Planning Strategies

The information in this planning section will provide you with some key questions, strategies, ideas and resources as you begin to review and edit your course syllabus and schedule when needing to quickly transition your course to an online methodology.

Questions for Planning

When you are facing a short- or long-term disruption to campus activities, you may be asked to make quick changes. In these times, it is important to start simple. Ask yourself the following questions: Can I…

  • Postpone – Do all my planned activities need to occur on the same timeline?
  • Adapt – What changes to materials, deadlines, or assignments can be made to accommodate the disruption?
  • Substitute – What materials, activities, and assignments can be moved to an online format and which need to be replaced?
  • Support – What do my students need to meet the challenges we face?

Examples of these changes may be modification or removal of activities, assignments or materials from the course, adjustment of the course schedule to accommodate longer activity timelines (such as online discussions), development of short recorded videos on specific content, hosting class discussions in Zoom, etc.

Consider your Students’ Situations

Remember that students are facing a large disruption not only in the course delivery, but also in access to resources and potentially in their living situations.  Maintaining the security of high-stakes quantitative exams is more challenging in online versus onsite courses.  Consider methods for monitoring or proctoring online students or consider alternative methods of assessment.  Remember to communicate any of these changes to students with as much advance notice as possible.

Universal Design

When creating your D2L Brightspace course in this time, remember that you're not trying to create a Quality Matters ready course.  That said, you do want to try to ensure that the Brightspace environment, your materials, and assignments can be accessed, understood, and used by all students to the greatest extent possible.  We can help you that as we work with you on your ideas.  You can find more information about Universal Design principles from the National Disability Authority.

Adapting Course Content

If you need to adapt course materials and activities to accommodate a period of time teaching at a distance, the options below suggest some high-impact practices that will focus your effort, using the tools readily available to you and your students.

Remember, keep expectations realistic for you and for your students. It takes significant time and planning to develop a fully online course. Even then, online faculty will tell you that they make frequent modifications to improve their course over time. The suggestions provided will give you a starting point for building a valuable online experience.

My class primarily uses:

Quick Start

Use Zoom to hold your lectures online during your scheduled class time. Record the session and add a link to the recording to the appropriate module in your Brightspace course for students who are not able to attend.

Additional Options

  • Create an open question/answer discussion board in Brightspace and encourage students to ask questions there first and help each other when possible to reduce your email response load.
  • Record your lecture using Kaltura Capture and create an accompanying Brightspace quiz or other assignment to check for understanding.
  • Hold virtual office hours in Zoom for students to ask questions or get feedback.

Support Resources:

Quick Start

Create a threaded discussion in Brightspace. This can work for a number of different types of discussions – a question to debate, a prompt for students to share experiences or opinions, a case study analysis, or reflections on readings.

Consider how you will connect with your students as you introduce the discussion. This can be done in writing or with a short video to introduce the topic. When writing your prompts, be sure to include detailed instructions, be explicit about how students should participate and what you’re looking for in their responses and expectations for civility.

Additional Options
  • Be present in the discussions to ask challenging questions, redirect students’ ideas to the class resources, or clarify any misconceptions.
  • Use the Groups feature in Brightspace and create small group discussions.
  • Summarize strengths and clear up any remaining misconceptions you saw in the threads.

Support Resources

Quick Start

Consider how you may need to adapt your small group work by identifying activities that are essential. Create small student groups of 4-8 who can work together on activities. Be sure to assign specific roles or have the groups define their roles to ensure participation. 

Additional Options
  • Create a group discussion area as a workspace for each activity where students can interact, problem solve, and share resources and materials.
  • Assign specific work (report, notes, draft, etc.) for the group to create. Build in assessment for participation and teamwork.
  • For smaller classes, it may be more effort to organize group activities than to assign a modified, individual activity.
  • For larger classes, consider using the auto-assign option to quickly sort large numbers of students into manageable groups.
  • Debrief after the activity to highlight key takeaway points and connect the activity to other course material and concepts. Consider using the video tool for this debrief.

Support Resources


Quick Start

Begin by working with your instructional team to determine what lab activity is crucial for your course. Can you adapt simple labs to be done at home? Can you adapt labs by providing video demonstrations of labs and having students do lab reports? 

Additional Options
  • Consider some of the online lab simulations that are available. Many companies like are helping with integration of virtual labs at a reduced cost.
  • Provide data sets you would have expected them to generate in the lab and have them provide an analysis, explanation, or report.
  • If students can conduct labs/experiments at home, be sure to have them record their process with video.

Support Resources

  • Contact TLT or ACE for assistance with working with potential vendors

Examples: Performance arts, studio and physical activity courses, field experience, and clinical courses

Quick Start

Be upfront with yourself and your students that this is less than ideal for this type of course. Let them know that you are doing your best with a difficult situation. Be open to student ideas, suggestions, and needs for how to make things work. In adapting activities, be sure to identify the skills and concepts you want students to learn for the period of time that classes are disrupted. 

Additional Options
  • For activities where a skill is practiced or a technique is demonstrated, ask students to practice on their own as possible.
  • Ask students to take a video of their technique/performance and submit it for feedback.
  • Students can practice their skill and submit a log of time, activity, and reflection of their challenges and successes.
  • Provide videos of specific skills to students, and have them define key terms or movements, predict outcomes, critique mistakes in the demonstration, or suggest improvements.

Support Resources

Examples: internships, independent study, thesis/dissertation work

Quick Start

These types of courses will have unique needs and challenges. You may be able to make arrangements and update individual schedules. You can still utilize Brightspace as a communication hub. Be flexible and aware of any interruptions within internship sites, access to research materials. 

Additional Options
  • Work with individual students to establish a reasonable combination of delayed and/or modified expectations and the required documentation.
  • Work with your librarians to be sure students will have access to the research materials needed to complete research work.

Support Resources