon to adjust a video's playback speed. Questions? Contact Catalyst at catalyst@gse.upenn.edu.

Video 1: Getting Started with Online Learning (BlueJeans & Canvas)

Join an interactive classroom and explore introductions to how Canvas and BlueJeans video conferencing can help with virtual instruction. Featuring Dr. Betty Chandy, Director of Online Learning, Catalyst @ Penn GSE.

Video 2: Doing More with Canvas

Dive deeper into Canvas and its many features with Dr. Betty Chandy, Director of Online Learning, Catalyst @ Penn GSE.

Topics Covered

  • Structuring assignments
  • Making announcements
  • Creating discussion boards for conversations between classes
  • Find more Canvas support at Canvas at Penn.

Video 3: Doing More with BlueJeans

Dive deeper into BlueJeans and its built-in apps. Featuring Dr. Betty Chandy, Director of Online Learning, Catalyst @ Penn GSE.

Topics Covered

  • Whiteboard
  • Annotation
  • Breakout rooms

Video 4: Online Learning with Zoom

Learn how Zoom can enrich virtual classrooms and explore its features with Dr. Betty Chandy, Director of Online Learning, Catalyst @ Penn GSE.

Topics Covered

  • Recurring meetings
  • Breakout rooms
  • Chat
  • Polling
  • For more advanced zoom topics, view Zoom tutorials

Video 5: Big Ideas from Penn GSE Faculty—Pedagogy Tips through Technology

Explore a series of tips and tools recommended by Penn GSE Faculty to promote good pedagogical practices to embrace and thrive in online learning environments. Featuring Dr. Betty Chandy, Director of Online Learning, Catalyst @ Penn GSE; Amy Stornaiuolo, Associate Professor, Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division; and Sharon Ravitch, Professor of Practice, Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Division.

Video 6: Apps & Tools for Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

Dr. Betty Chandy, Director of Online Learning at Catalyst @ Penn GSE, highlights selected apps and tools that promote both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities in virtual instruction environments.

Topics Covered

  • Designing synchronous and asynchronous activities
  • Padlet, a virtual bulletin board for students to post their ideas (minute 4:09)
  • Mentimeter
  • Slack
  • Panopto

Video 7: Embedding External Tools into Canvas

Dr. Betty Chandy, Director of Online Learning at Catalyst @ Penn GSE, demonstrates how to leverage tools such as Padlet in your online classroom, including how to embed it directly into Canvas.

Video 8: Getting Started on Course Design

Getting Started on Course Design explores the design principles that guide an effective online course. This video is Part I in a series of five workshops for Penn GSE faculty featuring Amy Stornaiuolo, Annie McKee, Betty Chandy, Matt Hartley, and Michael Golden.

Topics Covered

  • Meeting learning objectives
  • Designing synchronous and asynchronous activities
  • Integrating BlueJeans with Canvas (Start at minute 35:00)

Video 9: How to Build Community in a Virtual Classroom

How to Build Community in a Virtual Classroom discusses how to create a vibrant classroom community when teaching remotely. This video is Part II in a series of five workshops for Penn GSE faculty featuring Amy Stornaiuolo, Annie McKee, Betty Chandy, Matt Hartley, and Michael Golden.

Topics Covered

  • Building a sense of community (start at minute 5:30)

Video 10: Reimagining Classroom Practices

Reimagining Classroom Practices explains how teaching online involves planning for (and adapting to) the pedagogical affordances and challenges of the virtual environment. This video is Part III in a series of five workshops for Penn GSE faculty featuring Amy Stornaiuolo, Annie McKee, Betty Chandy, Matt Hartley, and Michael Golden.

Topics Covered

  • Design principles, strategies, tools
  • Building student engagement
  • Facilitating collaboration
  • Gathering students in class (start at minute 4:51)
  • Mixing synchronous and asynchronous activities (start at minute 24:10)

Video 11: Interactive Question and Answer with Penn GSE Faculty

Part IV in a five-workshop series features an interactive question and answer session with faculty looking to build their online courses, with Penn GSE faculty Amy Stornaiuolo, Betty Chandy, Matt Hartley, and Michael Golden.

Video 12: Combining Synchronous & Asynchronous Course Activities

This video includes examples of how faculty might combine synchronous and asynchronous activities in their courses and includes an interactive question and answer and small group work session with faculty looking to build their online courses. This video is Part V in a series of five workshops for Penn GSE faculty featuring Amy Stornaiuolo, Betty Chandy, Matt Hartley, and Michael Golden.

