Following is a list of strategies and commonly used tools we recommend to instructors dealing with course disruptions at the University of Mississippi. These tools are recommended based on their accessibility and reliability, and due to the availability of support for their use.
Notes on Internet Connection Speeds
Most people working from home have asynchronous connection speeds (upload typically being much slower than download.) When you upload videos or content to Box, YouTube, etc., from home, it could take a long time, much longer than you are used to as compared to when on campus. Please be patient and factor this into your workflow.
To run video conferencing without lagging, we recommend a download bandwidth of at least 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second) and an upload bandwidth of around 600 kbps. Test your bandwidth to see how well it performs. Asking your students to keep their cameras off can help with bandwidth issues.
- Resources for Students & eTextbooks
- Access to UM-Supported Tools
- New! Course Workload Calculators
- Communicate with Students
- Distribute Course Materials and Readings
- Deliver Lectures and Lecture Material
- Foster Communication and Collaboration Among Students
- Collect Assignments
- Assess Student Learning
- Updated! Proctorio: Proctored Exam Solution
- Accessibility & Accommodations in Remote Classes
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Library Hours & Resources
- Faculty Support
- Additional Resources
Resources for Students
Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, Comcast is offering 2 months free to new Internet Essentials customers in response to recent and anticipated emergency measures associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Students must apply and get approved for the service. Subject to company’s availability in service areas. For more information, visit Internet Essentials website.
Writing Center Consultations
Beginning Sunday, March 15, 2020, UM Writing Center services are available online. For more information and appointment reservations, visit the Writing Centers Online Consultations.
Cengage is offering students free access to their digital platforms and ebooks through Cengage Unlimited, for the remainder of this semester.
Pearson digital products are available through VitalSource or RedShelf, your students may be able to get immediate access at no charge. Contact your Pearson rep if your textbook is not available in a digital format.
Vital Source is a provider of eTextbooks. Barnes & Noble is providing free access to textbooks through May 2020 on the Vital Source platform. You may create an account to see if your class’ textbook is available. You may also access/link VitalSource through your Blackboard course by going into their content area -> Partner Content -> VitalSource. Students will need to set up a Vital Source account, Vital Source login, and then search for the textbook and “borrow” it.
RedShelf is providing students with free access to learning materials through their free eBook Access Program. Major providers include but are not limited to Cengage, McGraw Hill, Pearson, and Wiley.
Access to UM-Supported Tools
- Request a UM Zoom Account: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Zoom: Zoom Client for Computers | iPhone App | Android App
- Request a UM Gmail Account (Access to Google’s Suite of Applications)
- Request Departmental Software
- VPN Service
Communicate with Students
Announcements – Blackboard announcements are an ideal way to post time-sensitive information critical to course success. Add announcements for these types of course activities:
- Due dates for assignments and projects
- Changes to your syllabus
- Corrections/clarifications of materials
- Exam schedules
Send Email – The Blackboard email tool in blackboard allows you to send email to other people in your course without launching a separate email program, such as Outlook or Gmail. You can send email to individual users or to groups of users.
Employee email accounts and special email accounts that use the @olemiss.edu address are hosted on Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud service. The service allows the creation of Outlook contact lists for easy communication with defined groups such as a class.
GMail (@go.olemiss.edu accounts)
Each UM student is issued an official @go.olemiss.edu email address. These email accounts are hosted on the UM Gmail cloud service. Employees, including instructors, can obtain their own UM GMail accounts for ease of communication and document sharing with students should they so desire. More information on UM Gmail and other available Google services is available at go.olemiss.edu. Once created, UM GMail also offers convenient methods for creating GMail contact lists.
The UM Today interface in myOleMiss offers a convenient way to contact students enrolled in particular course sections. See the UM Today documentation for details.
Distribute course materials and readings
Files (such as PDFs, slide presentations, recorded lectures, or other documents) can be uploaded into a Blackboard course and accessed directly by students. Links to URLs and basic HTML content are also easy to create and organize in Blackboard.
Instructions for enabling your Blackboard class and uploading some common types of course materials can be found at the links below.
