Online Teaching Support

Supporting students online is complex. The resources in this guide have been developed from the student perspective, with students as co-creators, and with the whole student in mind. They are meant to supplement those supporting and teaching students in an online context.

We (Minori, Harvey, Rahul, Celia, and Kartik) are 5 assistants at the Chapman Learning Commons. Based on our previous experiences learning in-person and online, we have compiled a few pointers from the student perspective that we think will aid staff and faculty as they try to construct their online learning environment.  

1. What concerns do students have when learning online?

Many students struggle with the limited accessibility and flexibility that is offered to them in the online learning environment, as there are many barriers to their learning experience that they feel go unaddressed by some course design elements and instructors. Here are some common concerns:

  • Limited internet bandwidth/connection and device capability can restrict some students from participating in certain course content.
  • Living in different time zones can make it difficult to attend synchronous lectures and would be better supported with recordings of such lectures.
  • Courses that offer a limited variety of learning materials in courses can be difficult for students (e.g. text-intensive courses with no verbal lectures).
  • When transitioning to the online medium, examinations should be cognizant of the need for partial grading of notes/drafts, or the need for extra exam time for students to fully participate.
  • Many students are facing new or different time commitments due to the rapid transition to online learning, which prevents them from participating to their former capacity.
  • Screen fatigue can be a genuine concern for many individuals who are not used to sitting in front of a digital screen for hours on end. Instructors may find it beneficial to record their lectures in a podcast form while simultaneously adding the slides as a supplement to students’ learning.
  • A 10 hour/week course commitment looks different in-person (with three hours of lectures) and online (sometimes without lectures). Keeping in mind how students may take more time to engage with materials in an online environment, and making adjustments accordingly can help students succeed.

So what can be done? Recognizing the limitations and struggles that students face in the online learning environment and adjusting course achievement expectations, offering flexible grading rubrics and lecture attendance options, and providing more opportunities for students to participate or make up for lost marks would help address many of these concerns.

 2. What are a few things instructors should remember when designing online learning?

Online learning is demanding on students’ time management and self-learning abilities. here lacking sufficient support and means to communicate, students could be stuck and stressed more easily. Consider adopting measures tailored to online learning into course design to help students better handle both course material and stress level.  Based on my own experience learning online, I personally recommend focusing on these three areas to make adjustments:

Lecture, slides & notes:

  • Prerecord lectures to make them available through the term.
  • Post lecture notes before class, and if possible,  write notes with the students (just like a regular lecture) during lectures / recordings so that students can follow every step,  especially for notes-driven courses including Maths, Accounting etc.
  • If lecturing, link the video instead of playing it in the recording to make sure students can find the resource and study further at their own pace. Ideally, provide links to every resource you mentioned in the lecture and make sure resources are separate from the body of a lecture so that students can more easily access key materials.
  • Please keep in mind that the visual and audio quality of your lectures can be detrimental to a student’s success. It can be a difficult lecture for students when they have to sit through a muffled delivery. Luckily, UBC Studios’ DIY spaces (One-Button Studio and Lightboard Studio) are currently available to faculty. Their spaces already come equipped with the basic video equipment that you will need. You can start booking today!
  • UBC Studios is also coming out with video resources to guide faculty and staff on their journey.
  • Even if you already have an online course, look into resources and adapt according to this current context and situation- as you may need to change your course design to be more optimal.

Communication & Feedback:

  • Welcome honest feedback by offering opportunities for anonymous feedback on course design and delivery, especially during first weeks and midterm.
  • Utilize breakout rooms, discussion groups etc. to set up spaces for your students to connect with each other.  Implement a structure immediately after lecture if possible as it may help with group organization, for example, let students stay behind in the lecture room to have discussions in breakout rooms if they’d like to connect. If you need to close the lecture to complete the recording, ask a TA or student representative to hold the session.
  • Give flexibility in discussion groups to encourage students to share any ideas, to promote genuine contribution for purposes beyond participation marks. Consider flexible forms of assessment for discussion groups and course participation.
  • Hold virtual office hours (for example, using BB Collaborate Ultra) and welcome students to drop quick questions and chat  instead of communicating everything over email. Students can see email as a formal communication form and it may be easier for them to break down the barrier of formality.  This also helps instructors and students to get closer and know each other better.
  • Have some communication format with other instructors in your department (i.e. Slack) so that students taking different sessions are about the same page hence easier to discuss with each other. Contact Learning Tech Rovers for more support. Link to LTR page:

Assignments, exams & grading:

  • Consider more flexible grading schemes in light of the stress of this situation to help students feel more secure, for example, to offer students the option to move the weight of their grade from midterms to the final, and to offer a number of lower-stakes assignments with different grading weights in addition to 1-2 heavy exams.
  • Consider setting a range of assignments to capture different learning preferences and having extra/bonus assignment(s) to make assignments more low-stakes and help students who fell behind at the beginning of the course due to switching to online learning.
  • Consider a livestream Q/A about debriefing midterms and assignments; discuss your grading process and answers to questions. This can be helpful with an exam-intensive class.
  • Be transparent about which topics are important and share the format of exams to help students not be surprised when the exam shows up, so they know what to expect and feel more comfortable. Provide practice exams/quizzes on Canvas for students to practice and troubleshoot. Students can self-enroll to practice exams here:
  • For maths-heavy courses, make sure to adjust question format or exam duration for online exams as it’s a lot harder and time consuming to type in formulas and steps to get partial marks.