Video 13: Fall 2020 Course Design Support

This video workshop supports Penn GSE faculty in designing Fall 2020 courses using virtual instruction tools and techniques. It features Betty Chandy, Matt Hartley, and Michael Golden.

Video 14: Introduction to Microsoft Teams

Betty Chandy (Catalyst @ Penn GSE, Director of Online Learning) and Ann Tiao (Penn GSE, Assistant Dean for Student Services) explore how Microsoft Teams can help facilitate virtual instruction.

Video 15: GSE Course Resources on Dropbox: A Conversation with Peter Eckel

Catalyst @ Penn GSE has organized a Dropbox folder to collectively curate resources, ideas, and readings that would help our community as we continue to navigate teaching and learning online. This video introduces you to the folder and its contents. Also included is a conversation with Dr. Peter Eckel, and how he has adapted in-class activities for a virtual setting in the Executive Doctorate program.

Video guide

Use this video guide to find the key topics you are looking for in our video series.

How do I meet my learning objectives?
Getting Started on Course Design: Imagining Online Courses Part I

How do I design synchronous and asynchronous activities?
Getting Started on Course Design: Imagining Online Courses Part I

What are the best tools for synchronous and asynchronous learning?
Apps and Tools for Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

  • Padlet as a virtual bulletin board for students to post their ideas (minute 4:09)

How do I adapt my classroom practices to a virtual environment?
Reimagining Classroom Practices: Imagining Online Courses Part III

  • How can I gather students in class? (start at minute 4:51)
  • How can I build engagement in my class? How do I mix synchronous and asynchronous activities? (start at minute 24:10)

How do I implement good pedagogical practices in a virtual environment?
Recommended reading: Martin, F., Ritzhaupt, A., Kumar, S., & Budhrani, K. (2019). Award-winning faculty online teaching practices: Course design, assessment and evaluation, and facilitation. The Internet and Higher Education, 42, 34-43.

How do I build a sense of community in an online classroom?
How to Build Community in a Virtual Classroom (start at minute 5:30)

How do I create my course in Canvas?
Doing More with Canvas

  • Includes structuring assignments, making announcements, creating discussion boards for conversations between class, and more
  • Find more Canvas support at Canvas at Penn.

Embedding External Tools in Canvas

How do I use Zoom?
Online Learning with Zoom (basic topics)
Zoom tutorials (advanced topics)

How do I use BlueJeans?
Doing More with BlueJeans

How do I integrate BlueJeans with Canvas?
Getting Started on Course Design: Imagining Online Courses Part I (start at minute 35:00)

How do I get help with technology?
Schedule a faculty consultation with the GSE IT Team

Tips for building community & setting norms

Building Community

During these difficult times, our students, their families, and friends are all experiencing anxiety and stress, and everyone is learning to cope with the uncertainties and changes that have become part of our daily life. Students who are used to the physical environment to make friends, build relationships, and expand their networks will need some extra assistance from faculty to facilitate community building and peer engagement within the courses. We also want to be able to identify if any student is experiencing undue stress and be able to support them or refer them to student services.

Recommended video: How to Build Community in a Virtual Classroom, featuring Dr. Annie McKee (start at minute 5:30)

Setting Norms and Expectations in the Online Classroom

Setting norms and expectations is an important part of getting started on the right foot. You need to establish norms for participation on the first day. You may have these norms prepared, or you may choose to co-create these norms with your students. Being clear on the norms and expectations helps the students understand their responsibilities and ensures that you are able to establish a good rhythm to your course right from the start.

Recommended video: Big Ideas from Penn GSE Faculty: Pedagogy Tips through Technology (start at minute 15:37 for an example of norm setting)

Sticking to the Posted Time

Students may be in different time zones and may also have to move if circumstances change. Given that they signed up for the course knowing the time, instructors may not require students to attend a session unless it is during the posted course listing time.

Office Hours and Informal Interactions

It’s important to find ways to interact less formally. Students no longer have the ability to stay back after class for a quick chat with their instructors. Office hours (open and by appointment) are a good way to encourage students to drop in for a chat.

Being Flexible

Students and their families may fall sick, and many unforeseen circumstances may prohibit students from participating fully. Remember to make accommodations available when needed.