- Blackboard Support and Training
- Blackboard Quick Start Guide for Faculty
- Upload your Syllabus as a Blackboard Item
- Upload a File in Blackboard
- Add a Web Link in Blackboard
- Embed a Video in Blackboard
- Manage Dates on the Blackboard Course Calendar
Panopto is an online video platform and has recently been integrated into Blackboard. It provides a seamless way for faculty to add videos to Blackboard without have to first upload to Google Drive or YouTube. It also provides a way for students to submit video assignments, which should be very useful for student class presentations, etc. We have included a few tutorial links below.
- How to Add Panopto to a Blackboard Course
- How to embed Panopto Video in Blackboard
- How to create Video Assignment for Student Submissions
Box is a secure, online file sharing and storage service. Content on Box can be accessed from your computer and through iPad, iPhone and Android devices via the Box app. Box content can be shared internally and externally and can be extended to third party applications. Box is a good resource for storing and sharing files, authoring content, and encouraging collaboration. More information about Box can be found on the IT Helpdesk Box FAQ page.
Materials in Google Drive (such as Docs, Sheets, and Slides) can be shared publicly or sharing can be restricted to UM users or to specific students. Complete documentation for using Google Drive and related products can be found in the G Suite Learning Center.
Rochester Institute of Technology Innovative Learning Institute has created a tool which helps faculty consider how workload in a face-to-face class translates to the online learning environment. Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence also has a course tool workload calculator.
PowerPoint with Voiceover
Narrations and timings can enhance a web-based PowerPoint slide show. If you have a sound card, microphone, and speakers, and (optionally) a webcam, you can record your PowerPoint presentation and capture narrations, slide timings, and ink gestures. Detailed instructions for creating a PowerPoint with voiceover can be found on the Microsoft Office training web site.
The Zoom web conferencing platform is well suited for synchronous (real-time) online meetings involving small or large groups (up to 300 participants), and includes video, audio, screen sharing, text chat, and many other features. Instructors might use Zoom to deliver online lectures to an entire class, or to hold virtual office hours with a single student or a small group. Zoom meetings can also be recorded for later viewing, and recordings can include automatic transcription that displays as separate text or as captions that appear along with the recorded video as it plays.
There are several tiers of services with Zoom. Free accounts can host meetings with up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes. Faculty who need to include more participants or run longer meetings will need a higher tier of service. The University has a contractual agreement with Zoom allowing us to purchase higher-tier Zoom accounts at a significant discount. Contact email@example.com for information on acquiring Zoom licenses at the discounted rate.
Notes on Securing your Zoom Classroom
There have been reports of trolls in Zoom classrooms from random visitors. You can secure your Zoom meetings as simple as checking the “use a meeting password” box when setting up the meeting. See Managing Participants in a Meeting for ways to manage your Zoom classroom.
- Scheduling Zoom Meetings
- How do I Start or Join a Scheduled Zoom Meeting as the Host?
- Download Zoom Participant Menu Slide (Feel free to add to your slide deck)
- Joining & Configuring Audio & Video (Video for your students)
- Testing computer or device audio
- Record a Zoom Meeting to Local Computer
- In-Meeting Controls for Zoom (Basic)
- Managing Participants in a Meeting
- Sharing a Screen
- Sharing a Whiteboard
- Using Annotation Tools on a Shared Screen or Whiteboard
- Polling for Zoom Meetings
- Zoom Breakout Rooms
- Get your Zoom recordings to Blackboard
- Comprehensive Guide to Educating Through Zoom
- Tips & Tricks: Teachers Educating on Zoom
Foster communication and collaboration among students
The discussion forum activity in Blackboard allows students and instructors to exchange ideas by posting comments within threaded discussions. Files such as images and media can also be included in forum posts. Instructors can also choose to grade Discussion posts.
Google’s G Suite
The various tools in Google’s G Suite are designed with collaboration in mind, and they can be useful for students who need to work together on projects. Productivity apps such as Docs, Sheets, and Slides allow shared editing of documents and other files, Drive allows file and folder sharing, and Hangouts provides easy-to-use live video and text chat for collaborators. Detailed documentation for Google Docs and related products can be found in the G Learning Center.
Students can also use the Zoom web conferencing platform in a variety of collaborative ways, such as holding online group meetings, participating in online discussions in real time, or delivering online presentations. A Zoom session can include audio, video, screen sharing, text chat, and more, and Zoom meetings can be recorded for later viewing. The University of Mississippi does not have a mechanism for providing paid Zoom licenses to students; however, for most students the free tier of Zoom service can be expected to meet their needs. Only the meeting host needs an account on Zoom. Tutorials for interacting using Zoom can be found in the Zoom Help Center.
