Handling Triple Duty: Parenting, Working, and Teaching in the Era of Coronavirus

Many parents are feeling overwhelmed over the triple duty of being a parent, working remotely, and teaching their children at home during the Coronavirus shut-in. In an episode of NPR: All Things Considered a mother explained that the first 4 weeks seemed bearable taken day-by-day with a strict schedule of work and academics in the morning and afternoon broken up by undisrupted family meals and exercise. But when schools announced closures for an additional 6 weeks, the triple duty became overwhelming and panic-inducing.

This example illustrates how Coronavirus has changed our daily lives, and especially for working parents. In this post, I highlight some relevant advice that applies, taken from Magna 20-minute Mentor videos (all OSU faculty and staff have access to more videos).

Erin Malone, DVM, Ph.D., speaks to this change and suggests management techniques to survive during this difficult transition in How Can Change Management Principles Help New Educational Programs Succeed?. She reminds us that the frustration we feel is part of the natural cycle of grief- shock, denial, panic, frustration, and acceptance (see visual below). She recommends management techniques that can be employed at each step of the change cycle to promote success and sanity in the new instructor and learner.

In times of stress, we often turn to others for advice. In these talks, “What is the Best Scholarship Advice I Ever Received, “ and “What is the Best Citizenship Advice I Ever Received,” Ken Alford, Ph.D., offers advice he gathered from years working as an instructor. He highlights the importance of keeping a schedule, maintaining organization, utilizing resources effectively, and following your passion.

Jana Price employed this advice in her Facebook post at the end of March. Before bed each night, she plans lectures and assignments for the following day or week and writes a list of food items she would need for meals. Each week they visit a different country. In the week she chose France, her children researched a different topic each day and explored the museums virtually. Meals were inspired by French cuisine. An Eiffel tower was created out of cardboard. Assignments, essays, or speeches were presented by end of day or week, depending on the complexity. In her post, Jana Price stated that it was a great family bonding experience and made being shut inside most of the day much more bearable. While Jana Price completed her work, her children were focused on exploring a different culture and country halfway across the world.

Eiffel Tower made of cardboard


In the end, we can remind ourselves of one of the best pieces of advice Ken Alford, Ph.D., received—“Be your best self, do the best you can, but recognize that you’re not going to be number one in every single thing. Keep things in perspective… and don’t compare yourself and your situation to others.” In this time of change, we need to remind ourselves of this and with the techniques and advice recommended by Erin Malone, DVM Ph.D., and Ken Alford Ph.D. parents can successfully maintain this triple duty until the Coronavirus crisis ends.

Author Bio: Jenny Raynsford is an OSU graduate student in her first year of a two-year Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the OSU Center for Teaching and Learning.

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Pandemic Teaching Is Challenging and Difficult But Still Merits Reflection

I am not the same teacher I was six weeks ago.

Oh, I still care very much about my students. It is still very important to me that they are learning, that I help bring the content to life and make the material engaging and applicable. I want them to feel connected to me, their classmates, and the university (connections that synergistically help learning). It is just a lot harder to do. It is taking a lot more conscious effort. I find that I am not doing a lot of what was sine qua non of my modus operandi.

I feel exhausted on most days. Somehow, even with no commuting, no ferrying kids to practices, no grocery shopping, and no excursions into the beautiful Oregon wilderness, I still have less time and seemingly more work. With most of what we do in higher education already housed on computer, the now greater access to said screens can easily encroach on the time freed up by the inability to partake in normal activities. Research, writing, data analysis, making a class better, are all pursuits, that like a gas, expand to take the space you give it.

We may know the psychological story here. When organisms face unpredictable stressors over which they have little control and over a long duration of time, there is a toll on the psyche. Yes, some personality traits such as optimism, self-esteem, resilience, and hardiness, and resources such as social support (both perceived and received), can alleviate some of the stress and the negative effects. Health behaviors such as eating well, not drinking too much, sleeping well, getting physical activity, and practicing mindfulness, are excellent coping strategies as well nicely mediating the effects of stress on well-being.

I remind myself that stress can take a toll even when we do not consciously recognize it. We all have to be watchful for those symptoms of implicit stress, those zoom-athon inspired headaches, perhaps periods of helplessness, fatigue, and just sheer inability to function. We need to take our self-care up a notch. Bolster our natural capabilities by having coping activities to commandeer our daily routines.

There is good news. Slowly bandwidth will increase. As we habituate to the new normal, as we get more efficient at doing what we now do, as we consciously work to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, we will see gaps in the clouds, a way out of seeming pits of despair.

