We hope this email finds you and your students safe and well. We are so impressed with the work all of you are doing! We have nearly finished the first week of remote teaching and we wanted to give you an update on some issues we have seen and some solutions we have discovered. This is a long email, but we thought one long email would be better than several shorter ones.
Because everyone is short on time, here is the summary of what is included in this email with more details on each topic farther down:
- Digital Learning Support (DLS) staff is available to help – contact us
- The Digital Knowledge Center is providing online peer-tutoring services to students, including help with remote learning platforms like Canvas, YouTube, and Zoom
- Canvas courses have storage quotas, but we have options, including other ways to store files
- Reviewing the effectiveness of the digital tools you have chosen for your courses
- Digital tools and resources available to help you teach remotely
- What is working, what is not, and what do you need?
Please contact us with any questions or concerns – we are here to help you.
Now, on with the details…
Getting Support from Digital Learning Support
The staff of DLS is practicing social distancing by working remotely. We are available for consulting at the times below. As always, we are here to support you.
We are doing our best to reply to requests within one business day.
Monday – Friday
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Getting Support from the Digital Knowledge Center
While its physical location is closed, the Digital Knowledge Center is offering its usual appointment hours as remote sessions. Students can connect with a DKC tutor via Zoom, where they can share screens and files to get support with digital projects.
In addition to the standard tutorial types, the DKC is offering a new Online Tools tutorial, to help students who are unfamiliar with online learning platforms like Zoom, YouTube, and Canvas. Students can submit a question or book an appointment at dkc.umw.edu.
If you would like to work with the DKC to develop remote support for specific projects or digital tools used in your class, please contact Cartland Berge, DKC Director, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Storing Files on Canvas and Other Tips
Canvas has a limited amount of storage available (~500MB) for each course. If you are adding large files like videos andPowerPoints with media embedded, you might run out of storage space. If you need more space, you have the following two options:
If you think you’ll need no more than 1GB of space, you can request more storage space for your class by contacting the Digital Learning Support unit email@example.com or on our contact form. We can double your storage space from 500MB to 1GB.
If you need more than 1GB of space for your course you’ll need to host files externally. We are recommending you utilize OneDrive storage, but there are other cloud storage options such as Google Drive and Dropbox that you may already be familiar with. To learn more about OneDrive storage available to you as a UMW faculty member please read our OneDrive guide and for more information about how to link to external files see the section on Storage in Canvas on our Canvas page.
Reviewing Your Digital Tools
Now that we are teaching remotely for the remainder of the semester instead of just “getting through two weeks,” it might make sense to evaluate how things are going so far. Are you and your students getting comfortable with the tools you have chosen, or do you need other options? Is what you are doing now sustainable for the rest of the semester?
Think again about synchronous vs. asynchronous. If interaction is a key factor in your course, then synchronous makes sense, but understand it doesn’t work for all students. Some have low bandwidth connections or limited data plans on phones. Some are in different time zones. We are starting to see degradation of internet connections due to high use and public WIFI in places like Starbucks is becomingunavailable due to closures, so even basic internet can’t be a given. If all students can’t be synchronous for required parts of your content, please also consider how you will provide that same content another way to that group.
If you are mostly delivering content by lecture, a tool like Screencast-O-Matic may be a better fit. It allows you to record a lecture with video including sharing your PowerPoint or computer screen. You can then provide these videos forstudents to view the content in a more flexible manner and way that requires less internet bandwidth.
If you are creating digital files like videos or PowerPoints, see the info above about storing files on Canvas. File storage space on a Canvas site is limited, so consider other methods to make your digital files available to students.
Digital Tools and Resources for Remote Teaching
There are many different digital tools that can work forremote teaching. You are free to use whatever tools you know and work for you and your students, but the ones listed below are tools DLS staff is focused on supporting. Additionally, most provide some level of online accessibility to students with disabilities.
Screencast-O-Matic (Asynchronous presentations)
Screencast-O-Matic is a tool that allows you to record what’s happening on your computer screen, as well as video and audio via your computer’s built-in webcam and microphone. This is a useful tool for recording lectures to share with students online, especially if the lecture includes PowerPoint slides or other visual aids.
We recommend using a Premium account over the Free account. DLS has copies that are available by request. Premium accounts allow you to store your videos on theScreencast-O-Matic cloud instead of putting the videos on YouTube, Canvas or elsewhere. Premium also allows you to easily add captions to your videos.
Zoom (Synchronous presentations and discussion)
NOTE: Some students don’t have access to a sufficientinternet connection, computing devices or phones that would allow them to join a Zoom session. It is highly recommended that before using Zoom to deliver your content that you survey your students to see if they have access. If all your students can’t join via Zoom, you’llwant to consider either going with an asynchronous tool like Screencast-O-Matic, or alternate ways to deliver content to students with no access to Zoom.
- Zoom provides video conferencing with real-time messaging and content sharing. It provides various tools to interact with participants, such as screensharing, file sharing, and a virtual white board.
Zoom is best used for small groups, 1:1 office hours, or when interaction is critical. If you are providing lecture information or demos that don’t need to be synchronous, then we suggest using Screencast-O-Matic or other recording tools.
Zoom offers free accounts which support meetings up to 40 minutes long. If your class is longer than 40 minutes, you can take a break at or before the time limit, and then restart to continue the meeting. We encourage faculty to try the free Zoom account first, and then contact DLS to discuss other options if necessary.
Canvas is UMW’s online Learning Management System. It provides various tools to help faculty communicate with the class, deliver content, as well as assess and grade student work. Every course at UMW has a Canvas course site already created and available for use if the faculty member chooses to do so.
Note that file storage space in each Canvas course is limited to ~500 MB. If you need more space, see the information above on Storing files on Canvas, or fartherdown this page on storing files on OneDrive.
- Canvas Getting Started Guide
- YouTube is a free video hosting platform owned by Google. It is a useful tool for sharing videos with your class, as well as receiving video presentations from students.
The guide below lists some ways to use this and still maintain privacy, an important consideration. The guide also outlines ways to caption your videos to make them accessible.
- Microsoft OneDrive is a personal cloud storage servicelike Google Drive and Dropbox. All UMW students, faculty, and staff have a OneDrive account with 1 terabyte of storage space as part Office 365.
If you are running out of space in your Canvas course, OneDrive is a great solution. Instead of uploading large files to Canvas, you can place the file in OneDrive, copy the OneDrive link, and post the link in Canvas.
Give DLS Your Feedback
What is working? What is not? What do you need? How can we help? We have a support request and feedback form on our DLS website, so please let us know your thoughts and how we can better serve you. We will do our best to meet your needs.
Some Personal Thoughts (if you don’t care for this kind of thing, feel free to skip it)
As you all do the best you can to provide good instructionalexperiences for your students, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Empathy all around can be such a good thing right now. Everyone is experiencing these events in different ways, some in a much more difficult and serious way than others.Consider asking your students for their patience and supportas you work through teaching remotely. Further consider asking yourself to do the same for your students. Be open about the challenges in teaching and learning this way. In the end, what you and the students will remember most about this experience is probably not the content you are teaching, but how you all figured it out together. How you treated and supported each other. These are powerful lessons. They may not have been part of your learning objectives at the start of the semester, but maybe they are now.
If you read all the way to the end of this email, we are truly impressedand admire your dedication! We wish you all the best to teach well and stay safe.
Let us know how we can help.