Instructional Continuity Resources

Teaching at a Distance

Instructional Continuity During Emergency Closures

As we respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, Marquette University is moving all classes to a virtual learning environment. Marquette University, The Center for Teaching and Learning, and the Division of Digital Learning, along with various departments across campus, are here to assist you as you transition your course from in-person to online. On this site you will find information on faculty resources, contacts and suggestions to mobilize to online quickly and efficiently. If at anytime you have questions, please contact us.


NOTE: information on this page is fluid and will be updated often.  Please check it for additional information periodically.

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Preparing for Online Teaching (May 2020 sessions)

Support Resources For Faculty

Supporting Your Students

  • Technology for Remote Learning 
  • Promoting Student Success with Remote Learning
  • Self-Care Mental Health Resources
  • Managing Student Stress as Courses Move Online
  • As part of Marquette's shift to remote instruction, the Ott Memorial Writing Center will be open for online tutoring starting Monday, March 23.
    • All remote appointments will use WCOnline, the Ott’s regular scheduling/tutoring interface.
    • The most up-to-date information, including the Ott’s remote hours, will be available at the Ott Memorial website.
    • Detailed instructions on how to schedule appointments and participate in remote tutorials will be available on our registration page and by email.
  • The MIC Speakers Lab is Marquette’s campus resource now offering online and e-tutoring appointments. The MIC offers one-on-one tutoring sessions for students wanting help with any requirements for remote live or recorded speeches. Our trained tutors will help students in all aspects of presentation development from brainstorming ideas and organizing content to practicing effective delivery and creating visuals. Our mentors also offer constructive feedback and tools to improve one’s confidence in public speaking. Please visit: to schedule an appointment.
  • Care and Concern Report now available; resources for supporting students through COVID-19. In an attempt to provide a single point of contact to report concerns about students and/or student behavior during this time, the Office of Student Development created the Care and Concern Report form.

    When reports are submitted, they will be sent in a timely manner to the appropriate office/unit (such as Title IX, student conduct, the CARE team or an academic adviser). The intent is to provide an easy to complete, fairly quick way to report a concern while removing the barrier of determining which office to call or finding the appropriate form.

    Related content: “Coping with Coronavirus: How faculty members can support students in traumatic times with many good ideas for supporting students” from The Chronicle of Higher Education

Reevaluating your Course to Teach at a Distance

Review future activities and assessments in your course and decide which pedagogical strategies and technologies you will use to adapt them for remote teaching. The Converting an In-person Course into an Online Course Decision Flow Chart and the How do I want to Teach this Class Guide guide you through the thought process for reviewing your course. The following is a list of considerations to have in mind while you adapt your course to be taught at a distance.

  • Watch Ray Schroeder, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at University of Illinois - Springfield provide advice on how to quickly transition courses to a remote instructional format. 
  • Technologies used. Consider your, as well as your students’, familiarity and comfort with the technologies you decide to use as you continue instruction during campus closures.   
  • Keep in mind the credit hours of your course. How many hours a week do you spend teaching your in-person course? Include prep time, time in the classroom with students, and time grading and providing formative feedback. Expect to invest the same amount of time during closures 
  • Keep it consistent. Make the learning experience as consistent as possible for you and your students. For example, if you’re utilizing synchronous discussions, choose either the Microsoft Teams and use it for all the group, pair, and individual interactions in real time.  
  • Consider realistic goals and identify your priorities during closures. What tasks are essential for students to achieve the learning outcomes in the course?  
  • Allow yourself and students flexibility. Students will also be thrown off by the sudden changes, and you may have to adapt as you go.  
  • Reevaluate your expectations for students, including deadlines, participation, communication.  
  • Keep it simple.  Introducing a lot of new tools will distract students and may cause frustration and anxiety.  
  • Think about the impact the changes have on students. In addition to adapting to a new course format, access to internet and technology, illnesses, or needing to care for family members may impact students’ ability to meet new expectations. Be ready for requests for extensions and accommodations.  
  • Consider students’ accessibility needs. Since your course materials will now be shared electronically, be sure to include an Accessibility Statement in your syllabus so that students can prepare for the change in format. If you have students with accommodations though ODS, please consider how these will be implemented in your new course design. ODS is ready to help you understand our responsibilities under disability law. Resources for faculty/instructors in this arena can be found on the Office of Disability Services website

Updating your Syllabus

Communicating with your Students

Communication is key when teaching remotely.  Good communication will minimize confusion and help cope with anxiety from switching the routine in the middle of a semester. Communicate early, often and concisely.  Students will be just as uneasy as faculty.  Keep in contact with them as you transition online, as well as throughout the time online. 

Tips for Communicating with Students:  

  • Communicate with students as soon as possible to notify them of the changes. Because plans are evolving as you transition your course to online, students will appreciate knowing where to check for updates and knowing that you’re available for questions and support.  
  • Be available: Hold office hours according to a schedule, by appointment, or both. Options include D2L Chat, Microsoft Teams, or phone.  
  • Be clear on your preferred method for students to communicate with you, with each other and how you will communicate with them. Options include email, Q&A forum in D2L, virtual office hours.  
  • Be consistent with the tool that you use to communicate updates to students. Options include email and D2L News. 
  • Be Responsive: articulate your response time to their questions and for providing feedback, etc.  
  • Reiterate expectations for students on their responsiveness and engagement with instructor and fellow students’ communications. Additional resources include Marquette Netiquette Guidelines.  

Teaching at a distance

As you plan how you will teach at a distance, keep your students and the course learning outcomes in mind. How can you work with your students to ensure their success? Interaction and engagement of faculty with students is essential regardless of the combination of activities and technologies chosen to teach at a distance. Plan to communicate with students at the beginning of each week to provide updates, introduce the week’s topic and activities, and recap last week. Additionally, think about how you will interact with students and provide feedback and guidance on a continuous basis.

Distributing course materials

Once you have created or selected the materials students will need to access at a distance, you may share them via email, in Microsoft Teams or by uploading them to your D2L course site. As you create and share materials, be cognizant of how students may need to access the information. As a result of the changes, students may need to work with the Office of Disability Services for new accommodations.

Continuing Class Discussions and Lectures

Continuing to engage with students and providing opportunities for students to engage with each other is vital to continuity of instruction during a university closure.  Instructors will ensure students continue to engage within the course in 3 ways: 

  • Student to content 
  • Student to instructor (and vice versa) 
  • Student to student 

Choose synchronous, asynchronous sessions or a combination of both. Let your students know: which method you will use, dates, times, and online location, if applicable. 

Synchronous Discussions (“real time” or “live”)

Real-time, synchronous instruction requires the instructor and students to be online at the same time. Options to host synchronous sessions include Microsoft Teams, D2L Chat, or phone conferences. Consider the following if you’re teaching synchronously using Microsoft Teams. 

First, think carefully about the decision to teach synchronously. It is more than just turning on your camera and teaching your students remotely. Think about: 

How many students are in your class?  

  • With Teams, synchronous instruction is best for small (less than 20) groups. 
  • What is the primary reason for choosing synchronous instruction? 
  • If you are pushing out content like a lecture, then recording a video or a voice-over PowerPoint in small (15 min or less) increments that you make available on D2L may be a better option. 
  • If you are doing a discussion, remember you will only see the faces (tiles) of the last 4 to talk. You can unmute everyone, but since you can’t see their faces and Teams does not have a “raise your hand option”, you will have to control the conversation, so everyone doesn’t talk at once. 
  • Discussions may be more robust if you use the D2L asynchronous discussion option. 

How will you answer questions in a synchronous class? 

  • Most questions will come in through the chat. It is highly recommended that you have someone other than the person teaching to monitor the chat and facilitate those questions getting to the presenter. Unless you have a TA for the course this may be difficult to accomplish. 

What might go wrong? (Reasons not to do synchronous teaching) 

  • Students might not have the bandwidth to attend a synchronous class at all. 
  • Students might be in a different time zone and being present would be difficult. 
  • Student’s connection might be spotty, so the presenter sounds garbled. 
  • It can be challenging to keep everyone engaged. 

What if I still want to do this? 

  • Definitely record the class and upload a link through Stream on your D2L site. 
  • Talk slowly and stop every few minutes to check in  
  • You can share your screen, but you should not plan to show video through it.
  • Host sessions during usual scheduled class time for lecture and discussion. 
  • To ensure that all students can participate, let the students know in advance that you expect them to be able to participate in a synchronous session and that it will not be transcribed as the conversation occurs.   
  • Consider the accessibility of the content that will be shared in the synchronous session. If the students are required to see and read the content quickly, consider sending the content in advance.  Or, you can narrate, being explicit in your descriptions of the content, for those students who may not be able to see your content. 

Asynchronous Discussions

In asynchronous discussions communication does not occur in real time but is paced by deadlines set in the course. Asynchronous discussions are conducted in D2L discussion forums.  

The following describes best practices for asynchronous discussions. 

  • Create open-ended discussion questions or tasks that allow students to probe an idea, think critically, and apply the knowledge of the content. The goal is for students to engage with each other. 
    • Set expectations for the discussion:
    • When is the initial post due? Be specific. For example, include the specific time and central standard time.  
    • What should the initial post look like? Word count? Do the students need to use a writing/citing format? 
    • When are final posts/peer replies due?   
    • What are the expectations of those final posts? Critique? Rebuttal? Summary? 
    • Share the Marquette Netiquette Guidelines
  • Set up expectations for students to receive feedback from you in the discussion boards as well.  And stick to it. If you cannot, for an unexpected reason, inform your students. 
  • Best practice tips:  do not respond to all posts, rather make sure discussion is on point and redirect as necessary; pop into discussion at some points to maintain “instructor presence” 
  • Be present in the discussions as an active participant by providing feedback to students and prompting further discussion. 