The Assignment activity in Blackboard provides a space where students can submit work and instructors can provide feedback and assign grades. Assignments can be configured to support a wide variety of instructional needs, including group work and blind grading. Student submissions can take the form of submitted files, text entered directly into Blackboard, or audio recordings. Learn how to create an Assignment in Blackboard using this PDF.
Assignment instructions can be created using a Google Doc and shared via University of Mississippi (go.olemiss.edu) email address. Students can also submit assignments as Google Docs by sharing documents back with faculty. A standard practice is to have students re-assign ownership of graded work to the instructor for retention purposes. Find detailed documentation of Google Docs and related products in the G Suite Learning Center.
Assess student learning
Blackboard allows instructors to design and build quizzes, tests, and Assignments that can include a wide range of question types, including multiple choice, true-false, short answer, and essay. The Blackboard gradebook records all grades, which students view online. Instructions for creating tests in Blackboard, making the tests available to students, and managing grades in the Blackboard Grade Center are available at the following links.
- Instructions for Creating Assessments in UM Blackboard
- Recommended Settings for Deploying Tests in Blackboard
- Using the Blackboard Grade Center
Instructors can also create and administer surveys using Google Forms, which for some purposes can be useful as a basic assessment or quizzing tool. A link to the survey/quiz can be sent to students, and the responses can be displayed and managed in a Google sheet. Detailed documentation for Google Forms and related products can be found in the G Suite Learning Center.
Run Lab Activities
Lab-based courses are particularly challenging to deliver online. Possible strategies for continuing delivery of lab courses during an emergency include: making live or recorded videos of faculty doing the experiment, and providing the resulting data to students for their lab reports; having students interact with a lab simulation on MERLOT or a similar learning object repository; or, redesigning experiments so that they can be conducted at home using common household materials;
In addition, there are some options for virtual labs curated by MERLOT:
Proctorio is an AI-based proctored testing solution that is available campus-wide at no cost to students. We have provided Proctorio instructions below. A recording of Proctorio Introduction Session from March 26, 2020 is also available.
- Proctorio Walkthrough for Faculty
- Proctorio FAQ for Faculty
- Solving Students’ Password Issues in Proctorio
- Proctorio Student Guide
- Proctorio FAQ for Students
For inquiries regarding Proctorio and remote proctoring services, please contact the Linda Chitwood Testing Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or call either one of the Center’s phone lines: 662-915-1267 or 662-915-1906.
For additional resources on testing including proctored testing alternatives, please see Advice for Faculty Regarding Testing.
As we transition from in-person to remote instruction, Student Disability Services (SDS) wants to assure instructors that the department remains available to provide support in ensuring courses remain fully accessible to students with disabilities. No matter how well designed an academic experience is, accommodations may still be necessary, though they may look different than in the traditional, in-person classes. SDS remains committed to collaborating with instructors and academic departments on accommodation issues that may arise during this transition.
Instructors are encouraged to visit the SDS website’s COVID-19 faculty page for information on how accommodations may work in an online environment. Faculty are also encouraged to contact SDS at 662-915-7128 with any questions or concerns related to accommodations in online environments.
If you would like to explore creating or making your existing electronic material to meet the needs of a student with an accommodation, the following resources from the accessibility.olemiss.edu website will be helpful:
Guides and YouTube Playlist
- Creating an Accessible Microsoft Word Document
- Creating an Accessible Microsoft Powerpoint Presentation
- Accessible Web Design Basics
- Digital Accessibility YouTube Playlist
*Note: Due to the complexity of creating or remediating PDFs, it is recommended that you follow the instructions above for creating an accessible Word or Powerpoint file that is then saved to PDF.
For digital accessibility basics and guidelines, please review Accessibility for Keep Teaching.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be key principles of our pedagogy in online environments just as they are in face-to-face courses. Here are some resources to help.
- Maintaining Equity and Inclusion in Virtual Learning Environments (San Diego State University)
- Inclusion, Equity, and Access While Teaching Remotely (Rice University)
The main library remains open with reduced hours. Please visit Library Services During the University’s Response to COVID-19 for latest information.
Before you begin transitioning your course plans and materials for remote instruction, please consider the following general principles.
