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First Steps: Considerations and Preparations

There's a lot to keep in mind when transitioning to alternative means of instruction. The following resources contain manuals, best practice lists, aggregated tips and general philosophies intended to help with a shift to online learning. Researching these in advance will help prepare for unforeseen obstructions to traditional campus schedules and practices.

Preparations

Preparation: First Step Instructor Checklist

Adapted with thanks from: The University of North Dakota - Continuity of Operations Planning and CSU Northridge - Faculty Checklist. The following checklist is intended for users to have a grasp of concepts related to different technology stratgies and delivery methods. Are you able to complete all of these tasks?

Prior to the start of classes:

  • ☐ Record and backup student names, email addresses, and phone contact information. 
  • ☐ Record email and phone number of department chair or other appropriate point of contact for your primary department or program.
  • ☐ Backup critical teaching materials including lectures, assignments, instructions, quizzes, discussion topics, syllabus, schedule, and other important documents.  You may be able to provide these materials to your students via internet in the event of a significant classroom interruption.  You may not be able to save some materials such as reserved readings, library resources, etc.

Consider using campus cloud (OneDrive through CSULB Single Sign On), personal cloud retention options (such as Google Drive), or local hard drives/USB thumb sticks.

During the Semester:

  • ☐ Prepare a backup working copy of your gradebook to ensure continuity of grading and reporting to students and administration if your primary online gradebook is not available for an extended period of time.
  • ☐ Send a test email message to students in your class. This test message will help you identify any possible problems with spam filter or firewalls that may block receipt of your emails.  If this should occur, ask the students to add you to their approved recipient list.  Create a group distribution list based on your students’ email contact information. Work with the CSULB Technology Helpdesk if questions arise. 
  • ☐ Send students a welcome email blast with your contact information and ask them to save the email. Maintain a copy for your own records.  This practice will ensure that both you and your students have each other’s current email address. Post this announcement on the BeachBoard course as well. 
  • ☐ Let students know that it is critical for them to provide you with current email and contact information throughout the semester.
  • ☐ Remind students regularly about the importance of keeping backup electronic copies of their assignments.
  • ☐ Download students’ assignments when they are submitted so that you will always have ready access to them in the event of a system failure.
  • ☐ Download and maintain copies of online discussions if possible. Copying BeachBoard discussions into a word document or cloud document is a possible strategy. Consider including timestamps for additions to the document. 
  • ☐ Stay informed about other technologies you may need to use temporarily to continue teaching and learning activities if your classroom were to remain inaccessible for an extended period of time.
  • ☐ Let students know of your plans for continuing instruction and communication in the event of a disaster or significant interruption.  You may want to have students test their ability to access any external websites you have created in preparation for such events.

Course Continuity During an Interruption:

  • ☐ Use the distribution list you created at the beginning of the semester to send an email to students reminding them of when and how they may contact you.  Let them know of any changes to your syllabus.
  • ☐ Continue timely sharing of lectures and supporting materials by using your backup copies and sharing via email or your department’s website.
  • ☐ Post comments, materials and assignments on BeachBoard or your external website if necessary.
  • ☐ Consider excusing students from the requirement to interact, either online or through class participation, and ask them instead to submit individual contributions (especially if web access is limited).
  • ☐ If you adjust the requirements for interaction during the classroom interruption, prepare a synopsis of student submissions, add substantive comments, and send this information to all students via email.
  • ☐ If you supplement assignment information with web postings, send that additional information to students via email and also retain a copy.

​​The Academic Continuity Resource Site's goal is to provide resources and links for support for CSULB Students and Faculty.

Preparation: Familiarize Yourself with Campus Emergency Policies

In the event of an emergency, call 911. 

It could also be beneficial to review the University Police Department site, which will contain links to the most recent campus saftey plan, emergency preparedness documentation, and training opportunities. This includes Ihe Incident Command System (ICS), which is used by University personnel performing emergency response duties. Training requirements vary based on an individual's role. For more specific guidance, please contact the campus Emergency Preparedness Manager at 562.985.4896 or visit their ICS website.

Preparation: Syllabus

Adapted from Clark University's Academic Continuity Page:

Crafting and sharing a statement for your syllabus about how you will handle academic continuity will make it clear to all students what your approach will be. A sample statement is included below:

Class Cancellations: In the event that class is cancelled due to inclement weather/illness/unforeseen circumstances, I will send an email to your CSULB University email address (@student.csulb.edu) with further instructions. In all cases of a cancelled class, an attempt will be made to make up for lost class time using online tools. BeachBoard will be the central, virtual meeting space for our course. Ensure you can log in and access the course shortly after receiving this syllabus. 

Considerations:

In the event of a move to alternative delivery methods such as virtual instructions, consider gathering knowledge of: 

Assessments - Creating and Proctoring Quizzes and Exams Online

BeachBoard hosts a number of features in support of academic integrity when it comes to creating and proctoring an online assessment, including the ability to:

  • Disable Right Click 
  • Turn off BeachBoard notifications while in an exam.
  • Time your exam.
  • Use BeachBoard to automatically shut down exams when time is over.
  • Randomize answers choices between students.
  • Randomize test questions between students.
  • Use BeachBoard’s Question Library to randomly select assessment questions for each student.

See the detailed guide on online assessment (PDF) from Academic Technology Services (ATS) on how to use BeachBoard assessment tools, best practices for monitoring students with Zoom and how to create and draw from a question library. 

Traditional timed, proctored exams will be made accessible through BeachBoard and Respondus Monitor. While there are high stakes tests that do require this structured framework, it is important to be aware that proctored remote exams have known drawbacks. See the ATS guide on Online Proctored Exams (PDF) adapted from Rutgers University for technical details and strategies.

