Virtual Teaching

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Virtual Teaching

At Maryville, our faculty value intentional engagement with students throughout the learning process. We understand that the virtual environment has dramatically changed much about how you interact with your students physically but we know your commitment to student learning is unchanged.

Please see these best practices below curated as a combination of faculty ideas, research, and Maryville values in teaching and learning. Contact if you would like to see any additions.

Thank you for all you do, and we are here to support you.

– Jesse, Laura, and Pam Bryan Williams and the Learning Designers

  • Quick Tips Checklist

    Virtual Teaching Checklist
    Check in with students regularly through announcements and other modes of communication like email, discussion replies, recorded video messages, and live chats.
    Use examples and/or assignments that include real world events or local/regional trends that are timely and relevant.
    Be clear with your of organization and expectations so students can more meaningfully measure learning.
    Offer multiple types of assessments including frequent, low-stakes testing.
    Give students opportunities to take risks. They can submit video assignments, make unexpected comparisons, or investigate intriguing questions.
    Engage your students with consistent feedback and quick responses to questions.
    Where possible, allow an opportunity for student choice whether it be to choose a research topic, assignment modality, or leading a discussion.
    Work toward inclusive understandings of students from various walks of life. This could include the incorporation of unique perspectives and examples.
    Create an environment where students are challenged and interested in participating in discussion boards.
    Building trust with your students all semester by communicating in a meaningful way.

  • Sample Class Agendas

    Zoom Class Agenda Examples:
    Please remember that any combination of these activities can work, and you can decide how you want to manage synchronous and asynchronous meetings. Class meetings should be conducted via Zoom. The main ideas in the samples below are:

    • Faculty send announcement prior to class
    • Faculty share class agenda
    • Student explore a new concept or idea
    • Students work together on discovering more about that idea
    • Students share what they learned with one another
    • Students assess their own learning
    • Faculty wrap up class meeting and communicate expectations

    Sample weekly agenda: M-W-F
    • Send an announcement on Sunday with the weekly agenda.
    Monday: Meet with all students on Zoom describe the break down of the week. Reflect on the weekend discussion board, and offer new information and short problem-solving activities.
    Wednesday: Ask students to check in with you via Zoom and you can put them in small groups to work toward an online scavenger hunt and collaboratively work on a document that the will present to the class.
    Friday: Meet via Zoom. Allow each student group to talk to the class about their scavenger hunt. Ask students to make connections between the activities and the learning objectives and complete self-assessments. Assign a discussion board question over the weekend for homework.

    Sample 1: Introducing New Material and Group Work

    First 5-10 minutes: Begin with a thinking activity like a one-minute paper, utilize the whiteboard for students to anonymously post questions about the material, or introduce a free write activity.

    5 minutes: Share the agenda for class, including your expectations for their engagement (which may be in the form of a regular student participation self-assessment that they complete at the end of each class meeting or at the end of each week).

    Option 1 — 10-15 minutes (introducing new material): Give the students a mini-lecture or play a prerecorded video. Ask them to contribute to a Canvas discussion board or Zoom chat as the video or lecture are ongoing. Or, consider providing a skeleton outline for slides so that students can fill in any missing information in an outline (Darby and Lang, 2019).

    Option 2 — 10-15 minutes: Another way to introduce new material might be to send students on an online scavenger hunt and post their findings, thoughts, and/or questions about the material in a shared document.

    10-15 minutes: Put the students into Zoom break-out groups with specific tasks.

    10-15 minutes: Students share out what the small groups discussed or created at the beginning of the next class meeting, or to close class.

    10 minutes: For the last five minutes, ask your students to complete and upload their self-assessment of their engagement during the class meeting. Let them know what you will be posting and the expectations for the week.

    Post office hours for the week with a separate Zoom link and times.

    Sample 2: Problem Solving

    10 minutes: Open class with a problem for each student to solve individually for 5-10 minutes.

    10 minutes: Demonstrate using the whiteboard, or screen share your iPad to show how you approach the problem if you are using equations. This may mean you have joined the Zoom meeting twice: Once to show your face and your voice, and once on your iPad to show other materials, including the use of your Apple Pencil.

    5 minutes: Use the zoom polling tool to find out how your students think they fared in solving the problem.

    10-15 minutes: Put students in groups to problem solve and ask students to share strategies for developing solutions. The task of the group is not just to solve the problem, but to record the questions and challenges they encounter whilst approaching the problem on a shared whiteboard or Google Doc.

    10 minutes: Close the class with another poll to find out if this activity was helpful in approaching a challenging concept or problem and ask students to complete a self-assessment about how engaged they were in class and if they improved their understanding about a particular problem.

    Sample 3: Flipped – New Information Reserved for Outside of Class Meeting Time

    • Before class: Students have participated in a Canvas discussion board about a concept they have read about or video they have viewed.
    • Beginning of class: Instructors explain what objectives were covered in the last class meeting and what we plan to do today. Include students in this conversation so you can learn more about their level of understanding. Utilize a poll to learn about any common misunderstandings. Or use the simple chat feature and ask students to post one question which you can address.
    • Review the discussion board submissions from before class. Students will be more prepared to share, show the discussion board through Screenshare.
    • Cover new information (that students have read about) in a mini-lecture with students. Screenshare a presentation, or use the whiteboard feature to explain key ideas or demonstrate problem-solving in real time. and require that notes are taken (encouraging note-taking apps on the iPad). Consider giving points for submitted notes – another way to check for student understanding and increase accountability.
    • Encourage participation in mini-lecture by asking students to search for information and answer a few challenging questions in class, in a break out discussion rather than being told the answers. Reach back to previous class information where possible.
    • Ask students to join their group shared document (Google Doc) and develop a short presentation to share with the class at the end of meeting time. We suggest groups work together throughout the semester, so new groups need not be formed in each class meeting. Semester-long groups give students the opportunity to build upon a relationship with other students.
    • Cover additional information (mini-lecture) and cover expectations for the week using Keynote or PowerPoint Screenshare.
    • Assign students to bring a Keynote, Powerpoint (or presentation of choice) and share their screen with the class explaining a challenging concept. Post to discussion board or assignments on Canvas before class so students can check for understanding.
    • Give students the opportunity to work through information before class will allow for more engagement with material during class meetings. Students will be more engaged because you can help them understand the information, rather than you introducing the information for the first time in class.

    Sample 4: Making Connections

    10 minutes: Begin with a pre-test about the material so you can engage students in discovering their relationship with what they are about to discuss in class (Darby and Lang, 2019).

    10-15 minutes: Provide an outline for slides so that students can follow along OR fill in information in an outline (Darby and Lang, 2019).

    10-15 minutes: Use concept mapping strategies to help students form connections between their own knowledge and content, or between course concepts (Darby and Lang, 2019).

    20 minutes: Ask students to do an online scavenger hunt to discover more about additional connections or materials beyond what you have offered and post in a Google Doc or discussion forum.

    5 minutes: Close class with a self-assessment activity so students can measure their own learning.

    Darby, F. and Lang, J. (2019). Small Teaching Online. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Press.

  • Connection

    Excellence in online teaching begins by making connections with students throughout the learning process. This is achieved when your engagement with your students enables them to connect learning in new ways, with new experiences, and within their field.

    Connected learning is facilitating active engagement and connection between the learner, his/her peers, the instructor, and the course content. It requires actively engaging and connecting with students. This is a similar approach as the traditional classroom but modified for the online learning environment.

    In most online environments, it is understood that students are expected to connect, or engage with, their faculty in the following ways:

    • student / student – Course discussion, small group facilitation using collaborative documents or audio/video communication tools
    • student / content – Relevant articles, videos, podcasts, or other text-based resources to review prior to discussion; these may be sourced by the instructor or the students
    • student / instructor – clear communication and feedback

    The Importance Of Presence
    Teaching presence cannot be pre-designed. For an instructor teaching at a distance, presence is critical. Presence exists inside and outside of the learning management system. As students transition to this format for learning, the following will be important for establishing and reassuring students with your presence:

    1. Be clear and consistent with instructions/guidance provided using tools in the Canvas LMS. This includes outlining clear timelines and expectations.
    We often are able to clarify our expectations in class and through Q&A periods. In the virtual environment, explicit expectations in discussions, assignments, and announcement are essential. Students cannot pick up on nuance or ask questions right away, so the more clear we can be in our written requests, the more likely our students are to succeed.

