Join the USC Aiken Keep Teaching Continuity Organization on Blackboard for more helpful resources, the latest announcements, and to engage directly with USC Aiken Distance Learning staff. To join the organization, you should log into Blackboard first, click the link, click “Enroll” on the left hand side and then “submit.” You will now be a participant in the organization.

If you need to teach from home or office, what academic resources will you need to conduct your classes? Essential teaching resources fall into three categories: technology, academic content, and student information. Locate these early and ensure you can access copies from your home. Further information on these resources can found in the sections below. 

  • Ensure that you have a home computer and/or work laptop with charger, microphone, webcam, and necessary software packages for completing course delivery.
  • Confirm that you have remote access to Blackboard, Yuja (video capture, as needed), Self-Service Carolina, and Degreeworks (for advising).
  • Determine if you need to set your office phone to forward to your home, and consider call forwarding in advance, so you do not need to share your personal phone number with students. Contact the Division of Computer Services for more information on phones and voicemail.

Depending on how analog or digital your individual course preparation is, you may already be prepared with complete course materials up in Blackboard, or you may need to plan ways to convert paper processes into electronic modes of delivery for working with your students remotely. You should make the following preparations:

    • Locate, sync, and gather your course preparation files, exams, lecture notes, research resources, and other materials necessary for you to develop or deliver lectures or create PowerPoints from home. Consider using Google Drive to sync your content across multiple devices via a single account.
    • Compile your course rubrics, grade calculators, records of student work, and past student work samples for sharing with students to answer questions or give examples.
    • Make scans of paper-based handouts and other materials that you can send to yourself, so those materials can be uploaded into Blackboard if you cannot meet in class to share materials.
    • Note on accessibility: As the instructor, you are responsible for accessibility of the content in your course. If you require assistance making your documents accessible in Blackboard, please contact the Office of Distance Learning. 

Learn more about Accessibility

  • Even if you teach face-to-face, you still have access to a Blackboard shell for your course. You can find your student rosters and send out class announcements for communication.
  • Download a detailed class list under Faculty Course Information in Self-Service Carolina. Click on each student's name for phone and contact information in case you need to reach students by phone.
  • Maintain an accurate and up-to-date Blackboard Grade Center to make regular progress updates to students and to convert analog grades to electronic grades that you and your students can access securely even at a distance. Contact the Office of Distance Learning at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for help setting up your Grade Center in Blackboard.

Create a Communication Plan

Communication during a disruption is key to keeping students on track and overcoming barriers to learning due to stress and external circumstances. In case of prolonged campus closure, you will need to communicate regularly with students about assignments, procedures, course expectations, and ongoing progress toward course goals. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety and help you streamline your communication strategy should the unexpected occur.

Communicate early and often: Let students know about changes or disruptions while you are still seeing students in the classroom, outline your communication plan should you need to switch to remote teaching strategies. Let students know how you plan to communicate with them, and how often. Show them the areas in Blackboard where they can expect to find your communications, and tell them how often you will expect them to check their email and how quickly they can expect your response. 

Encourage students to share with you their communication needs: Take this time to find out from students how many of them will be accessing the course through their smartphone only if the campus needs to close. How many will have unstable Wi-Fi networks and may need to work in a store parking lot to complete work? Have the students make recommendations on how to connect to their courses in areas with strong cell service or places with public Wi-Fi.

Manage your communications load: Expect that some students will want to talk to you on the phone, while others are happy with email or Blackboard announcements. Some may need more guidance that can best be accomplished through video chat using Blackboard Collaborate. Know your capabilities and share your lines of communication with students in advance. Let students know they might get a group reply to a great question if the answer could help the whole class, but avoid identifying the original student as the source of the question. 

Email Tool

Blackboard has an email tool for communicating with individuals and groups, especially when you want recipients to have the opportunity to reply to your messages. The easiest way to send email to the whole class is to use the Create Announcement tool in Blackboard, then select the "send email immediately" option. You can have Blackboard send a copy of the message to you for your records.

