FurmanFlex Frequently Asked Questions

Please find below answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about teaching and learning during the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that this information is provided in archive form, meaning it is not updated and thus may not align with ongoing institutional changes as the pandemic recedes.

I. University Operations & Policies

I.1 What is the difference between Online and FurmanFlex Courses?

If your course has a physical location, you have a FurmanFlexcourse. 

If your course does NOT have a physical location, you have an Online  course. 

If you are teaching a FurmanFlexcourse, you can expect the following: 

  • A portion of students will attend face to face at the scheduled class time: F2F Students 
  • A portion of students will participate in your class remotely throughout the semester: Remote Students 
  • Students may shift between F2F and Remote designations throughout the semester as circumstances dictate. 
  • Course design and instructional delivery must include equitable learning opportunities for both groups of students (F2F and Remote) for the duration of the semester. See one example of new classroom technology in Hipp Hall in  this video! 

Who might Remote Students be? 

Here are the possible categories for remote learners: 

  1. Remote Only Learner: Permanent status noted on roster and communicated by email at the start of the term. 
  2. Health Notice: A student may be restricted to remote learning via a health notice. You will receive a second health notice indicating they have been CLEARED to return to face-to-face instruction. Until you receive the second notice, you should assume they will be participating remotely. 
  3. Remote Temporary: A student may be restricted to being a remote learner from home due to non-health related circumstances. The date that they may return to face-to-face instruction will be listed in email. 
  4. Independent Student Requests: Students may ask faculty to participate remotely for some, or all, of their class sessions while living on campus for other reasons. Whether  these unique requests are granted is at the discretion of each instructor. Students seeking to be a permanent remote student for all courses should request official approval from the Associate Academic Dean Kyle Longest, as outlined in our current protocols. 

If you are teaching an Online  course, you can expect the following: 

  •         Class will be taught online for the duration of the semester. 
  •         Per feedback from faculty and students, you should strive for synchronous course interactions to maximize engagement
  •         A portion of your students may be living on campus
  •         A portion of your students may be living elsewhere
I.2 How should I approach attendance and participation in my FurmanFlex or Online courses?

Instructors are encouraged to design attendance policies that take into account the unusual conditions impacting instruction during the pandemic. These policies must be explicitly stated in the course syllabus and explained orally to each class at the beginning of term. All absence policies must stress the need for students to stay away from the classroom if they are unwell; instructors should remind students of the health and safety measures required by the Paladin Promise.  For more information about remote learning and absences, please see this document. 

You might elect to include other virtual elements of engagement as a part of your attendance policy, either for online or FurmanFlex courses. This might include records of online activity completion –Moodle allows you to set up minimum “activity completion” standards for each activity (forum posting, assignment submission, reading, etc.) or activities like group chats or one-on-one virtual meetings. 

Attendance is not the same as participation, however, which is often where a rubric comes in handy to provide clear information to students about how their level of course engagement will be assessed, especially if this is part of the course grade. If you do include virtual activity participation in your assessment of course participation, consider how you might assess this in an online space. For example, if a portion of your participation assessment involves completing online forum discussion posts, you’d want to develop a pretty clear policy for how participation is assessed in an online forum. 

For sample syllabus language regarding attendance and participation, see the FDC syllabus template. 

I.3 What are current policies about final examinations and culminating projects?

All Furman courses should conclude each term with a final examination or other culminating experience. Exceptions must be approved by the appropriate department chair and the Associate Academic Dean. Any instructor who wishes to administer the final examination at a time other than the one specified on the final exam schedule must secure the approval of the department chair and the Associate Academic Dean (Kyle Longest). Faculty members teaching two or more sections of the same course may allow students to complete the exam with either section at their discretion, but may not require students to do so. Students are expected to complete examinations when scheduled. However, no student will be expected to complete three scheduled final exams on the same day and may seek a scheduling exception in this circumstance.   

Faculty who conclude their courses with an asynchronous final exam or culminating project should set the due date for that assignment during the final exam period (e.g., by 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 2 for a MWF 8:00 a.m. class), rather than the final week of classes. As you prepare for your final exams, it is acceptable to limit your final exam to an appropriate time window. You are not required to give students the full exam period to complete the final assessment. If you plan to give a timed final exam, you must work with any student who has accommodations to adjust the time allotment. For more information about how to vary online examination time by student in Moodle, see the Moodle section here. 