Personally, my Emergency Remote Teaching has given way to Temporary Remote Teaching en route towards effective Blending Learning. At first the charge was to keep the lights on and teach a face to face course without being face to face. Time precluded a full course redesign. I know some attempts resulted in Frankencourses or “courses and a half” (see Kahn, 2020 for a remote learning mix map that can prevent this). Some students experience lumbering beasts of courses where face to face activities were surgically squashed into preexisting online courses resulting in more work for all. I found I use any moments of clarity to force myself to take a student perspective and adjust perhaps unreasonable requests or compensate for inadequate scaffolding and instructions. There has been pruning and many on the fly modifications.

Now midway through, I am hitting my stride in this temporary state of remote teaching. I am also looking ahead. I am coming to terms with new technological affordances, such as the abilities provided by breakout rooms, and am now more open to leveraging the vast array of asynchronous course components to build community and increase student engagement. Previously the purview of online education, those of us taking our face to face classes into the cloud can benefit from best practices for using discussion rooms and more, focused around the useful categories of student-instructor, student-student, and student-content (see Riggs, 2020 for tips).

I know I need to be aware of nuances in language with significant implications as I approach the next few weeks and for when we may have to do this again. In contrast to thinking about “online lectures” I think about “online classes”. What we are doing is not just taking our live lectures and recording them. What we are doing is taking an entire face to face experience-blocks of time we spend with our students together in the learning process- and now translating that into interactions shared through screens. Even asking questions is not the same (Amobi, 2020). Instructor presence is even more important (Hahn, 2020). It is not just delivering content, but engineering a learning experience replete with opportunities to interact with each other, apply and process material, together with synthesizing and creating insights. That’s not all, we are doing it in the face of students’ perceptions (right and wrong) of what online learning is, their shock at being remote when expecting a face to face class, and their now idealized and potentially inaccurate sense of what was lost.

The challenge is to have pedagogically sound class time. This may mean untethering oneself from synchronous delivery. Yes, having a routine is useful and many students who signed up for face to face classes may want and prefer fixed class times, but that may not be the most effective way for you to teach your course in your discipline. Online education is primarily asynchronous (hybrid/blended courses have some synchronous components). Consider variations on the theme where some meetings are synchronous. Reconsider what you do during those meetings. You may want to keep synchronous live meetings for discussion only and record short lectures students can view asynchronously (they can still email questions and requests for clarification).

With a little more warning, once solely face to face instructors can now quickly adopt the best practices of online and blended learning. For example, at Oregon State University, we have a self-guided course on designing and modifying face to face courses for remote delivery. It is packed with helpful tips. The dust has settled on the pivot and as responsible educators we need to prepare for the next step while also taking the time, mental health providing, to look at how our students are doing right now. We all know formative evaluations are particularly useful for students. This is the time to steel our resolve and carve out some time to see how we are doing. No one asked for this type of teaching and learning but it does not mean we are powerless to do anything about it. There is still time for course corrections.

No, I am not the teacher I was six weeks ago, but after this all passes, I may be a better one.

Regan A.R. Gurung, Ph.D. is Interim Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Professor of Psychological Science, and Director of the General Psychology Program at Oregon State University.

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Getting Close While Teaching Remotely: Instructor Presence

I keep hearing the phrase physical distancing, social closeness touted as an alternative to the typical social distancing. I’ve definitely taken that to heart in my personal life, scheduling virtual hang outs and using an array of technology to keep me connected to friends and family. Despite this awareness of the importance of social closeness in my personal life, I’m now noticing it as a key element missing in my Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) classroom. When learners attend live Zoom sessions and interact with Canvas pages, they’re virtually present, but that social connection is missing. My virtual classroom isn’t developing the dynamic that I typically cultivate in my face-to-face classes. 

My tried and true strategies of eavesdropping on small group work to gain insight into student understanding or using well timed puns to ease the tension of difficult problem solving don’t translate well to the online spaces. With that in mind I’ve found myself seeking out resources for fostering engagement in my ERT classes. Magna 20 Minute MentorsWhile ERT is most assuredly not online teaching, I’ve found myself looking to online teaching strategies to replace my no longer useful face-to-face strategies. The CTL’s access to 20-Minute Mentors provided me with some key tips (all OSU faculty have access to this great resource), and I’d like to share some resources I found useful when thinking about ways I can support that social closeness in the virtual classroom. 


I found Dr. Courtney Plott’s What Teaching Strategies Help Engage All Learners Online? 20 Minute Mentor video to be a great orientation to think about strategies I can use to build a sense of social closeness in my ERT classroom. This, actually nine minute, video briefly goes through the PAIR framework: Parallel, Authenticity, Intentionality, & Reflection, for supporting online engagement. Dr. Plott also suggests some easy-to-implement strategies like increasing font size, adding mentoring to your grading rubrics, and including pictures that reflect your values. 

