Remote Only

Modes of Teaching Implementation Guide

These three modes of instruction consist of course materials and interactions where all students and instructor(s) remotely access synchronous and/or asynchronous online experiences.

Remote Only – Synchronous (RS)

  • Students attend classes and exams on specific dates/times through online delivery in the semester, at least one day per week.
  • Online class sessions are live with the course instructor and students learning together in a remote format.

Remote Only – Mostly Asynchronous (RM)

  • For most class sessions, students do not attend classes and/or exams on specific dates/times in the semester.
  • For some class sessions specified by the instructor (e.g., exams, recitations, meetings), students attend synchronously on specific dates/times through online delivery. Students should be provided with these times and dates in advance of registration.

Remote Only – All Asynchronous (RA)

  • Students do NOT meet live or in person for this course. They do not attend classes and exams on specific dates/times.
  • All instruction is asynchronous. Class sessions and/or exams have flexible options to accommodate time zones.
  • Students meet deadlines throughout the semester through online participation.
At-a-Glance Pros and Cons
Pros Cons
  • Accommodate students and instructors who cannot (or cannot regularly) attend on-campus classes
  • Asynchronous components offer flexibility for distributed students who have scheduling instability, conflicts, or other barriers to engagement
  • Allows instructor to focus on a single audience of remote students
  • Flexibility to encourage student participation as individuals and in groups
  • Outside the classroom, many students often experience new distractions, varying access to course technologies, and other impediments to their engagement
  • Many students have limited experience as online learners
  • Requires technology-enabled strategies to build course community and to facilitate instructor-student and student-student connections
  • Students may feel there is less opportunity for social interaction

General Tips for Remote Teaching

Manage your own expectations. Most new online courses usually require a minimum of three months to develop and continue to be refined over several semesters. Typical online course development timelines are not always an option now, though. Focus on a select number of feasible improvements that you would like to make to maximize student success in your course.

Survey your students. Learning more about your students, their interests and prior knowledge, can benefit any course. For remote courses, you also will need to understand how their personal circumstances impact their ability to participate. If you are using synchronous course components, do the proposed times work for all (or most) students? How many students have limited or intermittent Internet access? Survey your students early in the semester so you can adjust your plan accordingly and adopt inclusive teaching practices.

Build course community early. Give students an opportunity to introduce themselves and model your own introduction, sharing your goals and enthusiasm for the class. Ask students to briefly introduce themselves during small group activities.

Check in regularly with students. Students at risk of performing poorly in face-to-face courses often struggle even more in online environments when courses lack sufficient structure. Use periodic, formative assessments to understand how students are progressing, and consider targeted outreach strategies for students who may be struggling to meet expectations. You could invite students to office hours, encourage them to consult with their advisor, or refer them to

Make your course site easy to use. Present all your course materials, assignments, and assessments in a way that is consistent and easy for students to navigate. Many online courses include a “Start Here” page or a “Course Tour” to familiarize students with the structure and tools used in the course. Consider using the Lessons tool in Sakai to provide additional structure for course materials, learning activities, and assignments. If your School or Department has adopted a template for use with Sakai sites and the Lessons tool, strongly consider using that template to ensure that students experience one consistent layout across their courses.

Align course and module-level learning objectives, activities, and assessment. Plan learning activities and structure assignments to support equitable learner outcomes. These should be at an appropriate level for the course and students, but also challenging with high expectations and appropriate support. Be sure to provide prompt feedback.

Leverage campus support and training resources. Visit to learn more about designing effective remote learning experiences, available campus technology, access to research and teaching resources through UNC Libraries, and strategies for ensuring access to course materials for all learners through Accessibility Resources and Services (ARS) and the Digital Accessibility Office (DAO).

Make it Work: Remote Only, Synchronous

Develop a plan for managing student questions during class and make sure students are clear on the protocol. For example, you could ask students to use the ‘raise hand’ function in Zoom or have them post their questions to the chat. Let students know at the beginning of each class (or before) if they will be expected to participate or collaborate verbally, as they may need to find an appropriate setting. Be clear on whether participation contributes to course grades.

