Moving a curriculum online, what tech can help?

Hi all. I’m making a plan to move an entire curriculum online (shouldCOVID 19 spread). We use a flipped classroom with a lot of in class activities.

• At home material can be read as is already the case
• In class discussions at tables (of 6) and rooms (of 18) with one faculty member may be a bit more challenging
• We also have laboratories (microscope slides and anatomy dissection)
• We have simulated patients (actors)

Any tech solutions you can think of? Zoom? YouTube? WebEx?

I think that you have a few things to address here:

  • What resources does your institution support at your location? Surely you are not going this alone without consideration from and/or validation from your institution (or are you)?

  • What do you mean by when you say the entire curriculum on-line? Lectures + Office Hours + Exams/Quizzes?

  • What base and most prevalent resources will the students have at their disposal? Tablet computers, iPads, macOS, Smart Phone screens?

  • Are you intending to get everything done “quick and dirty” in order to meet a (directly around the corner, fall off the face of the earth) deadline? Or are you able to invest some time to work stepwise toward piecemeal objectives.

  • How high is the need to switch to on-line offerings evaluated against the need to provide an education that meets the course or degree requirements? Is this a case where you throw together what you can for a “show and tell” while giving the students a grade that is about what they have now or is this a case where you also want to have adhere as best possible also to existing course/degree standards?

The technologies needed for different options are not necessarily overlapping and in some cases can be competitive or confusing when used together.

My “off the top of my head” thoughts on a late Friday afternoon:

Quick and Dirty --> Whatever software that you can use to create static videos of what would have been the lecture in order to post them. No interactive approaches are afforded. Students view the videos as a substitute for the lectures. I would us Camtasia in this case. Others have their own favorites.

Advanced --> Your institute sponsors a Zoom channel to provide “interactive” lectures.

Intermediate --> You cobble together a video presentation chat group for “interactive” lectures.


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Our school just closed as a precaution for 6 days and we tried a number of things. All quick and dirty due to the suddenness.

Many teachers found Zoom to be great. It has a good interface and is simple to use. Tools such as breakout rooms facilitate small group work to. In my experience I was frustrated by the connection dropping occasionally but I appeared to be in a minority. It’s totally free for 40 minute sessions, which is surprising.

I found recording lectures and uploading them to YouTube worked. I then created a structured lesson on Classkick, which is a fantastic tool for monitoring progress real time. I also plan to use it in future for homework as it provides a great interface for marking.
My recording method was to have my presentation in Google Slides taking 2/3 of my screen and my iPad with GoodNotes taking 1/3 (via Quicktime) to act as my whiteboard. This let me do a quick and dirty lecture in my normal style, using the built in screen recording.

Our students had just done mock exams and for feedback on that I used Google Chat for discussion. For model answers I recorded a video using GoodNotes and made a playlist.

One colleague had great success with OneNote. It takes time to set up and for students to get used to it, but it allows fantastic teacher-led collaboration in real time.

I’m happy to describe my use in more detail if it helps.
My main advice is don’t be too ambitious. Consider how much time you have to prepare, how much time the teachers and students have to learn a system, and how much workload there will be with whatever system you choose (eg are new resources needed, how long will marking take, …)

Yes. I’d love to hear more about your process. Sounds great.

Assuming you’re at an institution, I recommend contacting your institutions’ Instructional Designers and/or Center for Teaching and Learning. They are in a better position to get into specifics and this sort of thing should be right up their ally. Without knowing the specifics of your situation, here are my thoughts:

  • If you’re posting any material online and/or in the LMS make sure that you abide with the institution’s copyright policy.
  • Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate have break-out room functionality. So, you could meet synchronously with all 18 students and separate them out into break-out rooms. I’m not sure if WebEx does. Your institution might already have a solution in place.
  • There are at-home lab kits available from various venders. Another solution you could look at is NANSLO.
  • For the simulated patients, you could include pre-recorded videos in branching scenarios. Qualtrics surveys work well for this. You could also explore e-learning rapid development software, such as Articulate Storyline. On the Mac, you could use Adobe Captivate or something like Softchalk.
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Google classroom has a nice platform to host most of your stuff.

Here are some links to videos I made, one for teachers, two for students.

