Begin here: Effectively Teaching and Supporting Remote Learners

Cherry trees blooming in front of Bendetson Hall (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)
Cherry trees blooming in front of Bendetson Hall (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

By Tufts Center for the Enhancement of Learning & Teaching (CELT) and Educational Technology Services (ETS)

Whether you teach fully online this fall or in dual modalities (with some students face to face and some online in the same course), some of your students will likely be remote. There are a number of important considerations necessary to create an effective, engaging and equitable educational experience for your students.  On this site, we have carefully developed and curated resources that will help you rethink your teaching approaches to meet the needs of remote learners.

Before getting started, please read carefully through the guidelines below. We encourage you to design your courses for fully remote teaching, to provide you the most flexibility to adapt to potentially changing circumstances.

Use Canvas as the hub for all course materials and information and use modules as the organizational model.

  • Canvas provides an important platform for creating an equitable experience for in-person as well as remote learners. A consistent platform for all learners reduces barriers to their ease of engagement and improves access to course information. Clear and easy access to course information is critical for your remote learners. 
  • Modules for Canvas courses are the easiest way for you to organize a flow for the semester and will help students understand the overall organization of your course and where to find things.
  • Use the calendar and keep it updated to support students in their organization.

Organize your course with a balance of asynchronous materials, assignments, and discussions, using synchronous sessions to actively engage students to provide equitable opportunities.

  • Where possible, we recommend asynchronous work and peer interaction complemented by synchronous activities for engagement.
  • Asynchronous materials (such as pre-recording lectures) may be critical for students in different time zones and those who have unequal access to quality personal computing and internet connections, lack quiet places to study, and may not be able to participate in synchronous sessions. It may be necessary to offer identical synchronous sessions at different times to accommodate students in different time zones.

Review your assignments and assessments and consider alternative or additional ways to assess whether students have met the learning objectives.

  • Transparency and clarity in directions and expectations for work are always important but heightened for remote learners. Provide rubrics / clear criteria and examples of successful work to guide students.  
  • Create opportunities for feedback and revision within larger assignments.
  • Offer early and regular low-stakes assessments to make sure students are clear on their progress.
  • Consider alternatives to proctored exams. But be sure to contact your academic dean to arrange for online proctoring if necessary.

Be present in your course several times a week in a variety of ways.

  • Developing and sustaining relationships with your remote learners requires careful attention and frequent communication. When you are regularly present and engaged in the online classroom, your students are more likely to be, as well.
  • Design opportunities for you and your students to check in with each other on a regular basis in synchronous and asynchronous ways.
  • Create a plan for meaningful introductions (including your own) to set the tone for the course and provide opportunities for casual interaction and check ins at the beginning or end of synchronous sessions.
  • Hold virtual office hours at different times and in different formats to meet students in multiple ways.
  • Develop your own schedule for communication so that students will remain engaged with you and each other. Be consistent and persistent.

Review all of your course materials to ensure they are accessible.

  • Ensure that all course materials and documents are accessible. This includes but is not limited to ensuring proper formatting of documents and providing captioning or transcripts of videos.  Please visit the Tufts Student Accessibility Services homepage for resources and tips for making your course accessible.

If it feels daunting at the start, we encourage you to begin to tackle your course in small pieces. Perhaps think first about posting a welcome video, an asynchronous discussion board prompt to have students get to know each other, or plan for the redesign of a particular assessment. Remember, you can do this and we are here to support you!  You can always email edtech@tufts.edu or celt@tufts.edu with your questions.

Ready for more? in the right sidebar of this page, you will find links to Online Course Design, Online Teaching, Online Assessment, and available technology tools for teaching.

You may also wish to consider your technology choices by reviewing Access to Academic Computing Resources and IT Guidelines for Remote Students Fall 2020