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Oct 15

Special Notice Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Deliver Your Online or Hybrid Course

There is a strong correlation between learner interaction and engagement, sense of community, and success in online learning (e.g., Sadera, Robertson, Song, & Midon, 2009). Therefore, it is important to not only design your course in a way that facilitates connection, but also to ensure that instructor-student and student-student interaction is frequent and personal throughout the course. It would be a mistake to assume that the work is done once an online course is designed and built. No matter how well-designed a course is, the instructor plays a vital role in facilitating learning throughout the course. Students need your explanations, your examples, your guidance, your encouragement, your feedback – in short, your presence.

Online/hybrid instructors should familiarize themselves with the Community of Inquiry Framework, summarized here by Purdue University, which discusses teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence in online learning environments.

Below, you’ll find more guidance and resources to support you as you actively facilitate your online or hybrid course.

Quick Tips on Creating Community from Learning Academy Faculty Consultants for Online Teaching

Try to meet with your students during the first week of class! Although time consuming, this allows you to begin developing relationships with you students at the very beginning of the course. During this brief meeting, you can get to know your students a little better, review the most important things they need to know about the course, answer any initial questions and address their concerns. Research has shown that students really appreciate and value interaction with their online instructors, and this is a great chance to do that. – Shenika Harris, Associate Professor of Spanish

Make sure to upload your photo in Canvas and ask students to do the same. Being able to associate a face with comments helps to build connections. I use a casual photo and also include informal information about myself, like my hobbies, in my bio. Also, don’t forget an icebreaker just because the course is online. Give students the chance to introduce themselves and get to know one another in fun ways. – Colleen Biri, Professor of Psychology


Sadera, W., Robertson, J., Song, L, and Midon, M. (June 2009). The Role of Community in Online Learning Success. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(2). Retrieved on July 7, 2012 from

Topics in Course Delivery

Communicating with Students

Certainly, communicating frequently, consistently, and clearly with students goes a long way toward creating your presence as an instructor in an online or hybrid course. There are several things an instructor can do to create relationships with students and ensure students feel their presence. These include:

  • Posting a welcome letter or welcome video before the course begins
  • Posting regular announcements to keep students on track, share
  • Participating in discussions
  • Providing helpful and timely feedback
  • Reaching out to struggling students
  • Sending periodic messages of encouragement (e.g., before or after a summative assessment)
  • Talking with students about current events and/or their circumstances
  • Referring to students by name
  • References comments students have previously made or questions they’ve asked

These are probably similar to things you do in on-ground courses, but you might need to be more intentional about them in online courses because regular, synchronous, on-ground meetings sessions are not a part of the learning experience.

Check out these resources, as well:

*For information on video conferencing with students, see the Building Your Online / Hybrid Course section.

Quick Tips on Communication from Learning Academy Faculty Consultants for Online Teaching

My assignments are due on Sunday nights at 11:59 p.m. One of the things I started doing is sending a reminder note through the grade book to those who haven't submitted the week's assignments on Sunday mornings. I have had a pretty dramatic reduction in missed assignments thanks to those reminders, and students report appreciating them. – Colleen Biri, Professor of Psychology

I do “check-ins” at the beginning of every unit (every four weeks).  I do them via video announcement (so they see my face and listening is sometimes easier than reading).  In the announcement I do a brief overview of that unit’s assignments and I often also try to do something that makes me human (e.g. introduce them to my dog, tell them about a movie I watched over the weekend etc.) – Meri Marsh, Associate Professor of Geography

Every Monday I post an announcement with key information for the week (sometimes it is narrative, sometimes I upload a video announcement).  I will also remind students of upcoming due dates or address questions that I’ve received.  – Michelle Whitacre, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education

First, have all students turn their Notifications settings on to receive feedback you give in Speedgrader, Announcements, etc. Do not overwhelm students with notifications, but ensure reminders are sent for upcoming summative assignments. Online classes often "fall off their radar" and these reminders are a great way to keep them on track and help with their time management. – James Hutson, Associate Professor of Art History

Example of a Weekly Overview Video from James Hutson

Using OWL and Canvas Conferences for On-ground/Online Sessions

When you’re hosting and recording synchronous sessions from an on-ground classroom, you will need to use the OWL unit, which you will launch through Canvas Conferences, to conference with students attending virtually.

Video demonstration of how the OWL unit works

Classroom Video Conferencing from LindenwoodIT on Vimeo.

