Online Quick Guide

Here are some quick tips on how to prepare for teaching or learning online:


  1. Communicate with your students right away: As soon as possible, inform your students that changes may be coming. Let them know what your expectations are for checking email or Blackboard announcements. Consider adding specific language to your Syllabus. – e.g. “If normal class and/or lab activities are disrupted due to illness, emergency, or crisis situation, the syllabus and other course plans and assignments may be modified to allow completion of the course. If this occurs, an addendum to your syllabus and/or course assignments will replace the original materials.”
  1. Set realistic goals: To what extent can you maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? How will you keep them engaged with the course content?
  2. Determine priorities: Whether it be providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc., what activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself flexibility in that schedule, just in case the situation takes longer than expected to resolve.

  3. Review your syllabus for points that must change: Identify what must temporarily change in your syllabus, such as policies, due dates, or assignments, and communicate those changes to students.
  4. Reset expectations for students: As you think through your changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to equitably handle requests for extensions or accommodations.

  5. Communicate details to your students as they become available: Once you have details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with how and when they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). Anticipating students will have questions, let them know how and when you will reply.

  6. Ensure accessibility. While low‐ or no‐ vision, hearing, and mobility raise larger accessibility concerns than can be reasonably managed “in a pinch”, ensure that students with various other learning disabilities are accommodated. If there is a timed exam/assessment, ensure that students who have extra time as an accommodation can have it. Ensure that students who have note‐sharers will need to be able to access these notes if there are online lectures. And, ensure all online lectures are recorded so students can play them back more slowly as needed.

Assuming you have access to a modern networked computer, either a laptop or a desktop, you will need:

  1. A good network connection. A wired Ethernet connection is preferred, but if one is difficult to access, take steps to ensure that you have a stable, fast wireless (Wi-FI) connection. Check your internet speed at . You should have a minimum of 1.5Mbps download speed, and preferably more than 3 Mbps. 
  2. A webcam. Most modern laptop computers have a webcam built in. If yours doesn’t, or you are using a desktop computer, you will need an external USB-connected webcam. While there are many such units available online and in stores, choose one that let’s you easily adjust it’s position atop a monitor or other surface.
  3. Microphone. As with webcams, most laptops have one built in. If you have an external webcam it may have a microphone built in. Otherwise, look for a reasonably priced USB microphone.
  4. Speakers. Desktop computers will need a set of external speakers or headphones. Laptops invariably have built-in speakers, though some may have a very limited audio output level.
  5. A headset. This not necessary if you have a good microphone and speakers, but your experience will be enhanced if you have a lightweight, comfortable headset with a built microphone.  It doesn’t have to be stereo unless you intend to use it for music listening as well. Of course, you can also use earbuds, particularly if they have a built-in microphone.
  6. Web Browser. Most online learning technologies favor Chrome and Firefox. Make sure your browser is up-to-date and become familiar with its settings panel, since most of your experiences and interactions will be delivered through the browser and you may need to make adjustments to audio, video, security, and other features.

Here are some of the helpful tools you might consider, along with linked “how to” articles for each one.

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra: 

  • As an instructor, learn how to:
    • create an Ultra session,
    • upload materials for use in the session, e.g. PowerPoint slides,
    • Configure your audio and video for effective communication
    • set up the session controls (e.g. mute participants mics)
    • interact with participants, use the chat, “raise hands” feature
    • Share your screen
  • As a student, learn how to
    •  access a Collaborate meeting
    • Use your microphone and video appropriately
    • raise hand, chat,
    • share your work if called on

Other Tools at Your Disposal: see