Note: I have edited the original post in a couple places. I have decided some of my content should be synchronous and adjusted my outline accordingly.

I have started to think about how to move my face-to-face course online/remote quickly. I certainly don’t intend this to replace the many good webinars you are probably hearing about from publishers and professional organizations now. And this series will assume some familiarity with Moodle. (I expect crash courses and peer mentoring will be a lot of what happens during extended spring break). And I realize that all of you will have different levels of expertise from recent online teaching experience to where-is-HFCOnline? I hope some of you find my experiences helpful.

Here is my plan to crash into online education in a week:

  1. Choose a backbone for delivering the course: Will you use publisher sofware? Will you record short videos? Will you have a suggested reading and video list? Will you deliver content live using BigBlueButton in HFCOnline or Zoom outside of it? (This will actually come second for me because I am getting some password help with stale accounts from some publishers).
  2. Organize Moodle: I suggest weekly task lists. Some instructors prefer organizing by modules. I usually like weeks because it goes with the other cycles in most students’ lives. I am absolutely using weeks now because I think I can get a week or two ahead of the students by working hard this week, but I doubt I can get an entire quarter of the class in front of them.
  3. Outline a Week (Unit): I would do this video now but I as I wrote above I am still deciding between two products. Basically, the first week will have half the work of a regular week. I will have students post a reply to a question like “What online work have you done before? How did it go? What suggestions do you have for others?”. I will have them set up accounts (if needed) on publisher software. I will have them do one section in the publisher software. I will have them complete an assignment in Moodle (using the Moodel Quiz feature or the turn in assignment feature). I will have them do an interactive forum activity. Most weeks they will do all that for two sections. Account set up can be messy though and you and your students need time to allow for that.
  4. Send a “Welcome” letter: It seems strange to welcome folks to a class that is slightly over half done but since the rules and expectations will change slightly I must. I have sent a pre-welcome letter letting students know to expect the welcome letter on Wednesday. I imagine many are anxious about the changes and would welcome any certainty- even if it is just, “We can do this and you’ll hear more by March 23.”

My Welcome Letter Points (Subject to change)

Here is how to set up any needed accounts
Twice weekly we will have brief live meetings using BigBlueButton
Here are the deadlines (I will just pick a consistent day and time each week for things to be due. The Tuesday/Thursday class meeting days are pretty meaningless now).
Here is how the homework scores will be done now (some online in publisher software and some through Moodle quizzes for me)
Here is how a typical week will go
Here is how we will test (I will designate a day which is the formal test day. This day will be a day the class used to meet so students have no excuse not to be able to test that day. Ideally these would be proctored. I will instead make the first question a summary of an honor code for that test and require them to type a sentence saying they agree to follow the code.)
You should be caught up once a week or you are going to have trouble
This will likely not go completely smoothly. Contact me with any concerns as this is not what I expected either and I want it to go well for you.

This post is getting longer than I intended. Let me close with three points. First,to my colleague who may remain anonymous if she chooses or who may choose to out herself in the comments for credit: You were right. We should have made an online template of questions for Math 131. I believe my penance will come this week. Second, if others want to comment on their experience that might be helpful. Remember however that this is a public blog. Anyone with the URL can see it so do not post anything you would not want students to read. Finally, I chose the zombie picture because I own a license to use it, it includes the brain, and I expect we will all feel like zombies for the first two weeks of this. Teaching online does get better though. By the third or fourth week it will only be exhausting. We can do this!

Here is my first brief video of my experience converting the course to online. It is step 2 above:


Captioned version:



10 thoughts on “Moving to Remote Learning Quickly

  1. Jeff, thanks for starting this conversation and for the encouragement that “we can do this.”
    I tend to think in modules or units for content, but will be changing my “packaging” to weeks, for the reasons you mention.
    My courses (Math 115 and Math 165) have online homework already, so I will be utilizing that more heavily. I also have been using Moodle for posting documents and grades. I need to learn more about using the quiz feature, and will probably need quite a bit of time building questions that I think are more critical thinking focused and that students will be less likely to “easily” answer by utilizing electronic helps.
    I think I want to create my own videos, especially for Math 165. Camtasia is the only software I have really heard of. I’m hesitant to invest in software or hardware tools (like a microphone) until I learn what resources the College has or is planning to quickly invest in.
    I m curious what suggestions colleagues have about creating videos and resources, software, etc.
    I sent my students an email Friday, not really a welcome letter (but I will do that this week now that Jeff suggested it), but just an outreach to say things are going to be different, I don’t have everything figured out yet, and I will keep them updated. I received a number of responses, all positive, and indicating a willingness to work to make this work. We are all in these uncharted waters together.
    Echoing Jeff, we can do this together.


    1. I use SnagIt to make my videos. Then I upload them to Youtube to get the captioning they need. I generallymake both available as I like the look of the MP4 but understand the need of some viewers for the captioning and the convenience of others for the captioning.

      I bought a cheap logi headset with microphone. It is acceptable quality at my budget point.

      There are some Yuja experts on campus who could help you use that I’m sure.


  2. Thanks for the blog. I’m concerned for students who attend class, participate in class discussions, and complete assignments but may have trouble with accessing online instruction. I have been using Moodle already for these classes. Most students use Moodle to monitor grades and to view session recaps. However, my concern is with students who might find the move from traditional classroom to on-line instruction too complicated of a transition. I believe there are a few who haven’t activated their Outlook accounts as well. Any feedback is appreciated.


    1. I’m sure there are others currently teaching online who can give better replies. But I’m afraid you are right. The first couple weeks of online instruction can be messy. Most students catch right on, a few catch on with a little help, and a couple need a lot of guidance.

      Setting short deadlines can help. It forces students to not procrastinate and lets you know who might be having trouble. I really worry about procrastination since these are students who may have selected face-to-face because they knew they needed the extra motivation.

      I’m trying to reinforce to students that I know they can do this for a few weeks. I’m also turning up my empathy and sympathy dials for a few weeks.


  3. Thanks Jeff for posting your tips! I’ve set up my classes with weekly sections, and I find it helpful for organization. I too sent an email to my students letting them know I would have more information for them next week. I also included a link to the HFC coronavirus page. — Not all of my students have computers at home, and they may not have data plans on their phones that accommodate the needs of online learning. Also, factors that may affect students’ ability to do school work are their kids being home from school and overall stress from societal changes brought on by the virus. Many of our students are probably going through a range of emotions right now, and being faced with online classes they didn’t choose, could be frustrating. — I’m being mindful of any social emotional stress and letting my students know that their health comes first. — Here’s a link I’ve found helpful that has information about moving to online classes:


  4. A colleague made a good point to me via email. Since these students did not sign up for online learning some synchronous learning might be appreciated. Some focus in the next week could go on using any Moodle features for synchronous learning or using a platform like Zoom.


  5. This is a helpful starting point, Jeff. I’m perfectly comfortable with video and document creation, but I’ve always been an in-person instructor and have no experience with HFC Online, so this will be an interesting challenge. I appreciate you sharing these thoughts.

    For my part, I’ve been thinking about

    1) how to streamline my existing lessons/assignments/schedule and distill my “regular” course plan into an “essentials-only” model that focuses on the remaining course goals and objectives (this is “remote learning,” not an “online class”; I can’t worry about covering every detail, but should try to hit the main points);

    2) how to deliver that in the simplest possible format for *required* lesson/assignments/activities (I’m thinking low-bandwidth documents, esp. for those with no wifi and limited cell data, and asynchronous discussion threads); and

    3) how to offer additional *optional* material to supplement that basic content for those who are able to access it (video instruction, scheduled synchronous video conference chats, virtual office hours).

    I need to play around in HFC Online (Moodle? What are we calling it these days?) and figure out how to set up discussion threads, establish deadlines, etc. Please tell me the learning curve is shallow!


    1. The learning curve is shallow.

      I think your tech skills are better than mine. I was able to figure it all out quickly.

      If you are stuck it is probably some eccentricity in the software. Email Glenn rather than floundering.


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