Remote Only Implementation Guide

Description: In remote-only courses, all activities take place online, either in real time interactions (synchronously) or at times determined by each individual student (asynchronously); there are no face-to-face meetings.

Pros Cons
  • Accommodates students and instructors who cannot attend on-campus classes
  • Asynchronous components offer flexibility for students who have scheduling instability or conflicts.
  • Some students may be more likely to participate in online settings.
  • Some students struggle with distractions, technology access, and lack of structure.
  • Most UNC students have limited experience as online learners.
  • Social interaction is not as rich.
  • Greater course reliance on networked technologies

General Tips

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. Given the sudden shift to remote courses this fall, typical online course development timelines are not an option. Focus on a select number of feasible adjustments that you would like to make to maximize student success in your remote courses.
Leverage campus support and training resources.
Use this site to learn more about designing effective remote learning experiences, supported instructional technologies, and access a wide range of instructional support organizations and services on campus. You can also request an individual consultation to talk with someone about your course plans and decision points.
Survey your students. Learning more about your students, their interests and prior knowledge, can benefit any course. For remote courses, you will also want to understand how their personal circumstances impact their ability to participate. If you plan to continue to offer your course synchronously, for example, do the proposed times still work for all (or most) students? How many students have limited or intermittent Internet access? Survey your students as soon as possible so you can adjust your plans accordingly. 
Build course community early. Give students an opportunity to introduce themselves (through Zoom, or Sakai discussion forums) 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 student success resources at
Make your course Sakai 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.
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 also have some opportunities to interact with students synchronously in Zoom sessions. Record all class sessions for students who may not be able to access live meetings and for later review by all students.
Incorporate active learning
and provide opportunities for student participation wherever possible. Many examples of active learning techniques for remote instruction are available through the CFE and this website.
Focus on a small number of instructional technology tools
that effectively support your learning objectives. You don’t need to use every application feature at all times! If you using something other than a campus-supported technology, be sure that you and your students are clear about who to contact in case you experience problems.
Promote academic integrity. Refer to the Honor Code in your syllabus and before exams and quizzes. Consider using alternative exam formats (e.g. open book) or designing exams in Sakai to make cheating more difficult. Spend some time with the Office of Student Conduct’s suggestions for discouraging academic dishonesty. The University is currently exploring proctoring solutions for administering remote assessments.

Make it Work: 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 Zoom 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.
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.
Think through your use of breakout rooms. If you are planning to have students work in small groups remotely, consider how you will assign students to breakout rooms and how you’ll ask students to report out. Assigning roles (e.g. reporter) for 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.
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 backgrounds and having some fun with them.

Make it Work: 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)

Create structured discussion prompts to promote student interaction using campus-supported technologies for asynchronous discussions, such as forums in Sakai and VoiceThread. Focus on higher-order questions that will generate conversation, and set realistic expectations for how frequently you will participate and grade students’ posts.
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.

Working with Teaching Assistants

Instructors teaching large remote courses may be working with teaching assistants or undergraduate learning assistants. Some of these courses may also include recitation sections taught by TAs.

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.
Determine roles and expectations for TAs. Instructors will need to assess their TAs’ comfort level and readiness to teach remotely. Like your undergraduate students, they may be juggling new personal responsibilities and challenges during this time. Ask them and respect the demands on their time.
Check in regularly with TAs during the course. TAs will likely need more support and guidance than usual, especially early in the semester. Schedule regular meetings to check in and see how they’re doing. Encourage them to share their experiences with you and each other. What’s working? What’s not? Consider joining an early recitation for each TA. That will also provide an opportunity for instructors to clarify expectations with students about the goals of the recitation sections.
Leverage campus support and training resources. Workshops and resources offered through the Keep Teaching initiative are available to all graduate instructors and teaching assistants, as well as to faculty.

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