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Remote INstruction: the essentials

√ Understand campus expectations. On March, 20,2020, the campus issued a directive for instructors about teaching remotely to all UC Santa Cruz faculty, instructors, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students. These are campus directives that everyone in our research and teaching communities must follow. They are not guidelines. As such, it is important to understand these.

√ Check with your department. Your department may issue more details about the situation and guidelines about their expectations for classes.

  • Administrators may want to have many of the department's classes handled in similar ways - so before doing too much planning, check with departmental leaders to get guidance.

  • Check your email daily, even if you don't usually do so. Messages from your Dean or Chair will contain the most up to date information on academic program issues.

√ Consider realistic goals for teaching remotely and determine priorities. As you think about and plan for teaching remotely, consider what you think you can realistically accomplish.

  • Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule?

  • How will you keep them engaged with the course content?

  • Will you be pre-recording lectures, lecturing from a slide deck, running your class in more of a seminar or tutorial style?

  • If you have others in your teaching team such as Teaching Assistants, how will you be using them?

√ Get details about current policies. Stay up to date with information at the UCSC Newscenter so you know of any important updates to campus policy.

Designing your remote course

√ Simplify as much as possible, be flexible, and don't expect to get it right the first time. Give yourself flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation changes or things don't go as initially planned.

  • Tip: The Center for Teaching Excellence at Rice University offers a useful Workload Estimator tool for estimating how many hours your students your students will spend on your course, in and out of class. As a reminder, 5-unit courses at UCSC should carry a student workload of roughly 15 hours per week.

√ Use the ready-made course redesign template for Canvas. CITL and Online Education have developed a variety of resources to help you set up your course in Canvas:

  • Tip: Use the course design template to set up your course on Canvas to align with best practices. Here's how to access it:

    • Log into Canvas and go to Canvas Commons in the left navigation bar

    • Then, search for and select "UC Santa Cruz Course Design Template"

    • Click the blue Import/Download button on the right

  • Attend an upcoming workshop that will use this template to show you how to set up courses in Canvas.

  • For in-depth course design support consider taking the Integrated Course Design for Remote Instruction course.

√ Familiarize yourself with the tools you will be using. We have tried to prepare relatively streamlined information to get you started teaching with Zoom and other digital tools. You can also:

√ Consider inclusion, equity, and access for students. An added challenge (that is both technical and pedagogical) to switching to remote teaching that must be addressed is equitable access to the learning environment.

Work with the Library to identify and access affordable, online course materials for your students. Library resources are available for use in your classes including ebooks, journals, digitized primary sources, and streaming media and films.

  • Use Course Reserves for your assigned readings to make them easily discoverable by students.

  • The Library can also help instructors to lower student textbooks costs through the use of Open Educational Resources.

  • Librarians and archivists are available to consult with faculty developing research assignments on how to best incorporate library resources, information literacy, and library research skills. Reach out to the librarians for help with online resources or to request teaching support.

√ Consider intellectual property and copyright guidelines for course materials. As you prepare to deliver more instruction remotely, using digital tools, this brief review of rules on copyright, both for protecting your own copyright and respecting the rights of others, is very helpful.

  • UCSC Copy Center’s Professor Publishing Services is able to help obtain copyright clearances for your teaching materials. The UCSC Copy Center is open and able to create clean, scanned, searchable PDFs, or printed versions, of your course readers; these would be available to your students as usual from the UCSC Bookstore website. You can contact the Copy Center/Professor Publishing at 831-459-3888 or at

√ Reset expectations for students. You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students' ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.

creating your syllabus

√ Review your syllabus for points that must change. Identify what must change in your syllabus, such as policies, due dates, or and assignments. Ensure any change you make aligns with UCSC policies, although instructors have been informed that reasonable changes to your syllabus related to the move to remote teaching are expected and acceptable. Use the syllabus template.

√ Create a learner-centered syllabus. Clear and regular communication is important in any teaching context, but in remote and online teaching contexts it is crucial. A well-organized, complete, and learner-centered syllabus is a critical tool for communicating with your students about the course. The syllabus serves a variety of functions. At its most basic, the syllabus communicates the general organization and content of the course. Other functions include:

  • articulating the learning outcomes of the course;

  • presenting the course schedule;

  • outlining how student learning will be assessed in the course;

  • communicating expectations for student engagement in the course;

  • setting the tone for the course by highlighting the instructor's enthusiasm for the subject matter and explaining why the subject matter is important both within and beyond the discipline;

  • opening a conversation about academic integrity; and

  • highlighting course and campus policies and important student resources.

Communicating with your students

√ Communicate with your students prior to the start of class. In a remote teaching environment, it is essential to communicate with students early and often. If at all possible, instructors should reach out to students before the first class meeting to make sure they are prepared as well. Information you might want to include:

  • Provide details as soon as possible on when the first class session will be held, and if Zoom is being used, provide the link to the meeting.

  • Give students a sense of the anticipated format of the class, including which sessions will be synchronous and which asynchronous.

  • Let students know what your expectations for how and when they can contact you (email, virtual office hours, etc.) and when they can expect to hear back. Decide whether email, Canvas, or some other messaging system is the most effective for you.

  • The Orientation Module in Canvas provides students with strategies for remote learning ,as well as using tools like Zoom. The Course Orientation page on Keep Teaching describes how to add and use this module.

  • Consider polling students about their technology situation and their starting knowledge and needs for the course. Do this using a simple Google or Canvas survey with basic questions such as:

    • Will you be accessing the course from a laptop/desktop computer, phone or tablet? How will you connect to the internet?

    • Do you anticipate difficulties with attending real-time Zoom class meetings?

    • What time zone are you in?

    • What do you already know about this subject?

    • What do you want to learn about this subject?

    • What do you plan to do with the skills and knowledge you gain in this course?

    • Is there anything about you that you’d like your instructor to know?

    • For a more complex survey, here is an example. The information gained through these surveys will inform pedagogical choices you make for your courses.

√ Talk with your students early and often about their strategies for learning. More than ever in a remote environment, students will need to be intentional about their learning.

  • Consider starting the term off with an exercise in which students clarify their goals for the quarter and make a plan to meet them. Virtual environments require much more forethought on the part of both instructors and students.

  • Let your students know about the site, where they will find resources and support.

  • The Student Learning page on Keep Teaching has more ideas and information.

√ Check in with students regularly. You may want to take a few moments every week or so to check in with students about how the course is working for them. While in ordinary circumstances we may not use our students as a resource for improving our teaching, we are entering uncharted territory taking a whole quarter into remote mode, and students can be invaluable partners in making this move a success.

  • Tip: Use virtual exit tickets or message boards to invite students to engage with you about suggestions they may have for improving the course.