    2. Establish and communicate a communication plan.
    Classes may meet during regularly scheduled times using remote tools. Consider how students should talk with you outside of class. How will you replace those before/after class conversations? Communicate email hours, communication preferences, and anticipated response times.

    3. Establish an agenda for class meetings and course discussions.
    Having and communicating clear protocols online is just as important as it is in the classroom. You may be able to directly translate how you manage your classroom time using remote tools. You may have to adjust your previous classroom approach. Thinking through your agenda in advance, enables flexibility and allows your remote classroom meetings to be more effective.

  • Engagement

    Adult learners thrive when given the opportunity to understand the value of the course content and experiences. Students need to feel that their prior and current experiences are valued and are not considered separate from what they are learning. They need to have the opportunity to make decisions about their learning and be held accountable for those decisions (Knowles, Holton, Swanson, 2015).

    Getting Class Started
    Announcements at the beginning of the week are essential. These announcements will give students a better idea of how to prepare and how to succeed. Communicating a weekly agenda, and an agenda for each class meeting will reduce the anxiety of uncertainty for your students. Student self-assessments, which can co-created with your students, will give your students the opportunity to think about what they want learning to look like in this new environment and realistically consider how to meaningfully contribute to your course.

    Office Hours
    Use a separate Zoom link in a module for office hours. Consider ways to use your class meeting times each week to meet with students individually or as a small group for regular check-ins. It is important that you are available during class meeting times, but you can use that time to check in with their work, and not necessarily deliver a lecture in front of the entire class each meeting time.

    Meaningful Video Creation
    Pre-recorded Kaltura screen videos can become the catalyst for class discussion. Students can also submit their own videos to discussion boards using the (rich content editor tool). Students can submit videos for oral exams, discussions, or even multimedia projects. If you plan to ask your students to submit videos, it is helpful to remember that they may be nervous about video submission. Viewing videos you have recorded will set students at ease once they see that your videos are effective, but also imperfect.

    LDT Supported Technologies

    Meaningful Discussions
    • How to Hold a Better Class Discussion

    Prompts That Get Students to Analyze, Reflect, Relate, and Question

    Share and discuss Zoom etiquette with your students.

    Small group discussions often fuel accountability for students. Continue to check in with student discussions if they are happening in real time, and communicate how you plan to be involved with discussions. If students understand your level of involvement (as you would in the classroom) they are more likely to engage.

    When developing questions for the discussion board, consider giving small groups of students different topics among groups so they have unique information to share with the large group (think-pair-share). And/or give students within small groups a choice in content or style of communication where possible. If a student discussion is taking place on the Canvas discussion board, consider asking your students to upload videos to the discussion board rather than just writing. If their discussion is taking place in real time via Zoom, consider asking your students to contribute to a shared doc to assure that all participate.

    Clear guidance from you and communication of expectations during discussions and outside of discussions is imperative: The advice in this article, Managing Your Online Time, holds up. Determine when you plan to respond to emails, when your office hours will be, when you will send your weekly agenda, and how often you will be involved in their discussions. If you aren’t 100% sure right now, communicate to them that there will be a clear plan as soon as you figure out the new normal.

    Set clear expectations: A rubric, a discussion board contract, or participation self-assessments can help with clarity and consistency. Self-assessment criteria established for all group activities and discussions may help students contribute more meaningfully. The goal is to expose students clearly to the expectations before they self-determine what engagement looks like in your virtual class. This could create a large variation in involvement, particularly in this shifting environment, learning and otherwise.

    Other techniques to keep students engaged and accountable during discussions include requesting annotated articles or eBooks, screenshots of class notes, or including corresponding quotations from class materials in their discussion posts. Self-assessments can also be helpful for such accountability. In this shifting environment, students also want to see improvements in their learning and understand what they can do to improve further. Self-assessment criteria can set up an environment for clarity.

