Strategies & Resources

As you make plans for moving your class online because of physical isolation, focus on the tasks you are trying to accomplish

You can accomplish these tasks using our online resources. Use these guides to help move your course online:

Communicate with students

Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es)—whether a planned absence on your part, or because of a closure impacting all or part of campus. You'll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety, and save you dealing with individual questions.

Keep these principles in mind:

  • Communicate early and often: Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren't in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand (for example, the campus closure is extended for two more days; what will students need to know related to your course?).
  • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email or Moodle page, and how quickly they can expect your response.
  • Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone as a Moodle announcement. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider adding a 'page' to your Moodle paper, where you provide responses to frequently asked questions.
  • Share student study support options: During a campus closure, Student Learning tutors are still available for online consultations with students. Also, remember to communicate the availability of the online tutoring service for undergraduate students, Studiosity.

Read more about communication tools in Moodle.

Distribute course materials and readings online

You may need to change, reduce or add course materials to support your changing plans, from updated schedules to readings that allow you to shift more instruction online.

Considerations when posting new course materials:

  • Make sure students know when new material is posted: If you post new materials in Moodle, be sure to let students know what you posted and where. You might consider adding the Recent Activity block into Moodle to alert them when new materials are posted. Refer to how to Add and Edit Blocks.
  • Keep things phone friendly: In a crisis, many students may only have a phone available, and could be accessing Moodle through the Moodle @ Waikato app, so make sure you are using mobile-friendly formats, PDFs being the most common. Consider saving other files (for example, PowerPoint presentations) to PDFs, which are easier to read on phones and tablets, and keep the file size small.
  • Check your library reading list is up to date: If you don't already have an online reading list, and would like to , contact your subject librarian. If you need material scanned to be available digitally, fill out the Scanning Request Form or contact

Instructions: Add a file to Moodle

Instructions: Add your reading list to Moodle

Deliver lectures

Depending on your course, you may need to deliver some lectures to keep the course moving along. Here are a few suggestions for online lectures:

  • Make videos available via Panopto: You can record video from any device, then upload it to your course's Panopto folder, which students will be able to access through Moodle. Panopto is free for staff and students to download. You can also record using another recorder of choice, then upload to the Panopto folder.
  • Record in small chunks: Even the best online speakers keep it brief; think of the brevity of TED talks. We learn better with breaks to process and apply new information. To aid student learning, record any lectures in shorter (5-10 minute) chunks, and intersperse them with small activities that give students opportunities to process the new knowledge, make connections to other concepts, apply an idea, or make some notes in response to prompts. Smaller chunks also lead to smaller files, especially when using voiced-over PowerPoint presentations.
  • Be flexible with live video: Lecturing live with Zoom is certainly possible, and it best approximates a classroom setting, since students can ask questions. However, a crisis might mean some students won't have access to fast internet connections, and others may have their schedules disrupted. So, record live classroom sessions, where possible and be flexible about how students can attend and participate.
  • It's not just about content: If a crisis is disrupting classes, lectures can mean more than just providing course content; they also establish a sense of normalcy and a personal connection. In online courses, we talk about the importance of "instructor presence", and that's just as true during short-term online stints. So, consider ways that you can use lectures to make students feel connected and cared about: acknowledgement of current challenges, praise for good work, and reminders about the class being a community. This affective work can help their learning during a difficult time.

Run lab activities

One of the biggest challenges of teaching during a building or campus closure is sustaining the lab components of classes. Since many labs require specific equipment, they are hard to reproduce outside of that physical space.

Considerations as you plan to address lab activities:

  • Take part of the lab online: Many lab activities require students to become familiar with certain procedures, and only physical practice of those processes will do. In such cases, consider if there are other parts of the lab experience you could take online (for example, video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations (for example, PhET interactive simulations), analysis of data, other pre- or post-lab work), and save the physical practice parts of the labs until access is restored. The semester might get disjointed by splitting up lab experiences, but it might get you through a short campus closure.
  • Provide raw data for analysis: In cases where the lab includes both collection of data and its analysis, consider showing how the data can be collected, and then provide some raw sets of data for students to analyse. This approach is not as comprehensive as having students collect and analyse their own data, but it might keep them engaged with parts of the lab experience during the closure.
  • Increase interaction in other ways: Sometimes labs are more about having time for direct student interaction, so consider other ways to replicate that level of contact if it is only your lab that is out of commission.

Foster communication and collaboration among students

Fostering communication among students is important because it allows you to reproduce any collaboration you build into your course, and maintains a sense of community that can help keep students motivated to participate and learn. It helps if you already had some sort of student-to-student online activity (for example, Moodle Forums) since students will be used to both the process and the tool.

Consider these suggestions when planning activities:

  • Use asynchronous tools when possible: Having students participate in live Zoom conversations can be useful, but scheduling can be a problem, and sometimes only a few students will actively participate. In such cases, using asynchronous tools like Moodle Forums allow students to participate on their own schedules. In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.
  • Link to clear goals and outcomes: Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. How does this activity help them meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments?
  • Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. It's possible to assign points for online discussion posts, alternatively some lecturers ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
  • Balance newness and need: As with any changed activities, you will need to balance the needs and benefits of online collaboration with the additional effort such collaboration will require on everyone else's part. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit.

Online assignment submission

Collecting assignments during a campus closure is fairly straightforward, since many lecturers already collect work electronically. The main challenge during a campus disruption is whether students have access to computers, as anyone needing a campus computer lab may be unable to access necessary technologies. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make use of Moodle Assignments: By requiring students to submit their assignments online through Moodle you can reduce the administrative burden and take advantage of Turnitin similarity check.
  • State expectations, but be ready to allow extensions: In the case of a campus closure or other crisis, some students will undoubtedly have difficulties meeting deadlines. Make expectations clear, but be ready to provide more flexibility than you normally would in your class. Moodle allows you to grant extensions to individuals on assignments.
  • Require only common software: Students may not have access to specialty software located in on-campus computer labs.

Assess student learning

General tips for assessing student learning during class disruption:

  • Update expectations for projects: Campus disruptions may limit students' access to resources they need to complete papers or other projects, and team projects may be harmed by a team's inability to meet. You may vary assignment expectations for courses based on the limitations a crisis may impose. Possible options include allowing individual rather than group projects, having students record presentations with Panopto rather than presenting person, changing the length of an assignment, or adjusting the types of resources needed for research papers.
  • Embrace short quizzes: Short quizzes can be a great way to keep students engaged with course concepts, particularly if they are interspersed with small chunks of video lecture. Consider using very-low-stakes quizzes to give students practice at applying concepts—just enough points to hold them accountable, but not so many that the activity becomes all about points.
  • Move beyond simple facts: It is good to reinforce concepts through practice on a quiz, but generally it is best to move beyond factual answers that students can quickly look up. Instead, write questions that prompt students to apply concepts to new scenarios, or ask them to identify the best of multiple correct answers.
  • Check for publishers' test banks: Look to see if your textbook publisher has question banks that can be loaded into Moodle. Even if you don't use these questions for your exams, they can be useful for simple quizzes. Some textbooks also have their own online quizzing tools that can help keep students engaged with the material.