CSCC Digital Education & Instructional Services

Teaching Effectively

Guiding Students and Their Learning

Create a Sense of Community

Discussion Boards: Encourage and guide learners to introduce themselves in the online classroom/platform and/or engage in online discussions. Continue to ease the transition and build confidence by helping students to establish social presence online, providing guidance and explanation similar to what you’d say in class.

An early “introduction discussion” activity gets students involved with using Blackboard discussion tool, which they may need for upcoming assignments. Activities such as these may seem unimportant, but they can be vital in helping students feel connected to you and their peers in ways that build rapport and camaraderie.

Organize Your Course Online

Our Classroom: Guide students along the learning path and help them progressively navigate through the course each week. Focus on organizing weekly modules/learning units into folders that contain the materials and assignment information students will need for that week. Students will benefit from clear and detailed information about what to do, how you will evaluate it, and why.

Just as you would in class, introduce an assignment using text, audio, or video by going over the instructions, providing relevant examples when useful/possible. Include clear information, whether through an assignment prompt, rubric, or other means, about how the assignment will be graded.

When teaching at a distance, it is crucial to provide lower-stakes, formative assessments so both you and your students can proactively address any confusion before higher-stakes assessments. The use of smaller, formative assessments, like quizzes or discussions, can replace some of the planned in-class interaction, and can also give you timely insights into how students are learning

Online Teaching Techniques

Develop additional components of the remote course to enhance the learning experience
If you feel you might be teaching remotely longer than anticipated, begin to acclimate students to the “new normal” by creating online-specific materials or assignments.

  • Discussion Board Assignments
    Discussion boards are often used in online learning to replace in-class conversations and group work. Using Blackboard Discussion Forums, your students can offer their opinions on a topic, debate a controversial issues, share individual research projects/findings, demonstrate their ability to solve problems (in math and science-based courses) and peer review or tutor each other. If your traditional course includes class participation grades, the Discussion Board will allow you to continue this assessment. Graded Discussion Board assignments may also be used to take the place of other kinds of assessments, such as quizzes and exams. The FAC can help you set these up.

  • Online Assignment Submission
    Blackboard allows for students to submit documents online and an inline grading feature, where the grade automatically appears in the Grade Center.

  • Quizzes and Tests
    Your multiple-choice, short answer or essay assessments can be uploaded to Blackboard. If appropriate, they can be auto-graded and the grade automatically appear in the Grade Center.

  • Video Creation
    Video is a way to connect with your students, by posting short webcam announcements, recording shorter online lectures, or giving students video feedback for assignments. Whether it’s existing video material or a new recording you create, however, refrain from sharing videos longer than 10 minutes. Instead, consider breaking these up into shorter chunks. Kaltura Capture is a video production tool provided by DEIS. Email to get access and training.

  • Real-time interaction
    Collaborate is a web-conferencing tool that can be used for synchronous interaction. Collaborate is new to the college and is integrated inside your Blackboard course. You will see a “Collaborate” menu item on the left side Blackboard menu. You can use it for real-time office hours, content presentation, or having students break into small groups. DEIS provides training.

  • Active learning opportunities
    StudyMate is a way to make simple auto-graded quizzes and games. There are some other tools available, DEIS and the FAC can help you create these online activities for your students.

Other Considerations

Provide learners with information on protecting their data and privacy
If possible, keep all course work inside Blackboard. For anything outside of that where students will have to create an account, submit material, etc., ensure that FERPA and other institutional policies regarding student privacy are being followed.

Provide appropriate citations and permissions for the materials you use
Focus on material and images that are Creative Commons licensed and learn more about Fair Use and other copyright laws by connecting with your institutional librarians. Share your sources of information to help students better understand proper attribution and how to avoid plagiarism.

My class primarily uses ...

Where to Start

You can use Collaborate (built in video/web conferencing tool in your course) meetings, Kaltura Capture (screen capture with narration), text with images and video as key strategies for a lecture-based class. The video/web conferencing format can be an excellent way for sharing information and also for engaging and connecting with students at different times during the semester. You’re encouraged to connect with your students via Collaborate at least once. This way they can hear your voice and see your face and any course materials you think are most important. This is a great way to engage your students.

You don’t need to and shouldn’t try holding live Collaborate meetings on every class day, but please always schedule them within your normal class times when you do. The great thing about collaborate is you can present from anywhere you have an internet connection — not just a classroom setting. You might want to start with an introductory Collaborate meeting (and record it) and then engage with students through a mixture of approaches in Blackboard throughout the semester.

Always remember to record any Collaborate meetings, and post the links to these and any Kaltura Captures in Blackboard for students who are not able to log in during the live time. Kaltura can also caption your recording to assist any students who needs it.

Student Engagement

Now that all students will be online in BlackBoard its important that you do whatever you can to keep them actively engaged in your course. In addition to using Collaborate as a way of directly interacting with them, and they with each other, in real time you can also use the discussion board feature in your BackBoard course for discussions and assignments. Encourage/require your students to interact with each other on the discussion board by having them provide response to inquiries, review each other’s responses and comments from you. Also try to create open question and answer posts in your discussions. Requiring students to respond to or evaluate each other’s responses also helps take the load off of you having to respond to each student.

