In addition to the shorter recommendations below, you can also find more in-depth information on particular tools here:

Communicating with Students

Posting in the “Announcements” forum on your course Moodle page automatically sends an email to your class, and keeps a running list of course communications. Using this is best practice, in case students can’t access email. (For example, students may not be able to use Gmail in China, where G Suite is blocked.) 

You can also email your class email list (for fall 2021 classes, your class email address is, where xxxx is your department abbreviation, and 000-00 is your course and section number; Spring course lists for this academic year will start with the sp22 prefix).

You can simplify sharing Google Drive files and folders by making a Google Contacts label for your class. (You can share a folder or document with a Contacts label just like you would an individual person).

Office Hours

If you want to hold virtual drop-in office hours, set up a recurring Zoom meeting with a waiting room.

Dr. Vanessa Dennen at Flordia State University recently shared some excellent tips on hosting remote office hours, that are worth taking into consideration as you plan out how to meet with your students.


For real-time video discussion, Zoom is your best option. Establishing communication guidelines (like everyone taking turns speaking, or using the chat feature to ask questions) and assigning roles (like having someone monitor the chat window) will help make Zoom discussions smoother. Using break out rooms can mimic small-group conversations.

For asynchronous, text-based discussion, Moodle forums allow students to post and reply to each other directly within Moodle.

Vociethread (which is also integrated into Moodle) is a great tool for asynchronous discussion. Students can comment VoiceThreads you create, or can create and comment on each other’s VoiceThreads. These comments can be left over time and turn into an asynchronous audio, video, or text conversation among students. 

Slack is a useful discussion option for both real-time and asynchronous text-based communication. Faculty and students can communicate with each other and share files on a variety of topics (called channels) pre-defined by the faculty member. 


Whether assessment changes for you and your students depends a lot on what you originally planned for the course.

If you planned for students to write papers, perhaps only the submission method will change–you might have your students hand their papers in via email or Google Drive, and provide feedback with Word’s Track Changes feature, or comments in Google Docs. If you already are used to using the PDF Grader in Moodle, your students can submit PDFs by using the free Adobe Scan app on iPhone/iPad/Android for handwritten work or by saving as PDF from the application used to create the work.

Quizzes and exams might require a little more adjustment. Moodle quizzes can be useful for assessment. A Moodle quiz can be used as a quiz, test or exam for your course, and will appear in your Moodle Gradebook. Each quiz has many different configuration options that can allow for things like time restrictions, multiple attempts, or testing accommodations. Once set up for a course, quizzes and quiz questions can be migrated to future courses as well. More in-depth information on Moodle quizzes is available on our Teaching with Moodle Page.

Academic integrity is an important topic when considering assessment. Focusing your assessment on synthesis of facts limits the risk of integrity violations in this online environment where proctoring an exam is difficult. Additionally, consider how you could restructure your exam to be open notes and open book but still require demonstration of knowledge of the material being assessed. Consider configuring the timing and structure of the test such that the test couldn’t be completed by googling all the answers.

If you are especially concerned about academic integrity, be sure to share Macalester’s academic integrity policy, and consider having the students sign an additional pledge for your course. If needed, contact your AIA.

Group Projects

Students can create (and even record) their own Zoom meetings. Google Hangouts, the chat feature built into Gmail, can also be useful for small groups of students to collaborate with each other. Students can also use tools they are already familiar with (programs like Discord, WeChat, and even Facebook Messenger) to communicate and collaborate on projects.

For collaborative work on a single project, all of  the Google Suite applications (including Documents, Slides, Sheets) are easy to share and collaborate on. Students can also collaborate on presentations by using groups in VoiceThread. For video editing, WeVideo is a web-based editor that also allows for student collaboration; reach out to your AIA or the Digital Resource Center for more information about WeVideo access through Macalester.

Recording Lectures

It’s a good idea to consider recording lecture prior to class rather than recording class itself. If you want to record classtime with students, please refer to the classroom recording policy. If you intend to record a class session (i.e. in Zoom) for viewing by other students later, you will need to notify, in advance of the class session, all students in the course.

One important consideration when recording lecture material is length. We recommend recording lecture in smaller chunks to make it both easier for you to record and easier for students to digest. Try to create segments that are around 5-7 minutes in length if possible. Zoom allows you to stop and start recording multiple times in a single meeting session, creating a different video file for each, and VoiceThread allows you to record commentary/lecture one slide at a time.

You can use Zoom to record lectures: start a “meeting” by yourself and record it. You can speak directly to your students or narrate what is displayed on your screen, like a slide presentation or Zoom’s virtual whiteboard. Zoom also has built-in annotation features. 

You can also use VoiceThread to record lecture. Using VoiceThread, you can upload slides you’ve created in PowerPoint, images and charts, and even videos. Once you’ve uploaded your media, you can ‘comment’ on it to record your lecture, either one slide at a time, or for the whole slide deck. We recommend recording one slide at a time if you’re able. You can record using only audio, or using a webcam to capture a thumbnail video of you in addition to your voice.


Zoom has a built-in virtual whiteboard, which you can type on or draw on. A better approximation of a physical whiteboard will require more equipment. A tablet (like an iPad) with a stylus is one solution. You can pair an annotation app (recommendations coming soon) and a screen recording app (built in on iPads) to make a video of what you draw.

Another solution is to use a document camera, cell phone, or web camera to show or record what you’re writing on paper or on a small whiteboard. You can use Zoom’s option to Share Screen to share content from a second camera to record video of you writing.