Have a backup plan in case you experience technical problems during your session. Assign a TA or another student as a co-host in Zoom, so that they can reinstate you as host if you lose your connection and have to re-join the meeting. Install Zoom on your phone so that you can join via your cell service in case you lose Internet access. We recommend that you offer students no- or low-stakes opportunities to practice with any instructional technologies used in the class prior to using those technologies in higher-stakes situations.

Think through your use of Zoom breakout rooms. Consider how you will assign students to breakout rooms and how you’ll ask students to report out. Assigning roles (e.g. reporter) in breakout groups can help avoid confusion for your students. On the technical side, make sure that Zoom can create as many breakout rooms as you will need based on your enrollment and desired group size. It may be helpful to create one extra room for TAs and/or as a student ‘lounge’ where they can go with questions for you.

Mix your methods. You can incorporate both synchronous and asynchronous elements into your remote class. For example, you may choose to record some lecture segments ahead each week and hold some opportunities to interact with students synchronously. Record all class sessions for students who may not be able to access live meetings and for later review.

Prepare your teaching assistants to successfully manage any relevant technology and ensure they are clear about their roles during class. You may need to review your settings in Sakai or Zoom.

Know your options for tracking attendance. If attendance is an important metric for your course objectives, familiarize yourself with reporting tools in Zoom that provide information on when students join and leave your meetings. You can also use polling tools like Poll Everywhere to administer quick check-ins for attendance.

Consider your privacy. While sharing your home office with students can help personalize the course, think about what aspects of your personal life you are comfortable sharing. Consider using a virtual background if you’re using Zoom. You can personalize that feature by mixing up your Zoom backgrounds and having some fun with them.

Supporting students who cannot attend class. Some of your students may be unable to attend classes synchronously for a period of time, due to quarantine or other personal circumstances. Consider the following options for serving the learning needs of those students:

  • Familiarize yourself with the University’s approved absence policy.
  • Reach out to affected students and schedule a time to chat about their situation and how you can support them.
  • Record your class sessions in Zoom and make them available to students who cannot attend in-person or remotely. This benefits all students.
  • Replace in-class participation activities with asynchronous alternatives. For example, if class discussion is a regular part of your in-person class experience, consider hosting a supplementary discussion forum assignment. You might assign short written reflections to replace in-class small group activities. Poll questions (via Poll Everywhere) can also be assigned asynchronously.
  • For group project work, ask students to consider recording their Zoom meetings or relying more on asynchronous communication. Have them document meeting notes, action items, and deadlines and post those to the group’s Sakai or Teams site.
  • Create a “study buddy” system where students who are unable to attend class are paired up with a classmate who can share notes and update them on class sessions.

Make it Work: Remote Only – Mostly Asynchronous or All Asynchronous

Clearly state your expectations in a prominent, easily-accessible location. Be sure to address:

  • Instructions for getting starting and accessing important course components
  • How you will communicate with students and how quickly they can expect a response from you
  • How students should communicate with you and each other
  • Minimum technological requirements (and how to meet them)
  • Communicate regularly regarding deadlines
  • In Mostly Asynchronous courses, identify early and remind students of any sessions they must attend synchronously on specific dates/times; record for students who may miss.

Create structured discussion prompts to promote student interaction using campus-supported technologies for asynchronous discussions, like Forums in Sakai and VoiceThread. Be clear on the length of posts, due dates, expectations on writing quality, and how they may be graded. Focus on using open-ended, higher-order questions that will generate conversation, and set realistic expectations for how frequently you will participate and grade students’ posts. Discussion formats may include debate, role-play, idea generation/brainstorming, or community-building. Decide how you will monitor or provide feedback to discussions, or whether you need to assign roles for group members. Instructor feedback can steer discussion toward other questions, extend thinking, clarify or correct, or work toward consensus.

Smaller groups are more successful in asynchronous discussions, with higher levels of participation and critical thinking. You can use the Groups tool in Sakai to divide your class into sets of 8-13 students (the optimal size according to research), each group with its own discussion forum.

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