If you’re feeling ready to go beyond those basic tips check out Dr. Jean Mandernach’s What Three Things Should I Do Each Week to Engage Online Students?. As the title suggests, she provides practical tips on providing personalized connection, meaningful interaction, and individual responses to your remote learners every week. While Dr. Mandernach emphasizes consistency for online teaching, keep in mind that you don’t need to feel committed to the patterns you established when you were rushed to get your class online. As long as you communicate clearly and motivate the changes, your learners will be understanding about implementing new patterns in your ERT classes. 

3 circle Venn Diagram of Social Presence, Cognitive Presence, and Teaching Presence all intersecting with Educational Experience in the center.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2001). Critical thinking, cognitive presence, and computer conferencing in distance education. American Journal of distance education, 15(1), 7-23.

Lastly, if you find your online classroom being dominated by your presence rather than the voices of your learners, check out How Can I Build Engagement in my Online Classes through Student-created Videos? by Dr. Oliver Dreon. He discusses online classrooms as a community of inquiry and urges us to think of not just the teaching presence but to also consider the cognitive and social presences of our online classes. From using video-based discussions to having learners create Powtoon videos, Dr. Dreon’s video is full of tips and technology suggestions for bringing your learners’ voices into your virtual classroom. 


These three videos have provided me with a plethora of ideas to help me combat the lonely feeling of staring at a grid of black boxes with names and little red microphones while I teach. While I urge you to check out these videos and not feel tied to the early, perhaps rash, decisions you made when quickly moving this term online I also urge you to be kind and lenient with yourself and your learners; we’re all trying our best in unprecedented conditions. 

Kelby Hahn HeadshotAuthor Bio: Kelby Hahn (She/Her) is an OSU graduate in the College of Education. She is on staff at the OSU Center for Teaching & Learning and in the OSU & LBCC Physics Departments.

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Bringing out Students’ Best Assets in Remote Teaching: Questioning Reconsidered

To say that these are unprecedented times in higher education is becoming an understatement. Across the country, traditional face-to-face classes are now in remote delivery. University teachers are working assiduously to approximate as much as possible the best practices of traditional classroom teaching format in the digital platform. This unique transition presents the opportunity to reconsider one of those best practices, questioning. Here is Funmi Amobi overviewing this post with Regan A. R. Gurung.


Second in prominence only to content delivery, questioning is central to teaching and learning. Whether through live lectures on Zoom, video-recorded lectures or in discussion boards, teaching and asking questions go hand in hand. One of the keystones of effective teaching is the ability to ask good questions that promote student learning and engagement. The literature is replete with great suggestions and strategies for using questions to check for understanding, stimulate critical thinking, facilitate student engagement, and encourage discussions.

 Questioning Reconsidered

So, why reconsider questioning?  Even in the best situation where professors implement effective strategies, the process of questioning is often teacher centered.  The professor initiates a question, calls on a student to respond, and evaluates the student’s response. The predominantly used Initiate-Response-Evaluate (IRE) approach focuses each round of questions and answers on one student at a time. In this pattern of interaction, the professor generates questions, governs the conversation, and judges student response. Admittedly, remote teaching on Zoom affords the opportunity to poll all students at once. However, the IRE pattern persists.

In recent weeks, university teachers have made the quantum leap of moving traditional face-to-face instruction to remote delivery. This transition offers the opportunity to explore the possibilities of giving students agency to function as question generators, not just as question answerers. Doing this calls for the implementation of three strategies: Think Aloud, Student Self-Questioning, and Reciprocal Peer-Questioning.

Think Aloud

Bringing out the best in students as critical thinkers and independent learners requires that professors model their own thinking. That riveting live or recorded lecture presented in Zoom or Canvas is just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath, but mostly unearthed, are the questions and thought processes that informed the development of the content delivered. Make those questions and thought processes visible to students. Think aloud calls for explicit verbalization of the questions that prod expert thinking in the discipline.

When professors make visible the questions that instruct their mental processes during content delivery, they incentivize their students to dive deeper, share their own thought processes, and generate high-order content area domain questions (Wilson & Smetana, 2011). Yes, prompting students to answer questions that demand high-level thinking is one of the essential building blocks of metacognition. However, “For an individual to be a proficient thinker, he or she must be proficient in developing questions” (Nappi, 2017, p. 36).

Student Self-Questioning

Question generation does not occur automatically. Years of functioning as question answerers have acclimated students to using the professor’s questions to jump-start their thought processes. The first step in scaffolding the development of student self-questioning is the intentional think aloud by the professor. The next step is to provide a structure to facilitate students’ think aloud.

