1 Welcome and guiding principles


In this chapter


This resource is designed to help you convert your face-to-face class to a remote course as simply as possible. We walk you through the process, at each step giving a suggestion for a specific tool/technology—the uOttawa-supported one and our preferred tool if it is different. We also give an example and sources of additional information. We also created a template of a course in Brightspacesyllabus, and other resources that you can modify to suit your own course, if desired. These resources are available in the section called Quick start overview and resource documents.

We have all shared the experience of an emergency translation of in-person teaching to remote teaching in spring, 2020. Each of us improvised a distinct set of tools and approaches that worked in the short term and enabled courses to be concluded in a reasonable way.

The purpose of this guide is to support efforts to plan courses to be offered using remote instruction, identifying a set of tools with supporting examples that can be customized for courses. We are inspired by courses from Faculties of Science—the University of Ottawa’s Faculty in particular—but elements of this work should apply readily to many courses in other environments.

We also recognize that this emergency involves profound changes to every part of the university experience. Many of us must work under challenging circumstances at home to deliver something that we may have never seen before, let alone created. To be blunt, this transition is stressful.

This guide is intended to take some of the sting out of the process of having to work under such strange and challenging conditions.

We value feedback. In preparing this book, we dove into materials, tools, techniques, and research around best practices for teaching. We thought about ways to make the process as approachable as possible. We have surely missed things that would make this guide more accessible to colleagues and the process of planning remote teaching less stressful.

To this end, please contact us with questions, suggestions, and concerns. We check this form regularly and will continue to update this guide as the situation evolves.

Balance a simple approach with equity and quality

We recommend keeping things simple and using tools and methods that you are already familiar with, to the extent possible. There are so many options that if the ones provided don’t seem like a good fit, please feel free to make changes or reach out (see the Chapter on “Where to find help and advice“). Do your best to find the balance among simplicity, equity, and educational quality.

The fact is that many of us have not seen examples of a “good” remote learning course. In a non-exclusive way, we will provide a number of examples of potentially successful courses and describe the strategy, approaches, and tools that were used to create those examples of success.

Consider how the pandemic may be affecting students

When designing a course for remote instruction, flexibility is important. In this pandemic situation, students have not CHOSEN to take a remote course. They are being required to take courses remotely and many have not even have encountered remote learning or an online course before.

70% of students are concerned about the negative impact of remote teaching, according to a recent survey conducted by the uOttawa Science Students’ Association (n = 149).


Accessibility matters. Students may have limited access to essential materials for an online course or even to an environment that is suitable for concentration and learning. For example, students may: (i) have no printer, (ii) have poor or no wifi, (iii) not have a calm place to work, (iv) not have a suitable device.

It is vital to remember that we will be working through a global pandemic. Students, their family members, and/or their friends may experience risky health challenges related to COVID-19 as well as those that otherwise arise. Because of pandemic-related travel limitations, some students will be working in a different time zone. In addition to challenges that such time zone differences create that relate to delivery of live (synchronous) content, students also have other obligations associated with their presence in those remote locations (e.g. caring for family members or helping with a family business).

Students may not have access to important online learning tools at home.

Many students are living with pandemic-induced challenges in addition to existing limitations with access, including for cognitive, hearing, visions, or motor reasons. Designing the course by considering these aspects from the start can benefit everyone and save time later.

Equity and inclusion are essential threads running through each section of this guide. We know there are many challenges in this situation, and wish to be as inclusive of all learners as possible.

You are welcome here

A little about remote instruction

This fall transition is an example of remote teaching and not a formal online course for most of us. There’s a full explanation of the differences here. Essentially, a remote course is a normally face-to-face course that is given a distance during time of an emergency to ensure teaching continuity, in this instance, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A remotely taught course is a digital translation of a course that was originally intended to be given in person.

During this pandemic period, neither students nor instructors have any choice about using remote learning/teaching approaches. Considerations and flexibility should be given to the fact that neither is optimally equipped for remote learning/teaching. In contrast, online courses are designed for their medium. Their design usually involves the support of a team of online education experts, including instructional designers, graphic designers, and a production team. In a way, the distinction between remote teaching and a truly online course is one of degree, but the way content is delivered between the two approaches and indeed the content itself can vary significantly.

To go deeper

Up next

Through each of the chapters that follow, we walk you through the steps of converting to a remote courses. Many course variations are possible and we encourage you to adapt these suggestions to best support the students in your course.

Please feel free to contact us at any time with questions, suggestions, and concerns. In particular, we check this form each semester and will continue to update this guide as the situation evolves.



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