Communcations - Manage Your Email, Announcements and Voicemail Remotely

Email

CSULB Students, Faculty and Staff can access their campus email address via CSULB Single Sign On (SSO). 

  • Login with your campus credentials (Beach ID Number and Password) at CSULB SSO.
  • Find and click/tap the "Outlook" (faculty/staff) or "Beachmail" (student) chiclet

Users can also set up locally downloaded email clients to manage their CSULB email address.

Class Announcements via Beachboard

Posting news and announcements to your class or organization is easy to do in BeachBoard and a good way to inform your audience.

Please see the Academic Technology Services' guide to BeachBoard communications, including considerations for: accessibility, media use, and mobile development.

Voicemails

CSULB instructors can manage their voicemails and mailbox settings in several ways:

  • Through a phone
    • On-Campus: Dial 51234 and enter your telephone security code (for digital and VoIP phones, press the steady or flashing “voice mail” button).
    • Off-Campus: Dial (562) 985-1234 and enter your telephone number followed by your security code when prompted.
  • Online using the Web PhoneManager Portal
  • Through any csulb.edu email account. Be sure to set up the account via the Web PhoneManager Portal first in order to receive notifications with downloaded voicemail files.

Content Development - Creating Online Presentations and Digital Materials

How to make a pre-recorded presentation available to your students:

  • Recording your lectures will certainly help students in the event of an extended leave, but is also a helpful practice to personally review lecture content, delivery style and comprehension. Various lecture capture options are available, including:

    • Kaltura Capture records your screen and/or a webcam view of yourself (or both at once), along with audio. Advanced features like live drawing and editing give you additional ways to enhance the content. Recordings are automatically saved in BeachBoard. 

    • Camtasia is a powerful, yet simple desktop or iOS screen recording software for those who want more editing flexibility and options. With Camtasia, you can also import images, audio files, and other video files to create a rich, multimedia experience. Camtasia is available on a complimentary basis through the campus Software Depot.

  • Recordings can be hosted and distributed via BeachBoard

  • How to deliver digital course materials or supplemental activities:

    • BeachBoard is the central delivery system for academic content. See the Academic Technology Services guide on uploading and organizing materials in the BeachBoard Course Content Module

    • Freely available to all CSULB constituents is the LinkedIn Learning Library (formerly Lynda.com). Using third party, but professionally-curated web courses on content is a good way to supplement digital instruction. While most courses center around business practices and software tutorials, the service has expanded to include learning pathways related to career development

Research and Labs - Online Guide

Guides to help research activities are available on this site: 

The campus is committed to ensuring that courses with a laboratory component also have possible alternative solutions available to continue teaching online. See the Academic Technology Services one-pager on lab resources (PDF)

Helpful Things to Keep in Mind While Using Alternative Modes of Instruction

 The CSU Institute for Teaching and Learning and the CSU Faculty Development Council are compiling considerations that emerge as we keep teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teaching Remotely - Quick Reference (PDF)

Also see the following notes adapted from an original post by Professor Amy Young at Pacific Lutheran University:

  • Be kind to yourself and your students. Everyone is stressed, even if they’re playing cool. That includes faculty. And that’s OK.

  • Let’s acknowledge that the quality of education will not be as good in quickly created alternative formats as it is in the pedagogical model we’ve actually planned for. That’s OK as well—we’re just trying to survive.

  • Do not read on best practices for distance learning. That’s not the situation we’re in. We’re in triage. Distance learning, when planned, can be really excellent. That’s not what this is. Do what you absolutely have to and ditch what you can. Thinking you can manage best practices in a day or a week will lead to feeling like you’ve failed.

  • You will not recreate your classroom, and you cannot hold yourself to that standard. Moving a class to a distance learning model in a day’s time excludes the possibility of excellence. Give yourself a break.

  • Prioritize: what do students really need to know for the next few weeks? This is really difficult, and, once again, it means that the quality of teaching and learning will suffer. But these are not normal circumstances.

  • Stay in contact with students, and stay transparent. Talk to them about why you’re prioritizing certain things or asking them to read or do certain things. Most of us do that in our face-to-face teaching anyway, and it improves student buy-in because they know content and delivery are purposeful.

  • Many universities have a considerable number of pedagogical experts on academic technology that we have only been dimly aware of until yesterday. Be kind to these colleagues. They are suddenly very slammed.

  • If you’re making videos, student viewership drops off precipitously at five minutes. Make them capsule videos if you make them. And consider uploading to to Youtube because it transcribes for you. Do not assume your audio is good enough or that students can understand without transcription. This is like using a microphone at meetings—it doesn’t matter if you don’t need it; someone else does and they don’t want to ask. At the same time, of course, think about intellectual property and what you’re willing to release to a wide audience.

  • Make assignments lower or no stakes if you’re using a new platform. Get students used to just using the platform. Then you can do something higher stakes. Do not ask students to do a high stakes exam or assignment on a new platform.

  • Be particularly kind to your graduating seniors. They're already panicking, and this isn't going to help. If you teach a class where they need to have completed something for certification, to apply to grad school, or whatever, figure out plan B. But talk to them. Radio silence, even if you're working, is not okay.

In the Event of an Academic Obstruction:

  • Get details about the closure or event: Campus closures or emergencies will be reported on the campus homepage, including estimates of how long you may need to provide alternative curriculum for students.

  • 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 check with departmental leaders before doing too much planning.

  • Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don't have a plan in place yet, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes are coming and what your expectations are for checking email or BeachBoard (CSULB’s learning management system), so you can get them more details soon. See the communications strategy section for additional information and practices.