The second thing we are asking you to do as you prepare for remote teaching is to have a solution for engaging with your students.

Relationships, rapport, and teaching to the whole student are important whether you’re teaching face-to-face or online. And while shifting from in-person teaching to a virtual environment presents challenges that you don’t typically encounter in the classroom, it also presents new opportunities.

Note that you’ll need a reliable internet connection for this new teaching format; if you run into problems, see this UIS page on internet connectivity issues. We’ve also created a faculty checklist and a student checklist to make sure everyone’s ready to get started.

Here are a few ideas for keeping your students invested in their learning and connected to one another and you:

Some Considerations

  • Remember the human beings on the other side of the screen – Check in with your students–do they have the requisite technology and materials at their disposal? Are there accommodations you should take into consideration? Just like the rest of us, your students are dealing with a great deal of uncertainty and change in this virtual teaching environment, and that may be increasing stress levels. It may be helpful to address this directly, asking students to talk about how they’re handling the experience, and whether they have any questions to ask—or strategies for success to share with their peers. You can find more resources in our blog post on Trauma-Informed Teaching.
  • Be as clear and transparent as possible – Students may be worried about their responsibilities and performance in the course, and one way to help them is to make sure that expectations, deadlines, and other important elements of the course are made clear to them. Put these things in writing in a place that is easy for the students to find and refer back to—and address them explicitly in synchronous meetings when helpful.
  • Keep communication lines open – Try to be as responsive as possible to students as they navigate the virtual course environment. Make sure you have a clear communications policy for how you want students to get in touch with you, and be consistent.
  • Remain flexible – These are challenging times for both ourselves and our students. Try to be as flexible with them as the schedule allows, to help ensure their success in the course.
  • Consider students’ locations – If any students are doing their remote learning from another country, see our tip sheet on best practices for remote teaching and learning internationally.
  • Troubleshoot connectivity issues  Again, if you or your students need to address issues with your internet connection, see this UIS page on internet connectivity issues.

Virtual Office Hours

One of the requirements under the Instructional Continuity policy is that you hold office hours. Office hours are very helpful for students in a virtual learning environment. Canvas, luckily, allows you to create online hours and to run these in Zoom. When you set up your office hours in Zoom through Canvas, you have access to Zoom’s waiting room feature, which allows you to keep students in a waiting room while you meet with someone.

For more information:

Synchronous & Asynchronous Engagement

There are generally two temporal modes of engaging online: synchronously (in real time) or asynchronously (where you each contribute to the course discussion at different times). These each have advantages and challenges.

Synchronous Communication

We recommend meeting synchronously at least once per week at your regularly scheduled course time. Zoom is an excellent tool for holding class online synchronously. Consider how you normally handle discussion and/or lecture. Do you use visual aids such as PowerPoint? Do you pause often for questions? There are approximations or tools for many of those practices in Zoom:

For more information:

Asynchronous Communication

While synchronous communication is likely to be the best way to stay connected with your students and to encourage active learning, you may run into challenges with students in different time zones or students who have access issues. Connecting with your students asynchronously can be a useful way around this challenge. The Canvas discussion board is a terrific tool for engaging with your students asynchronously.

For more information:

Keep Learning Active

Online teaching doesn’t have to mean lecturing start-to-finish, and students will almost certainly learn more from activities:

  • When lecturing is called for, allow time for student engagement—questions, comments, etc.
    • When meeting synchronously, students can chime in from behind their laptops just as they can during face-to-face class sessions. To build in opportunities to address concerns or questions throughout a lecture, you can queue up questions by inviting students to use the Chat function (directed either directly to you or to the class as a whole) as you lecture.
    • Consider sharing some key discussion questions before class begins since Zoom sessions often require more facilitation than face-to-face ones.
    • If you deliver your content asynchronously, you can open a discussion thread on Canvas so that students can add their thoughts publicly and encourage email for one-on-one communications. And discussion threads, if done between classes, can also inform synchronous conversations—you can choose some of the most productive points and questions, bring them to the session, and build a conversation around them.
  • If you want to have small-group discussions in your course, Zoom has that capability; while you’ll want to convene the whole class together, you may also sometimes break students into subgroups online, where they’ll be able to talk and work with a few of their peers instead of with the whole group. You can even pre-assign those groups. To find out more about breakout groups, click here.
  • Students can collaborate on work even when they’re not in the same room; Google Apps like Google Docs or Google Slides allow students to work on the same file at the same time, live.

Office Hours

For support with tools and tips for teaching online, CNDLS provides virtual office hours, Monday-Friday. Click here to enter virtual office hours.  Hours of operation: Monday – Thursday, 10 am – 4 pm and Friday between 10 am and 12 pm. After hours, you can reach us at cndls@georgetown.edu.  


CNDLS is hosting a series of webinars to help address key questions when teaching at a distance. Please find a list of the webinars below and for more training opportunities, please visit the training page. Recorded sessions are available here.