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Recommended NYU-supported options for remote teaching in an emergency

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Testing options overview
Holding exams online during class time
Holding exams at other times
How to minimize cheating
Taking questions from students during the exam

Open discussions in Zoom
Discussion groups + share out
Cold calling
Polls in Zoom
Forums in NYU Classes

Getting started with NYU Classes


How to Deliver a Good Online Course Without Starting From Scratch

Several faculty asked for a straightforward recipe to use when deciding which activities should stay "live" in Zoom and which are better turned into asynchronous activities for students to do on their own time. The document at the link below is designed to be a reasonably concise set of instructions that we hope will simplify the process for faculty (who, of course, can still do their own thing).  It will also make clear recommendations about other things that can be hard to decide, like how to give tests, set up NYU Classes, etc.  (Now you don't have to read the first paragraph.)

Note that when we are designing courses expressly for online learning, we start with learning objectives and build courses around them, using the synchronous and asynchronous tools best suited for the objectives.  This guide is designed to shortcut that process, so we can be ready to deliver our courses to students more quickly. (Now you don’t have to read the first footnote.)

How to Deliver a Good Online Course Without Starting From Scratch


Virtual Classroom Etiquette

Set expectations and norms for your virtual classroom, just as you would on campus. It is reasonable to expect students to turn on their cameras, be lit well enough to be recognized, log in through NYU, join class on time, keep themselves muted when they aren't speaking, etc. But it's an uphill battle if we don't set expectations from the very beginning. 

How to establish norms for your classroom:

Use of Cameras: If you’d like to ask students to turn their cameras on, you can click on each picture and send a quick request to put cameras on. Instructors on Zoom have found almost all students were able to do so when asked. This is an important norm to enforce

How to participate: Encourage students to “raise their hand” when soliciting questions or feedback from the class. This is also helpful with group presentations. By inviting students to use this feature it creates a structure to Q&A and prevents chaos. The list of participants will also show the order in which they raised hands.
Click here for a downloadable document you can share with your students to establish course norms and help them as they adjust to remote learning.


Building Community

Encouraging social interaction in your first remote class

Before class (asynchronous): Invite students to introduce themselves in the Forum and include one thing they think they already know about the subject. Make sure there is a word limit and a due date (before your live class). Before your first Zoom session, skim through the responses and choose those that you’ll incorporate into class.

During Zoom class time (synchronous): A great way to encourage social interaction is to reference student work, especially when students have posted their comments in a shared environment such as Forums or the chat in Zoom. Personalize the class by incorporating 1-2 student comments from the Forum into your mini lecture.

Making a remote class as personal as an in-person class

Looking for ways to make your remote class feel personal and inclusive for your students? Here are four ways to start creating a virtual class community. 

1. Use the forums to get to know your students. Create a topic where students can introduce themselves, tell you where they’re based, why they’re taking this class, and what they’re interested in learning  more about. 
2. Reference students by name, especially in Zoom sessions. It’s never been easier to remember your students’ names as they're displayed below their video feed. 

3. Use a survey to set up working groups. If you’d like to have your students form groups for collaborative projects, consider putting together a survey to help identify shared interests or complementary skills. 

4. If you can manage a chat and the raise hand function (through participants and chat windows) at the same time, it’s nice to encourage people to sometimes participate through the chat (instead of by raising hands) when you ask a question or would like people to add color to a particular discussion. This encourages those students who are a bit shy (who might otherwise not participate in class) to engage.

Building community and humanizing the learning experience: When students feel connected to us and to each other, they learn better and persist more. If you are live and synchronous with your students, use at least some of the time to fuel their learning with humanity.

Tip: Show up to class at least 10 minutes early and greet students. Simply saying hi to students who are there early and open to conversation goes a long way toward making it feel more intimate and engaging.

Discussion Forums in NYU Classes

At the beginning of your course, create an Introductions topic, ask students to introduce themselves to the class and share something fun or topical, and request that they respond to at least two other student introductions. Start by introducing yourself to demonstrate the format and so your students can get to know their professor. 

Structure forum topics carefully and provide instructions on what each one is for.  You might want one for questions leading up to a Zoom meeting, others with discussion prompts related to assignments, another for things they read about or experience that are related in some way to class, etc.  Require that students post and respond or include contributions in class participation. 

