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Continuity of Teaching

Preparing to move your classes online

Campus closures can present a stressful challenge for everyone. It’s important to take care of yourself and be flexible with yourself and others.

 Updated daily: View a google docSummary of Available Resources - Continuity of Teaching Guide, external link 

Support for faculty

We have support available by phone, email, or video appointment. Please sign up below to make an appointment with a member of the Teaching Centre team, or email us at: teachingcentre@ryerson.ca

Support for students

Please share the Continuity of Learning guide with your students. It highlights instructions on joining online lectures, accessing D2L, and more.

Final exams and assessments 

Exam period: Monday, April 13 to Saturday, April 25

Delivering final online exams

Relevant guides

Online quizzes can be a great tool for delivering formative assessments, and can also be used to engage students in other ways.  D2L Brightspace has flexible options for creating quizzes.

In the broadest sense, an open book exam allows students to consult some form of reference material in the course of completing an exam. While a closed book exam places a premium on accurate and extensive recall (Gupta, 2007), an open book exam places the focus on higher level learning. Because open book exams don’t have the same emphasis on memorization, questions can ask students to analyze, evaluate, or synthesize knowledge, rather than just remember it.

As with any form of assessment, an open book exam can come in a multitude of formats. 

  • The reference material “may be known and accessible to the students (such as handouts distributed earlier), or it may be newly supplied material not previously seen by the examinees” (Gupta, 2007). 
  • The reference material could be identical for all students, such as a textbook or formula sheet, or it could be prepared by the students to meet their own needs. 
  • Exam questions could be distributed to students in advance of the exam (Chan, 2009), requiring students to select the books or materials they will use to create their own notes or “crib sheets” (Gupta, 2007).

Best practices for open book exams

Design exam problems that take advantage of the open book format.

  • Questions should require students to “do things with the information available to them, rather than merely locate and summarize or rewrite it”.
  • Make sure there is enough time allotted for the exam – open book exams will typically take longer than closed book exams.
  • Set up appropriate marking criteria with the weight placed on knowledge, comprehension and critical thinking, rather than just recall.

Inform students

  • That open book problems won’t rely on memorization and thus will be harder than closed book exam questions.
  • Relying too much on the material they gather will actually hinder their retrieval of the necessary knowledge.
  • They won’t receive partial credit for merely reproducing information that was available to them in the reference material.

Virtual proctoring systems are designed to allow instructors to observe students remotely as they write their exams. There are two main types of virtual proctoring systems: 

  • Automated systems record a student as they write their exam using the student’s webcam. These systems use video analytics to flag suspicious behaviour. The instructor is provided with the recording to review when the examination is complete. Respondus Monitor fits within this type of virtual proctoring system.
  • Remote invigilation systems allow invigilators to watch students using the student’s webcam as they write the exam. Zoom fits within this type of virtual proctoring system.

Before deciding to use virtual proctoring, there are some important limitations to both types of proctoring systems that should be considered.

Limitations to Virtual Proctoring

There are several limitations presented by virtual proctoring. 

  1. Students and invigilators require a stable internet connection and a working webcam. However they may not have access to either the necessary hardware or the required internet access. If a student’s connection to the internet drops or their computer crashes, they will lose access to the exam. The CCS help desk will not be able to assist students in navigating proctoring systems and has limited capacity to respond quickly to basic problems like forgotten passwords. 
  2. Being invigilated virtually, either live or recorded, may increase student anxiety, especially if they do not have a quiet, private location with which to write the exam, they are in a different time zone, or because they are uncomfortable being watched on camera.
  3. Virtual proctoring should not be seen as a fail proof method of preventing academic misconduct. Policy 60 Academic Integrity states that “for a finding of (academic) misconduct to be supported, based on the information presented, it is more likely than not that the student engaged in academic misconduct. The onus is on the University to establish that misconduct has occurred.” Given the technological limitations of the virtual proctoring solutions currently available, it does not seem likely that evidence collected in support of a suspicion via virtual proctoring can meet this standard. Virtual proctoring can thus be seen as a deterrent only.
  4. Students may have concerns regarding their privacy, as video of the student and their environment will be captured by the camera while writing the exam, whether recorded or not. Instructors must let students know that they may need to consider preparing the space in which they are completing the exam so that personal details are not visible to invigilators. Finding a space that meets these requirements may place an undue burden on students.   