The questioning circles model encompasses three areas cognition: Subject Matter, Personal Response, and External Environment. Subject matter represents questions related to the material under study, that is, a lecture or reading. Personal response refers to questions related to the student’s reaction to the subject matter under study. External environment entails questions about how the subject matter relates to other disciplines, and the real world (Nippi, 2017). As novice question generators, students may benefit from using the following generic question stems to scaffold the self-questioning process:

  • What do I know about —————-?
  • What if ————–?
  • What conclusions can I draw from —————?
  • What is the difference between ———— and —————?
  • How would I use ————— to ————–?
  • In what situations could ————————- be applied?

(Corley & Rausher, 2013)

Reciprocal Peer Questioning

During a Zoom lecture, the professor models think aloud to students. Following a break in the lecture, students work individually to generate questions about the content of the lecture. Then in Zoom breakout rooms, students take turns posing one question for discussion by the group. This form of peer interaction helps students to develop adaptive expertise in addressing questions of common concern, negotiating different ways to formulate answers, and examining their perspectives. Choi, Land and Turgeon (2005) found that peer-generated questions facilitated students’ reflection and knowledge construction.

Yes, some students’ initial self-questioning skills may reflect limited cognition in content knowledge. This metacognitive dilemma can be overcome through peer questioning as students facilitate and reinforce the quality and clarity of one another’s questions. In this sense, reciprocal peer questioning serves a critical role as virtual peer instruction.

Why Questioning Reconsidered Matters

Getting students engaged in class discourse and group work is a recurring problem in college teaching. More so now, in the emergency remote teaching environment. A recurring recommendation is that student engagement pivots on their level of interest in what their professors ask them to do. Using think aloud, self-questioning and reciprocal peer questioning to provoke students’ own questions on the learning content is a stimulus for engagement. Furthermore, scheduling a forum to discuss those questions, in addition to the metacognitive benefits, creates an environment for students to look out for one another’s learning success. In this era of physical distancing and interaction by screen, that is an inherent student buy in for the reconsidered questioning process.


Choi, I., Land, S. M. & Turgeon, A. J. (2005). Scaffolding peer-questioning strategies to facilitate metacognition during small-group discussion. Instructional Science, 33, 483-511.

Corley, M. A. & Rauscher, W. C. (2013). Deeper learning through questioning. Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy, 12, 1-5.

Nippi, J. S. (2017). The importance of questioning in developing critical skills. International Journal for Professional Educators, 84(1), 30-41.

Wilson, N. S. & Smetana, L. (2011). Questioning as thinking: A metacognitive framework to improve comprehension in expository text. Literacy, 40(2), 84-90.

Funmi Amobi is an instructional consultant and college liaison in Oregon State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Funmi provides consultations to faculty in individual and small group settings to support teaching excellence and student success. Join Funmi for Spring 2020 CTL LINC Sparkshop Lunch Series.  To schedule a Sparkshop call Funmi @ 541 737 1338 or email: Funmi.Amobi@OregonState.edu

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Pandemic Pedagogy: Will Emergency Remote Teaching Improve Education?

In a recent New York Times piece, David Deming  addressed the seismic changes to higher education brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic. While aiming to allay fears of both face to face teachers who may see their jobs threatened by online instruction, and learners who may see this as the future of education, there is much that merits further exposition.

Three key clarifications are in order. First, teaching is more than just delivering content. Synchronous lectures designed to keep to the same days and times as face to face instruction are a major factor distinguishing Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) from online education which tends to use asynchronous lecturing (if any) allowing learners to get content on their own schedules. While online lectures are getting cheaper and more effective, education is more than just lecturing, and attention needs to be paid to the engagement of the learner with pedagogy designed to increase engagement and build community. Beyond just lecturing, the key for both ERT and online learning (and face to face classes as well) is the activities used to foster discussion, engagement, and active learning.

Second, the same criticism applied to ERT (e.g., “often ugly and understandably spotty”) can be applied to all education whether face-to-face or online. There are great classroom teachers and poor teachers. There are effective online classes and ineffective classes. Even a chalkboard can be misused. Likewise, we are bound to hear of some exemplary examples of ERT in the months ahead. Our challenge is to capture and share them.

Finally, let’s not forget that keeping education going, whether in K-12 settings or higher education via online instruction, is not the same as what prior to the pandemic has been called “online learning” or “eLearning”. The educators who keep teaching are delivering ERT, a distinction obfuscated too often in the last few weeks.

Much of the writing surrounding ERT right now relates to whether it is good enough. What is good education?  As Deming (2020) rightly pointed out, factors such as tutoring, individualized feedback, and mentoring are critical elements of successful learning. These factors are often neglected when we think about simply moving face to face instruction remotely.