Strategies for Including Students Joining Your On-Ground Session Virtually

Certainly, it will be a challenge to manage a classroom where some students are in person (and required to social distance) while some are joining online. Below are some ideas for engaging both audiences simultaneously:

  • Plan ahead for how you will include virtual students in activities. You might ask them to hold their own small group discussion(s) in Canvas via breakout rooms and then report out to the class, for example, if you’re going to ask in-person students to work in small groups.
  • Ask students to bring a device with them to class so that they are able to interact via chat with students joining virtually.
  • Offer a special welcome to the students joining virtually and ask if there are any issues hearing or seeing you before you begin class.
  • Do a quick “roll call” to see who is in class and who has joined online.
  • As you call roll, write on the board the names of students who are joining online.
  • Instruct online students to join in the conversation orally or via chat.
  • Ask a student in the classroom to serve as Chat Monitor during class. This student should alert you when a student posts a question or comment to the chat so that you and/or other students can respond.
  • When you pose a question encourage students joining virtually to join in answering by:
    • Saying, “Let’s hear from someone who’s joined us virtually, or
    • Use your list of names on the board and call on students joining virtually. Put a checkmark by each name as you call on the student.
  • Try to include several of the students who’ve joined virtually in a given class period.
  • Try to remember to not only provide eye contact for your in-person students, but to simulate it for the virtual students by looking at the camera at times, particularly when you’re addressing a student in the virtual format.
  • End the session by asking what, if any, issues students joining virtually had during the session and by asking all students for suggestions to improve subsequent sessions where both audiences will be present.

For more ideas, see Vanderbilt University’s page on this topic and see this example of a plan for an on-ground session where some students will join online and others will watch a recording later.

Giving Feedback and Grading

Feedback is an important element of the learning process and of creating a relationship with students. In an online course, where students learn from an instructor and peers at a distance, timely and frequent feedback can be especially important for student learning (Johnson, 2014; Junk, Deringer, & Junk, 2011).

Theile (2003) offers the following best practices for giving student feedback

  • Address the learner by name
  • Provide frequent feedback
  • Set a pattern for providing feedback to learners
  • Provide immediate feedback
  • Provide balanced feedback
  • Provide specific feedback
  • Use a positive tone
  • Ask questions to promote thinking

Theil recommends that online discussion feedback be provided within 72 hours of the due date and time and feedback on longer assignments be provided in less than one week from the due date. This will not always be possible, of course, with a heavy teaching load, but doing your best to provide timely feedback is important because it allows students to understand how to improve before another assessment occurs. It is also a great idea to let students know when to expect feedback.

When grading assessments, provide Wise Feedback, which communicates to students that the student can meet the high standards of the course and that feedback is meant to help them do so. Wise feedback promotes growth mindset and can help alleviate stereotype threat and imposter syndrome.

Here are some helpful links to learn how to provide feedback and grade in Canvas:

Quick Tips on Grading and Feedback from Learning Academy Faculty Consultants for Online Teaching

Make sure to vary the feedback that you provide for your students! Try to do video and audio feedback in addition to written feedback. Video and audio feedback can be less time consuming than written feedback which is a welcome change when teaching several online courses. Also, seeing and hearing your voice reminds students that an actual person is instructing the course and not a robot. – Shenika Harris, Associate Professor of Spanish

I always grade assignments using Speedgrader in Canvas.  I use the annotation feature as well as the comment box to give students specific feedback.  I also build rubrics in Canvas so I can assess assignments using the rubric. Occasionally, I also like to use the media feature in the comment box to record and upload verbal feedback.  This is a bit more time consuming but helps to build connections with students. – Michelle Whitacre, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education

To students, on assignments: I provide individualized feedback on all assignments within speedgrader.  I work hard to make sure there’s a mix of positive and corrective (e.g. smiley faces, “great point!”, “I love this sentence!” etc. etc.). From students, on the course: Mid-semester video evaluation.  This is a huge opportunity to get some information in time to make adjustments (if needed) to your course.  I HIGHLY recommend implementing this practice!  Further, address what came up in the feedback in a video announcement (so students know you’re paying attention to it).  This is due at the end of week 4 (of an 8-week term).  Students must post a short video (just for me, this isn’t a discussion) that addresses three questions: 

  1. What has surprised you about the course so far? 
  2. What’s one thing you really like about the class? 
  3. What’s one suggestion for improving on the class?

– Meri Marsh, Associate Professor, Geography


Johnson, S. (2014). Applying the seven principles of good practice: Technology as a lever - in an online research course. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 13(2), 41- 50.

Junk, V., Deringer, N., & Junk, W. (2011). Techniques to engage the online learner. Research in Higher Education Journal, 10, 1-15.

Thiele, J. (2003). Learning patterns of online students. Journal of Nursing Education, 42(8), 364-366.