Short on time? Nominate a different student each week to pose a question in the Forum and be responsible for facilitating the discussion. Alternatively, ask your TF to take an active monitoring role. 

Incorporating video

Instead of having students write responses in the Forum, you could ask them to upload 2 minute videos. They can make their recordings via the NYU-supported Kaltura Capture tool and add their clips directly to their Forum posts. Set the tone by uploading a video yourself. 

Utilizing small groups

Incorporate Breakout Rooms into your live classes for small group discussions, problem solving, idea generation, etc. You can create random groups or design them based on teams or some other criterion.  

Assigning group projects

Encourage students to work in teams and collaborate on projects. Your students are able to organize their own meetings outside of class time with their NYU Zoom accounts. They can also collaborate using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.  Incorporate a confidential peer-feedback survey (here’s one you can copy) for students to rate how each member of the team contributed.

How Students Will Know You're There

Office hours

Schedule a Zoom session in NYU Classes, name it Office Hours, and invite students to join. Be clear about the purpose of your office hours and how you’ll run them. Will they be a group Q+A session? An opportunity to give personalized feedback? Or a chance to discuss proposed topics for an upcoming assignment? If you use your office hours for 1:1 conversations, specify time slots within your office hours that students can sign up for in advance. If you check the “Enable Waiting Room” setting when you schedule your office hour, students will be held in a waiting room and won’t join the meeting until you admit them which is a good option for individual meetings.  (Learn more about the waiting room here.

Weekly announcements

Announcements can be written in advance and scheduled to go out to the class at a specific day/time. We recommend drafting a weekly announcement to students to build your presence remotely. Use your announcements to welcome students to the week and get them excited about what’s coming up. 

Participating in discussion forums

Visit discussion forums to encourage and facilitate asynchronous discussions in your class. Visit the forums for a few minutes every day or two and write some personal replies to discussion threads or pose follow-up questions. Reading what students are contributing and signalling that you are present can help motivate students to engage in the forum in a thoughtful and meaningful way. 

Regular and rapid feedback

Providing feedback as regularly and quickly as possible is especially valuable in a remote environment. Here are some options to quickly and effectively provide ongoing feedback in your class:

  • Use the Assignments or Gradebook tool to provide written feedback to students.
  • Set up office hours with time slots for individual feedback.
  • Dedicate 15 minutes of class time to give generalized feedback to the group.
  • Create short feedback videos in Kaltura. Record your screen and your voice. You can display the student’s work on the screen to help visually indicate which part of the submission you’re talking about. This is fast and can be an effective way to provide personalized feedback and connection.
  • Not so much about your presence, but good for helping students know what they know are instantly graded self-tests in NYU Classes.  In a Lesson, click Add Content and, near the bottom of the list, click Add Question. 

Reflections on what happened in class

Send an announcement or post in the forum after a live class to recap some of the things you discussed, provide links to content mentioned, or pose questions for further discussion. 

Watch "Structuring a Week Online" Workshop

In this workshop we explored ideas for designing a week online. We discuss how to use NYU Classes as an organizational tool and ideas for structuring your remote class to take advantage of activities that work best asynchronously (student-paced, instructor guided) and synchronously (in a live Zoom environment). 

See our Previous “Structuring a Week Online” Workshops



Testing options overview

Testing remote students creates new challenges and makes some of the old ones worse. The biggest new one is how to accommodate students in different time zones, so we aren't asking them to take exams in the middle of their night. An older worse one is how to minimize cheating.  

You can find a list of testing options here. They are organized around the basic mechanism used and each includes an indication of how well each method is likely to achieve our accommodation and cheating objectives. Below that, you will see a list of things to watch out for.  

This is not exhaustive and some of it is quite subjective! However, it may give you some ideas.  Please let us know if you can think of other methods or have suggestions. 

Important reminder: No method can eliminate cheating. But we can reduce the incentive and increase both the effort required and risk of being caught.  Some steps are easy; others require more effort.  Students who feel respected, trusted, and fairly treated are more likely to stick with an ethical frame. Please reinforce the importance of ethics and communicate that we value fairness and have taken steps to ensure the integrity of our exams.

Holding exams online during class time

Have your students log in to Zoom, so you can keep an eye on them and take questions easily in Chat.  Be sure to set your Chat so participants can chat privately only with you or you are inviting collaboration!  (In the chat window, click three dots at the bottom and select Host Only.  If you are afraid you will forget, you can change the default in the Zoom web interface under Settings.)  For longer interactions, you can send them to a breakout room and join them there.

