Teaching Virtually

If you are one of the many teachers who now has to figure out a way to teach virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, this post is for you. Essentially, there are three things you have to do:

  1. Create and record your lectures
  2. Post them online for students to access 
  3. Collect assignments and exams for grading

I’m assuming you might need to start doing these things today, so the suggestions throughout this article won’t include going out into the world and buying new equipment.

For a free, easy way to get going, I would use Google products to live stream your lectures and then post them. I also recommend that all your students get Google accounts.

Step 1: Create and verify a YouTube account

I recommend creating a YouTube channel and then hosting your videos there. Go to www.youtube.com and sign in if you already have a gmail account, or create a new account. Make sure you verify your account if you haven’t already.

Step 2: Prepare to lecture

If you have things that you normally write on a blackboard or whiteboard, you could get a whiteboard like this or this, or simply record your hand writing on a piece of paper. 

If you have a few hundred dollars to spend and you want to edit your lecture before you post it and/or do screen recordings, you can get Camtasia, a simple tool for recording and editing. You can also start with the 30-day free trial if you don’t mind the watermark showing up after exporting your final video. There is also a bunch of free screen recording software, but usually they don’t come with editing features.

If you get some screen recording software, you can also host a Google Hangout so that students can ask questions in addition to watching your lecture, and then record the entire Google Hangout session. If you go this route, I suggest creating a recurring Google calendar invitation with a Hangout added.

Step 3: Record and/or live stream

You can choose if you want to live stream, or record your lecture, edit it, and post it later. If you live stream on YouTube, it will automatically save a recording within your channel.

To live stream, go to Creator Studio tools, click “Create” in the upper right, and then “Go live.”

Write a title of your lecture, decide if you want it to be public or unlisted (with unlisted, people can only find your video if you embed it somewhere or give them the direct link), indicate if your recording is for kids or not, take a thumbnail picture, and then click “GO LIVE.” After you’re done recording, your video will show up on YouTube in the “Your videos” section, and then you can embed it anywhere you’d like. 

If you don’t want to live stream, you can record using your phone and then use the phone’s built-in editing features to select the clip you want to share (often you may want to cut out the beginning and end parts right after you turn on the camera or before you turn it off). If you decided to try out Camtasia, you can record yourself writing on the whiteboard using your computer’s built-in webcam and/or record your screen (e.g., if you have PowerPoint presentations to walk through). 

Step 4: Post your videos and assignments

Google Classroom is a great option for organizing class resources, posting assignments, and allowing students to upload their work. However, students will also need to have a Google account before they can enroll. If this is feasible:

  1. Go to classroom.google.com and sign in
  2. Click the + sign in the top right and then “Create class”
  3. Once you’re in your class, from within the “Stream” tab you can post your video lectures, regular text posts, and multiple-choice quizzes.

You will see a code to share with students within the “Stream” tab under your course title.

When you’re ready, you can invite your students with the following instructions:

  1. Go to classroom.google.com
  2. Click “Go to Classroom” in the middle of the screen
  3. Either sign in if you already have a Google account or click “Create account” to create a new Google account
  4. From within classroom.google.com, click the + sign in the top right and then “Join class”
  5. Enter the classroom code ______.

You can see what this will look like from the student’s perspective by checking out my Google Classroom test course (code: thjptft). (If you have trouble joining, please write me so I can update this article with additional instructions.)

I will continue to add to this article, but hopefully this is enough to get you started. Please post your questions below since I know each of your situations is unique. Happy to continue doing research to help you find the best options for your students.

Stay safe and healthy!

6 thoughts on “Teaching Virtually

  1. Great tips here! No doubt if ever there was a time for people to get adept at such things, this would be it! In a way, I’m kind of glad this is being forced on us – despite the bad circumstances causing it, it’s a good skill to have going forward.

    My dad called me as he also is faced with the same dilemma but is not ready to handle it, and I imagine many others are not as well. I really was not either, but it was easier than I thought it was, especially with a bit of guidance (sort of like this article!).

    I’m doing my lectures live via Zoom rather than taping/recording them – still want students to be able to participate if possible. Granted it’s not as easy for them to be interactive as it is in the live setting, but that’s the only way in which this seems significantly different than in-person.

    That said, several of my students are not in Berkeley right now (maybe not even in the country!) so some volunteers are recording each time I lecture and putting them up on Youtube as you suggest so folks can watch it later if they are inclined/when it is more convenient for them.

    So I’m hopeful it will all work almost as well as in-person (obviously in terms of traveling and such, it will actually be more convenient). But the big question is how to deal with exams, and that’s not one that there is an easy answer to!

  2. I’m curious what you and others think about doing pre-recorded lectures vs live ones. Obviously there are advantages to each.

    I went with live since as I said, it’s still possible for students to participate, even if not as easy as in-person. But pre-recorded would allow you to edit them, make them better/more efficient in theory, plus you could make them whenever is most convenient, rather than a set time as with a live class.

    1. Regarding recording versus live-streaming, I recommend doing a mix of both: record your lectures, edit and post them, and then follow this up with a live stream after students have had a chance to watch the lecture. During the interactive live session, students can ask follow-up questions and participate in discussions. Your overall class time may even become more efficient as a result–the lecture-only (pre-recorded) part will take less time since students will not be asking questions in the middle, and then during the live, interactive part you can deep-dive into the complexities of your lecture.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience, Arun! For exams, if you are comfortable with the “take-home” exam, you could always upload the exam questions onto Google Classroom and then have students scan and upload their work to that assignment by a certain date. If you want a defined start and end time as you would have done in-person, you can let students know beforehand when the exam will be posted, and then set the due date and time to be two hours later (or however long you usually give students to complete their exam). If you also need to verify that students aren’t calling each other to discuss the answers, you could use an online proctoring service (see this article: https://blog.talview.com/a-complete-guide-to-online-remote-proctoring). If your Zoom subscription allows, you could also require your students to join the Zoom call and turn on their cameras so that you can watch them during the exam. Hope this helps!

  4. Thanks for the feedback – indeed I did think about similar things. But take-home exam is tough in math class, too easy to look things up/ask others.

    So yes I do think it would have to be a defined start/end time, and yes I could monitor them via Zoom. But with over 40 students in one class, how many can you realistically monitor at the same time? And even if the number of students wasn’t an issue, is it really going to be that hard for people to be able to do something untoward while on camera?

    No easy answer I fear which is the main thing which worries me about all this. Everything else, lecturing/homeworks, I think are not that hard to solve. But exams are a big problem!

    1. One thing you can try is to:
      1. Tell students that you will be recording them while they are taking the exam (this alone will likely discourage them from cheating)
      2. Specify what they must be showing on camera for their exam submission to qualify, e.g., at all times they must be recording their entire face and head, both hands, and the paper on which they are writing their answers

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