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Planning for Teaching during Disruption

Office of Open Learning OOL Student Preparedness Survey Results


The University of Windsor's  Student Prepared Survey  Results are here! 

Click the Infographic to see the  details!






We're here to help. Here's a quick guide to planning for teaching during disruption:

This resource provides basic guidance on rapidly moving to virtual and remote teaching and learning. This information will help you move rapidly, but it is important to remember that this situation is not normal, so in the short term, there will be temporary challenges. You will likely experience anxiety and frustration, and we will do all we can to mitigate that, but it will not be perfect. We are not trying to replicate either everything you would do in your face-to-face-classes, or what you would do in a well-designed online course. Our initial goal is to maintain a functional learning environment until the end of the Winter term and we will be asking for your help and patience in doing that.

Please remember, there are seven of us in OOL and CTL who support online teaching and the technology tools underlying it, and 1,100 instructors and 16,000 students who need support. The advice here is intended to get you to the most basic state of a functioning class as quickly as possible, but does not cover every pedagogical need. Our aim is to make the immediate transition as simple as possible, and we will deal with specialised needs as they arise and as we are able.

Three key things to know how to do to maintain academic continuity:

  1. Communication

  2. Sharing course content

  3. Assessment of learning


Communication with students

Communication with your students, both individually and as a group is critical. It is important to communicate frequently and candidly. Information is likely to change rapidly and maintaining an open dialogue with your students will help everyone get through the short-term challenges. Be mindful that students who are close to graduation will have particular anxiety, as will students who have little experience in online learning. Communication can be synchronous (i.e. the Blackboard Virtual Classroom), or asynchronous (e.g. emails and announcements) – both are effective and appropriate to be used. UWindsor has well above average student enrollment in online classes - throughout the course of their academic career, most students will complete at least one online class, so they may have some experience in online classes.

Sharing course content with students (and potentially colleagues!)

Sharing the remainder of your course content with students can be facilitated in a number of ways, but the two key models you should be aware of are synchronous (live) classes, and asynchronous learning (pre-recorded and/or text-based). If you need a whiteboard to draw on, there is a virtual whiteboard in Blackboard’s virtual classroom (available by default in your Blackboard course site on the left menu as ‘Virtual Classroom’). You can also use this tool to present slides, images, and share your screen in live classes. It can also be recorded, so you can capture lectures and students can watch and re-watch them (recordings automatically appear in the course site). You can also record screen casts and voice over slides right in PowerPoint. This will allow you to save to Sharepoint/OneDrive and paste a link to the recording in Blackboard for students to access.

It is critically important that you do not upload videos to Blackboard as it is not designed to stream video – doing so may compromise the system.

If you are creating videos outside the Virtual classroom, use systems that were designed to share video from (e.g. Microsoft Stream (everyone has an access through Office 365), or UView or YouTube if you have an account) and place the link in your course site for students to access.

Assessment of learning

In the event of having to move all assessment off campus and out of a physical environment, you should prepare for the possibility of not being able to run an exam as you would normally. Consider what your viable alternatives are – take-home exams, additional assignments, online tests, even Aegrotat standing may be an option. For online tests, there is the ability to proctor high-stakes exams live through Examity, however this option does currently have a cost to students, has technical and physical requirements for equipment, internet access, and when and where students can sit their exams, and should be considered a last resort for the current term. There are also realistic limits to the number of proctored exams our service provider, who are also providing services to the rest of North America, will be able to provide, and the number our limited team will be able to assist with setting up.

One way to look at this challenge is to return to your learning outcomes for the course and ask yourself, ‘Where have my students demonstrated their knowledge, skills and abilities in each of these?’ Do you have enough information to judge whether a student has achieved those outcomes and to what extent? If not, which outcomes have not yet been demonstrated? Focus on assessment that will help you make that determination.


So with those three things in mind, let’s dive into some of the tools you can use to facilitate them.