The Assignments tool in NYU Classes is a good option for giving exams online during class time. You can attach your exam document to the assignment and set it to open when the class would usually begin and then set it to close when the class would usually end, plus a short grace period to allow time for scanning, uploading, technical challenges, etc. If your students will need to write or draw (vs. type), they can take a photo of their work or scan it and insert it in the document or upload it separately. A good recommendation for them to scan their document with their phone is the Adobe Scan app.

Another option is to create your exam as a Google Form and share the Google Form link with your students when the exam starts in an Assignments, in chat, or by email.  The advantage of this approach is that the Google Form puts all the data (including name, response, time and date stamps) into a spreadsheet, making it easy for you and/or your TF to review the answers in one place. 


Tests & Quizzes, another NYU Classes tool, is more powerful and has several advantages, but it’s more complicated to learn and use. The four key advantages of Tests & Quizzes are that you can (1) automatically grade exams with quantitative, true/false, and multiple choice questions, (2) compare student answers by question, and (3) create pools of questions that are reusable across courses, which can be randomized so no two students in a class get the same questions.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  You will not see Tests & Quizzes as a tool in your course.  You must request that it be added using the NYU Classes Test & Quizzes Request Form

Holding exams at other times

If you are giving a standard take home exam with one start and end time for all, the Assignment tool will work for you and is the easiest.  

If you want to provide a larger window, but limit the time during which a student can work on the exam, use Tests & Quizzes. (See previous section for other features.) Under settings you will see the option “and has a time limit of…”  If you don’t want to insert each of your questions into Tests & Quizzes, select the File Upload question type. There you can add your exam as an attachment which students can complete and upload when they are done. 

Click here for detailed instructions on how to set up this type of exam in Tests + Quizzes

Click here for instructions you can share with students on how to complete a file upload exam in Tests + Quizzes

IMPORTANT NOTE: You should be able to add Tests & Quizzes to your course site by navigating to Settings > Add/Edit Tools. If you don't see Tests + Quizzes as an option in the Add/Edit Tools menu you might need to request access. You must request that it be added using the NYU Classes Test & Quizzes Request Form



How to minimize cheating

When students are able to cheat they learn less, we can’t tell how much they have learned, and it’s not fair to students who don’t.  So it’s important to show we care and do what we can. Giving exams online opens avenues to cheating typically only available to students when they are completing take home exams and other assignments. That means much of the advice is similar. 

  • Reduce the incentive to cheat by lowering the stakes. Don’t make your exam a large fraction of the final grade, a maximum of 30% and ideally less.  Give multiple smaller midterms or add other deliverables throughout the course.  Not only does it reduce the motivation to cheat, it’s better for learning. 
  • If you are giving an exam during class time, asking students to log in to Zoom and keep their cameras on may help.
  • Don’t reuse past exams. Assume that answers to most exams given in the past at Stern are already posted online in CourseHero, Chegg, etc. and have been shared in other ways. 
  • Even if you are teaching a more technical course, use Turnitin (built into the Assignment tool) in with questions that require the following:
    • Examples
    • Connections to students’ own experiences
    • Connections to current events
    • Explanations, interpretations & justifications
    • Other kinds of prose answers
    • Answers that draw specifically on content unique to your course
    • Answers that draw on your speakers, class discussions, original cases, etc.
  • Give each student or group of students a different test.  (In NYU Classes. create groups of students in Settings.)
    • Draw questions randomly from a pool.  (If you are using a publisher’s test bank, alter the question wordings slightly.  Assume that all test bank questions are posted online in CourseHero, Chegg and others, so make the answers harder to find.)
    • Alter the questions by changing a digit in each or using random multipliers.
    • Include N numbers or NetIDs in the questions, so the answers will be specific to each student.
    • Change a key digit in each problem
    • Vary the question order (generally not enough by itself).
  • Make each exam question or set of questions a different test and don’t make the subsequent set of questions available until answers to the prior subtest has been submitted.  This limits Googling for answers and collaboration, while allowing for the interruptions that are more likely when students aren’t sitting in a classroom.  (You can set that up in Assignments or, if you want a larger window for each subtest or the whole set, in Tests & Quizzes.)
  • If you are giving your exam during class time, require that students keep their cameras on and add a grace period at the end, after which the exam is considered late. 
  • If you are allowing students a larger window within which they have a shorter elapsed time limit to provide some latitude in when they work on the exam, make it a modest window of, say, 12 hours. (See section above on Holding exams at other times.)