What needs to be stressed is ALL education needs to be scrutinized to establish if these factors are present. We should always compare different pedagogies. Instead of only asking is ERT during the pandemic the same as normal face to face instruction, we need to always assess our courses. There is a wealth of research on whether online courses compare to face to face courses (it depends, but they do), but we should also be asking if summer courses compare to regular term courses or if 6-week courses are equal to full semester courses (as they award the same credits).

In fact, the scrutiny of ERT highlights what higher education should be more sensitive to in general. Students are facing significant challenges with ERT because of internet access, stress and anxiety due to the pandemic, unstable living conditions, and existing mental and physical health issues. Guess what, many of our students always face these challenges!  Now perhaps we are in a better position to address this issue even after the pandemic.

The upside to ERT during the pandemic is that it will make us realize the ways technology can aid learning.  It will also force us to consider what we have lost from in-person teaching that we could not compensate for. Have we been using our face to face time optimally?  What DO students get out of coming to college in person? Can the ways community is built, students are engaged, and instructor presence felt in ERT and online teaching be elevated in face to face classes with technology?

We may assess learning across modalities more closely, and most importantly catalyze more scholarship on teaching and learning as we attempt to ascertain what worked in during this disruption and for whom.


Regan A.R. Gurung, Ph.D. is Interim Executive Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Professor of Psychological Science, and Director of the General Psychology Program at Oregon State University.

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Be Seen. Be Heard. Teach Effectively.

An essential life skill in the month-old era of Remote Teaching (Zoomocene Epoch) is to effectively deliver information via Zoom. The quality and quantity of educationOSU Center for Teaching and Learning in colleges and universities today is deeply dependent of the efficacy of instructors communicating through Zoom and similar video conferencing platforms. This is true whether the student is viewing a live or recorded class session, or meeting with the instructor during virtual office hours.

The bottom line for learners in Zoom is to be able to clearly hear and—when the instructor is on screen—clearly see the person who is teaching them. Besides, we all want to look and sound our best when we teach or meet remotely. That’s where two new 4-minute videos from OSU Media Services will enhance your remote teaching presence:

Do you have more Zoom questions: What settings to use for a guest speaker? How to use the chat controls? See Academic Technology’s full series of Zoom Help Videos. They’re brief, to the point, and tell you exactly what you need to teach your best on Zoom!

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Pedagogy for the Pandemic: Daily 1-on-1 Consultations Available at CTL

We have made it to the end of the second week of Spring Term 2020. For all of us, this is a term like no other. After rising to the challenge of pushing finals online (now a distant memory), OSU faculty and staff rallied to keep going under drastically different situations.  OSU students are now learning remotely. OSU faculty are fully immersed in Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT).  After the frenetic early weeks of navigating Zoom and exploring the full capabilities of CANVAS, for many of us teaching, it is time to think about key pedagogical issues. Your OSU Center for Teaching and Learning is here to help.

The CTL is now offering Dedicated Teaching Support. We realize that together with the general challenges to being a good educator, teaching and learning online call for additional considerations. If that was not enough, ERT  is another ball of wax as well. The reality that faculty and students now have more to cope with such as childcare, caregiving responsibilities, and more, makes  ERT even more challenging. Pedagogical challenges that we may not have paid as much attention to before, now raise their heads calling for attention.

To help faculty address some of the special challenges of ERT, the CTL staff will be available daily for conversations about teaching. Faculty with a teaching challenge or who encounter a pedagogical problem are invited to schedule a 1-on-1 teaching consultation with the Center for Teaching and Learning, contact CTL@oregonstate.edu

In an examination of the research on teaching and learning with special attention to the lessons learned from online education, there are three major challenges for all faculty teaching this term.  ERT highlights the need for increased instructor presence, calls for explicit attempts to build community in the classroom, and necessitates additional efforts to foster student engagement.   Fortunately there are evidence-based practices for how to do this.  ERT is also a time to be mindful of inclusive teaching practices (see 8 ways to be more inclusive in your Zoom Teaching).

The CTL is here to help you.  If you have a pedagogical issue get in touch. The Keep Teaching site continues to be a general hub for ERT resources and the CTL webpage will also feature timely tips. Follow us on Twitter @OSUteaching for timely teaching tips and information. We know this is difficult and salute all the efforts to keep OSU moving forward. We applaud all the extra work faculty and staff have done to get us this far and we are rallying to get us to the other side.


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Oregon State University Online Education Tips for Student-Centered Remote Teaching

Double rainbow at Oregon State University MUAs we endeavor to provide remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, while it is important that we address the immediate needs in sharing course content with students, delivering lectures, and providing access to course materials, it is also critical that we create an environment that encourages and supports student engagement to ensure deep understanding of the course content. To help encourage student engagement, we can borrow lessons from online course design and teaching to help with remote instruction in this unprecedented time.

