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UAB CTL: Remote Teaching FAQs 

For the end of the Spring 2019 semester, teachers around the world had to quickly switch their on-campus courses to remote courses because of COVID-19. During times of remote teaching like this, one vitally important goal of the CTL is to make sure that students’ academic progress is fairly evaluated, and that any disruption does not present a disadvantage to their future academic success. This includes admission to their preferred major, graduate school, or professional school in the months and years to come. Answers to the following questions may provide guidance in this endeavor.

Academic Technology and Support

What kind of technology is available to UAB faculty, and how do I get training and support?


Communicating with students and colleagues

What are best practices for keeping my students up to date if my instructional plans change?

  • Explicitly establish a shared expectation about when and where students should check for announcements or other communications. 
  • Use Canvas Announcements to communicate with the whole class. 
  • Use Canvas Conversations instead of email to communicate with students so that important messages don’t get lost among other emails. 
  • Use Zoom to host interactive online office-hours. 

What kinds of active learning can take place in online courses?

Active learning closes achievement gaps between students from underrepresented groups and other students. It also increases the engagement and achievement of all students. 

  • "Writing to learn" - Have your students write for one minute on a topic to prepare them for a discussion or generate questions they have about the material. Don’t collect or grade the writing. 
  • "Pair and share" or small group discussions using Zoom Breakout Rooms
  • Use Canvas Peer Review to require students to complete a peer review of another student's work

I am overwhelmed. Can I brainstorm or get advice from other humans?

  • Sign up for the CTL Weekly Newsletter for the latest resources and opportunities. 
  • Join the Center for Teaching and Learning’s weekly “Faculty Chat" hosted by CTL Director Dr. Scott Phillips.  The time for each week’s chat is published in the CTL’s e-newsletter each Monday morning and posted on the CTL's website.
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. from the Center for Teaching Learning. 
  • Schedule a one-on-one consultation offered by eLearning. 
  • Check out eLearning’s repository of pre-recorded "Teaching Remotely" workshops for faculty
  • Meet with colleagues over Zoom to see what they’re doing  
  • Check out academic Twitter. A lot of good ideas are circulating, both discipline-specific and otherwise. 
  • Visit the Pandemic Pedagogy Public Group on Facebook, where instructors share their experiences in switching to remote teaching. 

Equity and access

How can I make sure the materials I upload to Canvas are accessible?

Where do I direct other accessibility questions?

I’m hoping to have live synchronous discussions. How do I know what time zone students are in?

Consider giving a quick, multiple choice, anonymous, confidential survey before the first day to ask students about:
  • Their time zone
  • Levels of experience with specific Canvas tools
  • Levels of experience with using Zoom
  • If they have reliable Wi-Fi access and devices

Be explicit about why you are asking these questions so that students understand that you are trying to transform your course in a way that everyone has equal access and potential for success

Not all students have 24/7 reliable wifi. What should I do?

  • Aim to make as much of your content asynchronous as possible.
  • Don’t require synchronous sessions.
  • Consider recording synchronous sessions so they can be accessed by students who were unable to connect at that time.
  • Don’t rely on short windows for test/exam submissions.
  • If you post recorded lectures, provide transcripts or notes when possible, so that students can access the content even if they can’t reliably stream videos.

Testing and assessment

What are some ways to complete final semester assessments other than a traditional test?

  • Convert the test to a Canvas “quiz” with randomized questions and a time limit.
  • Make the test open notes or open book. Alter questions accordingly so that application of material is a required element.
  • Turn the exam into an application-based, problem-solving assignment that students can complete on their own time and submit online.
  • Ask students to video record their work or presentation using their phones or Kaltura, then upload it to Canvas.
  • Have students give their presentations live to the class using Zoom. Students can submit presentations to you in advance since screen-sharing is disabled.


Can I grade some students with a Pass/Fail grading method and others with the standard letter grading method?

For information on UAB’s grading policies for Spring 2020, see the Spring 2020 Semester Questions and Answers for Instructors.

How do I assign grades for participation?

If in-class participation plays a significant role in the class grade, we encourage faculty to review alternatives for demonstrating participation in a remote-learning environment. These could include required participation in discussion boards, asking questions on content before or after class, submitting pre-class reflective writing, participating in breakroom discussions in Zoom, or other possibilities.