    • How to Give Your Students Better Feedback With Technology

    Consider a schedule for your own feedback and share that with your students. Video and audio feedback through Canvas is a feature that may feel more personalized to your students if you are not meeting with them synchronously for every class meeting. Self-assessments can be connected to your grading and feedback. Rather than grading each assignment and offering summative feedback, you can offer feedback on the self-assessments themselves, which should be something like students giving themselves summative feedback. You can then meaningfully discuss their self-assessments and offer formative feedback for improvement moving forward.

    Self-Assessment Activities
    Student self-assessments offer students the opportunity to measure their own learning and to become a part of the grading process. If students believe that their self-assessments are truly taken into consideration for grading, they are more likely to feel that they are co-creating their own learning. Adult learning theory suggests that students need to feel as though they are a part of their own learning, and self-assessments are one way for them to accomplish this. (note: You have access to the Chronicle of Higher Education Premium account through the Maryville Library) Holding students accountable for their self-assessments is the key to them having value. Peer review or one-on-one conferences will make students self-assessments more impactful.

  • Assessment in the Virtual Environment

    As you are transitioning your assessments to a virtual platform, the SAOE Learning Design Team is available to provide support, answer questions, and discuss alternative assessment strategies. If you have questions or ideas, based upon the article below, please reach out to

    Exams are an effective way to measure a learner’s comprehension of course materials. Test banks typically encompass the full scope of knowledge related to a topic and provide a consistent measure of students’ abilities. Multiple choice exams offer the benefit of providing timely feedback to students.

    The drawbacks of using exams as the sole form of assessment in a course are two-fold. First, many learners experience test anxiety. For these students, exams may not be an accurate reflection of their knowledge. Second, cheating behavior is a real concern. According to the International Center for Academic Integrity, 39% of undergraduates admit to cheating on tests.

    The perception is that this percentage increases when courses or exams move to an online format. In reality, cheating behavior is not more prevalent online than in the classroom (Beck, 2014).

    Technological Solutions
    It is important to acknowledge that no technological solution eliminates cheating behavior. Cheating behavior is greater for written assignments than traditional exams or assessments. For written assignments, plagiarism detection software can be used to screen written assignments for identical and near-identical blocks of text found in their immense data stores. For testing, remote proctoring promises the same opportunity.

    While online proctoring can provide an opportunity to verify the identity of a student and provide video monitoring, this service comes with a considerable cost. It also requires students to have access to an environment with high-speed internet, as well as a traditional computer or laptop. These limitations beg the question, “Is it necessary?”

    What is the purpose of the exam?

    When planning the exam, you had a goal in mind. Remind yourself of what the exam is meant to achieve before weighing your options.

    Your goal may have been:

    • To verify students’ learning.
    • To motivate students to study.
    • To identify and correct weaknesses in both teaching and learning.
    • To provide statistics for the course or institution.
    • To accredit qualified students.

    In most instances the cost of proctoring, in person or online is not warranted.

    Maintaining Test Item Integrity
    When the purpose of the exam is to verify student learning, motivate positive study behaviors, or identify and correct weaknesses, online quiz settings can be used to maintain assessment integrity.

    1. Restrict exiting or restarting the exam.
    2. Set a limited number of questions to be randomly delivered.
    3. Delivery one question at a time and lock questions after answering.
    4. Set a reasonable time limit based on a per question response rate.

    These settings limit the opportunity for students to collaborate on the exam or use external resources in a manner equivalent to an in-class administered exam (Beck, 2014).

    Alternative Testing Strategies
    There are many alternative ways to assess students’ mastery of material that goes beyond traditional tests such as paper-based T/F or Multiple Choice. Oftentimes, the alternatives offer greater opportunities to promote student learning as an authentic means of demonstrating and applying what they have learned. The following are a few alternative assessments that you might want to consider. Each of these strategies can be effectively used within Canvas, and supplemented with Zoom when it makes sense to do so.

    Written Assessments
    Rather than taking a traditional test, have students write a paper or journal. You can include a component for students to apply what they have learned to real-world situations as well as a reflective writing section. To encourage academic integrity, give the assignment early and ask for portions of the paper to be turned in at intervals. You can also ask for students to include drafts and notes along with the paper.

