Resources for Remote Teaching – Spring 2021 Newsletter 1

By January 18, 2021April 5th, 2024Smeal Academy Newsletter

Spring 2021 Remote Instruction Resources

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip everyone with best practices and strategies for teaching, learning, and technology to ensure the Smeal community is prepared to respond to the unique challenges in teaching during this time. Throughout the semester, we will be sending emails with practical tips and information, providing live sessions, and holding virtual consultations.

This week, we share resources and strategies that will help ensure a successful course launch and first week of class as we begin the semester. Many of these are resources we have shared before in our newsletters yet may be valuable to you now, especially if you are starting your semester remotely for the first time. The following Remote and Online Teaching Guide for Instructors includes a number of helpful step-by-step guides.

As you finalize your course and prepare to open the Canvas space to students, consider what information and details students require to be successful. We recognize that no one really wants to redesign their course(s) or do more work than you have already taken on with COVID-19 changes. However, ensuring that your course is easy to navigate with a consistent design and provides online details about the tools, processes, and procedures used in the course will, overall, save you a lot of work (as well as help you avoid a flooded email inbox).

If you’re not sure where to start with your course design, Smeal’s Remote Teaching Canvas courses (organized by weeks and by modules) offer some layouts and resources that you can copy and use in your courses. With so many variables surrounding this pandemic, it is critical that courses have a clear and consistent navigation. The way students navigate your course online will overwhelmingly affect how they perceive their learning experiences. Use your Canvas home page as a “North Star” for students. It should guide students to where they want or need to go in the course. Additionally, as you organize your course, imagine if a student landed in the “middle” of your course instead of the home page (this happens frequently when students click on assignments in their Canvas dashboard “to do” lists). Your course should still have a clear navigation path in place for students to easily find what they need regardless of where they are in the course.

End-of-Semester Grading

As a reminder, final grade posting in LionPath must be completed by 12/22/20. If you are using the Canvas gradebook to manage grades this semester, consider saving time by allowing Canvas to transfer final grades directly to LionPath. Helpful resources to aid you in this process are listed below:

  1. Preparing Final Grades for LionPath
  2. Tutorial: Importing grades from an LMS (click “Try It” to begin)
  3. Entering and Importing Grades to the Grade Roster (doc)

If you have questions or would like assistance with the grade import process please don’t hesitate to contact eLDIG via

Resources to Prepare for Spring

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the value of being flexible and the importance of being resilient. With that in mind, we wanted to share a few resources and a little food for thought for the Spring semester. Many who are teaching this coming Spring taught last Spring. It was more than a little bit overwhelming to transition to remote instruction with almost no warning. As you begin preparing your course(s) for next semester, it may be beneficial – whenever possible – to design the course as if you will be teaching at least a portion of your class remotely. This will ensure that you will be prepared for any eventuality. Here are five things to consider as you prepare for next semester:

  • Make the most of Canvas. Consider using one of eLDIG’s Canvas lesson templates to organize your Module content.
  • Convert your class resources to a digital format whenever possible. This includes readings, class handouts, videos that you might typically show in class, exams, and quizzes, and all homework.
  • Add a student “check-in” survey to Canvas to get a sense of your students’ well-being.
  • If attendance is part of your grading, consider using a tool like TopHat from the beginning of the semester to take attendance.
  • Consider recording your lecture content in advance and flipping your class or some of your class sessions, using class time for students to work on assignments, engage in active learning, and ask questions. This will make it easier if you need to transition to remote instruction and to support students affected by COVID because your core lecture content will be ready in advance.

We have a number of Smeal Academy session recordings available for your review as you prepare for the upcoming semester.

Current News

  • Canvas Editing Changes – New Workflow to Embed Kaltura Videos into Canvas ContentCanvas recently introduced a new Rich Content Editor (RCE) to improve ease of use when creating or editing content in your Canvas course. Along with new icons, the updated RCE also includes a new workflow for embedding Kaltura videos into Canvas content. The “Embed Kaltura Media” option, which was readily available in the previous RCE, must now be enabled before use. The steps to do so are below:
    1. Click the “Apps” icon in the Rich Content Editor (it resembles a two-pronged plug)
    2. Click the text that reads “Embed Kaltura Media”
    3. Select a video from Kaltura and click the “Embed” button

    After following these steps once, the “Embed Kaltura Media” option will automatically appear under the Apps icon for future media embeds (see Notes below for exceptions).
    Notes: You must select the “Embed Kaltura Media” text (and not the more intuitive “Media Gallery and Embed” option) to view your Kaltura videos. Also, you must repeat the steps when using a different browser or after clearing your browser’s cache.

  • Webcam PoliciesIn short, faculty shouldn’t require students to use webcams during any regular remote instruction. Instructors should adopt a camera-optional practice for teaching through Zoom. Instructors can require webcams for exams and assessments. Note that instructors must notify all students in the class of their intent to record the assessment via a written announcement at least 5 days in advance. For details about webcam policies, please refer to this document linked on the University’s Keep Teaching website.

Upcoming Live Sessions

  • Smeal Academy – Grading and Attendance for Remote Teaching This session will review Canvas gradebook setup and best practices for remote instruction and will also explore some basics tools (such as Top Hat) and approaches to help evaluate student attendance and participation in a remote context.NOTE: Core Top Hat features are available at no cost to instructors and students, and without the purchase of a standalone clicker device, students can participate in Top Hat activities with their smartphones or via the web for added convenience.   Join us Friday, January 29 from 10 to 11 a.m. via Zoom.
  • Smeal Academy – Key Lessons Learned from Remote Teaching Well, it’s Groundhog Day – and here we are teaching remotely again this semester! What have we learned from our past experiences of remote teaching? What real-world strategies work? Come and hear from Smeal faculty and staff about tips, tricks, and lessons learned as we continue to deliver instruction remotely. Join us Tuesday, February 2 from 12 to 1 p.m. via Zoom.
  • Smeal Academy Session – Active LearningThink about the last time you learned something. What was the topic? How did you learn it? What motivated you to engage in learning and stay engaged? What got you thinking critically about the knowledge you were seeking? What kind of innovation had you wished had been applied to the topic? What new tool would have been fun?This session will discuss active learning strategies in online learning that help faculty engage learners, and can lead to innovation in the classroom. Active learning is a teaching method that supports learning. The method uses techniques and activities that promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation that guide students towards achieving learning objectives. These techniques and activities are based on ideas about how people learn and engage regardless of content discipline. Multiple strategies will be discussed in a very active session, be prepared not to sit passively for this session. Join us Wednesday, January 13, 2021 from 11 a.m. to Noon via Zoom.

NOTE:  Recordings and resources from previous sessions can be found on our eLDIG  Website.

Tips of the Week

  • Tip #1: Include a Course Orientation in Canvas. We strongly recommend adding an orientation to your course. If you don’t already have one, you are welcome to import and customize the orientation from the Smeal Remote Teaching Canvas space.
  • Tip #2: Check Your Zoom Settings to ensure that your Zoom meetings or webinars are optimized for security and functionality and that you have updated Zoom to the most recent version. This website outlines steps for updating Zoom.


Helpful Websites


Check out the eLDIG website for more resources and support.

Contact Us

Email us at: or fill out our Remote Teaching Support form.