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CovidCampus Resources

Resources for UWinnipeg Faculty, staff, and students on the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as distance learning support.

Pivot to Online Tips and Best Practices

Suddenly having to put everything online without adequate preparation can be difficult, both for those used to online instruction and those unfamiliar with it. Experienced online instructors have been sharing tips for quickly pivoting to online learning on Twitter, with hashtags such as #CovidCampus and #RemoteTeaching.

Some of the tips and best practices can be summarized as:

  1. Start simple. Think about your main objectives, and find the simplest tools and ways to meet them. Simpler tools - text, minimal video - are more likely to be accessible to a broader range of students, including those who may only have a mobile device. 
  2. Consider streamlining or minimizing assessment - many Universities have moved to allowing students to opt for pass/fail. UWFA encourages us to talk to Chairs/ Deans about this option.
  3. Try to use platforms and tools (such as Nexus) with which your students are already familiar. By building on prior knowledge and skills sets, the students can focus on the newer parts rather than feeling overwhelmed by unfamiliarity. It is easier if you use tools you are familiar with, too!
  4. Think about students’ privacy when using digital tools, and communicate with them about how much data may be collected.
  5. How will students access course readings and materials? Have they been made available online? This is something your liaison librarian can likely help you navigate if not.
  6. Rethink assignments and participation - what do you absolutely need to measure, how much has already been measured, and what is the simplest way to check the remainder?
  7. Be transparent and communicative. Decide how you will check in on students who may be falling behind, and how you will keep everyone interested and engaged. Online content typically needs to be broken into smaller chunks than in-class lectures.

More tips and ideas from colleagues:

Nexus, the online Learning Management System, has many built in tools for online course delivery, including the ability to embed content, set up your online course readings, and conduct quizzes.

Nexus is fully supported by TSC, and is your best option if you want to provide students with a familiar and easy to use interface.

Additional tools that are supported by TSC include: WebFiles (to access your shared drive from home), NextCloud (a secure alternative to Dropbox for filesharing), and virtual teaching tools including Zoom for real-time class meetings.

Other options for tools that can be used for online delivery include the following (and many others). Keep in mind there may be privacy implications of using any of these tools.

Many instructors have already prepared their lectures using PowerPoint slides while intending to deliver the content face to face. Although not optimal in terms of online delivery, a quick and easy way to deliver this content is to add audio to your slides and to post them on Nexus. Here are some links that will show you how to do that. Please be sure that you are following the instructions for the type of computer you are using (MAC or PC). 

You may want to keep the audio file separate for each slide instead of having one long narration. The benefits of this approach are that 1) the content is delivered in smaller chunks (which is a recommended principle of online delivery), 2) the students can stop and replay the audio related to a specific slide if they need another attempt at understanding, and 3) the instructor is not required to start all over again if the doorbell rings or the dog barks while recording the audio for the entire show at once.

Once your slides are ready to go, you can upload them to Nexus as content, the same way you would upload any other course materials.

Please be cautious about uploading slides that include copyrighted materials and images, including photographs and graphics you have found on the web. If you are unsure, simply remove the images you have included in the slides you prepared beforehand, and/or replace them with links to the image or images from these sites. Please also consider that some students will use their phones to access the materials and that using images will result in higher data loads (and potentially costs) to them.

Images you find "on the internet" are usually copyrighted, which means that you need to be careful about how you reuse them. However, there is an ever growing amount of images that have been made available with Creative Commons licenses, or other licenses that allow reuse. If you are going to use these images, familiarize yourself with the license types - CC-By, for example, just requires attribution of the creator, but CC-SA requires that anything that reuses that work also be licensed with the same Creative Commons license.

The following resources are excellent for finding images that allow some reuse. Remember to still check the license and what it allows for:

As courses move to online, there will be multiple accessibility concerns for students. You may need to talk to your class to determine if there are students who cannot access the internet from home, don't have a computer, are deaf or hard of hearing, are visually impaired, or have other particular accessibility needs.  Accessibility Services can help, and some basic ways you can strive for universal accessibility include:

  • Make sure lectures are available as both text and audio. If you write your lectures out, make a recording so visually impaired students can also access it. If you talk first, make a transcript ( YouTube has some limited capacity for this).
  • Keep text simple (no ASCII images!) for screen reader accessibility
  • Provide descriptive and contextual alt text for images
  • Use phone apps like Genius Scan or Adobe Scan to easily scan to post print materials in Nexus/ Ares within the limits allowed by the Copyright Act (including fair dealing – see the Copyright Policy Fair Dealing Guidelines). Make scanned PDF files more accessible for your students by using an optical character recognition (OCR) online tool to convert "non-selectable" text files into more accessible versions.

As you start using online tools, please be aware of any privacy implications of the tools you are using, and communicate to students if the site they are using does things like allow for third party re-use of data, records their data, and how that is shared with you as the instructor (if, for example, you will get logs of everything said in chat).

COVID-19 has led to racism, including scapegoating, exclusion, and misinformation, particularly targeted at Asian and international students. Iowa State University has put together a guide with some resources for combating this xenophobia. 

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