Here are some basic things you will need to teach online.

  1. A reliable internet connection – the faster the better, and preferably hardwired, especially if there are others in your household using the wireless.
  2. A reliable computer in a relatively quiet location – always remember to bring your laptop (and other devices) home every day in case the institution closes.
  3. An external microphone – While laptops have a built in one, they are generally of low quality and will not perform well for recordings. We recommend the SnowballBlue YetiMXL Tempo, or MXL conferencing microphones as excellent, easy to use, and reliable USB microphones.
  4. A set of earphones or a headset – this should be a USB or Bluetooth set. The Logitech wireless and wired versions are excellent value, and have the bonus of a built in microphone which is good for live classes. Any headset (even the ones that come with your phone for example) will do, though. The important thing is to wear them so that the sound coming from your laptop doesn’t interfere with the microphone.
  5. Webcam – optional and if you have a laptop with a built in webcam, that will usually suffice. If you want a better one, Logitech are a good choice, with the 960 being a very popular choice, and the C615 being a good value camera.

Let your students know what your preference is for contact. Blackboard has two tools we recommend – the Email tool, which works just like any other email, except when a student replies, it comes to your institutional email, and Messages, which contains all the messages within Blackboard so you have to log into Bb to see it. Use one or the other, but not both, and hide the one you are not using. Also make use of Announcements – these can send email to students and are persistent in the Bb site so they can always be seen.

Whether you plan to use a university computer or a personal computer, test connecting to the resources you need at home as soon as possible. Make sure you are able to access all the systems you might need – Blackboard, Office 365, UWinsite Student, UWinsite Finance, MyUWinfo, Leddy Library Catalogue, Leganto, VPN, and any specialist research tools you use in teaching. Make sure you have logged into each of these from off campus, and have set up and tested Multi-factor Authentication. 

The Blackboard Virtual Classroom (Collaborate Ultra) can be used to facilitate live online classes, run online office hours, and to meet with students and colleagues. The online guides will walk you through getting started with the tool if you have not used it before. There is also a module that can be added to your Blackboard site that walks students through using the virtual classroom). Alternatives include Zoom, which is highly reliable and free (you need to sign up for a free account), with a limit of 40 minute meetings (unlimited for paid licences, education licence available), and Microsoft Teams (available to everyone on campus for free as part of the Office 365 Suite).

Bookings is a Microsoft service that will allow users to book a meeting time based on your calendar availability. Students or clients can select a service, and Bookings will present possible times when a service provider is available, and automatically schedule a Microsoft Teams meeting and send out invitations. More Information can be found here: Using Microsoft Bookings to Automate Appointments. We recommend a Bookings site be created on a department-wide basis for ease of maintenance.

Multi-factor Authentication is now here and you need to complete the set up to be able to access university systems from off campus. If you haven’t already done so, set it up as soon as possible.

UWindsor uses VPN to remotely connect to on-premises university systems from off campus.

Be aware that while we do support accessible systems, some online resources and tools are not accessible in the same ways by everyone. Please be patient and understanding with students, classmates, and colleagues. You can do a quick check to see if a web resource is accessible using tools such as AChecker, and the Microsoft suite has in built accessibility tools you can use .

Contact the IT Service Desk by logging a ticket in TeamDynamix, or by phone at 519 253 300 4440. Using this single point of contact will allow support requests to be distributed to the team and facilitate the most efficient responses. Please first make use of online self-help information and tools to avoid overwhelming the support staff and increasing time to get help.


Teaching and Student Engagement

As noted above, you have two basic options here – synchronous communication through a virtual classroom tool, or asynchronous through posting resources in Blackboard and letting students know about them, including what you expect them to do, through announcements and email.