Known Issues with Available Virtual Proctoring Systems

  • Respondus Monitor: Ryerson’s testing of Respondus Monitor has revealed inconsistent flagging of possible suspicious behaviours such as students looking away from the screen, or leaving their computer and coming back. 
  • Respondus LockDown Browser is a tool that limits student access to other applications or browsing outside of the exam window. In a home setting, the use of other devices cannot be limited. 
  • Zoom is an online collaboration tool designed to allow people to have meetings, chats, webinars, conferences, etc. With this in mind, while using Zoom for online exam invigilation is possible, it must be approached with caution. Individual student privacy must be protected. Students can be asked to show their Ryerson OneCard to the camera, which can not be recorded. Students may not be asked to show Government ID. Student invigilators are not recommended due to confidentiality. Zoom may not be used to record students as they are writing their exam. Therefore any suspicious behaviour observed on Zoom may not be sufficient to support a finding of academic misconduct under Policy 60: Academic Integrity. 

Recommendations for April 2020 Final Exams

For April 2020 final exams, virtual proctoring is strongly discouraged and should be considered only in cases where it is deemed to be essential, where the number of students is limited, and the instructor is available for invigilation. For more information about virtual proctoring at Ryerson, please contact teachingcentre@ryerson.ca as soon as possible to review options.

For alternative assessment options, please see:

Additional resources

Rethink the way you deliver assessments and final exams. Think about what learning outcomes you are trying to assess and what kind of feedback you need to provide to students.

The following strategies can help you convert your assessments to formats that can be completed from home.

  • Review your learning outcomes and think flexibly about how students could demonstrate that they’ve met them. What are the key knowledge, skills, or values that students must leave your course with? 
  • Change the format of assessment to one that students can submit remotely, such as replacing an invigilated multiple choice final exam with open book short answer questions. 
  • Provide equivalent options that take into account the different technologies available to students off campus, such as allowing students to submit either a video recorded on their phone or the written script of a presentation. 
  • State expectations, but allow extensions for students who have difficulties meeting deadlines. Be as flexible as possible. 

Information adapted from Bowdoin, Brown, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford universities.

 

If administering a final exam is not feasible, think about how you can find other ways to assess student learning. One way to do this is through the use of alternative assessments. These forms of assessments often have the added benefit of providing a true evaluation of what each student has learned by looking at their application of the knowledge they’ve acquired in the course (Indiana University).

Alternative assignments typically require students to make a judgement about what information and skills they will need to solve a given problem. They can often be characterized as real-world situations with accompanying real-world constraints (Indiana University).

When designing an alternative assessment, define a concrete and unambiguous instructional outcome that you want to assess. Make sure that you include both subject-matter content and a set of skills or operations that a successful student would exhibit. You can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to test acquisition of content knowledge, or the ability to apply that knowledge? 
  • Do you want to assess a product that a student has produced, or the process by which they produced it? 
  • Do you want to assess any of the following: writing ability, speaking skills, creativity, use of technology, or collaboration? 
  • Are specific time constraints important? 
  • What kind of content knowledge should students be able to demonstrate and at what level? 
  • What higher order thinking skills do you want students to develop and be able to demonstrate? 
  • Which assessment methods would allow you to understand how well students are achieving learning outcomes? (Brigham Young University)

Alternative assessment strategies

Here is a list of alternative assessment strategies that you may want to consider. Please know that this is just a small subsection of the numerous strategies that are available:

  • Abstract 
  • Annotated Bibliography 
  • Autobiography/Biography 
  • Blog or video blog
  • Brochure 
  • Case Analysis 
  • Cognitive Map 
  • Debate 
  • Diagram 
  • Description of a Process 
  • Diary
  • Flowchart 
  • Group Discussion 
  • Letter to the editor 
  • Memo
  • Methods Plan 
  • Multimedia presentation or oral report
  • Narrative
  • Outline 
  • Personal Letter
  • Podcast 
  • Portfolio 
  • Research Proposal 
  • Review of book or scholarly paper
  • Statement of Assumptions 
  • Summary 
  • Taxonomy 
  • Thesis sentence (Queen’s University)

Getting started 

If possible, make sure you have access to a quality webcam and microphone for use on a home computer. Use the D2L learning management system to deliver your course online. If you don’t already have one, request a D2L course shell.