What’s more, students could also benefit from you utilizing and being creative with technologies available to you, for example, possibly 3D videos for field courses or more broad quiz questions, adding more visual appeals etc.

 3. What helps students engage with content online (both synchronously and asynchronously)?

As a student, my friends and I can have trouble staying engaged in lectures when learning online. Therefore, it is very important for professors to adopt teaching methods which would encourage participation from students.

  • A very interactive technique can be to split the screen in half where the professor is recording themselves speaking and, on the other half, they write notes simultaneously.
  • Also, professors can create a Google Doc where they type out notes for all students to access. Students can contribute to this Google Doc as well in a collective note-taking exercise.
  • Another very common approach can be to preformat PowerPoint slides to be blank, where professors can then draw or write on during class. This feature can be helpful for courses which have a lot of formulae or math, as typing out formulae can be extremely tedious. Drawing tables or mind maps on blank slides can be more interactive for students.  
  • Furthermore, welcoming students to stay in breakout rooms or the main room after the lecture is over, encourages classmates to engage with each other.
  • When it comes to asynchronous learning, creating a discussion platform such as Piazza or Canvas is a great way for classmates to ask questions and discuss topics. Professors cannot be available all the time, therefore, these platforms can allow students to solve each other’s questions.

We hope that these tips have helped guide you in constructing your new curriculum. We know that it may be challenging to try and address all of our needs but we do appreciate all of the accommodations that UBC’s staff and faculty are willing to give. While we cannot speak on the behalf of all students, we think that our advice is grounded in solid experiences and that many individuals can relate to our sentiments.

These resources are for Instructors, Faculty, and Staff to share with students. Please take and use these resources directly!

Canvas Module, Student Learning and Wellbeing

This module created to support learning and wellbeing for UBC students. The content of this resource was chosen by students, and the topics included are: academic support, library resources, and health & wellbeing. Embedding this as an option module in Canvas is an easy way to provide students with support and resources available to help them succeed and thrive in their academic lives.

[Note: all student resources below are embedded in the above module!]

Get Students Help

Assistance with learning technology (such as Canvas, Collaborate Ultra, or Zoom) as well as questions about learning or academic support at UBC. Our friendly Chapman Learning Commons Assistants provide support over the phone and email.

Learning Skills Workshops

The Chapman Learning Commons offers learning skills workshops about adjusting to learning online. Learn how to plan your space, manage your time, or plan a presentation. Register to receive the link for attending online.

Online Learners’ Resource Guide

Digital classroom making your head spin? Check out these great tools and resources for taking distance courses and see advice about adjusting to learning online other students like you.

Practice Taking Exams Online

Self-enroll in the CLC’s Online Exam Practice Course to practice taking different types of online assignments and exams. Familiarize yourself with Proctorio, Lockdown Browser, Webwork, and more.

Keep Learning

Provides you with resources to prepare for online learning including getting set up, self-care, and technology tips.

Wellness Centre Online

Access up-to-date health education and information, learn more about health-related resources on and off campus, access tips and strategies for your wellbeing as a student, and hear from the experiences of your peers.

Keep Teaching

The Keep Teaching website supports faculty in developing their own strategies to continue to meet the needs of their courses online, if there are disruptions in on-campus teaching and learning. Being prepared to offer many aspects of your face-to-face or blended courses online is an important part of planning for events that may interrupt normal campus operations.

Canvas UBCV Library Skills

A pilot of the ALT Project titled Creating Flexible Online Learning Modules to Support Information Literacy Instruction. This is a package of two modules on exploring sources and the basics of finding sources through the UBC Vancouver Library. 

CTLT Online Teaching Program

This program is designed to help you adapt your course for the online environment and prepare you to teach online. The program consists of a course with self-paced modules in Canvas, online workshops with experiential learning opportunities, and one-on-one consultation support with an educational consultant.

Wellbeing in Teaching and Learning Environments

Research shows that supporting wellbeing in learning environments is foundational to our students achieving deeper learning and academic success. On the Wellbeing in Teaching & Learning Environments website, there is information about faculty profiles,  past projects, resources, and toolkits to embed practices in your own classroom.

Green Folder

Everyone plays an important role in supporting student mental health and wellbeing.  The Green folder is a quick guide for faculty and staff to know what to look for, say, and do when having a supportive conversation with a student.


Mcphee, Siobhán & Lyon, Katherine & Briseno-Garzon, Adriana & Varao-Sousa, Trish & Moghtader, Bruce. (2020). Student voices on remote education in the COVID-19 era: Recommendations for fall based on student self-reported data. 10.13140/RG.2.2.28175.20641.

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