Many online educators have found that the key to successfully engaging students is to adopt a student-centered approach that focuses on creating opportunities for three forms of interaction for students:

  • Student-Content interaction, where we provide active learning experiences for students (meaningful learning activity + reflection)
  • Student-Student interaction, where we structure the learning community and make it clear to students how they need to interact with others in the class
  • Student-Instructor interaction, where we create a framework for how the instructor will interact with students during their learning experiences

There are many ways to encourage these three forms of interaction. Experienced online educators have found that making sure these three forms of interaction are happening throughout the course in some fashion helps to keep students engaged, even when at a distance. If you are an educator who finds yourself suddenly teaching remotely, you can borrow some tips and techniques from online educators to help engage your students.

This document will help you frame your thinking in a student-centered manner and will provide practical, easy-to-implement suggestions for putting student-centered remote teaching into action.

3 Questions to Consider in Student-Centered Remote Teaching

As we shift to new remote educational environments, it can be helpful to ask some very practical questions about how things will work in your course, now that you and your students are not in a physical classroom together. To take a student-centered approach to remote teaching, ask three questions about your course:

  1.  How will my students interact with the course content? Beyond reading, listening/viewing lectures, what will they actually DO with the course content? And how can they do so in their homes?
  2. How will my students interact with other students? Beyond completing assignments and assessments independently, how will students work together to ensure that they feel like part of a learning community and have the opportunity to collaborate, think critically, be intellectually challenged, and make meaning with others? How can students work with others while isolated in their homes?
  3. How will my students interact with me, their instructor? Now that you aren’t in the classroom with your students, how will students be able to interact with you? How might you guide student learning, while allowing flexibility depending on different student needs? What assignment expectations do you need to convey? What information will you need to clarify for students?

Asking these questions puts the instructor in the student’s point of view and opens up a new way of thinking about remote instruction. When preparing a course for remote delivery, sharing course content remotely can feel overwhelming. It can be helpful to extend your thinking beyond content delivery to these three forms of student interaction.

In online course design, a lot of time and effort is invested to create an architecture of engagement where these three forms of interaction can take place. The current health crisis has not allowed for the amount of development time we would have preferred, but there are some easy-to-implement instructional methods you can use to help encourage student engagement when delivering courses remotely.

Student-Content Interaction

Hands typing on laptopStudent-content interaction is all about having students DO something with the course content or topic. Reading and listening to lectures will be part of many classes, but passive receipt of information isn’t sufficient to help students engage with the course and meet course learning outcomes. Instead, we should create opportunities for active learning, which is when students DO something meaningful related to the course content and then reflect on their learning. Some examples follow.

Complete a course reading and …

  • Write a summary
  • Create a PPT slide that shows your key take-away from the reading
  • List five of your take-aways and one question you have based on the reading
  • Identify the reading’s clearest point and its muddiest point for you as a reader
  • Create a concept/mind map
  • Diagram a process
  • Make in infographic
  • Suggest quiz questions based on the reading
  • Create study aids (flashcards, pneumonic devices)
  • Critique the reading
  • Write an Op-Ed based on the content

Attend a synchronous lecture via ZOOM and …

  •  Zoom think-pair-share: Instructor poses a question, asks students to jot some notes down independently to form initial thoughts, then distributes students to breakout rooms to discuss, and pull the class back together as a group to discuss and synthesize
  • Participate in a poll asking if they would like additional examples, or quizzing on some of concepts
  • Illustrate ideas on the Zoom whiteboard
  • Flip the Zoom “lecture” by having students come prepared to discuss topics they have already read up on
  • Give students the opportunity to lead a discussion in Zoom

Other learning activities will vary by discipline and level of study. Consider these examples for inspiration:

  • Kitchen lab experiments and lab reports
  • Backyard or video “field” observations and field reports
  • Analyzing data sets, creating data visualizations
  • Preparing and giving multimedia presentations, including Q&A from classmates
  • Creating infographics, webpages, blog posts, collages, memes, or digital images related to course content

Don’t forget reflection! For active learning to be implemented fully, students need to complete a meaningful action, as in the examples above, but also need to perform some sort of reflection about their learning. Remember that “reflection” can actually mean more than one thing, so  it can be helpful to provide students with direction about what kind of reflection you are requesting, specifically. Here are a few easy ways to guide student reflection:

  • Invite students to share:
    • one thing they feel most confident about and why
    • one thing they struggled with and how they overcame it or how they plan to
    • one thing they still don’t fully grasp
    • one most helpful resource from the week/lesson/etc.
    • one resource they wish they had during the last week/lesson/etc.
  •  Use Grossman’s Continuum of Reflection as a guide:
    • Content-based reflection, where you ask students to provide evidence and make inferences
    • Metacognitive reflection, where you ask students to think about their thinking, e.g. noting differences between thoughts and feelings
    • Self-authorship reflection, where students gain distance from earlier thinking and are asked about how feelings and thoughts influence each other
    • Transformative and intensive reflection, where students are asked to note how their feelings and thoughts have changed over time
  • Use Ryan’s Levels of Reflection as a guide:
    • Reporting and responding, where students are asked to observe, provide evidence, ask questions and state opinions
    • Relating, where students make connections between content and prior learning or personal experience
    • Reasoning, where students analyze content, including discussions of relevant research literature
    • Reconstructing, where students imagine future applications, such as in future professional contexts

Pairing a meaningful activity with some sort of guided reflection helps students get the most from the active learning experience.

Student-Student Interaction

Student and laptopStudents interacting with each other helps learners feel like part of a learning community, but also helps them engage in higher-order thinking that would be more challenging to accomplish if studying alone. Through collaboration, students brainstorm, deliberate, disagree, compromise, and achieve consensus–all ways of thinking that are difficult, if not impossible, to do alone.

Some examples of how to encourage effective student-student interaction when remote teaching follow:

  • Discussion forums in Canvas
  • Peer review for writing assignments and projects
  • Group projects
  • Group presentations
  • Think-pair-share
  • Study groups
  • Collaborate on a Case Study
  • Develop a guide of resources for future students
  • Participate in a role play/debate using the Discussions
  • Create or adapt a board game based on course content (Trivia game, etc)

Students can arrange their own meetings in Zoom, or may choose to use other video conference solutions such as FaceTime or Skype. They can collaborate using Google Drive,  Box, or other web-based tools.

Student-Instructor Interaction

The third form of interaction is student-instructor interaction. In student surveys about online education, this form of interaction is routinely and resoundingly rated as most important to students. Student-instructor interaction is more than just answering student questions. The U.S. Department of Education requires for fully online classes that instructors provide regular, substantive, and instructor-led interactions to distinguish online classes from correspondence courses:

  1. Regular means on a regular basis. Students need to know what the pattern of communication and interaction will be, and that pattern should be fairly frequent.
  2. Substantive means that the instructor should be communicating about the course content and learning activities, not just grading work or providing classroom management instructions.
  3. Instructor-led means that the instructor needs to initiate the communications and interactions and should not merely be available for answering questions.

These guidelines help online instructors provide strong student-instructor interaction. Remote instructors can use these guidelines to help engage students, too.

Some examples of how student-instructor interaction when remote teaching follow:

  • Discussion forums in Canvas, where the instructor participates and engages students in discussion about course content
  • Providing a short video to introduce a major assignment, then holding a Q&A session
  • Detailed feedback on assignments (written and/or recorded)
  • Voice-over screen recordings using tools such as Screencast-o-matic to provide demonstrations, discussions of diagrams/graphs, slides, and illustrations
  • Writing conferences to discuss draft assignments
  • Regular check-ins to make sure everyone is doing ok during the pandemic
  • Weekly intro and/or recap video announcements
  • Open or by-appointment office hours by web conference, phone, text
  • Videos of the instructor in their home or safe outdoor environment, with pets, families, etc. to provide social presence

Additional Resources to Assist with Student-Centered Learning in Remote Teaching Environments

Actively Engaging Students in Online Asynchronous Classes (lots of concrete examples that can be adopted for Remote Teaching)

Adjusted syllabus statements for humane and compassionate teaching during the pandemic

Online Open Office Hours with Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris on critical digital pedagogy

Open Letter at Hybrid Pedagogy Journal with links to new primers, What is online learning? And What is digital pedagogy?

10 Questions to Ask — a preparatory checklist for students from the Academic Student Success Center

10Qs – Homework — a checklist for students about completing online homework from the Academic Student Success Center


Thanks to Meghan Naxer, Dorothy Loftin, Deborah Mundorff, Clare Creighton and Weiwei Zhang for contributing to this article.

Photos: Keyboard by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash; student with laptop by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

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Remote Teaching = A New Kind of Blended Learning

MU Quad at Oregon State UniversityBlended learning, in which classroom learning activity is integrated with online learning activity, has been on the rise over the past two decades. Nationally, a large portion of faculty and students express a preference toward blended approaches and substantial research supports the efficacy of this approach.