Classkick: Support video
(My first attempt included the rookie error of not turning on my mic! See main advice earlier regarding training)
I can’t show you real use as it has students work (and I don’t have time to make a new video right now. Remind me in a few days’ time if wanted). This video is something I made quickly to try to encourage colleagues who were curious about it. I messed up the audio, which is the sort of thing that people do. Video is hard.
I’ve decided that I need to keep the videos short so I can see the students progressing. A big frustration with this learning is that students are not always that studious. Some like to register then disappear to play games or whatever, so having a system that lets you verify active participation is valuable. Classkick can do that, as can Zoom or Chat. Apart from that, students really liked how I was able to give them individual support, or their friends could also respond to requests for help. I really like how I can quickly go through everyone’s page 5 to check answers, rather than going to Ann, scroll to page 5, go to Bee, scroll to page 5, etc. I can have a quick auto marking cloze exercise to check immediate comprehension and longer questions for me to check. Works best on an inkable device, though.

YouTube: Exemplar Answer
Edit: these are not just answers usually, I tend to teach the theory or exam technique a bit too.
These seemed very popular, with a couple of follow up videos added based on requests. They are quick to make and students just need to watch ones they struggle on, and can go over it multiple times. It worked especially well when students asked me follow up questions.

YouTube: Lesson
Some students really liked these. I think the fact that they knew I spent time doing them to help them learn I’m this difficult time made a difference for some of them, rather than me simply throwing a bunch of YouTube videos at them. They are not great videos, otherwise.
My presentations were all in Keynote, but I wanted a more uniform experience for all (my main concern being my use of Open Dyslexic font, although as we use a lot of Google at school there are other benefits too such as embedding them in the Physics Site etc). So I converted them to Google Slides and uploaded any of my animation videos to YouTube. I chose the Lexend font, which purports to be good but I don’t know; it’s available in the ‘More Fonts’ fonts menu. Still, during this period it’s possibly my best choice as I don’t want to require that students install a particular font just for my presentations.
My problems were that my teaching style is to use the whiteboard a lot and interact with the students. I describe how I solved the first problem to my satisfaction, but the second problem is ongoing.

For the recording I have a Scarlett pre amp already with a mic.
I put Google Slides on the left 2/3 of the screen. When open, rather than clicking on Present, change the end of the URL after the final / to ‘preview’ and you get the slide show without the annoying controls
popping up all the time. If there are any websites I want to show (eg Phet simulations) I preload those.
I open GoodNotes on my iPad in portrait mode upside down so I don’t accidentally press the Home button. This is connected via USB to my Mac. I open Quicktime and go to record a movie, selecting the iPad, but I don’t record.
Instead, I use the native screen capture to select an area that includes both the Slides and GoodNotes, and get going.

When I first tried recording I spent 4 hours getting nothing I was happy with. I then decided that was helping no one, so I convinced myself that god was better than perfect and now I just record them in one take, wats and all. Unless I stumble in the first minute. This avoids the extra step of importing into Final Cut, editing, sending to compressor to export. Good enough.
My last video was done like others with the air conditioning off. My MBP got so noisy I’m wondering whether to buy a denoise app or re-record!

Other thoughts on Zoom, which I didn’t take to though others did: if you are at home and the students are at home and you are doing a video conference, there are child protection issues to be considered. Same with Google Chat, which appears to allow students to control whether chat history is kept. With many of these services there’s GDPR and copyright to consider too.

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I have taken to using a Blue Parrot B250-XTS mic headset. No noise carries over from the ventilation stand under my MBP or from the internal fans themselves.


I’ve updated the “Support video” link in my long post above to a version with a voice-over.

Great tip. I don’t have a headset, but I thought, why not try my AirPods?

Now, the sound is tinny compared to my other mic, but there is zero background noise. Not ideal, but makes for an incredibly speedy turn-around.

Thanks all, for the suggestions.


