Planning Strategies

Questions for Planning

As we transition to virtual learning for the remainder of the semester, consider the following questions as you make decisions on your courses. Also, be sure to refer to the Coronavirus: Academic Decisions page from the Office of Academic Affairs. This page provides a summary of decisions and resources specific to the academic process at Ohio State.

Plan Pragmatically

There is no expectation that you have everything for the rest of term fully planned all at once. Start with simple changes using familiar tools. Ask yourself: Can I… 

  • Adapt or substitute - Which materials or assignments could be adjusted to be more effective in this context, and which might require an alternative format? In your adjustments, be cautious not to create a workload for students greater than what originally planned. 

  • Rearrange - Do my planned activities need to proceed on the same timeline, or can I have students do certain activities now to give myself more time for planning other components? 

  • Support - What do my students and I need to meet the challenges we are facing? How can my communications and instructional choices help to provide a sense of continuity and compassion for myself and students, even as the next few weeks may be imperfect?  

Choose your core teaching strategies 

While it might not be possible to implement all of these during your first week or two of this transition, it may be helpful to think about identifying your core strategies for accomplishing each of the following on a regular basis: 

  • Sharing materials and guidance with students 

  • Providing students with practice and application 

  • Engaging students in conversation and reflection 

You can refer to the Teaching Tools page for options to accomplish each of these using Ohio State learning tools. 

Will this affect an upcoming midterm or other exams?

Students are facing disruptions in their access to resources and living situations. Taking a high-stakes exam in a new and unexpected modality under those circumstances is unlikely to reflect their true learning. We've created a page dedicated to exams and high-stakes assessments that help you weigh your options and decide the best course of action for your students and your college or department. From technology access to academic integrity, visit the Assessments page to learn more and find resources and templates to help you reimagine your midterms and final exams.

Choices by Class Context

If you need to adapt course materials and activities to accommodate a period of teaching and learning at a distance, this matrix will suggest a few high-impact ways to focus your effort, using the tools already available to you and your students. Resource links are provided for more information on specific toolsets and teaching strategies. You can also view the Planning Strategies recorded workshop for an overview of the suggestions and tools outlined here.

Keep expectations realistic, for yourself and your students. It takes significant time and effort to plan out and create an ideal, at-a-distance version of your course. But the suggestions below can help you to start building a valuable learning experience in this unique context. 

My class primarily uses...


Where to start

You can use CarmenZoom meetings as one key strategy for a lecture-based class. The videoconferencing format can be excellent for sharing information and also for engaging and connecting with students. You’re encouraged to talk to students through your webcam—let them hear your voice and see your face—and share slides or documents as well, if needed.

You don’t need to hold live Zoom meetings on every class day or equivalent to the amount of time you were meeting in person—but please always schedule them within your normal class times. You might start with a one-hour Zoom meeting each week (and record it) and then engage with students through other means in Carmen over the rest of the week. To avoid unwanted attendees, avoid sharing the link to your meeting in any public space, and consider choosing the option "Only authenticated users can join" in your Zoom meeting settings.

Always remember to record any Zoom meetings, and post the links in Carmen for students who are not able to log in during the live time. Keep in mind, it may take several hours for Zoom to process your recording and captions. If you want a recording available at a specific date and time, record it early. You can also reach out to Student Life Disability Services for assistance with captioning and interpretation.
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In addition to a meeting and recording, create an open question-and-answer discussion in Carmen and encourage students to ask questions there first and to help each other when possible to reduce your email response load. 
In addition to a meeting and recording, create an accompanying auto-graded Carmen quiz (or other assignment) to check for understanding. Hold virtual office hours via Zoom (and record them), or Carmen chat, for students to ask questions or get feedback. Allow students to submit questions via email or the discussion board in Carmen.

Support Resources


Where to start

Create a discussion thread in Carmen. This could work effectively for many types of discussions: a question for debate, a prompt for students to share experiences or opinions, a case study analysis, or reflections on a reading.

  • Include an introduction (connecting with your students) to the discussion thread; consider doing this as a short video using the media recording tool in Carmen.
  • Write questions or prompts with detailed instructionsbe explicit about how often students should participate, what you're looking for in their responses, and your expectations of civility.
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Be present in each discussion at least once to ask challenge questions or direct students to resources to clarify misconceptions.Use the groups feature in Carmen and create a discussion where groups of 4-8 students can work and converse. Respond with feedback either by commenting once in each group's discussion or by using the announcements tool. Summarize the strengths and remaining misconceptions you saw across the groups.

Support Resources

In-Class Activities

Examples: Recitation sections, small group work, active learning courses

Where to start

  • Use the Carmen groups function to create student groups of 4-8 who can work together for activities.
  • Adapt small group work (case studies, problem sets, role plays, etc.). In this context it is important to consider what parts of your typical classroom activities are essential during the period for which you are planning, or which can be substituted or adapted.
    • If students are used to working with an established group, manually assign those groups in Carmen to retain that community when at all possible.
    • Use the Carmen group discussions as a workspace where students in a group can interact, problem solve, and watch or share materials relevant to the specific activity.
    • Assign something specific (report out, notes, draft) for the group to create for this activity and submit to you in Carmen, if you don't already have a place where you see their participation electronically (in Carmen or other systems). Assess for participation and give feedback rather than treating it as a high-stakes assignment.  
    • Debrief after the activity to highlight key takeaway points to connect the activity to other course materials and concepts. Use the video tool in Carmen or write your summary into the discussion thread or in the announcements.
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For smaller groups, it may be more effort to organize groups for modified activities than to simply assign the modified activity as an individual assignment. Consider how much feedback is necessary when deciding to choose group or individual work.Use the auto-assign option to quickly sort large numbers of students into manageable groups (but consider keeping existing groups). Use Carmen quizzes or assignments to capture participation quickly in electronic form. This keeps the work on task and allows you to assess and give feedback. 

