Center for Teaching and Learning

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The remote teaching and learning environment calls on instructors and students to be flexible in the face of change, especially given the challenges all of us face around health, safety, child care, elder care, and income. Along with the challenges are opportunities to envision your course differently. So:

  • Start simple. Pro tip: don’t try to learn every technology and Canvas feature.
  • Know that your remote course will be different. Your course will not look or feel the way it did in a face-to-face environment. Shifting your expectations of yourself and your students will reward all of you.
  • Put learning first, technologies second. First consider what you want students to learn to do (e.g., conduct scholarly research), how you will know if they’ve learned it (e.g., research paper, annotated bibliography or literature review), how assignments will be graded and which assignments or activities are ungraded (to give students practice). Then, begin identifying which technologies can help your students.
  • Instructors teaching at UW Bothell or UW Tacoma have additional resources:

Communicate with students

  • Be clear from the start. Make sure that your expectations and course logistics are easy to find in your syllabus. Consider spending part of your first class session to acknowledge this new reality and reviewing these expectations and logistics. Although you are teaching class remotely, instead of in-person, many of your expectations remain the same.
  • Communicate with your students and encourage them to stay in contact with you.
  • Explain if teaching remotely is new to you. If you are new to remote teaching, tell your students that you don’t have it all figured out yet. Most likely, learning online will be a new experience for many of them, as well.
  • Let students know that you expect them to stay informed. Students should take responsibility for staying connected and up-to-date on assignments and due dates. Tell them where and when you will share information, such as on the homepage of your Canvas course.
  • Encourage students to use the technology. Remind them to seek help from classmates, UW workshops, and online resources to learn the technologies you will be using to teach. Post links to these resources in your Canvas course.
  • Ask students to create a dedicated space where they live for participating in online classes. Encourage them to coordinate with roommates or family members so that they aren’t competing for network bandwidth when attending a class.

End of quarter communication

  • Communicate about finals early and often.
  • Inform students of the date, time, format, and weight of the final exam.
  • If the final is synchronous, let students know how much additional time they’ll have for “just in case” technology glitches.
  • If the final is asynchronous, tell students when they can access the final, how much time they will have to complete it and when it’s due.
  • Inform students of their options if they are unable to complete the final due to illness or other unforeseen circumstances.

Accessibility and accommodations

Synchronous vs. asynchronous instruction (live vs. recorded instruction)

What is the difference? 

  • Synchronous instruction refers to instruction that is live and delivered real-time.
  • Asynchronous instruction refers to instruction that is recorded.

Can I choose whether to go live or record? 

  • Ultimately you are the best judge of the pedagogical needs for your course. Determine what is required to achieve the desired learning outcomes and best supports student learning. Consider your own comfort level in working with the technology necessary to achieve your course objectives.
  • Consider student needs, and learn whether students have any concerns. Survey students directly to learn whether they may have internet connectivity issues, difficulty accessing certain online content, and/or may be dealing with illness or family emergencies, or live in different time zones, and any other concerns. This survey can include questions on the level of experience students have with specific Canvas tools, Zoom, and/or Panopto. Let them know that their responses will guide your instruction and will be anonymous.

How can I accommodate students who face challenges joining live?

If students encounter obstacles joining a live event, consider the following alternatives:

  • Make synchronous sessions and activities optional.
  • Record synchronous activities and post them in a timely fashion.
  • Call out specific times and topics in any recording that are necessary for students to keep up with course content.
  • Post audio-only, transcripts, or other, more lightweight versions of your recorded content, for students with limited bandwidth.
  • Determine an alternative means for participation points.
  • Don’t factor in attendance as part of grading. POLICY
  • Provide additional time to complete real-time exercises/quizzes.

Must live instruction occur during the assigned day/time? POLICY

  • Yes. If instructors elect to use synchronous instruction they must do so during their assigned day/time in the UW time schedule (Pacific Time Zone) to avoid creating schedule conflicts for students.
  • In some cases, it may be appropriate to record and post a live lecture for review later by students.

What else can I do to prepare? 

  • Clearly communicate with students what technologies they will use and how to access those technologies.
  • During the first week, test the technologies with your students, and determine if any changes will be required.

What tools support synchronous vs. asynchronous instruction? 

A variety of online tools are available for instructors to deliver content online to suit your course’s needs:

  • Synchronous delivery: There are a number of tools available to UW instructors to engage students real-time, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Docs/Slides, Canvas Conferences, Skype, and others. Learning Technologies  and UW-IT have documentation and training available to support instructors.
  • Asynchronous delivery: UW supports a number of tools that can be used to engage students asynchronously including email, Panopto (for recorded lectures), Canvas, Piazza, Google Docs/Slides.

Please be flexible, understanding, and compassionate — with yourselves as well as your students.

Additional resources

Get started

What to consider as you dive in — set realistic expectations, understand policies, and communicate with students.

Put classroom activities online

Once you determine your goals, identify the technologies that will help you meet them.

Technology how to guides

Schedule a class session, record a lecture, create assignments — learn the nuts and bolts of your online teaching tools.


Address potential hurdles: illness, absence, access, and privacy.