Advice on teaching online

Keep Teaching

Please check out the many resources and videos created by the Center for Teaching and Learning at:

Assessing student learning

  • Let your course learning goals guide the changes you make to the course.

  • Use the online environment to your advantage, for both assessing student learning and encouraging student learning.

  • Assess student learning frequently and with low stakes assessments to help gauge how well students are learning and to allow for adjustments along the way.

  • Assess the new course structure for ways you can support student learning and help students stay connected.

  • Be kind to yourself and your students. Students will appreciate that you are taking the time to think about these changes in thoughtful ways and that you are making every effort to support them during these challenging times.

  • For more examples of how to assess student learning online:

Synchronous classes

We understand that building some live interaction in this time of social isolation can be very important, and synchronous sessions can meet this need. But please consider the following when thinking about live streaming lectures:

  • Only schedule synchronous classes during the days and times your class was originally scheduled to meet in person.

  • Reduce the amount of time of any synchronous session (40 or 50 minutes is probably pushing the limit of focused attention), unless it’s a really small group and there’s an engaging plan where you take questions or participants do their own presentations.

  • Think about accessibility of any recorded material: do you have a way of captioning your recordings? Some tools, like Google Meet, automatically provide a time-locked transcript of the session, which you could share to facilitate subsequent review.

  • Tell your students that it’s okay for them to turn off their cameras. In fact, this is a way to help your students avoid the embarrassing moment when a dog or a child appears in the background. Turning off webcams will also reduce bandwidth for the session, maybe helping with some of the instability of some connections. And remember that some of your students may not have a webcam at all.

  • Think about how you might accomplish what you would with a live session in an asynchronous mode: the discussion board is sometimes a better way to engage students in productive dialogue about a topic.

Recording a session

  • Record the session so people who can’t tune in or are having problems can view or listen to it later. Consider keeping these recordings available for a while—for the rest of the semester, even—so that students can refer to them when preparing for an exam or when drafting a paper.

    • If you are recording a synchronous session, you need to obtain consent from your students, by providing the following announcement in your syllabus, as an announcement in your course site, by email to enrolled students, and verbally at the beginning of the first class session:

Students who participate in this class with their camera on or use a profile image are agreeing to have their video or image recorded solely for the purpose of creating a record for students enrolled in the class to refer to, including those enrolled students who are unable to attend live. If you are unwilling to consent to have your profile or video image recorded, be sure to keep your camera off and do not use a profile image. Likewise, students who un-mute during class and participate orally are agreeing to have their voices recorded. If you are not willing to consent to have your voice recorded during class, you will need to keep your mute button activated and communicate exclusively using the "chat" feature, which allows students to type questions and comments live.

Online exams and quizzes

Below are some tips regarding online exams or quizzes, to help you design assessments that are effective in deterring academic dishonesty but also effective in providing students with flexible ways to test their learning:

  • If you absolutely must schedule an exam online that will only be available for a very small window of time, please schedule it during your regularly-scheduled class time. This will ensure that it won’t overlap with other real-time activities your students may be required to participate in related to their other classes.

  • For final exams, please follow the schedule provided by the Registrar's Office and posted in CUNYfirst. Login to CUNYfirst, navigate to the Faculty Center, and find your class. Your exam schedule will appear listed below your teaching schedule.

  • You can prevent students sharing answers by setting up exams so that the order of the answers for multiple choice questions are randomized, and so the order of the questions is randomized. (Both Blackboard and Google Forms have these features.)

  • Set a time limit for the exam, but don’t force the exam to close when time is up. Instead, consider taking points off for cases in which a student significantly exceeds the allotted time. Sometimes a student needs just one or two more minutes to finish proofreading. (Blackboard provides detailed information about how much extra time students spend on an exam, evidence you can use to determine points.)

  • Decide whether students are allowed to take the exam multiple times. This can be very useful with exams that are graded automatically, as a way to provide instant and useful feedback for students.

  • Mix question types, and include some questions that involve free-response answers. Free responses will require manual grading, so use sparingly if you have a large class.

  • At the launch of the exam, remind students about CUNY’s Academic Integrity policy, with a simple question that asks them to acknowledge the policy and reminds them that they should be the ones doing their own work.

  • If your exam requires logging in at a specific time, you should also log in to the platform at that time to ensure the exam is working as you intended. In case of an unanticipated outage, always have a contingency plan (a way to schedule a make-up, an extension of the deadline to complete the exam)

  • Be sure your students know how to contact you outside of the platform the exam is on (e.g., by sending you a direct email), in case they run into a problem logging in.

Remote Proctoring

CUNY has halted the implementation of Proctortrack that was previously announced. More details are available here:

If you are considering any remote proctoring solution, please note that your students cannot be compelled to agree to the terms and conditions of those products (be they products procured by CUNY or products bundled with a textbook, etc.). If any of your students do not accept the tools’ terms and conditions, you must provide reasonable assessment accommodations for them, so they can demonstrate they meet the course learning requirements. For more information, see the section on Remote Proctoring Solutions on CUNY’s Academic Continuity page: