Planning your course

This section outlines basic steps and considerations to pivot your courses to remote instruction. Deciding how you will approach these essential elements for your class can make an enormous difference in the pedagogical value of your course—and students’ experiences in it.

Download the Getting Ready for Remote Instruction: Checklist for Faculty, which provides strategies to help you prepare for continued student learning if classes must shift to remote instruction due to the pandemic.

Share with your students the Getting Ready for Remote Instruction: Checklist for Students to help them prepare for remote instruction. 

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Decide how to communicate with your students.

Communicating frequently and consistently with students is essential for a positive experience. In your in-person classes, you may provide updates about course requirements, upcoming assignments, changes to the schedule, etc. at the beginning of your class. In online classes, you may communicate these updates via D2L News Items and email through D2L. We recommend that you communicate 2-3 times per week to share updates, introduce the week’s topic and help students make connections to prior knowledge (e.g., concepts learned the week before), summarize the week, and provide general feedback. You may find the  Remote Teaching Tutorial D2L Basics – Communication Tools (4 min. video tutorial) helpful.

We strongly recommend that you use D2L as your main point of contact with students to communicate with them about your course. D2L offers a range of mechanisms for you to communicate with your students, including the News Items, Checklist function, Content portions, and more. Housing your course content and communication in D2L is a great way to ensure that you have all of the materials for your course available to all students in your course at all times.

If you have not yet requested a Microsoft Teams site for your courses, follow these instructions to request them through Checkmarq. If you are meeting regularly with students via Microsoft Teams, you may also reserve some time at the beginning or the end of the session for updates and student questions. We recommend that you post important announcements using the D2L News feature even if you are having synchronous sessions. This way, students who join the sessions late or who cannot attend do not miss out on important information.

Decide how you want students to ask questions and communicate with you.

Students typically approach faculty at the beginning and at the end of class to ask questions about content, upcoming assignments, etc. They may also approach you during office hours. For a remote course, students will need to know how they should communicate with you and when you are available to answer questions and meet with them. Options include:

  • Sending emails about personal circumstances affecting their academic performance and participation in your course.
  • Posting to an online Q&A discussion forum in D2L. This type of forum is public for all students enrolled in your course and should be used for course content questions. An advantage to using the D2L online discussion forum is that students can answer each other’s questions and benefit from others’ questions. From an instructor perspective, it minimizes work as it will only be necessary to respond to a question once. Additionally, it offers an opportunity for students to engage with you and other students.
  • Meeting with you in Microsoft Teams for office hours. If multiple students have questions about the same topic, you may choose to do a synchronous Q&A session via Teams during your office hours or during a pre-determined time with students. You can meet with students during regular virtual office hours or meet “on-demand/as requested.” Review the Synchronous Online Learning section for strategies on optional synchronous meetings, or how to create a Teams meeting though Outlook for one-on-one meetings.

Select which of these strategies you will implement in your courses and notify students. A combination of strategies will provide students more options and flexibility as they navigate their academic and personal responsibilities. Remember, students want and need to feel connected to their faculty members, especially in stressful times. Your outreach and communication with them will make an important difference in their Marquette experience.

Decide how to facilitate your course through D2L and Microsoft Teams.

Use Microsoft Teams to meet synchronously (i.e., in real-time) with students during scheduled class time and engage in active learning activities, such as discussions, group work, etc. Review the Synchronous Online Learning resources for information on how to use Microsoft Teams, and for tips and strategies to maximize your synchronous/real-time virtual interactions with your students.

Use your D2L course sites to provide course materials that students should review on their own time, such as PowerPoints, readings, videos, etc. In addition, post any materials that students will use during the synchronous sessions. Remember that you won’t be able to give handouts like you would in your in-person classes, so sharing in the materials in D2L ahead of time will help students prepare and participate in the synchronous sessions. Students may have connectivity problems and may not be able to follow a shared file during synchronous sessions. Providing the materials ahead of time allows students to download or print the materials before class. 

