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Teaching online: where to start

Resources and information to help you teach online as the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak accelerates.

Teaching online is, of course, different to being in a lecture theatre or classroom. Learning all there is to know about online pedagogies cannot happen overnight. UCL has significant expertise on how to do this well among academic colleagues, local learning technologists, Digital Education, the Arena Centre, and others, but some minor adjustments can make a big difference to continuing your teaching remotely and your students’ online experience.

For best practices and detailed guidance and support for specific teaching approaches, visit the relevant page in the left-hand menu. This section offers general guidance on how to approach a move to teaching online and highlights some of the key things you might consider.

Keep it simple

If you have to move online quickly you will need to prioritise your time to cover the essentials. Consider what you can realistically achieve, plan now and seek advice if you need it.

Start by asking yourself:

  • What content can be made available now?
  • How can I substitute my lectures, seminars, practical sessions, and assessments?
  • How can I keep students engaged with their learning?
  • How can I communicate with students provide them with feedback?

This will help highlight where you need to focus your time and energy in preparing to move online.

Always start with the UCL online toolset you are familiar with. Moodle is our main platform and hosts a range of supported activities and tools, Blackboard Collaborate can facilitate real-time (‘synchronous’) online classes and Lecturecast Universal Personal Capture enables recording of short video clips that may partially or fully substitute for lectures.

Think carefully about the student learning you wish to achieve with these tools. Keep it simple but don’t be afraid to go a bit further if you can.

Communicate and set expectations

A move to even simple forms of online teaching requires advance preparation and clear communication to your students.

Define and provide a communication statement within your Moodle course, outlining:

  • the teaching approaches your students can expect;
  • how you will communicate with them, and your expected availability or response times;
  • how, when, and where you expect your students to participate;
  • how students should engage with each other; and
  • where your students can access technical and academic support.

When teaching online you will need to be seen as present. This doesn’t mean being available all of the time, but try to be visible by modelling engagement in the tools and approaches you have selected.  You might use Announcement forums to communicate key information, but ensure that two-way channels are also available for both discussion and feedback.  

Moodle is your friend

The first priority is to organise your Moodle course. Online material should be structured a little differently and with a greater degree of scaffolding.

Moodle courses that meet the UCL E-Learning Baseline and Baseline+ are already well placed to support remote teaching, and sections 1-5 provide clear guidance on how to ensure consistency and clarity within your course. 

Once this has been achieved, you can go further in a number of ways. 

Designing content

What material do you have on Moodle now? Can you add resources (files) or external links (e.g. YouTube)? Are there existing Lecurecast recordings you can re-use? Are your reading lists up-to date?  

Where possible, break down content into smaller ‘chunks’ requiring a maximum of 15-20 minutes’ attention at one time, followed by an activity or pause for reflection. This is an approach that is particularly important for video content and presentation slides delivered in a synchronous online classroom. 

Accessibility

A switch to online teaching makes digital accessibility ever more important. Choose appropriate resources and maintain standards to ensure your content is more accessible for everyone.

This accessibility and teaching continuity blog post outlines some of the most important considerations.

UCL's Creating accessible content webpages offer full support. 

Engage students

Try to encourage your students to be active and engaged online. If you think about the different types of learning approach you already use with students it may be easier to think about how to move them online. 

This blog post on moving activities online explains how you can easily use the basic principles of UCL’s popular ABC learning design method to choose specific pedagogies and map them to appropriate Moodle tools.