Creating Videos on Your Computer

If you use in-person lectures as primary method of teaching you may replicate the process through video. This will require a computer with a camera and the appropriate software. Videos should be recorded and made available to students asynchronously via email or D2L so that students can review them or access them other than at scheduled class times. Please review the training video “Media Best Practices”

If recording a video:  

Before recording: 

  • Create a list of topics/ideas to talk about and use as a guide or talking points to ensure you hit the main topics.  
  • Break up your lectures in smaller, separate videos. Keep videos short, ideally no longer than 15 minutes per recording.  
  • Check the room to make sure there is no inappropriate or distracting content in the background. 
  • Try to record longer lectures into smaller, separate lectures, organized around a topic or idea rather than a timeframe of a typical class.  Students are more likely to maintain focus and retain that information.  

Technology and Set Up: 

  • Make sure your laptop settings have the camera and microphone enabled.  
  • Turn off notifications on your laptop, otherwise they will show up in the video.  
  • Use a room with adequate lighting. Have the room light on and avoid having a bright light source directly behind you and having the room light on 
  • Dress professionally: be cognizant of words or phrases that may be on your clothing.  
  • Record in a quiet room and avoid outside interruptions. For example, if other people are in your house while you’re recording, post a “please do not disturb” sign on the door.  
  • Using headphones or ear buds with a microphone help minimize noise and maximize your voice. 
  • Videos should be loaded to Microsoft Stream and distributed via D2L in the content area or in an email to all students. 

Assessing Students

During the crisis-driven move to remote instruction, please consider which type of assessment is most appropriate for teaching at a distance. If you are preparing your students for boards or if your use of multiple-choice exams is a specific goal of your course, you now have the option of using Respondus Monitor. Otherwise please curtail the use of proctored exams and give serious consideration to alternative assessment methods during this emergency transition given the complicated home environments of many of our students. Please also reach out to the Center for Teaching and Learning for additional ideas and assistance with alternative asessements. 

For technology—related questions about Respondus Monitor email the ITS Services Help Desk. For pedagogy/teaching questions or ideas for alternative assessments, email Center for Teaching and Learning.

TEACHING TIP: Although some students may not want to talk about things related to Covid-19 as they are exhausted by it, others may appreciate this opportunity to learn more about its impact specific to your content area. It’s a chance to better understand its impact on each other, the world, and learn what mission-driven and academic integrity look like during a pandemic.

More on Alternative Assessments

In online learning environments it is common and best practice to incorporate a variety of assessment strategies to determine the student’s mastery of course learning outcomes. Substitutes for high-stakes examinations that would otherwise require proctoring include: projects, journals, group work, guided online discussions, representative submissions, peer-reviewed activities, student-led discussions, audio-based activities, etc. Please review the *Alternative Assessment methods noted above for more assessment strategies and their descriptions.

Determine if you need to change your assessment and how to facilitate it online. Consider the following questions to get started. 

  • Is the original assessment too high-stakes for an online format? 
  • Does the original assessment need to change to be an effective online assessment?  
  • If you have group work, will the students continue to work in groups to submit their assessments? 
  • What is the best way for students to submit their assessment?

Best Practices when using the D2L Dropbox  

Provide clear instructions for the assessment, listing expectations via a Rubric or comprehensive assignment description. Activity Worksheet

If students work in groups, you may use a Dropbox where they can submit the assessment. Online Group Checklist

Best Practices when using the D2L Quiz  

The following provides guidelines that will improve assessment and test integrity. This type of assessment can be set up through the Quiz functionality in D2L.

D2L Quiz FAQ's  

Quiz Integrity: 

  • Include the Honor Pledge at the top of each exam for students to read and affirm. For example, create a question in the exam where they must type their name or select an “I have read and agree” option in a multiple-choice question pertaining to the Honor Pledge. 
  • Use randomly generated questions or the shuffling function for quizzes and exams for each student. 
    • Randomly generated questions and shuffling prevents collaboration during assessments and deters students from passing tests onto students who have not started the assessment. 
  • Limit the duration of assessment, number of attempts to respond, and delivery of questions.
    • Limiting the duration of an assessment decreases time a student can look up answers and only students who are familiar with the material will be able to respond in the time limit
    • Limiting the number of attempts to respond prevents student collaboration and eliminates opportunity for students to have multiple attempts to one question
    • Limiting when a question is available prevents the printing of an entire assessment
  • Limit the availability of the assessment, which prevents students who take the exam early from sharing it. 
  • Increase the number of essay-type assessment questions.  
  • If teaching more than one section of an online course, coordinate assessments to be available at the same time in all sections. 
  • Provide assessment feedback only after all students have completed and submitted their assessment.  

Best Practices when communicating feedback to Students

Communicate as concisely as possible to keep the students focused on learning. 
Determine how you will provide feedback to students. Be aware that you must be FERPA compliant in your communications. 

"Our Favorite Things" video series

Interviews conduted by Dr. Melissa Shew on a range of topics in online & blended learning, with a focus on success in moving courses online

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