Supported courseware at Penn GSE & when to use it

Platform When to Use What’s Special About It? GSE IT Support Learn More & Get Help
Canvas Course Management System Organizing course materials.
Canvas is a great “home base” for all course content, communications, assignments, and grades.

The Modules tool is an ideal way to present course content to students, allowing them to download and study offline for those with limited internet access. We recommend all courses taught remotely use the Modules tool because it can contain all other tools in a straightforward and logical way.

Many other tools and statistics are available.

  • Create course sites; add observers
  • Support Recommended Canvas Tools (see below)
  • Trouble-shooting and technical support
  • Consult/advise/research special requests
Zoom or BlueJeans Video conferencing For live, synchronous meeting sessions with students; for small group breakout sessions

Both allow you to create breakout rooms. Students have their own BlueJeans license; and may also have a Zoom license. Zoom allows in-meeting polling. Both products are updated continually by vendors due to security concerns.

To get Zoom, open an IT help request.

  • Instructor account creation
  • Trouble-shooting and technical support
  • Consult/advise/research special requests
  • By request: in-meeting support
Panopto Record Presentations Panopto is called “Class Recordings” in Canvas and is a great option for pre-recorded presentations by faculty and students.
It is also enabled in some GSE classrooms and can record an instructor’s slides, voice, and sometimes video.

It is only accessible through your Canvas site. To create recordings, you will need to download an app.

Recordings are stored in the cloud. You have the ability to make basic edits. Students can sync their note taking to any video. Instructors and students can upload external video clips for students to download and/or watch.

  • Advice for recording, setup, access, settings, etc.
  • Assistance with external video clip uploads & management
  • Trouble-shooting and technical support
Teams and O365 Productivity Suite Teams is a flexible tool that can be used to build & sustain community. Teams is part of O365, which includes basic productivity tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint that should be used as a default -- especially because Google products may not be available to many international students. Teams supports live & asynchronous activity.

All Penn faculty, staff, & students have access to the suite of tools. Most people are familiar with some if not all tools. Content can be shared online; no software installation required.

There is individual & group chat, video and audio calls, file sharing, and more. As such, there is a learning curve.

Up to 5 external guests (non-Penn people) can be added by a Teams site owner.

  • Advice for site, setup, access, settings, notifications, expectations for Teams norms, etc.
  • Assistance getting enrolled students into Teams sites.
  • Trouble-shooting and technical support
Padlet Collaboration & Idea Sharing Functions like a virtual blackboard or bulletin board. Helps you gather ideas and have students share information in visual ways. Supports live & asynchronous activity. It’s flexible, simple-to-use, allows commenting, voting, embedding media, and more. Students do not need or have accounts; faculty will have accounts
  • Instructor account creation
  • Trouble-shooting and technical support
Poll Everywhere Polling To solicit feedback, check for understanding, make students’ ideas visible. Supports live & asynchronous activity. You can do live, in-class polling, or asynchronous polling. There are a variety of templates to use that enable open-ended responses or closed-ended.
  • Instructor account creation
  • Trouble-shooting and technical support
  • Displaying within Canvas

Canvas Tools: Recommendations for Use

These Canvas tools tend to work consistently and meet the needs of the majority of faculty and students.

Tool Recommended
Home Yes
Announcements Yes
Modules Yes
Grades Yes
Assignments Yes
Discussions Yes, can hide from students and use Modules to display discussions at the point it’s needed if preferred
Pages Yes, but hide from students and use Modules to display specific pages when needed
Files Yes, but hide from students and use Modules to display specific files when needed
Class Recordings (Panopto) Yes, if recording lectures/presentations, can hide menu item from students and use Modules to display specific videos when needed

 

Resources for Adapting Quickly to Teaching Remotely.

Need to move your class online with minimal notice? Follow the advice on Teaching Remotely on Short Notice.

Contact Penn GSE Faculty Affairs

Susan A. Yoon
Professor of Education
Associate Dean of Research
and Faculty Affairs
Email: yoonsa@upenn.edu

Jessie Harper
Assistant Dean, Faculty Affairs and Diversity
Co-Director HEARD
Phone: 215-573-3725
Email: jessieh@upenn.edu

Ginger Emens
Academic Affairs Coordinator
Phone: 215-573-5703
Email: gemens@upenn.edu