Writing Workshops

From Director of Writing Britt Abel: As you know, writing conferences can be done in multiple formats: over video chat (Zoom, Hangouts), in GoogleDocs, via email, phone call, etc. You can use Zoom to share your screen while viewing a student’s writing and use Zoom’s annotation tools to circle and underline pieces of the writing to help better communicate (note that you may need to clear or erase markings as you scroll down a page).

If viewing a Google Drive document together, you can also use the comment and suggestion features built directly in Drive to better communicate suggestions.

For conferences where you’re absolutely unable to meet in real time, VoiceThread can be used for asynchronous discussion on writing. You can upload a file of the student’s writing to VoiceThread and share comments using your microphone or webcam along with a pen tool to mark and circle different pieces in the writing.

And remember: it’s okay to cancel regular class and substitute that time with writing conferences.

Student Presentations

Students (or groups of students) can present in real time using Zoom, which can allow anyone to share their screen (and whatever is on it, including Powerpoints, PDFs, and videos). 

Students can also record presentations ahead of time using Zoom, and upload them either to Google Drive or Voicethread.

Students can also use VoiceThread directly to record presentations; they can first upload their slides to VoiceThread and then record audio or video narration directly on each slide. Students can also comment on each other’s VoiceThreads to ask questions and comment on each other’s presentations.

Online Exhibitions

In the video below, Digital Liberal Arts Postdoctoral Fellow outlines a few options for having students create online exhibitions. Tools highlighted include PowerPoint, Google Slides, Timeline.js, and Google Sites.

Screenings of Films and Video Clips

If there is a work that you would like to show in class, we recommend looking first to see if there is a streaming version available that may be accessible to your class. We have several streaming services available through the library in addition to mainstream options such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. The library and Digital Resource Center are able to help you find media. In the case that the material you would like students to view is not available on a streaming service, we can talk through fair use options to ensure your students are able to access what they need to for your course within copyright law.

We strongly recommend that screenings are not done synchronously, and recommend that you check in with your students to be sure they’re able to stream media from their residence.

Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research:

from the statement: “It is evident that making materials available and accessible to students in this time of crisis will almost always be a fair use. As long as we are being thoughtful in our analysis and limiting our activities to the specific needs of our patrons during this time of crisis, copyright law supports our uses.”


If you have the text in hand, we ask that you scan needed portions for your course on your own. In the case that you do not have a scanner at home, we recommend using Adobe Scan, the Notes app on the iPhone (the photo icon will allow you to photograph several pages into a single PDF), and on Android you can scan using the Google Drive app! You can also photograph the documents with your smart phone camera. Once you’ve scanned/photographed items on your smartphone, you can email the documents to yourself or upload them to Google Drive using the app for iOS/iPhone or Android. Photographed documents can (and should) be converted into machine-readable text to make them more accessible to all students; this can be done using the Document Converter.

Sharing Media Files

Uploading files to Google Drive or Voicethread and then linking to those files from your Moodle page, will allow you to share large video and audio files with your students quickly and easily. Another option is putting videos on Youtube. We highly recommend using these tools for sharing large files rather than uploading directly to Moodle itself. 

Which will work best for you depends on how you will be using files you’ve shared and where your students are.

Google Drive Voicethread YouTube
Easily accessible in China No Yes No
Auto Captioning No  Yes Yes
Integrates directly with Moodle No – must upload in Drive and create a link in Moodle Yes – can upload content to Voicethead directly through the Moodle interface No – must upload to YouTube and create a link in Moodle
Allows for commenting No Multimedia (text, audio, video) comments Yes, can comment of the full video directly on YouTube

Science Labs

Offering science labs remotely is going to be difficult. Consider what the learning outcomes are for your specific lab as you plan your adjustments. Is the goal of the lab to teach a physical skill, a concept, or a calculation? If the goal is to have students work through a calculation, consider preparing and sending the students canned data as though they ran the experiment in lab. Consider lab simulations that may be covered with your lab expenses that aren’t likely to be spent. SimBio is offering great discounts that may be relevant. You can also investigate resources curated by Harvard and Kent state faculty and shared on twitter:

Make sure you and your department understand the expectations of skills the students will develop in your lab if it is a prerequisite for future courses.

Language Instruction

There are several tools available that encourage students to continue practicing their language skills outside of the synchronous environment of a Zoom classroom. Students may already make voice recordings on a regular basis as part of their coursework. VoiceThread and Moodle Forums are great options, but there are several other free online alternatives.

FlipGrid allows students to record short videos in response to teacher prompts and each other  in a fun, social media inspired environment. Linking to your “grid” in Moodle eliminates the need to upload files to Google Drive. Students do not have to create accounts to access, rather the teacher decides who can see their grid. FlipGrid has extensive video and blog support, but you don’t really need to go further than Getting Started with FlipGrid. There is also a Getting Started for Students video to post on your Moodle page.

The H5P plug-in in Moodle allows you to create a wide variety of interactive quizzes for practice. Students are able to take quizzes over until they have mastered the questions. To begin building your own, go to Moodle, turn editing on , Add an Activity or Resource and select H5P Interactive Content from the list of activities. There are many H5P Content Types that easily allow you to create anything from multiple choice questions to images with hot spots. H5P is NOT for assessment, as students will always be able to take the quizzes over.

Quizlet allows you to create interactive flashcards and games or use predefined sets for a variety of languages and topics. Quizlet features spaced repetition learning techniques and Quizlet Live for competitive games as teams or individuals. Right now, Quizlet is offering a free upgrade to Quizlet Teacher through June 30, 2020 to better track student progress.