Minor disruptions to teaching and learning may be infrequent, but they are not uncommon. Severe weather, utilities outages, even unexpected facilities maintenance can all cause students to miss out on crucial instructional hours in the traditional classroom. And while not ideal, these kinds of disruptions are usually brief, which means students can easily stay on track with only a few adjustments to curriculum by instructors.

But what about campus shutdowns that last for a few days, or longer with no definitive end date? 

What may have once been rare, worst-case-scenarios that could jeopardize knowledge retention and the mastery of critical subjects over the course of a semester, and even delay graduation for students, have recently become reality for a growing number of universities across the world. 

Just last year, colleges in Hong Kong shut down amid escalating anti-government protests and social unrest that had erupted throughout the city. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), which became a flash point for clashes between demonstrators and police, closed its campus for more than a month and shortened its academic term.

Natural disasters have also increased in severity and frequency in many parts of the world. In November 2019, brush fires raged through parts of Australia forcing dozens of colleges to close. Typhoons and hurricanes, too, continue to threaten campuses from Japan to the United States, often forcing students and staff to evacuate ahead of an approaching storm and then return days or even weeks later once hazards from extreme winds and flooding are mitigated.

And today, as a new public health crisis unfolds globally, universities everywhere are preparing to take action for the safety of their campus communities. An outbreak of a new respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has not only impacted tens of thousands of people in China, but also hundreds of people internationally in locations that at the time of writing include: Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, India, Iran, Australia, United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, and the United States.

Coronavirus Forces An Unprecedented Wave Of Campus Shutdowns

Universities closest to the coronavirus outbreak across China and other parts of Asia have already had to cancel classes and close their campuses. Students living in close proximity and hundreds of close day-to-day interactions among campus community members make universities particularly susceptible to the spread of infections and viral diseases. The National University of Singapore (NUS) recently suspended all classes and activities with more than 50 participants on NUS campuses. Other universities in Singapore are on high alert, planning for possible shutdowns. Again in Hong Kong, all schools have been directed to remain closed until at least mid-April. In South Korea, Korea University has revised the dates for its spring semester, delaying the start and end dates by two weeks. And in Japan, local authorities have declared a state of emergency and ordered all schools to shut down until early April.

As administrators at educational institutions worldwide closely monitor news about the coronavirus, contingency plans are being rapidly developed on nearly every campus in preparation for the potential impact the virus may have on both campus operations and individual students personally affected by the epidemic.

Instructors Turn To Technology To Keep Students Learning Remotely

In the face of canceled classes and prolonged campus closures, more and more institutions are opting to keep students on track through online learning.

Digital technologies, such as learning management systems (LMSs), video platforms, and video conferencing, have all become essential educational tools over the past decade — used in various ways by educators to enhance teaching and learning both in the traditional classroom and the virtual classroom. 

  • Learning management systems provide a digital hub for courses where students can access digital course materials and communications from the instructor, participate in course-related chats, and interact directly with their instructors online.
  • Video platforms enable instructors to capture and securely share searchable, learning-optimized course videos and lecture recordings with students who can watch and review comprehensive learning materials on-demand. A video platform such as Panopto can also broadcast live multi-stream video lectures to students through an interactive video player.
  • Video conferencing is used by instructors to deliver live lectures virtually, engage in real-time class discussions online, and hold office hours for students remotely.

When it comes to distance learning, perhaps one of the greatest challenges is designing a virtual learning experience that lives up to the experience students get in a physical classroom. In a classroom students can see the teacher, their slides, white boards, and even live demonstrations. And offering a remote learning experience that is on par with in-class learning is ultimately as important as employing pedagogy that is designed to engage remote learners.

Together, an LMS, a video platform, and a video conferencing solution offer a robust set of flexible tools that can help instructors create an engaging and effective online learning experience for remote students. These often readily-available technologies can even make it relatively easy for instructors to stand up online learning in lieu of traditional in-class sessions on the fly. 

Enabling Online Learning At The Speed of Light

When face-to-face learning isn’t possible, learning online through video is the next best thing. What’s more, the rise in the use of blended learning methods that frequently incorporate video into traditional campus courses adds extra credit to ever-mounting evidence that video can help deepen learning and thus contribute to improved student outcomes.

While distance learning is indeed far more prevalent than it once was, most courses taught on campus are not pedagogically designed to be delivered remotely and many still do not employ video-based blended learning content. Effective teaching online requires more than simply presenting your lessons to students live in a video conference; online course design often includes on-demand video lessons, active learning discussions and assignments, and regular interaction and feedback from instructors.

So how can you and your faculty execute a quick transition to online learning when an unexpected need arises? 

Lean on your university’s digital learning technologies. With the LMS as the central hub for course updates, instructor-student communications, digital course content, and assignments, your video communications tools provide the other capabilities you need to effectively deliver both live and on-demand instruction online and adapt courses for distance learning as needed. 

When you need to take teaching online fast, use the following ideas for leveraging your digital learning technologies and instructional design best practices for distance learning, together, to make smart adjustments that work for both you and your students.

7 Tips For Quickly Adapting Courses For Remote Learning

1. Share recorded lectures online 

Many universities today automatically capture and archive class lectures in a secure online video library — if this is you, you may already have recordings of past lectures you can share and assign students to watch. If not, recording a new lecture video that maintains the in-class experience can also be done with just a few clicks and the computer or smartphone you’re currently using. Capture yourself presenting, your slides, and even a screenshare in one multi-stream lecture video that students can watch from anywhere on any device at any time. Searchable, on-demand lecture videos can also offer a number of extra benefits to students including the ability to:

  • Slow down or rewind the video to watch part of it or even the entire video over again
  • Toggle between video streams to focus on the view they want to see at that moment
  • Turn on closed captions to improve their comprehension and retention of the subject matter
  • Show what they learned and practice applying new skills by completing quizzes inside videos 

Watch a multi-stream lecture video captured with Panopto’s video platform >>

2. Present a lecture live online

Presenting an already prepared lecture or lesson in a live video conference is perhaps the quickest solution for keeping students on track in the event class can’t meet face-to-face in a physical classroom. 

