Center for Teaching and Learning

Put classroom activities online

Identify which technologies work best for common classroom activities, while reviewing pedagogical and logistical considerations.

Choose the right technology

  • For classes up to 50, Canvas covers most needs – announcements, live lectures, discussions, small group work, and grade tracking. You will still need to use GradePage to submit grades to the registrar.
  • For classes larger than 50, Zoom is ideal to host lectures.
  • For classes of any size, Panopto Lecture Capture allows you to record lectures and post them online for students to review outside of class time.
  • For FERPA compliance POLICY, use UW-supported technologies including Panopto, Zoom, Canvas, Office365 and Google G Suite. These technologies have comprehensive agreements in place to help the UW protect the privacy of personal data and manage information security risks. Please be cautious about using other technologies, which may not include an appropriate agreement or adequately protect individuals’ privacy. See IT Connect for information about UW-supported technology.
  • Lastly, while the UW offers other online tools — Office 365 Microsoft Teams and Google G Suite — try to minimize the number of tools you and your students must learn.

Post materials

Use Canvas to put materials online. Course sites are automatically created for each course in Canvas each quarter.

Privacy/FERPA statement for your syllabus

POLICY If you plan to record your class sessions, be sure to include this statement from the UW Privacy Office in your syllabus:

This course is scheduled to run synchronously at your scheduled class time via Zoom. These Zoom class sessions will be recorded. The recording will capture the presenter’s audio, video and computer screen. Student audio and video will be recorded if they share their computer audio and video during the recorded session. The recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public.

The University and Zoom have FERPA-compliant agreements in place to protect the security and privacy of UW Zoom accounts. Students who do not wish to be recorded should:

  • Change their Zoom screen name to hide any personal identifying information like their name or UW Net ID; and
  • Not share their computer audio or video during their Zoom sessions

Announcements and other communications

  • Use Canvas Announcements instead of email to communicate with students.
  • POLICY For social media, consider using UW Yammer, which is FERPA-and HIPAA-compliant. SnapChat, Twitter, and Facebook are not FERPA– and HIPAA-compliant.
  • Lastly, establish clear expectations for how frequently and where students should check for announcements and other communications.

Lectures and discussions: recorded and in real time

Use Canvas Conferences or Zoom to hold class sessions, depending on the number of participants, and whether you require specific features.

  • With Zoom, each class session (“meeting,” in Zoom-speak) is assigned a specific link, which you share with your students in advance. At the time/day of the class session, students click the link to join you in Zoom.
  • Use Panopto to record your lecture to post ahead of time or after class
  • Survey students with Poll Everywhere for in-class responses.

Small group work

For group work, organize groups with Zoom’s breakout rooms or Canvas Student Groups.

  • With Zoom’s breakout rooms, students can also schedule their own online study groups.
  • Canvas Student Groups are like a smaller version of your course and are used as a collaborative tool where students can work together on group projects and assignments. Learn more about Canvas student groups.
  • Consider these differences between Zoom and Canvas.
    • In Zoom:
      • Breakout rooms are unlimited and can be pre-assigned.
      • Sessions can be recorded but only for sessions taking place in the main room, not breakout rooms.
    • In Canvas Conferences:
      • Breakout groups are limited to eight groups.
      • Screen share isn’t available on Safari.
      • Sessions can be recorded, but recordings are only available for 14 days and cannot be saved offline.
  • For real-time collaboration on documents, consider using Office 365 Microsoft Teams or Google G Suite.
    • POLICY UW Office 365 Microsoft Teams provides chat-based workspaces for real-time collaboration and communication, meetings, and file and app sharing. It is both HIPAA- and FERPA-aligned.
    • POLICY Google G Suite allows for real-time collaboration, communication, and file creation and sharing. The G Suite includes Hangouts, Docs, Drive, Sheets, and Presentations, Gmail, Calendar, and Sites. Note that many, but not all, G Suite apps are FERPA–aligned.

Quizzes, exams and alternatives

High-stakes exams don’t transfer well to remote learning

When teaching traditional in-person classes, instructors often place a significant portion of the final grade — anywhere from 25% to 60% — on mid-quarter and final exams. Such high-stakes exams do not necessarily transfer well to a remote learning environment for the following reasons:

  • The higher the stakes, the more people are inclined to cheat. Lower the stakes to lower the incidence of cheating.
  • People follow norms, not rules. If students think other students in the course are cheating, they are more likely to cheat. Lower-stakes assessments change student perspectives about norms and reduce the risk of cheating.
  • Anxiety is naturally higher in a new, unfamiliar situation. It also impairs the ability to demonstrate what you know. Given the additional reasons students have for anxiety — health, safety, income and food security, child care, elder care — it’s a good idea to assess student learning in evidence-based effective ways that also reflect our new realities.