  1. I will not be doing this alone. The institution has some resources but also I need to get several faculty on board as well. One of the challenges of this is getting faculty who are not accustomed to using technology to do so. They are used to Slack and Zoom, luckily.
  2. We use a flipped classroom without lectures, so that’s already online. We have in class small group activities that we’ll need to figure out. Our assessments are already delivered by an online platform. So while they’ll not be as secure without a proctor, we can do this too. (Online proctoring is expensive).
  3. Students have a variety of devices but are required to have either a tablet or laptop. Most have either iPads or MacBooks.
  4. I am looking for a “quick and dirty” conversion. Should we be asked to implement this, we will likely not have a lot of time.
  5. The need for online is only present because we want to deliver the course requirements despite potential quarantining of people. We go above-and-beyond the standard in a lot of places and so there’s room to cut back if needed.

Thanks for the advice.


I think Zoom may be our best best (as faculty have already been using this). We have a subscription which allows us to go past the 40 minute limitation.

Thanks for the advice, I’m glad you were able to make it work. Whether 6 days or 6 weeks, I’m sure it was still quite a considerable effort.

Short videos are certainly key! We’ve posted most of our stuff on YouTube since it does the heavy lifting of matching people’s bandwidth, device size, etc. I’ve recorded my videos with the wired EarPods. This works fairly well except with collared shirts where it rubs against and causes some noise. The AirPods may fix that.


Great advice. Our instructional designers are aware and are part of the solution. Most of the items will be within our walled off LMS. Thanks.

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The added advantage of the BT headset is that I can walk around the room drawing lecture notes on my iPad while projecting through AirServer and keep my voice capture crisp in the video+audio capture taking place simultaneously using Panopto.


A few further thoughts before you jump away from the physical location …

  • Convince the university to invest in good quality headsets for all concerned. I found the BlueParrot after extensive searching and after testing one device at lower cost that subsequently failed even to work. Don’t compromise here. You will have enough to handle let alone that you have to deal with students complaining about audio quality in off-line lectures.

  • Zoom is a good platform for interactive work with the students but … You will want to have the option to do off-line work AND to have a community all using the same off-line tool to share tips remotely. So, convince the university to invest in one common off-line video recording app across the board for all faculty before they leave. I use Camtasia. It may not be the easiest to use and is likely not the cheapest, but it is robust and feature-rich.

  • Have your university ASAP create an On-Line Chat Help Forum within your LMS. Make that forum the go-to location for FACULTY to share questions and comments and tips.

Keep us updated on what happens. I imagine that your experiences will have a wide audience even beyond here.


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Here’s what my institution has posted - most of the content is public:

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As a career ID, thank you for engaging your institution’s IDs.

Away from my desk, I’ve used my wireless Beats Studios to record the audio for my videos – even one from a moving walkway at MSP. I believe they use the same hardware as Airpods do. They get the job done. I prefer the Blue Yeti I have at home though…

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@dfay This is a good resource. Thanks!

Here’s another

We’re going with Zoom + Slack to host most of it. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll work.

@dfay Thanks that’s another good resource.

What I’ve gathered so far is:

  1. All cameras on (unless your Internet connection sucks).
  2. Be over animated when speaking. We lose the electricity of an in person conversation, so we need to make up for it.
  3. Call on people to ensure they’re paying attention
  4. Take breaks (you can only look at a screen for so long).

This is going to be a wild ride. I suspect that we’ll first have lots of furloughed teachers until stuff really hits the fan, then we can get pulled into action and it’s all hands on deck. Then we’ll have one teacher for 60 or 100 students.

The next few months are going to be quite challenging. Stay safe everyone and practice responsible social distancing.

I don’t recommend requiring your students to turn their cameras on. It creates distractions. The odds are your students won’t be the only individuals at their physical locations. Even on a laptop, having a camera on will generate curiosity. Everyone around them will want to “wave at the camera.”

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I’m thinking I’ll be chunking up my classroom presentations into smaller 5-10-minute bites. I’ll use PowerPoint to do those as self-playing slide shows. Readings will be online for the benefit of those students who didn’t bring books home for spring break. (Fortunately I’m teaching stuff that’s old enough that there are English translations in the public domain.)

Edited to add: I think I’m going to use Perusall for the uploads of the reading material, so there can be some collaborative annotation/discussion.

Students will continue to submit written work as PDF uploads.

I honestly intend to do nothing synchronous except for office hours. I’ve got students scattered across the Eastern, Central, and Pacific time zones. One of my usual class slots is now 6 am for some people.