I.4 What are University policies and expectations regarding recording course activities?

Given the likelihood that some of your students may be absent from your courses due to illness or technology access issues, you are encouraged to consider how you can best engage students who are legitimately unable to engage in your synchronous session to participate in your course without falling too far behind. One strategy involves recording portions of your course activities for asynchronous access, although this may not always be pedagogically necessary or appropriate. Decisions about whether to record course activities are solely up to the instructor. 

If you do elect to record all or a portion of your course activities, guidance on promising practices for recording (how to alert your students that you will be recording a portion or all of the class, how to store recordings on box) consult this Promising Practices document.  Zoom video recording to the Cloud is discouraged; however, it may be used when there is not ample time to render the recording on the teaching station and then upload it to box. In this instance, faculty could record to the cloud but would need to save to box within a limited time frame (a matter of days).  

Students are not permitted to record classroom lectures or discussions without either the express written approval of the faculty member teaching the course or an accommodation through the Student Office of Accessibility Resources (SOAR). Qualified students with disabilities that impact their ability to take or read notes may receive an accommodation through the SOAR office that permits them to record lectures for their personal academic use. If the SOAR office determines that recording lectures and classroom discussions is an appropriate accommodation for a student, the recording may be used only for personal academic purposes.     

Neither authorized student-initiated recordings nor any faculty-initiated recordings may be made available to anyone outside of the students enrolled in the class in any fashion, including posting online, email, or through other media without the express written consent of the faculty member responsible for the course. Unauthorized dissemination of any recorded classroom proceedings, including distribution for compensation, is strictly prohibited.

Professors or students who believe that a student or classmate is recording classroom proceedings or using recordings made by the professor either without the professor’s consent or in violation of the specified terms of the agreed-upon academic accommodation plan will submit an incident report through the Associate Academic Dean’s office for review and final determination of whether to bring student conduct charges.

I.5 Do Title IX reporting and response obligations vary by instructional modality?

Reporting obligations for Responsible Employees do not change by instructional modality (e.g. face-to-face, online). If a student or another employee reports concerns involving potential sexual misconduct (including sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, sexual harassment or sexual exploitation), you should report that to Melissa Nichols, Title IX and ADA Coordinator, as soon as possible (and in no event more than 24 hours after it is reported to you). If you are unsure whether you are a Mandated Reporter or have any questions about reporting, please review this FAQ. 
How can I report concerns if I am not on campus and what happens with a report? 
You can report by sending Melissa Nichols an email or using the online reporting form. Consistent with the way we typically respond to reports, Melissa will reach out to the individual who reported concerns to obtain more information. If they are the potential complainant, Melissa will advise them of their reporting options, assess the need for any accommodations and connect them with resources. As a reminder, absent a safety concern for the Furman community, the decision regarding how to proceed generally belongs to the complainant. If someone wishes to proceed with an investigation and disciplinary process, we will conduct any investigations and any other proceedings remotely if necessary (using Zoom videoconferencing and other technology) unless we are able to do so in person. We will work with students on an individual basis to identify appropriate support resources that may be available to them during this time. The Student Success Coordinators in Student Life can offer support services to students by phone and video conference. The Counseling Center can provide referral services for students and limited counseling services, depending on a student’s physical location. 

I.6 Should I handle student conduct issues differently in online learning platforms?

As our community navigates new virtual and flexible classroom norms, especially with the use of video conferencing, what was once private (e.g. bedroom wall art or decorations) are now suddenly public. You are encouraged to have conversations about netiquette with your students (see a list of issues to discuss in the “Reviewing Netiquette” section here). In particular, it is worth noting that, while freedom of speech protections still exist in online learning settings, anything that would be inappropriate to bring to or display in class is still inappropriate in a virtual classroom. You should immediately address discriminatory or derogatory behavior in remote settings. If a student situates themselves in front of a sexually explicit photo, for example, you should address this directly (privately through chat if possible) and have them move to a different location. If a student does something more deliberate, such as sharing offensive material during a class time or engages in behavior directed at a specific person, you are expected to stop the behavior at the time it occurs (for example, by muting the video or audio of the student) and report the behavior so it can be handled, either through a Title IX process or through the regular student conduct process. 