If you prefer to use Office 365 for email, be sure to confirm your students' middle name or email address to avoid sending emails to the wrong John Smith, for example. You can find a full list of student email addresses in the Blackboard Control Panel under Users and Groups / Users.


Announcements

The Blackboard Announcements tool offers a great way to provide updates. By selecting the "email a copy of this announcement immediately" option, you can ensure that students can find your announcement both in their inbox and when they enter your Blackboard course. Announcements will show up in the “Home Page” section of your course by default. To make sure that students see new announcements when they access your course, add an Announcements menu item in Blackboard and set your course entry point to "Announcements." Then encourage students to check there first for answers before emailing you.


Blackboard Collaborate for Live Audio or Video Conferencing

On occasion, you may need to communicate with an individual or a group of students in real time. The Blackboard Collaborate Ultra tool is a great way to share screens, video, audio, live chat, or even whiteboards and files. You and your students can access Blackboard Collaborate from any device, and there is even a phone-only option for users without smartphones. You'll need a headset, or a microphone and speakers for audio, and a webcam for video. If you want to jump right in to learn more about supported video conferencing tools, please review the following resources:


Remote Teaching Support

The most satisfying and meaningful part of teaching is interacting with students as you help them reach new levels of academic achievement. Sustaining your passion and their engagement outside of class takes some planning and consideration. The decision tree below will help you identify the most useful and feasible strategies for adapting your teaching into a remote teaching environment.

Are you comfortable with using the microphone and/or webcam on your computer?
  • Yes: Blackboard Collaborate Ultra may be the solution for you. You can set up a Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session  and hold class sessions synchronously at the same time as scheduled with students participating through audio, video, or chat as they would normally in a face-to-face class. Collaborate sessions can be recorded for those students who may be unable to attend at the regular time, and everyone in the class has access automatically through the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra Tool. Students can even download and participate through the Blackboard Collaborate Mobile App. **Consider making a Collaborate menu item in Blackboard for fast access.
  • Yes: Yuja Lecture Capture software is built into Blackboard and can be used to record and deliver video lectures. These lectures can be edited and shared with your students. Additionally, Yuja Video Conferencing is also another supported tool built into Blackboard that has the same functionality as Blackboard Collaborate Ultra but you may find the user experience suits your preferences.
  • No: Preparing course resources, PowerPoints, and other files in advance to upload into Blackboard and share with students may be the best way for you to share your instructional materials. Establish an organizational structure (e.g. folders by date, or single files labeled by date and topic) and create a course content area in Blackboard for "Lecture Materials" or "Course Content," then show students how to find it in an announcement or email. 
Do you interact with your face-to-face classes in ways that do not translate well into PowerPoint presentations or mini-lectures?
  • Yes, and I am comfortable with producing audio/video: Again, synchronous meetings in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra may be the best way for you to sustain your teaching and learning community remotely. This solution requires that you and your students learn just one tool then work together during regularly scheduled class time to maintain the class dynamic you already developed. 
  • Yes, but I am not comfortable with producing audio/video: If your classes are structured around student-faculty and student-student interaction, but you are not comfortable with using audio/video to sustain that dynamic remotely, explore other resources to provide multimedia content. Consider Ted Talks, Yale or MIT Open course resources, or the Gregg-Graniteville library databases Films on Demand and Academic Video Online. Then set up rich discussion questions within Blackboard to keep the conversation going.
  • No: No problem. Stick with the teaching style that works for you. If you regularly present using PowerPoints and lecture-style notes, keep up your same strategy.

Do you regularly use interactive lectures to convey information? 