  • Determine how to transform remaining graded course assessments (e.g., final assignments, final exams, etc.) for the online environment.
  • Revisit your learning outcomes and think flexibly: What are your most important objectives for students? What can you realistically accomplish during this time period? 
  • Identify your new expectations for students: As you think through changes in the way students participate, communicate, and submit work, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students' ability to meet those expectations. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.
  • Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students when possible, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. 
  • Keep things accessible and mobile friendly: In the event of a full campus closure, many students may only have a mobile device available. Consider saving files in two formats, the original format and a mobile-friendly format such as PDF. Take into account how much bandwidth is required by technologies like streaming video and if students have the network and computing resources to access them.
  • Communicate early and frequently about changes in course expectations and assessments using the D2L announcements tool. Advise students to set notifications in D2L. Continue regular email communications with students and set virtual office hours with students.
  • Shifting your courses to an online environment presents an opportunity to build in accessibility from the start. Explore tips and strategies for delivering accessible online education.

Information adapted from Bowdoin, Brown, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford universities.

Use D2L Brightspace as your class "hub" 

Using D2L Brightspace already?

D2L Brightspace is a great place to start preparing for an unexpected interruption of class activities. It provides a place to share materials, communicate, deliver assessments and grades and co-ordinate.

Not using D2L Brightspace?

If you aren't already using D2L Brightspace for your class, we recommend you request your course shell as soon as possible! Read our Getting Started guide.

Deliver lectures 

You have several options for delivering lecture content. You can pre-record your lectures for students to view at any time, or stream your lectures live. You can also think about converting your lecture content into another form, such as posting slides with summarized key points in the notes, providing reflection or discussion questions in D2L Brightspace, or building collaborative guides to course content in Google Docs.

Live-streaming lectures

Live-streaming lectures allows you to interact with students. If a video clip cannot replace the class experience, you may want to consider scheduling online meetings with the class. These tools will allow you to deliver live audio and video, share your screen, answer questions or lead discussions.

Pre-recording lectures

When you opt to pre-record lectures you have the ability to plan everything you want to say, edit or replace sections that need to be updated, and even provide students with your script for greater accessibility. Students can watch your lectures as many times as they want and you can reuse the lectures the following semester.

Recording tips

If you've never recorded a lecture or a mini-lecture before, it may seem like a daunting task. Here are some quick tips to ensure your videos are efficient and engaging.

  1. Do you actually need to be on camera? Slides and/or narration may be all you need!
  2. Keep it short - no longer than 5-10 minutes per clip.
  3. Write a script to ensure you stay on topic and practice reading it aloud before you record.

Create a self-running slideshow using a microphone or webcam which you can then share to your class using Google Drive. Microsoft PowerPoint is available for free to all Ryerson faculty and staff through the Office 365 Education program.

Easily record a lecture or narrated slides using your presentation tool of choice paired with MacOS’ built-in screen recording utility or QuickTime.

Zoom is an online meeting tool that offers an easy-to-use interface, high-quality video, and can be accessed using both desktop computers and mobile devices. 

Note: At this time, all faculty, teaching assistants, and staff have licensed Zoom accounts, which allows for longer meetings.

  • Room Capacity: 300 people per room.
  • Record to Zoom Cloud: Yes.
  • Delivery method: Zoom desktop app (preferred) or Chrome web client (limited features).

Google Meet is an online meeting tool similar to Zoom, but with fewer features. You have the option of creating a meeting room or a view-only live stream.

  • Room capacity: 250 people per room or live stream your meeting to up to 100,000 people.
  • Delivery method: Any web browser.
  • Record to Google Drive: Yes.
  • Closed captioning: Participants can toggle automatically-generated captions.

Share course materials 

Did you know that Google Drive can be used to share documents, spreadsheets, forms, as well as audio and video - which can be played directly in Google drive? Once you create a folder and ensure the students have access to view the contents of the folder, all you need to do is upload the content to be shared!

When you upload certain media files to Google Drive, it processes them in such a way that they can be played back right in the browser – sort of like YouTube. This is why we recommend uploading large media files to Google Drive instead of D2L Brightspace.

D2L Brightspace can be used to organize and share course content, including presentation slides, course notes, links to useful websites, and much more.

The Library can assist you with locating supplementary or replacement materials for use in your courses. 

If students need support in accessing library materials or finding sources for their research, they have the option of connecting with the library via email or through the virtual “Ask a Librarian” chat service.

Manage communication and class participation 

If your class time is used primarily to deliver lectures and conduct discussions with the students, and a video clip cannot replace the class experience, you may want to consider scheduling online meetings with the class.

Think about the kind of communication and class participation that you use in your teaching - is it important that you be able to respond to students in the moment, or would a delayed response suffice? Are you communicating with students individually, in groups, or as a class? How do students typically communicate with each other? 