Consider which activities you usually facilitate in your face-to-face class. Consider seriously what you absolutely have to be able to do in the very short term (to complete the term) and what can be explored on a short-medium term (for those teaching IS/Summer courses) to be translated into an online format. Prepare to move the minimum amount of work that you can online to complete the Winter term, using the suggested three main components above. A number of resources are available to help you move your instruction online:

Consider first whether the class needs to be synchronous – is there anything in the material that requires dialogue, risk, difficult topics, physical activity, etc. that would be better facilitated in a live real-time class.

Use Blackboard’s Virtual Classroom (link available on the left menu by default in all Blackboard course sites) to provide live, interactive classes (lectures), real-time discussions and recorded lectures. This is the preferred tool as it is built right into Blackboard and many people are familiar with it. If you have trouble with this tool, alternatives are suggested below.

  • Use Microsoft Teams for groups of all sizes (Large or small)
  • Use Zoom for short classes, and small meetings; it works on any device

Asynchronous content delivery could include recording or linking to a video, recording and sharing a podcast (audio file), recording a screen cast, assigning readings, linking to an online text, facilitating an asynchronous discussion using discussion boards, and a number of other things. It is important to remember in the asynchronous environment, you will need to provide detailed instructions and context to students so they know what you want them to do, without having to come to you for a lot of extra clarification. Consider recording short videos or podcasts to explain what you want students to do.

Audio and video narrations can be added to slides in PowerPoint and then export to Stream for distribution. It is easy to turn your slide deck into a recorded presentation.

Stream can also be used to record your interaction with a computer (screen recording), or just your Webcam – with no extra software required. (


Communicate with Students Online

Communicate timely information with students in your class using the Announcements tool in Bb. Use this tool to send written messages, link to videos, and attach files or include links for students to go to.

Use the Discussions tool in Blackboard to allow students to interact and learn from each other online while facilitating the conversation

For real-time interactions with your students, consider using the Blackboard Virtual Classroom

If you need to email all of your students, the easiest way to do so is to send an announcement or email from Blackboard. If Bb is unavailable, you can also send a message to students directly from UWinsite Student.

  • Make sure your course site is published so all the communication tools it has are available to you and your students.
  • Be consistent with the digital tool selected for online communications, and be sure to post this information in a prominent location, such as in the syllabus and in announcements.
  • Set expectations for how students should engage in online communication, including how they should contact the instructor, and when they should expect a response from you.


Online Assessments

If you need to collect written assignments, take home exams, project reports and similar works where a file can be uploaded, use the Assignments tool in Blackboard to create a place for students to submit their work. Make sure that you indicate the assignment will be submitted online, and choose the “file upload” option for the submission type

If you need to administer an online quiz, use the Tests tool in Blackboard. For low-stakes assessment, consider allowing multiple attempts, not including a time limit, and allowing students to see their quiz responses. While there are many question types available, the most often used are Multiple Choice, Multiple Response, Short Answer, True/False, and File Response. All other question types are more challenging to use properly, with more settings and things to know.

If you need to administer a high-stakes exam, the Tests tool in Blackboard is an option that allows randomised questions drawn from a pool, question groups, different exams for different groups, time limits (down to the individual level to support accommodations), and password-protection for the exam. All of this takes time, however and does require some expertise in getting settings correct. You should consider other options before this. We strongly recommend you speak to one of the Open Learning or CTL staff before planning to use this format.

UWindsor uses Examity as our live proctoring service. This involves students having a web cam, microphone and good internet connection, plus a private location where they can sit uninterrupted. Students sign up with the service and sit an online exam facilitated through Blackboard. This should only be considered for high stakes and special circumstances in the short term, and will require support from OOL staff to facilitate.

Consider building in as much flexibility as possible and be prepared for some frustration, anxiety, and concern on the part of students (as well as yourself). For example, provide extra time on quizzes and exams to students who ask for accommodations in using technology. Consider having assessment windows, with time limits (e.g. the exam or assignment can be submitted any time within a 48hr period, but you only have 3hrs to complete it once opened) so that everyone is not submitting at once.