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[first published 3/4/2020; last updated 3/25/2020]

Lehigh has announced that all classes will be taught remotely the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, including finals. Instructors have been advised by the Provost to take immediate steps to be ready to begin remote instruction starting on Monday, 3/16/2020.  Always check Lehigh's main COVID-19 News site for any updates.

The purpose of this page is to help instructors quickly learn and apply the fundamentals of online teaching and learning.

CITL Faculty Workshops on Making a Rapid Transition to Online Teaching: To support you during this time of rapid change, the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, LTS staff, and others are offering a workshop series for Lehigh instructors covering topics outlined in this guide. Visit the workshop series website for details and to register, or to view previous live session recordings.

Read on to learn how to:

  1. Use Course Site as your core online learning platform
  2. Communicate with students
  3. Post course materials
  4. Deliver lectures
  5. Interact with students through online course activities
  6. Assess student learning online

First Steps: If online teaching is new to you and you are creating an online course in response to an emergency situation, focus on the “First Steps” in each section below. You don’t need to build a whole course at once or use every online tool from the start. Instead, design core course activities for your first day, then gradually explore other elements.

Need Help?
If at any point in this process, you need technical support or help with the teaching approaches recommended here contact the LTS Help Desk.
610-758-4357 (8-HELP)  |  Text 610-616-5910  |  |  Chat

Use Course Site as Your Core Online Learning Platform

Course Site will be the core learning platform for all courses and should be your primary means of communicating with students, delivering content, enabling interaction, creating assessments, and keeping a gradebook. Instructors may link to other tools and sites from within Course Site, but Course Site should be students’ first stop. Think of Course Site not just as a suite of instructional tools but also as a way for you to visually communicate to students how your course is organized, what they are supposed to do, and when they are supposed to do it. All synchronous activities (that is, activities that require you and all of your students to be online at the same time) must be held during your scheduled class meeting times, unless all students have agreed to a time change.

First Steps: If you have not already done so, request a Course Site for your course.

Communicate with Students

Consistent, clear, reliable communication from instructors is a crucial element of successful online teaching, especially in an emergency scenario. Good communication builds course community, creates a sense of presence, and helps students understand that this is a real course with expectations that are fundamentally not much different from your face-to-face course. Bear in mind that online learning will be new for most of your students, too, so they will rely on you to communicate expectations, explain course logistics, and provide updates in a regular, predictable way.

Always use the Announcement feature in Course Site as your primary tool for course-wide communications. When you post an Announcement, all students enrolled in the class will receive it as an email, after a short delay.

Why use Announcements? Doing so ensures that all students know where to go for information, assignments, and updates, while also making it easy for instructors and students to access a record of past announcements. If you use email instead, you will likely find yourself sending the same email multiple times if students delete or lose track of the emails they have received.

First Steps: Lehigh instructors are advised to send students a Course Site Announcement now to let them know that the course will continue in an online format for the two weeks after spring break, that you are in the process of setting up your Course Site, and that they will receive more information and instructions from you shortly.

Post Course Materials

In an online environment, instructors have multiple ways of sharing course materials with students but the simplest approach is to upload documents or create links in Course Site.

First Steps: If students are relying on you for access to course documents, readings, etc., prepare now to get those materials into a digital format.

First Steps: Upload course materials, content, or add links.

First Steps: Review your syllabus and make changes to your readings, policies, due dates, assignments, etc.  Post your revised syllabus online, under the Announcements link at the top of your Course Site main page.

Deliver Course Lectures 

Now that you have prepared your course material, it is time to create and deliver lectures.

Option 1: Post Your Course Lectures as Written Documents

The most straightforward, low-tech way to deliver course lecture material is to type out in a document what you would have said during lecture and then post this document in Course Site. Since these notes are meant to be read by students rather than heard during class, compose them so they are clear and easy to understand.

First Steps: Upload your Course Lecture documents or create a 'Page' in your Course Site. If you create a 'Page' in Course Site, type in some draft lecture notes now so you can see how they will appear to students and so you are familiar with how to add, edit, and post content. You can add images to your page. If you often write equations or diagrams on the board during class, one way to replicate this for students is to upload the image into your Course Lecture page together with your commentary. Continue adding lecture material when you are ready to do so. Give your lecture documents descriptive names so your students can easily find the correct lecture when they need to do so.


Options: As an alternative to placing your Course Lectures in Course Site, you could create a shared Google folder with your Course Lecture documents as Google Docs. In the folder sharing settings, select "viewable by anyone at Lehigh with the link," then "get sharable link," and add that link in Course Site so students know where to find this shared Google folder.