I.7 Should bias incidents be reported if they occur in an online setting?

Yes. Furman’s Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT), which is responsible for ensuring that affected students, staff, faculty, and visitors to campus have access to appropriate resources and to facilitate a coordinated campus response to bias-related incidents, is available to respond to any act of intolerance associated with any University-sponsored activity. Bias incidents that occur on campus or online as a part of University activities can be reported by visiting here

I.8 Are there outdoor classroom spaces that I might utilize for instruction?

The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities encourages our campus community to utilize outdoor components of our campus as a living-learning lab. Several outdoor living-learning spaces are available for your use. For those interested in using / reserving / visiting various Living Learning Lab spaces across campus (e.g., Place of Peace, Furman Farm, Thoreau Cabin, Solar Farm, etc …) for your classes, a reservation form is available to help make it easy to do. With off-campus field trips in fall classes not happening, on campus field trips are great substitutes for class and lab activities. All public health protocols should be observed in these spaces.

I.9 How should I treat additional time accommodations for students who require them for FurmanFlex or online assignments/tests?

Please note that time accommodations are not granted for “X amount of minutes” but rather “X amount of time beyond that given to all students” as a student with a time accommodation will need additional time to demonstrate the same level of achievement/knowledge as can be demonstrated by classmates in the time allocated.   

For example, you write an online quiz to take 15 minutes, but plan to give the entire class 45 minutes to complete it. Because you are allowing other students to use as much as 45 minutes to complete the test, that same 45 minutes may not be adequate for a student with a time accommodation. Extra time should be assigned in this case 

You might refer to the 2010 OCR letter to Lewis and Clark College (OCR Reference #10092092). In this case, OCR ruled that the student in the case must be provided additional time on top of what the class as a whole was provided – even if the instructor felt that the exam was written to be completed in a certain amount of time, or even if the instructor “built in” additional time for all students. 

I.10 Should I adjust my attendance expectations for athletes that need to miss a class now that we have remote/virtual options for class participation?

In general, it is recommended that you follow policies related to athletic absences as you would during a “typical” semester. In terms of remote participation, instructors are encouraged to handle athletic-sponsored event absences as they would any other verified absence based on their course policies. If a particular class allows for remote participation for such absences, then it is fair for the instructor to ask the student-athletes if they could participate remotely given the timing of the class and the event. Students are explicitly told to be very clear with instructors before the event on why and when they will participating in the sponsored event. Students should not be using remote learning as an option if they are face-to-face learners and the sponsored event does not conflict with schedule class meeting times. If there are any questions about this timing, instructors can email Rob Carson (rob.carson@furman.edu) directly. 

II. Promising FurmanFlex and Online Instructional Practices

II.1 How might I re-conceptualize my in-person active learning strategies for a physically-distanced reality?

To read more about what others are doing to maintain active learning in a physically distanced classroom environment click here and for a number of useful suggestions, see here. You might consider this resource for physically-distanced activity adaptations and/or supplement these activities with active asynchronous interactions.

II.2 Synchronous vs. asynchronous instruction – what are the expectations?

Decisions about the use of asynchronous and/or synchronous activities in your course should include careful consideration of (1) your course learning objectives, (2) the students who may enroll in those courses, and (3) the online instructional tools you are most comfortable with. A combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities can be effectively matched with your pedagogical aims to provide robust and rigorous instruction. Student feedback indicates that students appreciate synchronous engagement and it is expected that you work to ensure that your courses meet synchronously as often as they would for face-to-face instruction. 

You might use Zoom or Microsoft Teams for purposeful, synchronous meetings in the form of (1) course discussions or mini-lectures, (2) scheduled office hours (rather than class times), (3) individual consultations with students akin to advising appointments, or (4) meetings with smaller groups of students.  These nodes of synchronicity add value to the student experience when they are used in conjunction with robust asynchronous strategies like interactive faculty-led discussion forums, collaborative group activities, short video lecture or lab simulations, or student study sessions. 