Student-to-student and student-to-instructor communications can take place through email, discussion forums, or text chat. You can also record audio or video comments and feedback, or connect through online conferencing tools. Once you’ve selected your preferred methods of online communication, provide clear guidelines for students on the appropriate use of communication tools. 

  • Virtual Office Hours: One way to extend your teaching presence and still manage your time is through online office hours. Set a specific time each week for students to meet with you in real time through chat or web conferencing tools such as Zoom or Google Meet.
  • D2L Announcements: Posting announcements or weekly updates in D2L is one of the easiest ways to immediately establish your teaching presence and convey your messages to students. Announcements are visible the moment a student logs into the course. They can also be pushed out to students by email.
  • Class and Group Forums: D2L and Google Docs can be used to create discussion forums, social areas or bulletin boards for students to interact, or places to provide answers to commonly asked questions. 
  • Email: Set expectations for your students with regard to your use of email. Let them know the appropriate use of email, how soon they can expect a response, and how to format their message so that you can respond more easily. Use boilerplate to save time and post responses to frequently asked questions to D2L or through class-wide emails. 

The Discussions tool is a collaboration area to post, read and reply to threads on different topics, share thoughts about course materials, ask questions, share files, or work with peers on assignments and homework.

Zoom is an online meeting tool that offers an easy-to-use interface, high-quality video, and can be accessed using both desktop computers and mobile devices. 

Note: At this time, all faculty, teaching assistants, and staff have licensed Zoom accounts, which allows for longer meetings.

  • Room Capacity: 300 people per room.
  • Record to Zoom Cloud: Yes.
  • Delivery method: Zoom desktop app (preferred) or Chrome web client (limited features).

Google Meet is an online meeting tool similar to Zoom, but with fewer features. You have the option of creating a meeting room or a view-only live stream.

  • Room capacity: 250 people per room or live stream your meeting to up to 100,000 people.
  • Delivery method: Any web browser.
  • Record to Google Drive: Yes.
  • Closed captioning: Participants can toggle automatically-generated captions.

The Brightspace Groups tool enables students to work on and submit collaborative group projects, or break into smaller discussions. You may organize students into groups of a particular size automatically, manually, or allow students to choose their group for a given activity.

Gmail provides a number of features that can help you manage class emails, from canned responses, to creating filters that organize emails using subject lines. There are also a number of general strategies you can apply no matter what email client you use, from setting expectations for students in your course outline, to customizing your email signature to direct students to appropriate supports.

Design learning activities 

You can extend your teaching presence and student engagement through various online learning activities. Think what can be done online and what activities are better rescheduled. Try to balance the needs and benefits of online engagement with the additional effort, and give yourself flexibility in case the situation takes longer than expected.

Encourage students to interact with the course material and with each other by designing individual or collaborative activities that can be delivered online.

Discussion forums

Aside from supporting communication and community building, including a discussion board component can help you transfer some of the in-class activities to the online environment in various interactive ways. Set out expectations for the use of the discussion forums clearly and explicitly. Provide parameters for a manageable length for posts (e.g. a minimum of 200 words and maximum of 500). Decide if you will use discussion posts for formative assessment and if so, how you will provide feedback or grades.

  • Case studies: Use short scenarios to encourage students to make connections between course content and its real world application. Assess the activity through discussion participation or short writing assignments. Post a brief synthesis of key points that come up and connect it to your upcoming lectures.
  • Assigned readings: Create open-ended questions that prompt students to explore, compare, and reflect on course readings based on their own personal experiences. You can ask students to post a “Digital Postcard” with a one or two sentence summary of the week’s reading, plus an image that reflects their understanding of the topic. Bring these images and reflections into larger group discussions to encourage more conversation on the topic.
  • Study Groups: Put students into study groups (10-20 is a good size), and give each group a problem to solve together in a private group discussion area. Each group can then share their thought process and solution in the class discussion board at the end of the week and receive feedback from you or their peers.
  • Final projects: Ask students to share their final projects on the discussion board and pose a discussion question along with it. They can then moderate the responses to the questions they receive.

Quizzes and self-assessment

Set up a short ungraded quiz to help students check their understanding or assign a small mark to it. You can also post ungraded, unmonitored practice problems that can be taken up in discussion forums.

The Brightspace Groups tool enables students to work on and submit collaborative group projects, or break into smaller discussions. You may organize students into groups of a particular size automatically, manually, or allow students to choose their group for a given activity.