Option 2: Pre-Record Video Lectures for Students

Panopto is a video-creation tool available through Course Site. You can use Panopto to create Video Lectures that present content, explain difficult concepts, etc., just as you would when lecturing in a face-to-face class. Instructors record themselves by using their computer's built-in camera and microphone or a webcam. Recordings can be audio-only, if instructors prefer. Panopto also allows simultaneous capture of the contents of an instructor's screen (i.e., to show lecture slides or other material).

Getting Started with Panopto: Follow these steps to provision Panopto and record a brief Introduction video as a way to learn how to use the system.

Teaching Tips:

  • Keep recorded lectures brief (ideally 15-25 minutes). If your typical lecture is longer than that, break it into smaller sections of this length. These approaches will help keep students’ attention and will make it easier if, later, you or your students wish to find and reference specific course content. Alternatively, you can ask students to pause the video every 15-20 minutes to complete some task that applies or extends the content of what you just lectured about. Done well, this approach will reinforce learning, increase retention, and create connections between lecture and the homework, essays, projects, etc. you ask students to do later.
  • Separate content-heavy lectures from more personalized or semester-specific communications. That is, create one video that explains a difficult concept, and create a separate video to give feedback to students, provide instructions on an assignment, offer reflections on current events, etc. This approach will make it easier for you to reuse content-specific lecture videos and will also make it easier for students to know where they need to go for which material.
  • Sample Panopto-produced Video 

Technical Tips:

Option 3: Create Live Interactive Lectures

This approach is best if you want to create teaching sessions where you shift frequently between short lectures and synchronous interactions with students. With this approach, you and your students will need to log in to Course Site during your designated course meeting time, unless all students agree to a change of schedule.

Getting Started with Zoom: Create a Zoom session with a friend or colleague to become familiar with how to create a session and how to use the software.

Technical tips:

  • Zoom is a web-based conferencing tool that instructors can use to hold classes online, communicate with students, hold office hours, or host review sessions.
  • Best Practices for Instructors Hosting a Zoom Session
  • Point your students to this site before your first Zoom Session: Best Practices for Zoom Meeting Attendees
  • Instructors have the option of sharing screens, visibly annotating on shared documents, and creating opportunities for student-student collaboration through breakout rooms.
  • Instructors can choose to record sessions and make them available for the class to watch again later. 
  • Zoom can be used with video or with audio-only; with screen sharing or without.
  • Use headphones or earbuds to reduce feedback.
  • As the host of the meeting, instructors are able to mute and unmute participants at any point. When you start a Zoom session with many participants, opt to “Mute Participants” upon entry into the meeting and during ‘pure lecture’ time. Unmute only when you wish to create opportunities for discussion.
  • As the host of the meeting, instructors can turn on the Breakout Rooms feature in their Zoom settings for group discussion. In a Breakout Room, instructors can split the large meeting into separate rooms for small groups of students to work collaboratively. 
  • If you need to use Zoom for purposes beyond this course, you can access Zoom directly at using your Lehigh username and password. 
  • If you have very large classes that would diminish interactivity in Zoom, or are holding a non-interactive lecture, you may wish to consider live streaming your lecture using Panopto’s live webcast feature instead of Zoom.
  • Watch a recording of CITL's workshop on "Using Zoom to Interact with Your Students"
  • View slides from CITL's workshop on "Using Zoom to Interact with Your Students" 

Delivering Course Lectures: Selecting the Best Approach

So, should you use Lecture documents, Panopto videos, or Zoom sessions? There is no right answer.

Some instructors prefer to have everyone online together at the same time and find value in lecturing “live” while simultaneously interacting with students, posing questions, soliciting responses from students, engaging in Socratic dialogue, etc. If that’s you, use Zoom.

Other instructors prefer having time to write out or record their lectures in advance rather than lecture live, especially if they find it challenging to lecture while also facilitating a live Zoom session. Writing or Pre-recording lectures also has the advantage of creating documents or videos you can repurpose in future classes. If that’s you, go with Lecture documents or Panopto.

You can also combine the three approaches. For example, you could create some lecture documents, supplement them with pre-recorded lectures and class activities to be completed within a certain timeframe, and then hold discussion sessions or office hours synchronously using Zoom. This combination approach has the advantage of letting you carefully construct re-usable lectures material while also creating opportunities for the spontaneity and interactivity of a live online discussion. But bear in mind that there is no clock on the wall in an on online class to tell us when the class period is over, so be careful not to assign an excessive amount of coursework.

Interact with students through online course activities

In addition to sharing course material and delivering lectures, instructors also need to provide feedback to students and create opportunities for instructor-student and student-student interaction. The most effective online activities require students to intellectually engage with the course content and to receive formative feedback from their instructors.