Your synchronous course meetings should take place during the meeting times posted for the course during student registration, even if these courses are offered online.  

You may decide to record and make your synchronous sessions available in an asynchronous format for students who are not able to join every live course session. Please keep in mind that if you are recording course activities to share with your students these should be recorded LOCALLY and then uploaded and shared using these promising practices.  

II.3 Should I attempt to use synchronous instruction for ALL course periods?

Only you can determine whether it is pedagogically necessary for every class period to involve some sort of synchronous interaction, regardless of the mode through which students are engaging. However, it is expected that the majority of your regular course meetings involve some sort of synchronous engagement, whether that is with your full course or in small group or one-on-one interactions.   

It is a helpful practice for your synchronous sessions to be recorded and made available in an asynchronous format for students who are not able to join live course sessions for legitimate reasons (i.e. in a time zone that precludes participation in a synchronous session at a reasonable hour of the day). However, some topics or conversations may be of a sensitive nature, and thus this must be weighed against the relative benefits of recorded class sessions. Please keep in mind that if you are recording your course activities to share with your students these should be recorded LOCALLY and then uploaded and shared using these promising practices.  

II.4 Are there any recommendations for integrating face-to-face and online students and instruction?

The FDC has assembled some of your integration “hacks”, as well as several ideas to address some common FurmanFlex challenges to support continued hybrid learning. 

II.5 I’d like to utilize a flipped classroom model, where can I find more information?

With many faculty adopting a flipped classroom model for FurmanFlex or online instruction, one central design strategy is important to remember– short “mini” video lectures engage students more effectively than the longer versions many of us are accustomed to. Further, there is growing evidence that transforming course content into shorter, more digestible components in this way can support more inclusive learning.  

As the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching highlights, flipped learning approaches require careful attention to four core strategies for success (below). For suggestions in each of these categories, see here. 

  1. Engaging and appropriately segmented content exposure prior to class with clear mechanisms for obtaining just-in-time support; 
  2. Creative incentives for students to prepare for class and explore material; 
  3. Consistent mechanisms to assess student understanding and preparation prior to class; 
  4. In-class exercises focused on properly scaffolded higher-level cognitive application. 

Whether you are teaching an online course or want to utilize your synchronous course interactions for more active learning elements, there are a variety of methods you might use to adapt your lecture content for a digital format.   

II.6 How do I best support students with academic accommodations in FurmanFlex or Online instruction?

If some of your students traditionally receive in-class accommodations (accessible media, transcription, captioning, testing accommodations, …) they may need additional accommodations for online or physically distanced classrooms.  Some students may have found your brick-and-mortar curriculum accessible but need an accommodation in the new delivery format. While the Student Office for Accessibility Resources works directly with all students who have requested accommodations, please don’t hesitate to contact SOAR if you have any questions on how to provide accommodations in this new format. In particular, SOAR has helpful online learning resources for faculty and staff here and resources for students here. SOAR will contact you should additional measures be warranted for your students (the use of “see through” face masks, etc.). 

If you have students who are having difficulty accessing online materials or can’t engage in too much screen time because of their disability, SOAR has developed a process to support those students by providing them with printed material that is sent to them directly. If you’d like to utilize this resource, please submit a Printed Materials Request and SOAR will take it from there.  

II.7 What resources are available to help me adapt my labs for online or flexible platforms?

Lab sessions are designed for a variety of purposes, including the development of techniques and specialized skills, the practice of interpreting experimental data, experimentation in “real-world” applied settings, and project-based learning. While there is no direct substitute for hands-on, experimental learning, several options for meeting some of your learning objectives in an online learning context are available here, although most discipline-specific professional organizations offer more focused ideas in your area of expertise.   

II.8 What options might faculty consider for online students to complete assignments that involve presentations?

Much like your instructional presentations, students might consider recording their presentation in PowerPoint and sharing it with you or the class, or uploading it in a shared online repository. Students might also present their material during a group or one-one-one Zoom or Microsoft Teams video meeting. For students that aren’t in a place with the bandwidth that supports video or large file uploads, you might encourage your students to provide you with a portfolio for their presentation, including all the relevant audio/visual aids they would plan to use, their presentation outline, and their speaking notes and/or prompts. 