How to Recover After a Bad Teaching Session

Everybody has frustrating class sessions, or weeks that don’t work in the online classroom. To get back to where you want to be as a teacher after a bad class, try these strategies:

  1. Practice mindfulness. Recognize and acknowledge your feelings about the session. Try to minimize harmful self-talk or self-recriminations.
  2. Use empathy. Imagine how your students felt—if, for example, they weren’t responding to discussion questions, try to think empathetically about why they might have been reluctant. Is there a big exam coming up that’s making them nervous? Were the questions too advanced? Was technology getting in the way? Even if you can’t pin down the exact right answer, you’ll be able to approach them with more compassion next session. You might even consider checking in with students to see if they’re okay and if they need to cover the material in question again.
  3. Reframe the session or activity as a learning experience for yourself. What did you find out about what works for you as instructor? What would you like to try again and what do you think you’ll abandon from here one out? How can you use this discomfort to grow? Consider talking it over with a sympathetic colleague or Learning Academy consultant if you’re unsure of how to proceed.
  4. Try again. Whether that means re-trying the failed technique, starting over with a new plan, or simply forging ahead, reenter the classroom with confidence, knowing that you’ve done your best and are continuing to improve as an educator.

Anti-racist Teaching Resources

Recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing deaths of BIPOC at the hands of law enforcement, have reinforced the need for inclusive and explicitly anti-racist teaching strategies in order to support and educate all students.

Start Here - General Resources

Deploying these strategies will help close achievement gaps and provide a model for all students of how professionals embrace and honor multiple axes of diversity. Research shows that inclusive teaching improves learning outcomes.

Many resources are available online for instructors. If you would like to recommend a resource to be included here, please email

What Does It Mean to Be Anti-Racist? from The Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing, by Anneliese A. Singh

This short article, provided for the use of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, provides a helpful general overview of anti-racist principles and techniques for both White people and people of color.

How to Be an Anti-Racist Educator

Dena Simmons suggests five straightforward strategies that educators at any level and in any subject area can deploy to combat racism in education.

Inventory of Inclusive Teaching Practices, from Harvard’s Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

straight-forward checklist of 20 things to do to become an anti-racist educator, from the Equity Literacy Institute. 

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s interactive advice guide on Inclusive Teaching, which advocates for increasing structure in order to support students and provides concrete and accessible suggestions for designing a more inclusive classroom from the beginning.

Teaching and Anti-Racism, from the Lewis & Clark State College Center for Teaching and Learning

Good general overview of options for anti-racist teaching techniques, including a particularly useful table of skills and practices for building anti-racism skills in students.

Phillips, Jennifer Akamine, et al., “Barriers and Strategies by White Faculty who Incorporate Anti-Racist Pedagogy,” Race & Pedagogy Journal 3:2 (2019), 1-27.

From the abstract: “This study focused on the experiences of White faculty who incorporate an antiracist framework into their college classrooms. … Through the use of narrative inquiry, five researchers explored the personal and professional barriers faced by White faculty engaging in anti-racist educational practices in the college classroom. The study included 17 faculty participants teaching at predominately White private and public colleges and universities throughout the United States who teach in various academic disciplines. Findings revealed the ongoing barriers in teaching antiracism ideals and the discussion provides strategies and an emerging model for incorporating intentional anti-racist pedagogy into the classroom.

St. Louis University Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence: Blog posts on inclusive teaching

Resource Recommendations from the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

DEI Task Force for folks to build a support system on anti-racism/inclusive topics: (DEI Toolkit)

Jennifer Spellazza, Coordinator for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, was invited to contribute to the Worries to Warriors SharePoint, see her #LionsUnited page with her contributions.

LindenAlly’s Facebook Group received a contribution recently from a student: the Black History Month Library.

Instructors may also join the LindenAlly – Virtual Allyship & Resource Sharing Space group on Facebook to build a support system on anti-racism/inclusive topics.

Dr. Kathy Obear creates accessible content and an online support system for folks on anti-racism/inclusive topics.

DEI Research Guide This guide includes resources on Inclusive Pedagogy, Age, Intersectionality, LGBTQ+, Neurodiversity, Race, Ethnicity & Anti-racism, Socioeconomic Status, STEM, and Women & Gender, but it is, by no means, exhaustive.. It will continue to evolve as new resources become available.


If your course includes readings, consider the race and perspective of the authors. Whose perspectives are being highlighted? Ignored? The University of Michigan Center for Research on Teaching & Learning suggests some practical techniques here.

When providing examples or case studies in classes and on assessments, include names from various traditions. Create diverse characters in your fictitious or anonymized examples.

For strategies specific to online, asynchronous classes, this guide from the Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown may be helpful.


Consider how inclusive your syllabus is. Tips for adjustment are included in this blog post from the Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence at SLU. The Center for Urban Education at USC also offers an excellent, research-informed Syllabus Review Guide.

