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Center for Teaching & Learning: Strategies for Success

Supporting the MCPHS faculty and staff in their commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning

Grab Your Gear!


To be successful away from the office, be sure you have the basic equipment to stay connected:



PC/Mac Computer

Here's the minimum & recommended specs that students are asked to meet - check your home/personal system for any updates you may need to explore.


You may have one built into your laptop or maybe you have an external headset - but if you don't have an audio input device yet, explore headset microphones or external desktop options if you'll be narrating lectures extensively.  

  • These are a great low-cost option you may be able to order via your departmental office supply budget
  • We love our Blue Yeti desktop microphones for audio recording with higher quality results!

You may have a built-in webcam in your laptop or monitor, but if you don't -- we recommend exploring HD camera options

High-speed internet connectivity You're going to need a solid internet connection, especially if you're hoping to run synchronous sessions reliably.  Commercially provided services (i.e. Spectrum, Verizon Fios, etc.) with a wired connection are your best bet!  WiFi connectivity will still allow you to function, but may be less reliable overall.
Chrome/Firefox browser Web-based resources often have recommended browsers for the best experience.  Use the Blackboard Browser Checker to be sure you're optimized.


Communicate With Students

Whether you're planning for continuity for one class, or for an extended event, your students need to hear from you.  Providing clear and consistent messaging can help ensure a sense of normalcy and ease some of the added stress change can have.  

  • Develop a communication plan and stick to it.  Tell your students your plan and be sure it's outlined in your syllabus.  It's a great opportunity to remind students that they are required to check their MCPHS email regularly! Set expectations for methods of contact and response/turnaround times so that your students won't panic if they don't receive an immediate reply.
  • Set up and engage in a Course Q&A discussion forum and invite your students to use this resource to pose questions that may be helpful for their peers.  A well developed Q&A can be a huge time saver! Encourage your students to visit here before they reach out through email or other methods of contact.
  • Use the Blackboard Announcements function with purpose! Don't overuse it, but definitely post critical updates in this space to keep students informed.
  • Use the Send Email tool in Blackboard to email students or even other course instructors without opening a separate application. You may select individual users or groups!
  • Use Blackboard's Course Messages function to send private and secure text-based communications within the course. Although similar to email, you must be logged in to a course to read and send course messages. Messages activity remains inside the system (no copy of the message will appear in Outlook for you OR your student), and you don't have to worry about email addresses that may be incorrect or outdated.

Distribute Course Materials Online

Explore Blackboard!

Blackboard Learn is the university learning management system (LMS) and can be used to facilitate your course experience virtually! Blackboard can help you to:

  • Organize course learning materials (files, videos, web links, and more) centrally for your students
  • Create, deploy, and grade assignments and assessments
  • Host synchronous classes or office hours with virtual whiteboards
  • Facilitate discussion forums and group collaboration opportunities

Record Lectures

There are several tools available to help you pre/re-record your planned lectures.  More detailed descriptions for each tool may be reviewed on the Resources for Success page. 

When you're developing your course's continuity plan, there are several strategies to consider:

This serves multiple purposes:

  • If you need to update or edit, it will take far less production time in the future.
  • Student attention is more likely to be maintained.
  • Recall and review is simplified for your students, they don't need to scan a 50+ minute video to re-visit a topic.

 Rethink your PowerPoint presentations! Keep it simple!

  • Transitioning existing PowerPoint lectures to be successful for online learning can be done -- learn more about simple best practices to follow.
  • Remove animations, transitions, extraneous music, and any non-essential images
  • Use clear slide titles and bulleted lists to display information
  • Avoid paragraphs of text and overuse of color and "busy" slide backgrounds

 Use a script!

Plan out your narration and use the "Notes" section in PowerPoint to type them out. To ensure accessibility and to enhance the experience for all learners, narrated presentations should have a text-based script accompaniment. You may also create handouts that include your notes and the slide visuals.

If you are packaging your lecture via an eLearning authoring tool, the slide notes will replace your in-class presence and help guide your students through the materials in the content module.

Run or Replace Labs

A major challenge to consider during an extended closure event would be sustaining lab components for classes. Since many labs require specific equipment, they are hard to reproduce outside of that physical space.

Considerations for short-term closures might include:

  • Moving aspects of lab activities online, particularly those that require students to familiarize themselves with procedures or data analysis or manipulation. Explore lab kits or other virtual materials to supplement the in-class experience.
  • Providing video demonstrations of techniques, online simulations, analysis of data, and other pre- or post-lab work to prepare students to hit the ground running when the campus reopens.

Empower Your Students to Collaborate

Fostering collaboration and communication between students can be beneficial in building a sense of community during stressful circumstances, helping restore or continue a sense of normalcy.  Build out opportunities for your students to engage with each other, both through formal discussion forums as well as other tools available to them via Blackboard and Microsoft Office.

As you develop your plan, consider the following:

  • Use asynchronous tools when possible -- live sessions are wonderful, but consider technical challenges that may limit you or your students from participating fully.  Discussion forums don't require extensive bandwidth and participation can happen from anywhere at any time.
  • Keep your course outcomes in mind and build out student-to-student engagement activities that can align to your objectives
  • Encourage more than prompt-response activities.  Have your students reflect upon their contributions to and knowledge gained from their conversations.  
  • Set up groups in Blackboard; student can informally or formally use the space to collaborate amongst themselves

Collect Assignments

In Blackboard, you're able to create and collect assignments online while managing grades and feedback for each student separately.


  • When you create a graded assignment in your course shell, it automatically generates a corresponding column in your Grade Center.
  • You're able to incorporate anti-plagiarism tools, allow for multiple submissions, and more! 
  • Reduce Outlook inbox inundation and never worry that an assignment gets lost in your Clutter/Junk folder!
  • Your students will also receive a digital "receipt" for their submission, which can help reassure them.

Assess Your Students

Consider how you'll transition from an in-class exam or quiz -- plan alternative methods to allow your students to demonstrate their learning.  Remember that attempting to deploy a high-stakes assessment during an unplanned campus closure will significantly increase stress for your students (and likely you as well!). 

Different strategies may include:

  • Build low-stakes quizzes or add more frequent knowledge checks into your course to keep students engaged and on track
  • Develop question pools so that you can reuse and randomize questions
  • Explore other types of assessment to build meaningful opportunities

What's Next?

By this point, you may have started to sketch out a plan to move some of your instruction into Blackboard, so let's dive more into the resources available to assist you in that goal!

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