Discussions | In Class & Asynchronous

When you have online discussions with your class, in Zoom or asynchronously using threaded discussion, there will be some differences. Below are some things to consider and tools that may help things run smoothly.

Open discussions in Zoom

You may find that at least initially your students need more of a prompt to know when you expect them to jump in with a response. And then it may take them more time to say something. If you are asking them to raise their hands, they may be navigating from taking notes to the hand raise button. You can also ask them to comment in Chat. You may be surprised by how much more willing some students are to use chat than they were to speak up in class.

Tip: Ask students to generate ideas in the Chat. As they are doing so, acknowledge what you’re seeing and point out themes.

Group discussions + share out

You can use the breakout groups tool in Zoom to create small discussion groups for in-depth conversations about a particular question you pose. Then bring the groups back to the main session to share with the entire class what they discussed or concluded. Be very clear about how much time each group will have to speak and stick to this time (almost everything seems to take longer in the virtual space).

Consider only having students in these sessions for a short time, say 15 minutes. After they share out, you can send them back into groups with the next discussion prompt. Zoom will retain your breakout room structure, but you can also reset the rooms if you want to mix it up.

Tip: Because of pre-planned polling and time in break out rooms, remote case discussions need to be structured a bit more rigidly than they would in a classroom. It’s advisable to create new case teaching notes with rough times when you will ask certain questions, how long students will spend in breakouts rooms, the amount of time each group has to talk when reporting back, and again, plan for everything to take longer than you think.

Cold calling

Ask the entire group a question, then give them a few minutes to think about their answer. If you ask them to put their responses in the chat, you can scan them to find students you would like to call on to elaborate, or just cold call on a random student and ask for their thoughts. If they are confused or unable to answer, see if another student can improve on their answer before answering yourself. 

Polls in Zoom

Create a poll asking students how they view a particular issue or question and share the poll results with the group before starting your discussion. 

The easiest way to do it on the fly is to ask a Yes/No question aloud and have students click Yes or No under Manage Participants.

If you want questions that have other kinds of answers, go to the Control Panel, click Polls, and then Add a Question.  A browser window will open to allow you to create a poll in the Zoom web interface.  

If you know how you will want to use polls before the class begins, it’s easiest to set them up in advance.  

  1. Click on your scheduled meeting in the Zoom web interface (nyu.zoom.us).  
  2. At the bottom of the page you will see where you can create a poll by clicking Add.  
Pre-plan as many polls as possible before class. But, don’t be afraid to quickly make a poll on the spot if an interesting question gets raised by a student. When setting up your poll you’ll notice that it can be anonymous.

When you are in class and ready to give students your poll, click Polls in the control panel and then Launch Polling.

Tip: For case discussions you can leave the poll open and see how answers change (encourage them to do so) on key questions - for example, should company A buy company B?

Note: Students who join through their browsers, rather than the (downloaded and installed) Zoom application, will not see polls.

Breakout Rooms + Polling: Master Advanced Zoom Features Workshop

In this workshop we’ll cover how the breakout rooms and polling functionality works in Zoom and explore how these features can be most effectively utilized in your class. 

See our Previous “Breakout Rooms + Polling: Master Advanced Zoom Features Workshop”

Forums in NYU Classes

You can ask your students to have an entire discussion using NYU Classes forums. This works best if they are responding to specific prompts provided by you. Alternatively, ask students to use a forum to respond to your question(s) before they join your Zoom session. Now you have many of their responses to look at and structure your lecture around before they arrive. 

Watch “Online Discussion: Synchronous and Asynchronous” Workshop

In this workshop we’ll share ideas for building community virtually. We’ll share some strategies and tools for helping to spark discourse during your Zoom classes (synchronously) and ways to keep the conversation flowing outside of live class time (asynchronously). 

See our Previous “Online Discussion: Synchronous and Asynchronous” Workshop


NYU Classes

NYU Classes can be a good option for delivering content asynchronously.

Use NYU Classes to organize content, link to resources, and gather information in one place. It's also a good way to communicate with students and set up assignments.