Include a personalized diversity statement in your syllabus and draw students’ attention to it on the first day/as part of your introduction.

Think about “hidden curriculum.” What elements of your class (office hours, writing style, extra credit opportunities, requesting extensions and exceptions, effort/work required for success, etc.) might not be readily apparent to a first-generation college student? To an international student? How can your syllabus and your Canvas shell help demystify this curriculum so that it is more accessible to all students?


Creating an Inclusive Community and Managing Difficult Conversations in the Online Classroom

While difficult conversations about controversial topics are more likely to occur within certain courses due to subject matter, all instructors should be prepared to facilitate conversations like this as they can occur at any time, in any class. Controversial topics like race, the Black Lives Matter Movement, police brutality, and human rights may be at the forefront of students’ and instructors’ minds as we head into the Fall 2020 semester. Below are some strategies for setting the tone for respectful discourse and handling challenges that might arise. Some are general, some are specific to online courses.

  • Establish expectations for respectful discourse up front and emphasize this rather than letting it be buried in the syllabus. Consider highlighting it in your introductory video as something that is very important to you and will be taken very seriously, or even create a video specifically on this topic for the beginning of the course, especially if your course deals with potentially controversial topics.
    • In your discussion of this, talk about how it can be easier and more tempting online when hiding behind a computer to address someone disrespectfully and fire off messages that are hostile or otherwise inappropriate.
    • Emphasize that disagreement is useful, but there are effective and ineffective ways to disagree or express controversial viewpoints. Recognize students’ freedom of speech, but discuss the limitations on that.
  • Provide written examples of how to express views effectively as well as how views would be expressed ineffectively or inappropriately.
  • Model for students how to respond to others.
  • Encourage students to take advantage of the asynchronous nature of online courses, taking time to consider and refine their messages before posting. With time to think, read up, cool down, and plan, there is little to no excuse for inflammatory comments.
  • Include punitive measures for situations that are not easily diffused (e.g., loss of points on interaction assignments).
  • Include a clear procedure for what the class –including you – should do if an issue occurs. For example, if a student finds another student’s post offensive, that student should:
    • Contact the instructor to talk through the situation
    • Under instructor’s advisement, the student may respond to the post explaining how it is offensive.
    • The instructor will address the situation on the discussion board, taking the opportunity to teach students something about civil discourse, race, class, gender, etc. publicly, and then follow up with the student whose post was offensive via private message to ensure understanding of how to adhere to communication policy in the future.
  • Perhaps the public response from the instructor will include an example of how the poster could have framed the message better and/or outside resources on the topic that would help further educate all students.
  • Ask students to provide feedback on course materials, activities, environment, and interactions. If possible, provide an avenue for students to offer anonymous feedback. Consider a mid-term formative course evaluation to gather input from your students.

For many more detailed suggestions, please consult the Let’s Talk: Teaching Tolerance Guide provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Fostering Equitable Classroom Participation

Addressing micro- and macroaggressions, regardless of modality, from the University of Washington Center for Teaching

COVID-19 and Videoclassism: Implicit Bias, Videojudgment, and Why I’m Terrified to Have You Look Over My Shoulder, by Dr. Taharee Jackson. Jackson interrogates the way videoconferencing exposes the private lives—particularly, class distinctions due to poverty—of students suddenly required to use these platforms. She provides five concrete strategy for educators to apply when using these platforms to avoid implicit bias and teach more equitably.

Supporting Underprepared Students Online
This Faculty Focus article by Lisa Borrero and Amanda Jayne Miller provides an overview of key strategies for assuring that students with fewer tools can succeed in the online classroom.

When grading assessments, provide Wise Feedback, which communicates to students that the student can meet the high standards of the course and that feedback is meant to help them do so. Wise feedback promotes growth mindset and can help alleviate stereotype threat and imposter syndrome.

Discipline- or Technique-Specific Resources

Anti-Racist Writing Assessment Ecologies (book PDF) by Asao B. Inoue

Teaching for Retention in Science, Engineering, and Math Disciplines: A Guide for Faculty” by Marie Kendall Brown, Chad Hershock, Cynthia J. Finelli, and Chris O’Neal (University of Michigan Center for Research on Teaching and Learning).

Science Teaching in Inclusive Classrooms: Theory and Foundations,” by Greg Stefanich et al. (2001).

Michigan State University LibGuides on Inclusive Teaching resources, with individual guides for Arts & Letters, Business, Communication Arts and Sciences, Education, Medicine and Health Sciences, Music, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences, among others.

Performing Anti-Racist Pedagogy in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication, ed. Frankie Condon and Vershawn Ashanti Young, WAC Clearinghouse (2017).

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