As you post documents in D2L, organize them in modules in the Content portion of the D2L site. Modules in D2L work as folders to organize your course and is where you can post documents, videos, and create files for students to access at any time. Organize your course content in your D2L course sites by weeks (i.e., each week is a module), and be clear with the title of the module, such as using the dates of the week or the subject for the week. Your D2L course site can also be the space where students submit assignments and complete low-stakes quizzes and other assessments via the Dropbox, Quiz and Discussions tools.

Review your course syllabus and course schedule and adjust, as necessary.

Review the Syllabus Template for Online and Blended Courses and adjust your expectations accordingly. Reevaluate your expectations for students, including deadlines, participation, and communication.  The syllabus template includes example statements to address topics and considerations specific to online courses (synchronous and asynchronous). As you review your course syllabus, consider realistic goals and identify your priorities: What tasks are essential for students to achieve the learning outcomes in the course? 

Review future activities and assessments in your course and decide which pedagogical strategies and technologies you will use to adapt them for remote teaching.  As you consider which strategies and technologies to use, think about the effect the changes have on students. In addition to adapting to a new course format, access to internet and technology, students may experience any number of things--illnesses, needing to care for family members, other circumstances—that might change their capabilities.

Consider students’ accessibility needs

As an instructor, you do this routinely, but these needs change in a remote setting. 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

Decide how to deliver content (lectures, readings, handouts, etc.).

Regardless of if you are having regular synchronous/real-time sessions with students during scheduled class time, facilitating your course asynchronously through discussions and other collaborative activities in D2L, or a combination of these modalities, post all course materials in your D2L course sites. This will ensure all students have access to materials, even if they have to miss a synchronous session due to illness or other unexpected situation. It will also help students be more prepared.

Tips: have a low-stakes activity for students to complete before the synchronous sessions; for example, muddiest point/ah-ha moment from the readings, an opinion statement, etc.

Determine how students will interact with peers and complete individual course assignments and assessments.

Students can collaborate with others in their online course via the D2L Discussion forums or via Microsoft Teams.  Students can work independently in the Dropbox and Quiz tool. 

Rigorous online courses provide opportunities for students to engage with the instructor content, and other students in the course.  The most relevant types of frequent formative assessment are meaningful and authentic exercises for students to share with the instructors and others. Frequent formative assessment promotes student engagement, retention, and satisfaction. 

See the Assessing Online Learning Experiences section for information on best practices and explanations on how to use the D2L tools for assessments.  Additionally, the D2L course template for examples of how to organize and build in activities using the D2L tools: Dropbox, Discussions, Quiz.

If you would like to work with an instructional designer to create these types of  frequent formative assessments, please request a 1:1 consultation with an instructional designer via the Distance Learning Helpdesk portal.  For now, the brief D2L assessment tools’ video tutorials and course template should give you what you need to get effectively and efficiently started offering your course online:

Set up your D2L Gradebook

During the summer of 2020, the Student Academic Support Task Stream put together several recommendations to improve the student experience and help students persistent during the pandemic. Utilizing the D2L Gradebook was the #1 recommendation made by the Task Stream. Keeping your D2L gradebook up to date is a best practice that allows the instructor to grade and the students to access those grades in a secure (FERPA approved, GDPR approved) environment. When all Marquette courses utilizing D2L Gradebooks, students will be able to access all their current grades via a single login (D2L).

An up to date D2L Gradebook is the best mechanism for students to self-assess their current academic situation. It is for this reason that we recommend allowing students to see the class averages, which helps students calibrate their current standing in the class. In addition, academic advisors can access the overall D2L course grade of advisees via the advising tool Inspire and help keep students on track during advising meetings.

If you are using other tools in D2L, such as the Dropbox, you may connect the activities and assessments to the D2L Gradebook. This integration between D2L course tools makes grading simple and keeps the instructor and student informed of progress.

You can find a complete step-by-step D2L gradebook setup guide at: MU’s Digital Learning – D2L Resources – D2L Quick Step-by-Step Guides – Using D2L Gradebook Tool

If you need assistance setting up your D2L Gradebook, please schedule a one-on-one consultation by submitting your request to our Distance Learning Helpdesk portal.