Now with the abrupt transition to remote teaching in Spring 2020, the concept of blended learning can be applied in a different way. Blended learning has taken on a new meaning:

  • Every remote course will have significant asynchronous learning activity, mainly centered around Canvas, that students will do on their own time in a given week, for example, reading, viewing videos, taking quizzes, and completing writing assignments.
  • Most remote courses will also have significant synchronous activity, mainly centered around Zoom, such as live lecture sessions, groups of students meeting online to work on projects or study together, and virtual office hours.
  • At Oregon State University, the asynchronous learning activity will be centered around Canvas and the synchronous learning activity will be centered around Zoom. For a description of the pros and cons of synchronous and asynchronous approaches, see synchronous vs. asynchronous.
  • Given the OSU credit policy, a three-credit course would equate to approximately three synchronous “contact hours” weekly plus six asynchronous hours of “outside work” by students.
  • Faculty who skillfully integrate or “blend” the asynchronous and synchronous course components will provide their learners with greater opportunity to perform at a high level and meet the course learning outcomes.

To help you visualize how you can blend synchronous and asynchronous elements in your course design, sketch out a Remote Learning mix map. You can download the mix map template as a fillable pdf, and either fill it in digitally or print the mix map and write by hand. If representing your entire course in the mix map seems overly ambitious, then just consider a typical week of your Spring course as you see it today.

Remote Learning Mix Map





Give yourself 5 – 10 minutes to sketch your mix map:

  1. Within each circle, add course learning activities (e.g., weekly discussions, group projects, writing assignments) that will occur synchronously in Zoom, asynchronously in Canvas or in both places.
  2. Next to each activity list the approximate amount of time students will spend on the activity per week.
  3. Draw lines to connect each learning activity to other learning activities to depict functional relationships. For example, if there is a weekly quiz, does it cover assigned readings or lecture?

For inspiration look at samples of traditional blended learning mix maps.

You can “flip” your course by using the asynchronous learning activity to prepare students for an upcoming synchronous session. Also think about how you can push the boundaries of the remote teaching environment. Zoom can be used for asynchronous learning (e.g., to pre-record lectures) and Canvas can be used synchronously (e.g., a Canvas discussion forum used live during a class meeting).

Consider sharing your mix map with your students during the first week of the term. It may be as valuable as your syllabus in showing not only your expectations, but also how much time the learning activities will take, and how they will interconnect.

Your first Remote Learning mix map is a snapshot of your thinking as you start Spring term. In this challenging environment, you and your students will exercise flexibility, patience and compassion as you navigate unfamiliar teaching-and-learning terrain together. Based on lessons learned within the first 2 or 3 weeks of the term, you may make major adjustments in your course to build on what works as you guide your students toward the course learning outcomes. And maybe a revised mix map will be a good way to conceptualize the changes, which you can again share with your students.

Best wishes for Spring term! And remember to refer to Keep Teaching and to contact the Center for Teaching and Learning whenever you need our support.

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A Student’s Take on Remote Learning

Author Bio: Dharma Mirza (She/Her) is an OSU undergraduate in Public Health, Queer Studies, and Statistics. She is a student worker for the OSU Center for Teaching & Learning and the OSU College of Public Health & Human Sciences. Dharma also does educational outreach, public speaking, and diversity work with various universities in Oregon, focusing on LGBTQ+ issues and health equity.”

1. Making a Space

I find it very important to have a dedicated space for doing my online course work inside of my residence. I think it has been vital in staying focused to have a separate work space that is dedicated for school time when I am working on my coursework. If you are able to have a separate room consider putting a note up on the door when you are in “school” or “work” mode so that you can avoid others in your home from distracting you (if possible/applicable).

2. Avoid the Digital Distractions

It’s very easy at home to have your creature comforts near by such as your phone, tablet, etc. But I have found it helpful to treat my coursework time as if I am in class. During zoom meetings for courses keep your phone put away (except as needed) and focus on the lecture, discussion, etc.

Consider opening a separate desktop on your computer for different things. I for instance have a work desktop, a school work desktop and a personal desktop. (not separate computers, but separate desktops (a feature on most newer operating systems). This helps me from getting distracted from other programs that are open, or tabs on browsers that can be tempting.

3. Stick to a schedule

I have found it easy to get complacent and get behind when I don’t stick to a routine or schedule for online work. I pick a dedicated time for each course, and will adhere to working on that course during that time. For courses that aren’t synchronous, I plan on using the time I had scheduled for lecture for homework or reviewing canvas.

4. Stay on Top of Email and Canvas

Stay on top of you emails, and canvas notifications. This will be a primary way to get info from instructors, so it’s important to stay on top of these.

5. Plug in to your router

Where possible connect directly to your router/internet source for a wired connection while doing conference calls, zoom lectures, etc. This will help to improve your quality of connection, and avoid any disconnections due to wifi issues. Especially as broadband networks see more stress during work from home/school from home increases.

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