Establish virtual meeting hours or times students can speak with you and ask questions on Collaborate. Touching base with them in this way supports effective student engagement. You can also create a discussion on the discussion boards for students to ask you questions.

Discussion Board Assignments

Discussion boards are an asynchronous way to engage students with course content and encourage interaction that builds community between students.

Discussion boards in Blackboard are used to:

  • Get to know your students and for them to get to know each other
  • Interact with individual students
  • Keep students actively engaged
  • Allow space for student group work

Online discussion boards are often considered more effective for learning than in-class discussion because:

  • Well-developed discussion boards promote critical thinking
  • Every student is required to participate
  • Every student is required to interact with a classmate
  • Students have more time to present their ideas and answers in a thoughtful manner
  • Discussions are not dominated by the loudest or most extroverted students
  • Students are not intimidated by speaking out publicly

Discussion boards are most effective when:

  • Participation is required
  • Used as graded assignments
  • Discussions are structured
  • There is a required minimum word count
  • Students are required to respond to at least one classmate’s posting (also with a minimum word count)
  • Students are required to use proper spelling, grammar, and cite sources
  • Forums questions and scenarios require learners to use their own experiences and relate the discussion to course objectives
  • The instructor provides an example of a typical discussion board post

Discussion Board Examples

Where to Start

Group work improves critical thinking, problem solving, adaptability, and communication. Use the Blackboard groups or Collaborate function to create student groups of 4-8 who can work together for activities. Using the Bb Groups function will enable students to work together within the course. The Collaborate Groups will require that students video/web conference with each other within your Bb course. Both of the group function areas allow you, as the instructor, to view what’s happening in groups at any time. Both of these functions enable your students to engage with each other and are excellent platforms for active and collaborative learning activities. You can also set up course activities that you can use to assess a student’s comprehension of course concepts and to assess their overall learning — and all of this can happen independent of your interventions within Blackboard. These activities can also increase student engagement and collaboration when done in groups and deepen student learning when done solo — some examples include:

  • If students are used to working with an established group, manually assign those groups in Blackboard to retain that community when at all possible.
  • You can create an assignment within each group for collaborative work. Assignment creates a structure of positive interdependence in which individuals perceive that they will succeed when the group succeeds.
  • You can create a peer review activity using the Discussion Board. In this activity, students provide their peers with feedback on their papers or reports. Each student then reads another student’s paper and provides them with feedback.
  • Have a small group of students create an infographic- students create a visual display to explain course concepts.
  • Have groups of students develop a brochure.
  • Ask students to create charts, graphs and diagrams.
  • Set up a debate on the discussion board.
  • Have students write executive summaries of a particular lesson.

Courses that include fieldwork or internships may be moved to a virtual format. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed its members and found that about 46% of the remainder were shifting their internships online. Some companies are offering virtual internship programs, such as Google, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft. LinkedIn offers a page filled with virtual internship listings for positions from social media marketing to engineering to programming.

Coursework that is assessed based on student competence of a physical activity are a challenge to switch to an online modality. Examples are landscaping, sports, theater, dance, ASL, service learning or clinicals. It is a good idea to acknowledge to students that this is a difficult situation and that you are open to suggestions on ways they can complete their coursework.

First determine the specific primary skills or concepts students must learn from each of the class sessions moved to an online format. Some assignments and assessment suggestions follow:

Physical Activity Skills, such as Demonstrating a Technique

  • Assignment: Students practice on their own
  • Assessment:
    • Students submit a video of their practice and submit for peer or instructor feedback
    • Students submit a Discussion Board thread sharing their experience with their classmates
    • Students submit a Blackboard Journal entry on their experience to reflect on their challenges or successes for the instructor

Skill in Applying a Core Concept

  • Assignment: Student applies the concept in a non-physical manner
  • Assessment:
    • Students view a video of someone doing the activity and write a report or Discussion Board post defining key terms and movements, predicting outcomes, critiquing mistakes in the demonstration, or making suggestions for improvement.
    • Students produce a performance, treatment, or research plan that shows connections between the theory and application.

There may be courses that include physical activities that cannot be completed at a distance, particularly if they require access to highly specialized equipment or locations. It may be necessary to work with your department to discuss alternatives.

Ways to deal with courses that have only a small number of students can include:

Capstone projects:

According to TechTrends, "...capstone experiences allow students to demonstrate mastery in the context of an authentic learning experience—a real-life problem or project situated in the field of practice." A capstone project can be done at a distance throughout the semester as the student works on a project with periodic online meetings with their instructor for review and guidance. The discussion board is useful for students to share their experiences and conclusions with each other. Each student can reflect on their experience in a weekly or periodic journal.

Group projects:

With a small number of students there are two ways to use group projects.

  1. The whole class could take on a large project, with each student assigned one piece of the work. The students work together through real-time online video meetings or asynchronously through a discussion board, wiki or other shared space.
  2. Pair up students in the class and have each group pair work on the same project and present their work to each other at the end.

Peer review:

For courses that lend themselves to projects or written papers, an assignment could be to have students evaluate each other's work. The instructor would always have the final say on the grade.