Remote Teaching at Tufts in Response to the Health Crisis

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

by Alicia Russell and the Staff of Tufts Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching


This is a trying time for all of us. Remember to breathe and that we will get through this together. This is not business as usual! And you are not developing online courses – you are keeping the trains running. Help your students breathe as well.

The Goal = Academic Continuity

What does learning mean under these new conditions? Our assumptions and expectations of what we–and students–can accomplish will likely need to change. While there’s no one-size-fits-all or single best way to integrate digital tech into a remodeled curricular design, we have assembled some best practices in this document.

General Principles

Prioritize care, compassion and kindness. Some of your students may need to miss class, may become ill, and/or have a family member who is ill. Please keep in mind that some students may experience disproportionate stressors in these extenuating circumstances. This may include an overall lack of resources or need for a more accessible/flexible format. Knowing that you care about them and their success may make all the difference in their motivation, persistence, and ultimate success in your course. Check in regularly with your students.

Keep it simple. Do not expect to launch a fully online course that would typically take months to develop. Choose tools that are already in use by both you and the students. Keep it simple and choose technology tools that will support your particular learning goals and needs. Iterate as you learn over time.

Stay calm. Students look to you for leadership. If students see that you are calm and that you are assuring them everything will work with the course, that will go a long way to keep them positive and engaged. Mistakes and bumps in the road will happen.

Practice pedagogical flexibility. In these times, flexibility goes a long way. Pedagogical flexibility allows us to get creative with assignment design, exam format, options for students such as choosing from a list of projects, interactive discussions, avenues for student submission of their work.

Seek support from colleagues and teaching and learning staff. We encourage faculty to stay in communication with colleagues both in your own department and also across the college for ideas on how best to transition to remote teaching. There are likely some discipline-specific needs that may be solved with creativity in brainstorming with faculty teaching similar content.

How to Think Through the Transition

The quick guide below can help you get oriented and start thinking about how you might “teach from anywhere”. Visit Keep Teaching for strategies, techniques, and links to tutorials. Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.

Evaluate and consider adapting your goals for students
What are the most essential learning outcomes for your course? Some outcomes are mapped onto physical spaces, equipment, and activities that are more challenging to adapt to virtual spaces and modes of interaction. Think about key objectives, accessibility, and transparency. Consider involving students in the work of figuring out how to best meet course objectives in the context of a now-online course, and indicate to them what kind of flexibility is possible within the framework of the course (e.g., course objectives, pacing, assessment, project timing, etc.).

Consider modifying assessments to be appropriate for an online environment
What assessments are necessary for students to demonstrate that they have achieved the course goals? Quizzes, assignments, high-stakes exams, etc. may end up looking different online than in person. These adjustments will be influenced by the tools available. If possible, avoid adopting too many forms of digital tech with which you have little familiarity or prior experiences. Stick as much as possible with what you already know. Introduce new tools only when absolutely necessary. If you are introducing a new tool or technology, test it out in advance. If you have capacity, remember that this is an opportunity for creativity.

Think through your approach to day-to-day instruction

  • Allow space and time for students to connect/reconnect individually and as a class. Shifting your course to online can feel isolating to you and your students.
  • Think about how you can engage your students synchronously (in real time) and asynchronously. You may be able to mostly maintain your existing instructional format via Zoom or WebEx. Remember that not everyone may be able to attend due to time zones, family commitments, or other factors. We recommend you record live sessions (synchronous) with Zoom or WebEx, and post them for the class to view or review later. And brainstorm with your students ways to include all students.
  • It may be challenging to gauge how the class is going and how students are responding to the online environment. Regularly check in to take the pulse and ask for feedback on how the experience is working for them.

Review & revise your course schedule & policies to reflect your new priorities
What will have to temporarily change in your syllabus, including, policies, due dates, assignments, or submission format? You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. Give yourself flexibility in that schedule, since you may be teaching in a new format or the situation takes longer to resolve than initially planned. Make sure you put it all in writing.

Communicate your new expectations for students
Reassure them that you will figure it out together. Acknowledge the complex feelings involved with a closed campus, a disrupted semester, and the general anxiety of this uncertain time. If you feel comfortable doing so, invite students to discuss what they are experiencing, air concerns, and ask questions.

Want Additional Support?

We are here to support you in this transition!

Questions about any of the above or need one-on-one help?
Email with the subject line “HELP!” or join an online discussion with your peers through CELT supported forums or synchronous Zoom sessions.

Questions about tools?
Educational Technology Services has created a resource introducing a variety of tools that will help you transition to teaching online. Visit Keep Teaching for more about:

  • Distributing course materials
  • Hosting classes remotely in real time
  • Recording and sharing lectures
  • Administering assessments
  • Interacting with students online

Questions about accessibility?
Visit Student Accessibility Services & see Remote SAS Instructor Tip Sheet

See Also