For managing your students
- Choose one form of communication with your students and stick to it. In focus groups, students said they preferred information to be posted in the announcements section of your Blackboard page, and then sent to them via Blackboard email to their UM email.
- Communicate with your students early and frequently. Cultivating a sense that you are present with the students in a meaningful if non-literal sense is crucial to successful online teaching. Begin the online experience with some kind of very low stakes community-building exercise, deployed as early as possible, to help students feel like they’re part of a community rather than individuals accessing course materials in parallel, isolated from each other.
- Use tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, and roll out new tools only when absolutely necessary. If an interruption is caused by a localized event, it may be already taxing everyone’s mental and emotional energy; introducing a lot of new tools and approaches may leave even less energy and attention for learning.
- Contact UM Accessibility Solutions if you have a student who is utilizing classroom accommodations so you can be sure to maintain those during periods of academic disruption.
- Be sympathetic and flexible for students in distress, who lack the resources to fully access your class online, or who are unfamiliar with online learning.
- Check in on students working behind or who are not logging into Blackboard during the academic interruption. They may be confused, sick, or distracted by caregiver responsibilities.
For managing your course
- Focus on learning outcomes even if you need to adjust the specific activities that contribute to those outcomes. Keep students moving toward those outcomes. Avoid “busy work.”
- Prioritize course activities and focus on delivering the ones with the most significant impact on learning outcomes. You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, attendance, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ abilities to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members. Be ready to handle requests for extensions or accommodations equitably.
- Rearrange course activities if needed to delay those activities where face-to-face interaction is most crucial.
- Develop an asynchronous class as some of your students may not be able to be in class virtually during your regular class time due to issues of time zone, family responsibilities, or having to share resources (like laptops) with parents working from home.
- Replace physical resources with digital resources where possible. Remember that students who are not on campus will not have access to the library, and some will lack access to their course textbooks. Have realistic expectations about library staff support for scanning articles or book chapters.
- Create alternate assessments rather than giving the same objective questions to every student. This can maintain academic integrity in the event that proctored testing is not available.
During an unintended campus interruption, the volume of calls from faculty and students to university technical support organizations is likely to be extremely high. In such circumstances, please review the materials linked above carefully before calling the support organizations listed below; in many cases these web resources will represent the fastest path to a solution.
Faculty Technology Development Center (FTDC)
FTDC is the primary point of contact for faculty seeking training and support for all instructional technologies at the University of Mississippi. The staff of FTDC are available for one-on-one consultation in support of all instructional technologies as needed. FTDC can be reached by phone at 662-915-7918 or by email at email@example.com.
Information Technology (IT) Helpdesk
The UM IT Helpdesk is the primary point of contact for students seeking technical support for all UM technology systems, including Blackboard, G Suite, and more. The IT Helpdesk can be reached by phone at 662-915-5222 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, the IT Helpdesk website hosts a large number of resources.
The University of Mississippi’s Office of Academic Outreach works with the academic departments in course planning, design, support, and offerings of Ole Miss Online courses and degree programs. In the event of an unintended course interruption, Academic Outreach’s instructional design team will be available to help faculty adjust their courses for an alternative delivery format. Academic Outreach can be reached by phone at 662-915-1491 or by email at email@example.com.
Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
CETL works to provide resources and assistance to faculty members related to their teaching endeavors. In the event of an unintended interruption, CETL staff will work with faculty to devise effective teaching strategies under whatever limitations conditions impose. CETL can be reached by phone at 662-915-1391 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accessibility Solutions works with academic departments and instructors to proactively develop accessible content for course delivery. Accessibility Solutions offers group and one-on-one training focused on accessibility, as well as resources and support on student accommodations, document accessibility, and video captioning. Accessibility Solutions can be reached at 662-915-1335 or by email at email@example.com.
Low-Tech and No-Tech Solutions through iStudy
The iStudy program began as correspondence courses before going online. For low/no tech solutions such as phoning in assignments or using snail mail, email the iStudy office for instructional design and logistical support. Printed materials remain an important component of most distance education courses, but building in opportunities for two-way communication is essential even in a paper-based course.
We have curated resources shared among UM departments and communities.
- UM Writing and Rhetoric Academic Continuity Planning Guide
- Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption (Stanford University)
- Putting Course Content Online in a Hurry (Vanderbilt University)
- Guide to Teaching Continuity (Rice University)