Students simply join a video conference in which their instructor shows slides or a screen share while presenting live — students can even chat with instructors through text or by unmuting. The downside to presenting in a video conference includes interruptions from unmuted lines and students entering and exiting the call during the lecture, background noise from attendees speaking in noisy locations, and potentially overlapping and chaotic engagement in larger classes.

You can also live stream a lecture to students online at the regular class time with a video platform. Similar to a video conference, you can present multiple streams of video content simultaneously, giving students the same rich learning experience they would get in a classroom. Students can’t speak during the broadcast, though they can ask questions and leave comments through live chat which eliminates any unintended interruptions during your presentation. 

A video platform can enhance the live online learning experience for students in other ways, too: Live DVR controls enable viewers to join late and start from the beginning, pause the live stream and continue from where they left off, and even rewind to hear a part of the lecture again. And since a video platform automatically records the live stream, students can rewatch the lecture again as soon as it ends, plus anyone who missed the live lecture can watch on-demand.

3. Create microlearning videos

Instructors invest a lot of time in structuring and designing lectures that can keep students in a classroom engaged for an hour; when presented online, these efforts run a greater risk of falling short. Research has shown that most students won’t watch an hour-long lecture video in one sitting. In fact, one study put the optimal length for instructional videos at 6 minutes or less. Breaking lessons into chunks of shorter videos, often referred to as microlearning, enables students to fully engage with one topic at a time, with breaks in between to help minimize cognitive overload

Content for microlearning is typically designed by breaking a large concept down into smaller laser-focused learning objectives. In order to create quick microlearning videos for online learning, here are a couple shortcuts:

  • If you have a recording of a lecture already, you can use video editing software to cut it down into shorter videos, add quizzes inside those videos to reinforce the teachings in that portion of the subject, and then add the videos to an ordered playlist to share the entire module with students.
  • New, rich microlearning learning videos can be recorded easily as well. Break your lesson down into sections, design slides for each section, and prepare a short demonstration if applicable. Then use your lecture capture software to select the media you want to show on your computer, press record, and begin presenting. If you make a mistake, simply take a moment and then begin that talking point again — you can keep recording and easily edit that section out before you share it with students.


4. Hold live group discussions 

Active learning, a method of engaging students in activities that deepen learning, is often used when designing courses that are delivered both in class and online. In the online classroom though, active learning becomes even more essential. Experts recommend leading students in online discussions and debates, and encouraging collaboration with classmates. Because real-time engagement with students is limited, many online instructors will flip the classroom. In a flipped classroom instructors give students passive learning assignments, such as reading a textbook or watching videos, for homework and use scheduled class time to further explore a subject through active learning. 

When online, give students passive learning assignments for homework and lead live discussion sessions with smaller groups of students via a video conference. You can also record the video conferences and share them with students through your LMS where they can be watched later. This ensures that students who couldn’t make a particular live discussion don’t miss out on the group’s deeper exploration into a topic. This step can be done automatically when your video platform is integrated with both your LMS and your video conferencing system.

5. Incorporate student video assignments

Practicing and demonstrating new skills doesn’t always need to involve writing a paper or solving technical problems. Another strategy to engage online learners in active learning is to have them record a video themselves practicing or presenting. Student video assignments are particularly ideal for language, performing arts, and communications courses — students not only get to demonstrate their skills to their instructor but also can extract new information from the recording to assess their own abilities. 

With a video platform, along with their personal computers or smartphones, your students can use the same built-in recording tools you use to record and share multi-camera videos of their presentations. You can leave timestamped feedback for students right inside their videos, too.

Watch an example of a student video assignment from a Spanish course below:



6. Provide video feedback to students

Instead of marking up student assignments with written comments, consider using your video platform to deliver personalized feedback through video. This not only can provide more context and in-depth comments to remote students but also helps them feel more connected to you in an online setting. Simply capture your screen with the student’s written assignment or video displayed and explain your feedback alongside it in your own video. When your video is ready, you can share it with the student through your LMS — you can also control sharing settings so only that student can see your video feedback.

7. Hold live virtual office hours

No different from a traditional class, instructor presence in an online course is critical to student success. But online, instructors simply can’t respond to every discussion board post from every student in the class without running out of time for more productive interactions. And as much as learners may expect immediate responses online, time is just as limited as it is in a classroom. 

Instructors teaching online often use the same strategy that they do in a traditional course to offer extra support to students — they hold office hours. In a virtual class, students can log into a live video conference during the set time for virtual office hours to ask questions and get extra help from their instructor. Online learners get the added opportunity to interact with other classmates during this time as well.


Wondering About Your Readiness Supporting Remote Learning?

Panopto’s video platform provides flexible online video learning tools and expert support to more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the globe. Having partnered with institutions of higher education since 2007, we understand that even minor operational disruptions can have a lasting impact on teaching and learning. If your school is in need of assistance or you have questions about the capabilities of either Panopto or your existing virtual learning environment in the event of a major campus closure, please don’t hesitate to contact our team

For a demonstration of how Panopto’s platform can integrate with your existing learning systems and help facilitate remote learning, complete the form below and a representative will contact you.

Published: February 29, 2020