Zoom sessions can be used for discussion sessions or office hours in which instructors pose questions, give immediate feedback on answers, respond to student questions, etc.  For "live" online sessions, please bear in mind that, because you may have students living in a wide range of time zones, students may be logging into your course in the middle of the night.  You may wish to find out which timezone your students are in and, if you see that some are facing this challenge, please make it clear whether or not they are required to be present during your live sessions--or if they are permitted to watch recorded videos later.  Also, if you plan to hold synchronous office hours, please do what you can to do so at times that accommodate the timezones where your students are.

A lower-tech, lower bandwidth alternative is to use an online discussion forum.

First Steps: Create a Course Site Discussion Forum for your first Class Session, Week or Unit.

Teaching Tips for using Course Site Discussion Forum:

  • Discussions work best when instructors post open-ended prompts that direct students to engage with the course material, producing work that the instructor can review. 
  • If you have a large class, create groups to make student discussions more manageable. To enable Group Mode in your Forum, edit your Forum settings. Under "Common Module Settings" change Group Mode to 'visible groups or 'separate groups.'
  • Encourage students to respond to one another. One method to do this is to require each student to post one response to the prompt and at least one post in response to another student.  
  • If you want students to post their own response before seeing other students’ responses, select “Q & A Forum” under Forum Type. To deepen student-student interaction, give students a deadline to post their response, a second deadline to post a response to three classmates, and a third deadline for the original poster to post a follow-up summary that addresses the three responses.
  • You don't need to respond to every student's post but you should be aware of the discussion and give some kind of feedback. For example, you can refer to and respond to select discussion posts in your Lecture. Or you can respond once-a-week to each student's summary post. Or, if you prefer not to post in the discussion forum, you can  assign a separate writing assignment that challenges students to build on the online discussion--then give feedback on that assignment as you would on an essay or paper. 
  • Promote productive discussions by posting discussion forum guidelines and making participation part of the course grade.
  • Students have been provided with this guide: Preparing for Remote Learning: Ten Crucial Steps for Students. You may wish to familiarize yourself with what they are reading, and remind them to consult it as they begin your online class.  
  • If you are teaching a discussion-intensive course, you may find this resource helpful: Discussion-based Online Classes - Sample Weekly Workflow for Instructors and Students.

Other approaches that foster student-student and faculty-student interaction:

  • Perusall is a powerful tool, built into Course Site that lets you combine student readings with student annotation, inquiry, and discussion about course readings. Done well, student discussion take place in the margins of their reading.  Tip: Have each student post one comment or question and reply to one comment or question for each posted reading assignment. Give them tips on what kind of posts you are looking for. Spot check their posts.  At first, give general feedback regarding quality, then after a week or two, give individual feedback to students who are falling short in terms of quality and quantity of posts.
  • Watch a recording of CITL's "Interacting with Students through Online Course Activities" 


Assess Student Learning Online 

When students cannot take a quiz or an exam in a traditional physical classroom, instructors will need to create online assessments.

A first stop for faculty   Promoting Academic Integrity During Remote Learning and Online Assessment Best Practices, including methods for promoting academic integrity during online testing

Creating quizzes or exams:

First Steps: Use Course Site Quizzes, a robust quiz feature that allows you to create a variety of different types of quizzes (e.g., multiple choice, essay, etc). 

Other options:

Assigning essays and papers

First Steps: Set up a Course Site Assignment or Google Assignment in Course Site to collect student essays/papers. Both allow you to assign, collect and give feedback on student papers.

Other options:


Going Live

Last of the First Steps:

  • After you have prepared for the start of your first online course session, make sure your Course Site is available (sites are not available by default), then send an Announcement telling students the site is ready and giving them instructions on what they are supposed to do next.


Sample Course Site Announcement:

Subject: Check-in... and Coursework for Thursday, 4/23/2020

In general, students did well on the Chapter 3 quiz and everyone had thoughtful contributions to the ongoing Forum discussion. Please check your grades and my feedback. Bring any questions on the reading or the quiz to our Zoom Office Hours on Wednesday at 4pm EDT.

Our next class session is now available in Course Site.  Be sure to complete all of the following before midnight EDT, Thursday, 4/23/2020:

  •  Log in for Zoom Office Hours on Wednesday at 4pm EDT.
  •  Read Simon, Chapter 4
  •  Watch Lecture 3
  •  Post a response to the “Week 3 Forum” prompt
  •  Take Quiz 4

Keep up the good work.

See you Wednesday,

Professor _________

Additional Lehigh Resources

Select articles on moving online in emergency situations

Prepared by Lehigh's Center for Innovation on Teaching and Learning (Primary author: G. Reihman, posted 3/5/2020, updated 3/18/2020)