The following linked resources and Guide to Getting Started are intended to support faculty and instructors who are teaching remotely. We have been able to learn from the remote teaching and learning challenges experienced in the spring 2020 semester thanks to feedback from students, faculty, and staff. We can now also review feedback from the MIT Instructor Remote Teaching Survey on the fall 2020 semester, as presented by the Dean for Digital Learning, Krishna Rajagopal, in the following recording.
Before continuing, please take a moment to review the spring 2021 Emergency Academic Regulations and Recommendations, as well as the Expanded Grading Policy updated for the spring 2021 semester. You can also find the updated information for faculty and teaching staff on MIT Now.
For additional resources and considerations specific to the spring semester, see this timely article by the Teaching + Learning Lab.
This Canvas site contains resources and workshop recordings on engaging students, building community, promoting equity, assessing learning in remote subjects, and teaching with MIT-licensed EdTech tools.
Before each semester, TLL facilitates a collection of workshops to support MIT students as they prepare to TA, now with support for the unique demands of remote teaching and learning. Registration is open for the current session (February 2-11, 2021) until the final workshop on Thursday, February 11.
Additional workshop materials and asynchronous resources are available via Canvas.
Open Learning has created tutorials and resources on how to use Canvas, how to create & store video with Panopto and other tools, and where to find support and help documentation for MIT-licensed Ed Tech tools.
The above resources offer in-depth guidelines and tutorials. For a quick start, we have put together the following consolidated guidelines. This work is grounded in research and supported by evidence from our own community. The following short guide aims to:
- Help you consider the content and assessment structures of your course
- Consider and select the modalities and pedagogies for the course
- Connect you with MIT related resources
Establish course goals, content, and community
It is almost impossible to recreate residential work in an online structure. Instead, here are paths to consider:
Rework your course goals to take advantage of remote instruction
- Ask yourself and the instructional team “What are the most important things my students should know and be able to do when done with my course?” and structure the course content to align with the answer to that question.
- Regularly present the course goals to students and connect the individual modules and course content to them.
- Utilize remote tools and materials that promote interaction between instructors-students, students-students, and TAs-students as they engage with content.
Consider assessments as opportunities to learn
- Having frequent low-stakes assessments distributed over the course of the semester that are paired with feedback can provide instructors with an understanding of student comprehension and allow student to reflect on their own learning trajectory while working to reduce anxiety.
- Projects, papers, case analyses, performances, presentations, and other non-exam assessments allow students to demonstrate complex understanding and application of concepts.
Create opportunities to build a community of learners
- Consider how course activities can be reworked to allow students to come together virtually (via discussion board, synchronous problem-solving session, zoom breakout rooms, slack channel, group projects) to collaborate and learn together. These social learning opportunities are a key part of learning that happens on campus and can be supported remotely.
Modalities range from asynchronous to synchronous: Consider what the correct mix of this will look like for your content and the way you want students to engage in learning.
- Asynchronous materials and videos can be a powerful resource that students can revisit and engage with when they are most ready to learn.
- Stand-alone long lectures often do not result in the desired content retention. Breaking up these recordings with opportunities for active engagement (i.e. embedding questions into the video or asking students to post a response to a prompt on discussion board) can produce better learning outcomes.
- Provide students opportunities to check their understanding of asynchronously delivered materials and reflect on how that understanding is connected with course goals.
- Take advantage of the limited Synchronous sessions to offer students the opportunity to actively engage with course content instead of simply passively receiving information.
- Create synchronous and asynchronous sessions that can be engaged with by all members of the class. Provide opportunities for questions, co-engagement with content (i.e. group problem solving), and checking for individual and group understanding.
- Build in a mix of modalities that build on and complement one another. How can you reinforce content explored during a synchronous discussion session with questions in an asynchronous discussion forum or vice versa? Providing students with multiple opportunities to engage with course content can deepen their understanding and provide a more equitable learning experience.
Set clear and consistent expectations for students
- It can be helpful to set routines around the modalities, activities, and assignments in the course. Make sure student know what to expect out of each type of session, how they will need to prepare in order to effectively engage, and how what they do will be connected with course expectations. For example, letting students know when TAs will be available for live Q&A on slack can promote better and more regular engagement. At the same time, setting clear due dates for when students should complete asynchronous assignments will increase the likelihood that they keep pace with the material.
Pedagogy ahead of tools
- Build your course to take advantage of good pedagogy and student engagement strategies ahead of trying to utilize every technology available. Using just a handful of key features in tools like Canvas and Zoom can allow for the enactment of good pedagogy.
- Effective online pedagogies share many similarities with quality residential approaches and are centered on getting students to actively and critically engage with content.
Accessibility & Inclusivity
- Consider how the technologies you use can affect and sometimes have unintended negative consequences for your students. For instance, an algorithmic bias in Zoom video ordering can reduce the sense of belonging felt by underrepresented students. As you become aware of a potential issue, it is important to proactively communicate with students to convey that you are deliberately valuing and promoting inclusivity in your class.
- Both Panopto and Zoom have auto-caption functionality which faculty may choose to enable. We know they are far from perfect and there are errors, especially with technical content. However, auto-captions can be helpful to a wide audience even with these errors. There are options to correct these errors if you choose to do so and the MIT Accessibility website provides helpful do-it-yourself tools and third-party captioning vendors.
- It is important to be aware that auto-captions do not meet disability accessibility standards. If a student with a disability requests captioning, the captions will require a higher degree of accuracy. Disability and Access Services will work with you to ensure the student’s needs are met. Therefore, please include the following statement on your syllabus or course website:
- The videos in this course may be auto-captioned and, while helpful to many, the accuracy of auto-captions is variable. If you need a higher degree of captioning accuracy due to a documented disability, please contact Disability and Access Services at email@example.com.
- Colleagues (including TAs and Admins) from your department make up a vital community to help share ideas, create materials, and enact high quality instruction.
- Many departments have digital learning lab (DLL) scientists and fellows who have extensive experience in this type of work and can engage in conversations with individuals and departments.
- Contact TLL and OL for additional support.
- IS&T-approved Tools for Remote Teaching
- Science of Remote Learning
- MIT Open Teach Remote
- Residential Digital Innovations
- Emergency Academic Regulations
- Accessibility of Remote Teaching Tools
- Best Practices for Learning Remotely (for MIT students)
- Tips for Supporting and Working with Students During the COVID-19 Crisis (for MIT faculty, instructors, and staff)
- Spring 2020 Remote Learning Experience
- Online Conduct