  • Yes, and I am comfortable producing audio/video materials of my own: You are a great candidate for lecture capture and screen capture with Yuja. If you already have video files you can simply drag them into Yuja and share them with your students. With Yuja Lecture Capture, you can film yourself using a Webcam or phone then switch to sharing your screen to show students PowerPoint slides, details of a case study, a map, figure, diagram, chart, or image of course content, or any other material that you might lecture about face-to-face. Yuja also allows you to embed quizzes, conversations, comments, and other assignments directly within Blackboard through the Blackboard Tools feature. Contact the Office of Distance Learning to learn more about interactive lectures.
  • Yes, but I am not comfortable producing my own audio/video materials: Posting your PowerPoint and adding lecture notes (Click to Add Notes on the bottom of the screen) that students can read along with the slides can be an effective way to convey course content, especially if you add a short content quiz in Blackboard to confirm students' ability to retrieve information or add a discussion board assignment that asks them to apply your lecture information to a particular case, example, or problem. 
  • No: If your courses are highly collaborative, interactive, and not rooted in lecturing, then you may need to set up interactive spaces in Blackboard like wikis or blogs, or shared OneDrive files where students can carry out interactions remotely and asynchronously until you can be back in the classroom again. 
Do you use frequent formative assessments to track student progress during class?
  • The easiest way to adapt your formative assessments to Blackboard is to create an activity that requires students to upload a file (word, PowerPoint, pdf, etc.) in response to your prompt. If your formative assessments are more interactive, and you want students to see each other’s responses, then use the Discussion Board. Remember that the Discussion Board does not need to be a free-form reflection and response like a conversation. It can be a targeted task that you just want the students to be able to share with each other and learn from each other’s responses. You do not need to require an initial post and a response to someone else for a discussion board to work effectively in helping students achieve small learning goals.
  • If your class is structured around long periods of lecture, discussion, or problem-solving punctuated by a few high stakes tests, papers, or projects, you are going to want to add in some opportunities to check in with students weekly while teaching remotely. Discussion boards, like “Frequently Asked Questions” are the easiest way to implement a quick question, application of a discrete course skill or concept, solution to a problem, or comparison of some element of course content. You can give quick feedback on just the content application without worrying about all the details of a formal paper, and both you and your students will be better able to monitor progress until you can meet face-to-face again.

Will you have to administer an exam during a prolonged absence? 

  • Blackboard does have testing built in so if you have the ability to add tests, import tests, generate tests from word documents, and set restrictions to a test. Although USC Aiken does have proctoring services available but those services cost money and you may have to make changes to your syllabus and communicate any new costs to students. Please review Distance Learning’s proctoring services information guide.
  • Many of your students may be working from smartphones or tablets only until campus computer labs reopen, so avoid adding unnecessary challenges that students will not have the on-campus support to overcome. Consider how you could make your test meaningful in an open-book, take-home structure. Or look at using randomized questions from a larger test bank and setting an appropriate time limit for the test to limit the amount of time students might have to look up answers inappropriately. Consider using high stakes tests to pose higher order questions that require analysis, application, explanation, or synthesis instead of recall and identifications. You may shift your grading burden by giving meaningful feedback on short answers or essay questions, but if you are also decreasing your time on content delivery due to class cancellations, such a shift may be worth it to maintain student success. 

Will you need to collect and comment on a major paper or project while the campus is closed? 

  • Yes: Create an assignment in Blackboard to allow students to upload their files directly into your course and avoid flooding your emails with assignments. Set assignment options to take 2 or more attempts in case students forget their works cited or accidentally upload the wrong file the first time around. Then, explore Blackboard tools for commenting directly on papers and presentations using the highlighting and commenting options. Or add your assignment rubrics into Blackboard and grade using your rubric directly in the Blackboard app. 
  • No: Great, but don't forget to use your communication strategies to remind students of what is coming when they return to campus. The remote sessions may be a great time to ask students to submit a paper thesis, project abstract, sample source, or another discrete task necessary for the completion of the larger project looming on the horizon. 

Will you need to create some spaces for class discussions and interactions while the campus is closed? 

  • Yes: Create Discussions in Blackboard to allow opportunities for all your students to interact and discuss the topics relevant to your lessons. Online discussions provide unique benefits. Because students can take time to ponder before they post ideas, you may see more thoughtful conversations. You can observe as students demonstrate their grasp of the material and correct misconceptions.
  • No: Great, but don't forget to use your communication strategies to remind students of what is coming when they return to campus. The remote sessions may be a great time to conduct some engaging class discussions. the Office of Financial Aid to discuss the situation.