Low-Tech Remote Teaching Solutions

student walking with phone
When making the shift from face-to-face classes to remote teaching, it’s important to keep students engaged and feeling connected to their coursework, no matter their situation. The Teaching & Learning Technologies support team at Emory recommends Zoom and Canvas as the primary tools for remote teaching. However, one or both of these options may not work for all of your students.
Depending on factors like location and financial hardship, students may have poor or unreliable Internet connectivity, limited access to computers, or other extenuating circumstances. Faculty must be prepared for a variety of situations and have flexibility with how they deliver course content and assessments.
In this article, we go over some easy and low-tech options that can serve as an alternative to Zoom and/or Canvas—as well as supplement any real-time Zoom sessions and Canvas activities you incorporate into your course. This toolkit will help you support student learning remotely, regardless of their access to the usual resources.
Delivering Course Content
  1. Write a blog post-style summary of your lectures. Post it in a Canvas page or Google Doc, or send it as an email.
  2. Download and share Closed Caption files from recorded Canvas Studio videos and/or transcripts from Zoom lectures. (Note that the quality of these files are not perfect, so they may require some editing.)
  3. Use PowerPoint to create and record short, narrated lecture slideshows with the Record Slide Show feature. Keep these slideshows to 10 minutes or less.
  4. Have students with poor connectivity or without regular computer access dial into Zoom meetings via phone. Always record the sessions; an audio-only file is available.
  5. Ask students to work in groups to read and summarize textbook chapters/readings for their peers.
  6. Use open educational resources (OERs) and other content available freely online. This approach can help offload some of the work in creating your lecture content.
Communicating with Students
  1. Offer office hours via phone, text, or simple messaging systems. WhatsApp is ideal for international students, as it allows for free international calls and texts.
  2. Use the Canvas Chat feature for regular checkins and Q&A sessions. All students can see chat messages, so don’t use it for individual, private office hours.
  3. Use Google Docs for real-time chat and discussion. Sharing the doc with specific student email addresses will allow you to see who is viewing and typing in the document. Alternatively, you can have students declare who they are when they are typing.
  4. Give audio feedback on assignments. It’s more personal than text and loads faster than video. You can record media feedback in Speedgrader, or most phones have an audio recording feature.
Managing Assessments
  1. Allow for take-home open-note quizzes and tests. Make them timed tests if you can, so that students will still need to prepare ahead of time. This approach adapts to students who need to take quizzes or tests outside of the Canvas tool.
  2. Have all students in all sections take the test at the same time to avoid sharing answers. If this isn’t possible, make distinct versions of a test for each section or for students who need to take the test at a different time. 
  3. Give frequent low-stakes quizzes that are not worth the trouble to cheat on.
  4. Give more live performance assessments such as presentations, student-led discussions, and debates. These can even be done via phone if needed.
  5. Incorporate more collaborative learning and group projects. These are easy to coordinate via Google Docs, phone, text, and other simple tools.
  6. Use Google Docs for peer review assignments.
  7. If all students can access Canvas, then traditional discussion boards and Canvas Studio discussions are a good asynchronous option.
Sanity Tips for Remote Teaching
  1. Be flexible and allow for any reasonable student requests based on their individual situation. Be prepared to accept out of the ordinary submission methods and extend deadlines. They may need to write their paper by hand, take a picture of it, and email it to you. 
  2. Provide more than one way to access lecture materials outside of Zoom sessions (for example, video, audio, transcripts from Zoom and lecture summaries.) Using the flipped classroom approach, you can also make lecture videos or slideshows ahead of time for students to watch before class meets. Then, Zoom sessions can be reserved for Q&A, group discussion, or other optional activities.
  3. Add your new policies, processes, and class agreements to an updated syllabus and post them in Canvas and email.
  4. Consider your learning objectives when reevaluating your assessments. What do you want students to get out of the class? Start from your objectives rather than trying to mold existing assessments to fit this “new normal.”
  5. Attention rather that the complexity of media used is the most important aspect of distance learning. Be extra attentive to giving feedback and addressing questions and concerns proactively.
  6. The Canvas Student app provides many of the same tools as the website and may be a good option for students without a computer. Students can submit work, take quizzes, view grades, watch videos, post to discussions, and send messages. The Canvas Teacher app allows you to respond to students and grade on the go.
  7. To avoid cognitive overload and techno-stress, generally limit the number of tools you are using, and try to use mostly familiar tools with a low learning curve.
  8. If any of your students need help with access to Internet, technology etc., direct them to The Center for Student Success, where they can request assistance.
Even when you prepare, unexpected circumstances come up. Emory Teaching & Learning Technologies specializes in generating solutions for unique pedagogical problems. If you have an instructional technology issue and don’t know how to approach it, we want to collaborate with you! Schedule a 1:1 consultation with us or attend one of our workshops for guidance on best practices and expert insight.
Key Emory Resources for Remote Teaching
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