Support Resources

STEM Labs and Field Activities

Examples: Lab sections, applied research, problem-based learning courses

Where to start

Transitioning lab activities into a virtual context will involve finding creative ways to honor the underlying learning goals without being able to recreate the specific experiences themselves. Review your learning outcomes (analyze, demonstrate, etc.) and explore ways to cover them through online lab experiences. You shouldn't feel like you have to cover every assignment and contact hours in the exact same way. 

Planning strategies

See Keep Teaching: Virtual Lab Activities in the ODEE Resource Center for more detailed information about these options.

  • Use video demonstrations to replicate the visual elements students would have experienced in class. There are online simulators and demonstrations available, or you can create these using CarmenZoom and a phone or webcam. 
  • Link CarmenCanvas pages together via hyperlinks to walk students through scenarios/simulations in which details about those scenarios can change. 
  • Create a Carmen quiz with photos or videos interspersed with questions, displayed one at a time to check for understanding. Let students watch one step of the lab and then answer a prediction or knowledge check question before moving on to the next step. 
  • Give students the data set you expected them to create in the lab and ask them to answer analysis or explanation questions using Carmen quizzes. 

Managing the work

Be sure to reach out to your lab-based GTAs and staff members who are now working remotely and may have fewer work opportunities. This group can assist you with developing virtual lab activities for your course:

  • Share responsibility for recording instructional videos (e.g., filming the use of pipette in Lab setting), and mix up who records the voiceovers for any related PowerPoint materials.
  • Hold virtual offices hours over Zoom for lab specifics or the course in general. Monitor discussion boards for questions about lab specifics or the course in general.
  • Review generated captions from Zoom or YouTube to ensure captioning accuracy. You can also reach out to Student Life Disability Services for assistance with captioning and interpretation.
  • Compose written descriptions of essential graphics for the lab procedure.

Student access considerations

Students may not have reliable access to high-speed internet. As such, consider the following when creating materials for the lab experience: 

  • Use pre-recorded or pre-created, downloadable learning materials to allow your students to be able to work through materials at their own pace. 
  • Upload newly-created videos to YouTube so that students will be able to have the video quality changed to alleviate buffering issues. Additionally, YouTube will auto-generate captions. 
  • Record shorter videos. Shorter videos will allow your students to avoid buffering issues which can result from unreliable internet access. 
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For smaller groups, it may be more effort to organize groups for modified activities than to simply assign the modified activity as an individual assignment. Consider how much feedback is necessary when deciding to choose group or individual work.Use the auto-assign option to quickly sort large numbers of students into manageable groups (but consider keeping existing groups). Use Carmen quizzes or assignments to capture participation quickly in electronic form. This keeps the work on task and allows you to assess and give feedback.

Support Resources


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

Where to start

  • Acknowledge to students (and yourself) that this is less than ideal for this course type and you are doing your best with a difficult situation. Be open to student needs and suggestions for how to make things work.
  • Ask yourself: what main skills or concepts you are hoping students learn from each of the class sessions being disrupted?
    • If the skill is physical dexterity (i.e. practice and demonstrate a technique), consider asking students to practice on their own where possible. Students can take a video of their technique using a digital device and submit for peer or instructor feedback. Students can practice and submit a log or reflection of time spent practicing and observations about their challenges or successes. If the activity cannot be completed at a distance, i.e. requires access to highly specialized equipment or location (instruments, equipment, patients, etc.) work with your department to discuss options.
    • If the skill is a core concept (i.e. application of a theory), adapt the assignment to allow students to apply in non-physical ways. Students can watch a video of someone doing the activity and identify key terms and movements, predict outcomes, critique mistakes in the demonstration, or make suggestions for improvement. Students can create or compose a performance, treatment, or research plan that shows connections between the theory and application.
  • For a service-learning course, let students know that they should not complete any in-person service hours at any service site. There may be tasks students can complete remotely. Your reflection course work should continue online to ensure that students still have a space to process experiences they may have and continue to learn and grow within your topic area.
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If you have a very small number of students, you might begin by offering different options (live Zoom meetings, sharing recorded videos back and forth) and confirming what's possible or preferable for each student.Offer group feedback or assign students to give each other peer feedback.

Support Resources

Unique Course Types with 1-5 Students

Examples: internships, independent study, dissertation work

Where to start

  • These courses will all have unique needs and challenges. You may be able to make arrangements and update individual schedules for small numbers of students via email communication, but you should still create and update a Carmen hub with a syllabus and gradebook.
  • Be flexible and aware of interruptions to access to research materials or field sites. Work individually with your students to establish a reasonable combination of delayed and modified expectations for their time and document those changes as they evolve.