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Hege Library & Learning Technologies

Teaching Modes

This guide provides resources and guidance for faculty around different possible modes of instruction, including face-to-face, hybrid, and online. We will continue to update this guide throughout the summer, so check back for up

What Is Online?

Online courses happen fully online, with no in-person components. Most online courses are facilitated through a Learning Management System (LMS), like Canvas.

Online courses can take many different shapes, and course activities can roughly be divided into the categories of synchronous or asynchronous.

  • Synchronous course activities require the teacher and the students in the course to be online at the same time – for example, a virtual class meeting via Zoom.
  • Asynchronous course activities do not require teachers and learners to be online at the same time, allowing students to do their work for the week when and as they are able to – for example, a Canvas discussion board to which students submit replies throughout the week, up to the due date. 
    • Please note that an asynchronous online course is different from a self-paced online course, in which students work at their own pace and on their own time (with the options of submitting everything right away or waiting until the very end); all self-paced online courses are by their nature asynchronous, but not all asynchronous online courses are self-paced, and in fact you will more easily be able to build community in an asynchronous course where all students are on roughly the same page at roughly the same time, and move through the course together instead of individually.

This EDUCAUSE article by Florence Martin, Drew Polly and Albert Ritzhaupt, Bichronous Online Learning: Blending Asynchronous and Synchronous Online Learning, provides an overview of an approach blending both synchronous and asynchronous elements.

Online Considerations

Design Considerations

  • Redesigning a face-to-face course. In order to successfully redesign an existing in-person class to be delivered online, you will need to be thoughtful in how you map things over, as it will not be a one-to-one process of replacing each in-person activity with a roughly equivalent online activity (for example, you can't just replace every in-person class meeting with a Zoom meeting - that would be exhausting for both you and your students!). Some great resources for designing and teaching online are shared in the Resources section below.
  • Online learning curve. As you design your online course, you will likely need to be more intentional about building in scaffolding activities and time for students to explicitly learn about tools, as well as time for you to learn about each other and build community, since you will not have the same spontaneous interactions that you may have in-person.
  • Universal Design for Learning and providing multiple entry points. You will want to consider how you can provide multiple entry points to the course for students, and multiple options for course activities and assignments, so that students can choose the option(s) that best meet their ability, availability, available technology, and other concerns and commitments.

Accessibility Considerations

  • Making course content and activities accessible. As with in-person courses, you need to make sure your online course content and activities accessible for students with disabilities. The Resilient Teaching guide has resources on accessibility, and CAST's UDL on Campus website also has great resources relating to Universal Design for Learning in Higher Ed.

Equity Considerations

  • Student access to technology. As you plan your online course, you will need to survey students beforehand to determine their access to technology and scheduling availability and to help connect them with campus resources.
    • Library and Learning Technologies works with faculty to provide devices on extended loan through the Mobile Edge initiative to enable students in need to engage in their coursework. This includes Mac and PC laptops and tablets. A limited number of laptops with Adobe Creative Cloud are available for students enrolled in courses where Adobe CC is a requirement. All device requests must come through faculty via the Mobile Edge request form.
  • Balancing asynchronous and synchronous content. Considering the synchronous/asynchronous balance of your course is an equity concern. Scheduling synchronous online class meetings can make things more difficult for students with limited availability due to commitments like child/elder care or work, or students in different time zones, etc. Consider not requiring attendance at synchronous class sessions and providing asynchronous alternatives, and consider how you will thoughtfully break up the time and engage students, given that it is more taxing to sit in front of a computer screen than sit in a class room in person for an entire class meeting.
    • For synchronous online meetings, do not require your students to turn their cameras on. There are a whole host of very valid reasons students may not want to have their cameras on (classism and the possibility of judgment, body dysmorphia or dysphoria, unsafe home environment...). Requiring students to turn on their cameras, even with the permission of documented exceptions, still "outs" students with that exception.
    • Here's an article from Karen Costa on alternatives to requiring students to turn their cameras on during a synchronous session that will still engage learners and provide you some of the feedback you need.
  • Communicating your availability. How will you make sure your online students know that your office door is "open" (virtually), given the fact that they cannot swing by your office or hang back to check in with you after class as they would in person? How will you provide these opportunities for connection and interaction for all of your students, not just those who know to email you when they need your help or have a question?