    Written assignments can vary in length without sacrificing depth. Shorter assessments may take the form of:

    • a statement of assumptions tied to a case study or event
    • a comprehensive explanation of a cause or effect
    • the description of a process in detail
    • a concise synthesis of information in the form of and executive summary or report

    These shorter writing exercises require students to apply core vocabulary, concepts, and relationships that are typically assessed in a multiple choice exam. Have students work through novel applications so they aren’t simply restating the textbook.

    Mastery-oriented Quizzing
    Incorporate open-book tests and quizzes that are complex and require students to learn to apply knowledge rather than memorizing the material. Provide students with multiple attempts to encourage them to review missed questions and focus their study.

    • master core vocabularyl
    • master the interpretation of models/frameworks for understandingl
    • master the application of relevant laws, regulations, or principlesl

    Add an explanation requirement where students must explain or interpret their answers.

    Performance Assessments
    Develop a performance test where students are required to perform a complex skill or procedure or create a product to demonstrate that they can apply the knowledge and skills they have learned.

    This may also take the form of an oral exam or presentation where students present their learning to teach the class.

    Replace Tests with Summaries
    Require students to regularly write summaries of the class readings and lectures, which include the main points, a critical reaction to the ideas, and a discussion of what’s most important. In addition to written summaries, consider:

    • concept mapping
    • chart, graph, or visual aid

    Design the assessment to push beyond the basics. For example, provide students with a list of both related and non-related terms. Require them to develop a concept map that communicates all relevant relationships.

    Problem-based Assessment

    Transfer a test or quiz into a more challenging problem statement.

    • explain a complex phenomenon
    • predict what will occur in a process
    • solve a novel problem

    Students are responsible for identifying and using a variety of references to solve the problem and explain their solution.

    Discussion Boards
    Propose questions that will inspire analysis, synthesis, interpretation, and critical thinking for students to answer in the discussion board. Ask students to respond to the questions by applying course concepts and referencing sources. Provide structure for students with clear parameters for the discussion posts – length, frequency, timeliness, due dates, and specific guidelines and expectations for content and quality.

    Collaborative Assignment and/or Test
    Have students work collaboratively through Zoom or in the discussion forum to complete an assessment. This approach provides students with the opportunity to discuss the material, which will help students further grasp the material. Include a component where students assess themselves and one another on the input and collaboration of the assignment.

    Alternative Assessment Methods for the Online Classroom. (2014). Retrieved 18 March 2020, from

    Alternative Assessment Strategies | Center for Educational Innovation. (2020). Retrieved 18 March 2020, from

    Alternatives to Traditional Testing | Center for Teaching & Learning. (2020). Retrieved 18 March 2020, from

    Assessing Your Students. (2020). Retrieved 18 March 2020, from

    Authentic Assessment in Online Learning » Center for Instructional Technology & Training » University of Florida. (2020). Retrieved 18 March 2020, from

    Beck, V. (2014). Testing a model to predict online cheating—Much ado about nothing. Active Learning in Higher Education, 15(1), 65–75.

    Designing Effective Discussion Questions | Teaching Commons. (2020). Retrieved 18 March 2020, from

    International Center for Academic Integrity. Statistics. Retrieved 18 March 2020, from

  • Accountability

    Freewrites, one-minute papers, reflections, concept maps, and sharing out are all options to keep your students accountable for expectations (don’t forget about the need for us to reflect on our own teaching as well)

    Ask your students to hold themselves accountable for their learning, but also create questions and assignments that demand accountability. Here are some ideas:

    • Ask students to include quotations from their textbook in their discussion board prompts.
    • Ask them to record their discussion board post and submit, rather than just writing (this cuts down on plagiarism activity).
    • Use the Poll feature to capture the tone of the class.
    • Require office hours or conferences one per week during your regular class time.

  • Collaboration

    Small Group: Text Discussions During Your Class Meeting Time
    Use the Canvas group feature to create small groups in your class. Give a topic and a task to each group (potentially a slightly different topic). Give them 15 minutes to write their answers and have a “text chat” conversation in their Canvas group (no video needed) to develop a solution or find the information needed. The students can then share their conclusions with the rest of the class via screen share or just speaking out.

