Best Practices

  • Faculty & Staff

This site is still under development. See What's New? on the Tools for Teaching page

The suspension of on-campus teaching and changes to campus life will be very disruptive for students and faculty. We strongly recommend 3 guiding principles as you make the adjustment to remote teaching

  1. Keep it simple. Find the simplest technology solutions that allow for successful completion of your course this semester. Use tools that are practical for you to manage and accessible to your students.
  2. Use supported tools. We strongly recommend using the standard tools documented in this web site because:
    • They are available for immediate use.
    • Penn staff are prepared to provide support.
    • Your students will be using the same set of tools across all of their courses.
  3. Prioritize asynchronous activities.
    • Students' lives and schedules are being disrupted. It is possible that many will no longer be available at your originally scheduled class time; some may be located far outside the US Eastern time zone.
    • With live online class sessions, it can be difficult to manage active participation from students. If you can't provide a productive, interactive experience for students, then a live session offers little value.
    • Students may encounter technical problems when trying to join or participate in a live session with limited access to immediate tech support.
    • Pre-recorded lectures, asynchronous discussions and other activies through Canvas provide maximum flexibility.

Penn's Center for Teaching and Learning guide

Penn's Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and Online Learning Initiative (OLI) have detailed guides for using the available online teaching tools (Canvas, Panopto, and Zoom).

Stay in touch with your class

If you already have a system in place for contacting students (such as an email list or Canvas Announcements), use what is already working. If not, there are easy ways you can contact your students:

Use one of these methods to let your students know how to reach you and your TAs, when you will be available, and how soon they can expect responses. Also, consult with your teaching assistants about how you can stay in touch with them.

Use Canvas

For the Summer 2020 term, Canvas sites have been created for all courses and are available for immediate use.

Conduct online, asynchronous discussions 

  • Use the discussion board feature in Canvas to facilitate asynchronous, written discussion.
    • Discussion boards can be configured for a variety of uses, including to allow anonymous posts.
    • Use them as a way to post and reply to questions.
    • Use discussion boards to engage students in review and comment on each other's work.
  • Piazza is a popular tool for question and answer forums. Piazza is not automatically available in all Canvas sites but can be added upon request.  
  • Voicethread allows users to post videos for interactive comment.
    • Instructors can post the lectures they record or other videos for students to comment.
    • Students can record and submit assignments. 

Record lectures and share them through Canvas

You can record lectures, software demonstrations, or other presentations and share them with your students through Canvas.

Zoom web conferencing

Zoom can be used effectively for live class sessions of about 20 students or fewer. For larger classes, we recommend recording presentations or lectures instead of conducting live Zoom sessions. Use Canvas Discussion Boards as described above to facilitate questions and discussion around the lectures. Here's why:

  • With large classes, it can be difficult to manage active participation from students. If you can't provide a productive, interactive experience for students, then a live session offers little value.
  • Student schedules will be disrupted by the change to online teaching and residential living. It is likely that many will no longer be availabile at your originally scheduled class time; some may be located far outside the US Eastern time zone.
  • Students may encounter technical problems when trying to join or particpate in a live session and have limited access to technical support for live sessions.

For those who can use Zoom productively for live interaction:

Exams and assessment

Traditional proctored exams will not be practical for remote teaching this summer.

  • For take-home exams, you can either use Canvas Quizzes  or Assignments configured for online submission.
  • Please talk with your department chair or departmental colleagues about how to develop new assessment strategies other than proctored exams.
  • Limited support is available for remote proctoring in summer II classes.  Contact instructional-support@sas.upenn.edu for information.
  • It is not yet clear if remote proctoring services will be available for the fall.

Disabilities and accommodations

If you have a student who has disabilities that may limit their access to digital learning materials, contact Student Disabilities Services.