Planning Strategies

Consider the planning strategies outlined on this page as you make decisions on your virtual 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.

If you are teaching a course for Summer 2020, visit the Course Assurance page to learn more about requirements that must be met and the course assurance process you and your department must complete.

Basics for All Classes

Plan Pragmatically

An important consideration in your planning process is that your students may not have signed up for an online course. They may not have ever taken an online course before and may have only experienced remote teaching recently. Students will need support and guidance as they learn through this online process. If teaching online is new to you, you may also experience a steep learning curve.

Many of the stressors that students and instructors experienced in Spring 2020 will continue in future semesters. There may be challenges with reliable internet access, such as finding adequate space and time to focus on tasks and health concerns while also balancing work, family and school.

Keep the course manageable for you and your students. This may necessitate some difficult course design decisions. Use the planning guidance on this page to help you create a course that is a positive experience for everyone. You may also want to request a consultation with ODEE support staff who can answer your questions and assist you in your planning.

Choose your core teaching strategies 

There are many decisions to be made in creating an online course, including how to format it and what strategies you want to use. To help make the decision-making process more manageable, you should incorporate the following best practices. If you incorporate each of them, you will successfully fulfill most of the requirements for online course delivery, which can help you offer your course fully online beyond Summer 2020.

Sharing materials with students

Students need structure and direction for how they're going to navigate this online course, particularly if your students have never taken an online course. They also need to see an organized course structure and clear instructions, which frees up their cognitive processing time and ability for engaging with course content and assessments.

  • Import the Carmen Template into your online course, especially if you have never taught online.
  • Make the underlying organization of your course explicit by using modules. This provides the visual for what the class looks like for students when they log in.
  • Use a consistent structure for modules each week with a repeated set of expectations in each.
  • Create headers and titles to identify materials and activities in each module.
  • Use pages to provide guidance about an activity. Describe what students are expected to do, how it relates to other parts of the course, questions you want them to be thinking about, and any other information that provides the context that you traditionally would have shared in person.
  • Add due dates to assignments. These will populate in other parts of their Carmen course.
  • For examples of how to structure your course, watch the recorded workshop on Planning for your Online Summer Course.

Providing students with practice and application

Students need multiple opportunities to practice applying what they've learned. They then need feedback on those activities. The feedback received will help them identify any flaws in their thinking or what they already know well.

  • Consider the core activities of your course and which can be reasonably adapted for online delivery. Activities that can be easily incorporated into Carmen include practice quizzes, self-checks, small group work, homework, reflective writing and interactive participation.
  • You can create the activities using Carmen discussions, quizzes and/or assignments. Some activities may need to be adapted based on how much time students will need to complete them or if the format will work easily (such as changing group activities to individual ones).
  • If you use Zoom to engage with students synchronously, have a back-up plan for when students can’t access it. For example, if you plan to use breakout rooms in Zoom, consider what self-pace options you can employ if needed, such as recording the session then using a discussion in Carmen for students to complete the activity.
  • Provide timely feedback, either ungraded or low stakes/points. The feedback can come from you or from peers.
  • Keep track of student engagement through the completion of the activities. This will be how you determine if they “showed up” to class, rather than using the analytics tool to see if they logged on.
  • For examples of activities that help students practice, watch the recorded workshop on Planning for your Online Summer Course.

Engaging students in conversation and reflection

Students want to feel connected, now more than ever. Interacting with their instructor and peers creates a sense of community, which helps with motivation and engagement in the course. Engaging with your students in an online course can take many forms.

  • At least once a week, engage with students, either individually, as a group or both. Share an announcement or general feedback in Carmen that is tailored to the experience and work of those specific students.
  • Aim to have students engage with each other at least once most weeks.
  • Consider if students should participate in peer conversations in real time. Use Zoom breakout rooms or the chat function for synchronous discussions. Have a back-up plan for those students who are unable to attend.
  • Asynchronous conversation can be accomplished through a prompt on a Carmen discussion board where the students post comments, reflect and respond to each other through text or video. You can pose follow-up questions, give feedback, or add new information to the discussion board.
  • Use the Carmen groups function to sort students into groups of four or five. Have them use a group discussion thread to check in a few times over the week, share perspectives and work with each other asynchronously on an activity.
  • Create ungraded surveys in the Carmen quiz tool to collect various types of information from students, such as a reflection on their current struggles with learning in the course or feedback on how well a specific activity helped them learn the material.
  • Be explicit about instructions and expectations for engagement. This includes what counts as participation and rules for civil discourse in the online environment. Put instructions in numerous places in Carmen and mention them frequently.
  • For examples of activities that help students engage with you and each other, watch the recorded workshop on Planning for your Online Summer Course.

Remaining present throughout your course

Students benefit from instructors’ expertise and having them present in the course. They set the tone for care and engagement throughout the semester through many avenues.

  • Show up in the course through Carmen every week in a meaningful way. This is an especially important aspect of delivering online courses.
  • Spend time introducing yourself in the first week's module to set the tone for the rest of the term. Decide what you want them to know about you. Post a video or a photo of yourself with the introduction so they can physically see you.
  • Consider using weekly Carmen module overviews as a place to review what they did last week, highlight themes in their work that you're going to build on next, give general feedback on activities or share what you're excited about for the upcoming week. Write these as announcements or create video or audio files.
  • Be present in the Carmen discussion boards. Avoid micromanaging them, but participate in them by entering the conversation once or twice a week to clarify any outstanding questions, ask prompting questions or help get them back on track.
  • For smaller class sizes, provide individualized feedback to each student.
  • Hold office hours through Zoom.
  • For examples of how to create instructor presence, watch the recorded workshop on Planning for your Online Summer Course.

You can refer to the Teaching Tools page for more information on incorporating Ohio State learning tools into your core teaching strategies.

Adapting Assessments

Students are facing disruptions in their access to resources and living situations. Taking a high-stakes exam in an 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 assessments throughout your course and final exams.

Choices by Class Context

After you've decided your strategies for sharing materials, providing practice opportunities, engaging students and remaining present, you can adapt specific in-person features of your course to an online format. This matrix will suggest a few high-impact ways to focus your efforts adapting your course to teach at a distance, 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 build a valuable learning experience in this unique context. 

My class primarily uses...


Where to start

Decide whether your lectures (or portions of lectures) could be pre-recorded for students to watch at their own pace in Carmen. If there are elements to your lecture such as interactive questions, or small group activities you feel are best completed during a live meeting, you can use CarmenZoom to share your lecture during synchronous (real-time) meetings with students. Post the link to your Zoom meeting with the date and time clearly labeled in Carmen each week to reduce time spent looking for join information. Make expectations for any synchronous meetings explicit in the syllabus and Carmen modules.

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. Consider 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. 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.

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 4-5 who can work together for activities. 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. Self-paced work that students can complete throughout the week within Carmen are more inclusive, but you can also use Zoom breakout rooms for small group work during synchronous (live) sessions.
  • 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 where can you record their participation. Assess for participation and give feedback rather than treating group work 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 for individual groups or using announcements to the whole class.
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For smaller groups, some activities may work better online as individual assignments. There is a learning curve for you and students to organize groups and directions for modified activities. Consider your learning outcomes, your grading bandwidth, and 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. 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. 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

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 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.
  • If the skill involves working in groups for movement or live feedback, synchronous (live) class meetings using CarmenZoom will allow you and your students to take turns sharing and discussing each other's practice or performance. Create alternative participation options for students who are unable to join synchronous sessions. 
  • 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.
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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.