You and your students have been asked to teach and learn remotely during a crisis, which means that everyone is dealing with a lot of unknowns and new stressors. During this time, compassion, patience, and flexibility will go a long way, as will having tools to help you keep teaching and supporting your students. This article provides you with tips and resources to support your move to remote teaching.

Creating a Supportive Remote Learning Experience

Leaders around the country are sharing advice to help us rethink what our courses might look like during these unprecedented times. Tips such as making exams open-book/open-Internet, emphasizing that health and safety are first priorities, simplifying your curriculum, and including COVID-19 in your coursework can make a positive difference to your students.

“Really, what we’re doing is we are trying to extend a sense of care to our students and trying to build a community that’s going to be able to work together to get through the learning challenges that we have.” Robin DeRosa, Plymouth State University, “Panic-ology: Teaching Online Classes During the Coronavirus Pandemic


  • You and your students may have little or no experience teaching and learning remotely, or during an ongoing crisis.
  • Your students are facing new challenges daily such as lack of technology access or skills, illness, unemployment, lack of privacy, uncertain housing arrangements, increased childcare responsibilities, heightened stress, etc.
  • You and your students have limited control over many of the stressors you’re facing, and this impacts everyone’s ability to make decisions, learn and attend to the complexities of life.

Recommendations & Resources

  • Communicate with students regularly and transparently.
  • Simplify your teaching using the rule of two. Adjust your expectations of what you and your students can reasonably accomplish this term, using this worksheet as a guide.
  • Include a statement about COVID-19 on your syllabus stating your plan to address possible student absences, the possibility of your absence, alternative assignments, grading, etc.
    • Some instructors have a policy that anyone not present on the first day of class is automatically dropped. Consider removing this requirement, or create a grace period.
    • Exercise flexibility and make reasonable accommodations for students who miss class, miss an exam, or are unable to submit coursework.
  • Transform COVID-19 into a Learning Opportunity for Your Students. This pandemic affects all of us. It can be a distraction from your students’ learning or you can incorporate it into your course. This resource provides methods for teaching about COVID-19 across disciplines.
  • Consider trauma-informed care in your course. While everyone will experience the stresses and traumas of this time differently, enacting the principles of trauma-informed care with your students will help them feel supported and to persist in the face of challenges.
  • Share the Student Guide to Learning Remotely. Students will need information to assist them in transitioning to remote course formats. This guide provides tips and resources they can reference all term.
  • Talk to your students about COVID-19. Research shows that in moments of crisis, students are comforted by teachers who address the crisis, help them stay informed, and show compassion.

Choosing Tools for Communicating and Teaching Remotely

The recommendations that follow focus on simple solutions to facilitate a few key teaching and learning activities: supporting students during a crisis, facilitating communication, and providing asynchronous access to course content. Wherever possible, err on the side of simplifying the technology expectations, and maximizing accessibility and flexibility for students.

Assess Technology Needs

Before the first day of class, email a short survey to your students asking them about their access to technology and ability to use the materials you plan to require during your course.

  • Read these brief instructions for creating a survey in Google forms.
  • Watch this 3-minute video for a guide to building a survey in Google forms.
  • In your survey, be sure to ask students what forms of remote learning technologies they’re most familiar with (D2L, Zoom, Google docs, etc.), what technologies they have access to (smart phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, webcam, speakers, etc.), and what forms of learning they prefer (class discussions, lecture, quizzes, presentations, etc.). This will help you shape your course.
  • Using students’ survey responses, determine what technology will accommodate most of the students in your class, and work with students who don’t have ready access to the Internet.
  • Choose technology that is supported at PSU. See our tech tutorials here. Choosing supported technology means that PSU staff will be able to assist if you have questions or run into challenges.

Set Up a Simple Course site in D2L

D2L is PSU’s learning management system, and most students have at least some familiarity with it, making D2L the ideal hub for your remote course. D2L is mobile friendly, and students can complete D2L tasks via smartphone. When putting together a course site in a short amount of time, we recommend focusing on just a few areas of functionality within D2L: Sharing Content, Facilitating Course Discussions, and Collecting Assignments. See recommended tutorials covering D2L essentials. As you develop a D2L course site, ensure your course content remains accessible to students with disabilities. See best practices for accessibility in D2L or contact the Disability Resource Center to learn more.

Record Your Lectures in Advance

This works well for classes of any size, and may be especially helpful for large lectures. We recommend using Kaltura Capture and Media Space to record and share your lectures. Media Space is mobile friendly, and can be accessed from smartphones. Note: In order for videos to be accessible for students with disabilities, please use the captioning services mentioned below.

Use Zoom for Optional Class Meetings or Study Sessions

While requiring all students to meet synchronously during this time is not recommended, Zoom is a good option for times when students request meetings or when groups would like to get together to study. Zoom is virtual meeting software that is already integrated into your D2L course shell. Learn more about using Zoom via D2L.

Recommended Practices

  • Use Zoom via D2L. This will help your students stay organized and find the Zoom information they need.
  • Record all class meetings and make them available to students. This is an important practice for accessibility. See best practices for recording Zoom meetings.
  • Although you might encourage students to show their faces on camera, avoid making this a requirement. Some students have religious or other concerns about being filmed, and their preferences should be followed.
  • Communicate your expectations ahead of time (see suggested tips in the “Include Zoom Basics in Your Communications to Students” section below).
  • Set participation guidelines at the start of each Zoom session. Remind students to mute themselves when they’re not speaking, and set expectations for how they should participate and ask questions. In larger meetings, the Zoom chat might prove especially useful.

Include Zoom Basics in Your Communication to Students:

  1. Zoom works best via the Zoom app (available for computer and mobile). You’ll be prompted to download/install the app when you join a meeting. If you cannot download the app, Google Chrome is the only browser that will work for Zoom meetings.
  2. You can give zoom a test run at
  3. Use a computer that is in a quiet room, without other computers that are accessing Zoom.
  4. In our D2L course, click on People, then Zoom meetings to access Zoom. Join the meeting from the list of available meetings.
  5. When/if prompted, download and install the Zoom computer App. It’s the best way to use Zoom. If you can’t download the app, use Google Chrome. Zoom does not work well on other browsers.
  6. Approve your audio and/or video when prompted, or by clicking the buttons at the bottom of your Zoom screen.
  7. When you are not talking, mute your audio.

Use Video to Stay Connected to Your Students

Note: This approach requires practice and patience.

  • Use 2-minute intro-to-the-week videos to help personalize your remote course. (See tips for creating media for teaching.)
  • Use synchronous tools such as Zoom for open communal office hours.
  • Set-up alternate options for communication – phone, email, text, etc.
  • Send out an email, text or video on a weekly basis with updates to your syllabus, feedback on student work, and announcements about what’s next. This is a good way to humanize remote learning.
  • Remember that students might be new to digital learning. Be patient, give instructions more than once if necessary, and encourage students to form study groups for peer support.

Assessing Student Learning

This article was last updated on Nov 12, 2020 @ 3:44 pm.

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