Alternatives to high-stakes exams

  • Increase the frequency of graded assessments, rather than giving one or two high-stakes exams.
    • Use Canvas quizzes to offer regular quizzes or exams worth no more than 10% of the final grade. Consider these recommendations for conducting quizzes and exams online.
    • Let students drop the lowest grade if you give 4-10 quizzes/exams. This approach:
      • Reduces the temptation to cheat by lowering anxiety
      • Gives students practice at demonstrating what they’ve learned
      • Accommodates students who might be sick the day the quiz is given or have connection issues–without requiring instructors to create make-up exams or quizzes
  • Offer an open book or open notes exam. This practice previews the kind of skills students need throughout their college careers and as professionals: research, accurate and judicious note-taking, determination of what’s significant, ability to use resources efficiently.
  • Give students other ways to demonstrate what they have learned outside of an exam. Possibilities include:
    • Giving students a writing assignment that allows them to demonstrate that they learned what you want them to have learned. Discuss with them the rubric you’ll use to assess the assignment.
    • Include multiple methods and media that students can use for a submission — a drawing, a song, a paper, or a 3D model that demonstrates mastery of a concept and gives value to the tools a student has access to.


  • Callahan, David. The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead. San Diego: Harcourt, 2004.
  • Harris, L., Harrison, D., McNally, D. et al. Academic Integrity in an Online Culture: Do McCabe’s Findings Hold True for Online, Adult Learners?. J Acad Ethics (2019).
  • McCabe D. (2016) Cheating and Honor: Lessons from a Long-Term Research Project. In: Bretag T. (eds) Handbook of Academic Integrity. Springer, Singapore


Individual and team presentations

Students can give live presentations using Zoom. They also can record videos of their presentations using their smartphones, Panopto, or Zoom, and then upload them to Canvas.

Student work submissions

Students can submit work (homework, final papers, or projects) through Canvas, Google Drive, Dropbox, or email.

Office hours

Virtual office hours, through Canvas Conferences and Zoom, allow you to meet with students one-on-one or in groups.

  • Video or chat? – Canvas Conferences allow you to broadcast real-time audio and video, access a digital whiteboard, upload files (.ppt, .doc, .pdf, etc.), and to share your desktop screen to demonstrate applications and online resources. Conferences can be created with as many users as needed, though we recommend a limit of 100 users.
    • Canvas Chat stores written conversations so that students can review them asynchronously after the conversations have ended.
  • Drop-in vs. scheduled? Students can drop in to a conference or chat you host during set office hours. To schedule appointments, you may use Canvas Scheduler.
  • Leverage asynchronous discussions – Canvas Discussions support ongoing dialogue within different topic threads, the most important of which can be pinned to the top. Discussions can be especially useful for posting FAQs in large courses to reduce repeat question-and-answer emails.


  • Grading numerically or Credit/Non-Credit POLICY – Faculty members are strongly encouraged to use the grading mode historically associated with your class, unless there are pedagogical reasons to assign only C/NC grades. It may be necessary to adapt your grading rubric to assess course learning goals fairly, so that you may assign a numeric grade. Individual course sections must be numeric grades only or C/NC only, not a mix of the two. If you want to make this change, you can request a change with the Office of the Registrar.
  • Canvas Gradebook allows you to easily record student scores, track student progress and calculate final grades. Grades for each assignment can be calculated in points, percentages, complete or incomplete, credit/non-credit, GPA scale, and letter grades. Gradebook provides secure access to co-instructors and TAs and can publish scores for students to view securely.
  • GradePage allows you to submit quarterly grades, regardless of whether you used GradeBook, Canvas, or other software, or a traditional approach to track grades throughout the quarter.
  • Consider these best practices for setting up and communicating grading practices.
  • UW grading system and grading options.

Mid-quarter feedback

Getting input from your students midway through the quarter can help you figure out how your remote teaching adjustments are working for students, and what changes you can make to improve their learning.

Spring 2020 Instructors may elicit feedback using the Spring 2020 Mid-Quarter Course Feedback form through Instructional Assessment System (IASystem).

End-of-term feedback — OEA is currently updating the end-of-term distance learning feedback form which will be available as an option for instructors who are doing course evaluations in Spring 2020.

Evidence-based teaching

Evidence-based teaching uses active learning strategies to increase student engagement and achievement. This approach closes achievement gaps between students from underrepresented groups and other students. It also increases learning for all students. Consider joining an EBT peer group that meets a few times a quarter to give and receive support for teaching remotely.

Likely you already use active learning strategies in your in-person courses. To find out how to use those strategies online, take a look at our active learning 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.