Preparing for Distance Teaching and Advising (Best Practices)

Preparing for the unknown and being flexible keeps stress levels low. Everyone has unexpected issues they have to respond to during the semester. These may include instances such as family leave, bad weather, and major outbreaks. It is important to plan for such inevitable situations. On the other hand, it is just as important to be ready for planned distance education. These best practices will make the distance environment a little more friendly to all.

Prepare with Flexibility in Mind

Reminder: You will have the best experience if you use technology and processes that are fully supported by ITS. Use of technology not supported by Drake requires you to be responsible for any troubleshooting for both you and your students. ITS provides resources to help faculty deliver synchronous and/or asynchronous distance learning activities, and offers assistance in using them.

Blackboard Learn, Drake’s learning management system (LMS), is the best place to start. Every course has a Blackboard site available to instructors.

  • Make your Blackboard Course available to students.  To make it accessible to students from the Courses list, click on the "..." menu next to your course title and change the status to Open Course.
  • Upload your syllabus to Blackboard Learn Ultra.  This supports the students in knowing your plan for the course and helps your colleagues should they need to cover your course.
    • Be sure your syllabus includes informing students know how you will communicate with them should any unexpected issues occur.  Blackboard Announcements or Blackboard Messages with a copy to student emails covers several means of notifications at the same time.
  • Prepare a synchronous digital learning environment – even if you never plan to use it. Having a Zoom session for synchronous meetings ready will reduce stress if you do need to use it in a pinch.
  • Understand that you cannot upload video recordings directly to your Blackboard course. Courses are limited to 2GB of storage space. However it is absolutely possible to integrate videos into your course via Panopto, a video storage and streaming solution. This not only allows to save space in your course, you will have greater insight into student views of the content.

Building in Blackboard Learn Ultra

Supporting Students to Learn Online or at a Distance

In addition to teaching resources, we have prepared some student resources to support their online or distance learning experiences. Please share these resources with students if you plan to use Blackboard Learn, Zoom, or Panopto as some of the learning tools for your course. 

Communicate Often (Best Practices)

  • Announcements (Video tutorial): Announcements allow you to post critical time-sensitive information and may include push notifications, emails, and/or pop-up notifications. 
  • Messages (Written documentation; Video tutorial): From a course, you can access messages from the navigation bar. The course messages page shows all messages from the course you’re in. 
  • Conversations (Written documentation): Allows students to contact their instructors and peers for questions about specific assignments, or assessments, if made available. 
  • Journals (Written documentation; Video tutorial): Students can express their thoughts, questions, and concerns privately with instructors. 
  • Discussions (Written documentation): Students can share ideas, gather feedback and refine opinions and plans with their classmates. 

Understand the Student Experience

NOTE: If you test your assignments and tests using the Student Preview feature of Learn Ultra, any student-based submission will prevent instructors from editing the assignment or test. You will need to Reset the Student Preview to clear submissions to allow editing. The system blocks editing of an assignment or test after any student submissions have begun. You may adjust using the regrade feature after student submissions are complete. This will ensure that all students have the same experience.  

Understand How Grading Supports Communication Efforts

  • About Grading 
    • Due dates are not restrictive. Students can submit after a due date, but based on your course policy (typically in your syllabus), you don’t have to grade late assignments. If your policy is not to grade late assignments, please read the information below on setting automatic zeros. 
    • Add accommodations (e.g., time-and-a-half for assessments) for a student at the course level. You can also add one-time individual exceptions if necessary. 
    • Set gradebooks to automatic zero if you don't need to use exemptions. If your course policy is to not grade late assignments, using this setting will automatically add a zero while continuing to provide students with late notices. Remember to update your syllabi to include your course policies around these Blackboard settings, if applicable.  
    • Learn more about Overall Grades, the name of the total column in Ultra courses.  

Need Help?

  • Each Blackboard page links to help documentation: In the bottom right corner, of any page in Learn Ultra, look for the purple question mark and click on Blackboard Help to be re-directed to articles to help you learn more about the feature you are using.
  • Quick tutorials: Follow the Blackboard YouTube playlist for access to 50+ video tutorials on the Ultra Course Experience.
    NOTE: This option may cover tools unavailable at Drake and may not provide rationale for decision making.
  • Self-service assistance:  Visit the Learn Ultra knowledge base category to see guides including Copying Courses in Blackboard Learn (How-to), which provides instructions on copying Original courses to Ultra. Additional Learn Ultra resources will be available soon.
  • Ask for assistance from ITS or Drake Online

Do You Use Textbook Ancillaries?

As you design and test your new Ultra courses, please be sure to check that any third-party tools you plan to use have been updated. Third-party tools may include ancillaries for your textbooks, any audio or video captured content, or proctoring software. ITS has updated most of these tools, but there are likely some we are not aware of that will need to be addressed before fall courses begin.  

Additional Options

Microsoft Teams

All Drake students, faculty, and staff have access to Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is a product that combines tools and resources such as group chat, calendars, and file sharing into one location using the Office 365 platform.

You can access Teams from the My Teams button in the Commonly Used Apps section of myDrake. From there you can also access any shared files and any personal files backed up to OneDrive. When you use Teams online, you can create, update, work collaboratively on, and save documents directly to the cloud regardless of what device you’re using. Microsoft Teams also has apps for iOS or Android devices.

Additionally, you can use Teams to hold virtual meetings, either as part of a Team or an individual or group chat, no matter where everyone is located.

Getting Started


NOTE: To participate in a Teams meeting you'll need to use the Teams desktop app, the web version of Teams in a Chrome or Edge browser, or the app for your iOS or Android mobile device. Teams meetings don't work in Safari, Firefox, or Internet Explorer.


Troubleshooting Audio/Video Issues

Support for Working Remotely

Working remotely? There are additional ITS-supported technological tools and processes available for you to use even if you can’t be on campus.  

Follow this link for a list of technology accessories and resources that might be useful for teaching or participating in online courses. These suggestions are not endorsed as supported solutions by Information Technology Services (ITS), nor are they available to purchase through ITS. Additionally, purchasing any suggested items may not be consistently available or priced due to fluctuations in the supply chain.

Support for Remote Students

Want to share resources with your students? Send them to Learning Online or Distance Learning (Best Practices).

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Article ID: 99491
Fri 2/28/20 9:40 AM
Tue 5/28/24 4:23 PM

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Request or make a change to a Microsoft Team or other shared file storage. (Faculty/staff only)