Getting Started

Getting Started: Remote Teaching at BU

Digital Learning & Innovation and its affiliated units, The Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL), Educational Technology, and Digital Initiatives, aim to support our faculty in providing continuity in high quality learning experiences for BU’s students during times of campus closures or other disruptions in your teaching. In support of this mission, the CTL prepared this guide to help faculty think about the continuity of education for your students.

Setting Priorities

Adjusting your expectations, while aiming to keep as much “business as usual” for your class, will be important as you plan for this unusual situation.

Here are some things to think about as you prepare for sudden change in your teaching mode or delivery.

Consider cognitive load in times of stress

Anxiety and stress will likely increase the cognitive load on students and faculty. For students, this may impact their ability to complete tasks or understand information. These guidelines are very helpful in understanding why it’s important to be aware of the impact of stress on you and your students and may help you think about which aspects of your course need adjustment.

Look at your learning objectives and schedule

We want to support “business as usual” while being aware that remote teaching may be a highly unusual situation for you. Look at the learning objectives for your class: what changes are needed in your class to meet these objectives in the short-term? What changes will be needed if a short-term situation is extended beyond 3-4 weeks?

Similarly, what adjustment is needed for assignments – in scope, assessment design, submission style, and deadline? See our guidelines on Assessment and Remote Teaching for some suggestions. In addition, reach out to your Remote Teaching Coordinator (RTC), talk to your colleagues for ideas, or contact CTL for support in adjusting assignments.

Consider access issues for your students

If you need to change from a face-to-face class to remote teaching for any reason, consider the implications for your students. Not all students may have the hardware, software, or data plans required to fully participate in the online environment. Encourage your students to reach out to you with questions and concerns about access issues and be willing to be flexible about modes of assignment completion so that educational equity is not overlooked.

Be aware of the learning curve for technologies

If you are not used to using Blackboard, Zoom, or other technologies in the classroom, be prepared for a learning curve for yourself and your students. Your RTC can offer support; you can also reach out to EdTech for training and support. Where possible, build in some practice time, either by trialing a fully-remote class or some aspect of the technology during face-to-face classes.

Getting started with online resources

Moving classes online is usually a lengthy and detailed process. In an emergency situation, you do not have time to get everything perfect, so identify the key goals for your class and think about the most straightforward ways of achieving those goals.

First, look at guides for online teaching to get advice and ideas, but don’t try to cover everything: aim for changes that connect to your teaching style and can be communicated in a consistent and transparent way to your students. The CTL guides on flipped classrooms may help you think about changes you can make; this guide from Vanderbilt University also provides an overview of online teaching (and includes a brief video from BU’s Office of Distance Education).

Next, participate in training for Zoom and Blackboard.

For those teaching in labs or interactive STEM classes, consider how the online environment will allow you to experiment with delivery of your classes. The following resources may help you consider alternatives to in-person labs or interactive activities including:

Keep communication and expectations clear

Work to minimize the stress of unexpected change and uncertainty by clear communication with your students. Here are some pointers based on online practice:

  • Create a short introductory video in your Blackboard site to help students understand changes in class delivery
  • Set up regular times and modes for announcements so students know where and when to look for information
  • Provide clear guidelines for assessment tasks, including any changes that might be necessary for the emergency period
  • Be patient with students as they navigate these changes and be available to them through online office hours as well as email communication

Use your support network

  • Reach out to your Remote Teaching Coordinator
  • Reach out to colleagues who have experience in the online environment, including blended learning, flipped classrooms, and digital assignments; they will be able to offer suggestions and encouragement
  • Reach out to Ed Tech for help with technical questions about platforms and tools
  • Reach out to CTL for help with pedagogical questions on how to adapt your teaching

If you have a request for pedagogical support or for information on a specific mode of teaching or adjusting assignments, please be in touch with us at