    Example: For 15 minutes, you will each have the opportunity to discuss through Canvas in your groups. Go to today’s discussion board and get started. After 15 minutes, we will come back to our Zoom classroom and I will pick a member of each group to explain the major components of the group discussion and why they are significant.

    Group #1 “What changes in the economy impacted the music culture in Vienna?”
    Group #2 “What new musical forms were added during this time period, and why is that significant?
    Group #3 “What major figures and innovations were prominent at this time?”


    Small Group: More Verbal Discussion Based
    Real Time:
    Students submitting discussion board videos in Canvas



    Small Group: Solving Problems Together

    • Office 365 One Note can allow students to collaborate and organize Class Notebook. This can be helpful for students to see your class plans without having to build an online class in Canvas.

      One Note Tutorial

    • Google Docs can work well for collaborative conversations (like this one). Students will need to have a Google account to experience the shared doc, but that has never been an issue for my students, as many have created their accounts in the past (many high schools use Google docs).
    • WhiteBoard is an app where students can use their Apple pencil to collaborate. Again, if you wanted to assign a different whiteboard for each Canvas group, it may be a very clear way for students to access the correct shared document.
    • Presentations: There is a collaborative feature in Keynote and in PowerPoint if students are working together to complete a presentation.

  • Student Presentations and Exams

    In addition to helping our students gain knowledge in order to reach our course learning outcomes, our students also need the opportunity to demonstrate and retrieve that knowledge. But, there are many ways to help your students engage with the content, learn effectively, and demonstrate their learning. Extended, high-stakes exams, may not be best suited for the virtual environment, particularly when a student may feel that they are behind in your course due to the new format and our shifting and stressful climate.

    Some considerations:

    Several small quizzes: Break-up your large exam up into several small quizzes. This can help students feel less overwhelmed. There is ample research supporting frequent, low-stake testing is more effective in memorization and reducing student anxiety than infrequent, high-stakes testing.

    Open book practice tests: Practice tests can guide student learning, and remove some uncertainty. This may increase the likelihood of student confidence for an exam.

    Group quizzing: in zoom breakout groups, you can allow for your students to discuss the test and take it together, or perhaps a practice test. This will give students time to look up the answers and discuss them leading them to be more successful. This can be coupled with an oral exam later for those of you concerned about student participation in group testing.

    Oral exams: Consider giving students an oral exam where they submit a video as an assignment, or you can meet with students individually and allow them to demonstrate their learning.

    Student projects: Students can still present their projects through Zoom or Canvas. They can record themselves speaking, they can record details of their visual project, they can upload much of their work digitally. Presentations can be shared in small Canvas groups during a synchronous Zoom meeting allow time for each student to present. You can also ask your students to upload a video to a full class discussion board of them speaking about their research/project.

  • Other Ideas

    Virtual Museum Tours

    Library Resources

    • Study Groups
    Encourage student groups with your students outside of class. The poll feature in Zoom may determine how many of your students are in need of a study group. Consider a shared sign up sheet and use your office hours Zoom room for students to meet and study.


    Guest Speakers

    Interview Assignments

    • Real World Assignments

    Our students are experiencing this very stressful environment along with us. If and when it is possible, including a meaningful class discussion surrounding Coronavirus may allow your students to share some of their feelings about what is going on, and may feel more empowered to look at this as temporary. Here are some “First draft ideas” for real-world, problem-based discussions or assignments about the Coronavirus:

    1. Student discussion on misinformation and the coronavirus
    2. Natural Sciences: How does your current course of study help students to understand what is happening?
    3. Social Sciences: What is this doing to our communities and our global connections?
    4. Humanities/History: The 1918 flu or previous pandemics – what went wrong? What did we do to prevent it? What parallel strategies are being used today?
      The Infectious Pestilence Did Reign
    5. Communication: What should have been communicated first? What brought you to that conclusion?
    6. Team Work: Can we be creative with how groups work together?
    7. Athletics and other gatherings
    8. Health Professions: Sanitization practices, social distancing
    9. Health Care Management
    10. Education: What is best practice in higher education as it pertains to this virus? What would you do? What are the ramifications if you cancelled classes?
      Campuses Close Due to Virus

    11. Business: How is this impacting the market? Our finances?
      Lead Your Business Through the Coronavirus Crisis


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