II.9 What mechanisms can be leveraged to allow students to meet or work virtually in small groups?

Whether you have students in a physically distanced classroom or those joining you online, there are ways to facilitate group interactions via virtual platforms. If you’d like to facilitate synchronous small group interactions in a digital environment, Zoom meetings has a built-in small-group meeting feature that allows you to assign individuals to a small group or will automatically assign them for you. If students want to initiate meetings and group work without an instructor they can do so in Microsoft Teams or Zoom as all students have a Teams and Zoom license. Please note, however, that multiple users in a virtual video or audio conference in the same space may experience feedback issues. 

For asynchronous video interaction, both Whatsapp and Marco Polo applications allow students to create group chats where they can send and listen to short recordings using their cell phones. Small groups of students might create a group chat that includes the instructor, and then use the recording feature to have a conversation with each other. The instructor can listen to the conversation and then record feedback if desired. For questions, consult the Marco Polo FAQ or the Whatsapp FAQ. 

For real-time, collaborative group work, you might consider the use of collaborative document platforms like Box, which includes both word processing and spreadsheet options for documents that can be edited by multiple users at the same time. In Box, you can set up folders for specific purposes (e.g. In-Class Group Work), and then share that folder with all the members of your class (or post a link to the folder in your Moodle course). If you’ve shared the folder (or the link to an openly accessible folder), any of your students can create and edit shared documents in that folder. Information about sharing Box folders can be found here.

Other options include the use of group chat features or platforms like Moodle forums/chat. 

II.10 What options are available for synchronous online teaching?

You can connect with students joining your classes virtually via chat, voice, or video conferencing.

Chat: Synchronous chat rooms allow multiple users to log in and interact. This is a great way to ask questions and to share resources and insights. Moodle has a chat interface built in. Microsoft Teams, part of Microsoft 365, has a chat feature that keeps chat history, and allows for one-on-one, group, or small group chat. Other options for free chat platforms include Chatzy or YO Teach. 

Voice: (telephone or voice-over IP): If you have the appropriate equipment, you might enable your course participants to conference call with you, using either your computer or phone. 

Video or web conferencing/streaming: Using a webcam, you conduct a lecture or class discussion in real time. This may be recorded for later, so students can watch the session if they are unable to join. Consider these tips for enlivening your virtual class sessions.  

  • Two of the more widely used applications include Zoom and Microsoft Teams.  Professor of Classics Chris Blackwell has shared these tips for utilizing multiple devices to facilitate FurmanFlex instruction through Zoom, and you might enjoy experimenting with these five strategies to enliven your synchronous video sessions. 
  • All Furman Faculty have access to University sponsored Zoom and Teams accounts.
    • The Zoom interface, for example, includes video conferencing, a chat window, screen sharing, and whiteboard features and allows you to host meetings with up to 300 students.  Professor of Classics Chris Blackwell has these tips for utilizing multiple devices to facilitate FurmanFlex instruction via Zoom.
    • Microsoft Teams is free to you and is a part of your Outlook email web client. It allows up to 250 people per meeting.
  • Find out more about each of these here.
II.11 What if I have a concern about a student’s access to online learning technology or their health and safety?

Not all of your students will have the familiarity or the access to certain types of digital technology. If you have a concern about a particular student, including a student’s understanding of or access to technology required for online learning in your course, please Raise an Academic Concern Flag in Success@Furman. Several options include: 

  • ‘Academic – General Concern’ flags can be raised by anyone for any reason. Example reasons may include students who indicate they do not have access to necessary technology or internet, students who are struggling to engage remotely, or students who find navigating various technology platforms challenging. If a student is not responding to communication or not “attending” class, please raise this flag. 
  • ‘Housing Insecurity’ flags can also be raised by anyone when students indicate they have housing insecurities. 
  • All other regular academic performance and general behavior flags can continue to be used. Campus support resources will still be reaching out and communicating with students who are on-campus and joining virtually. 
II.12 I’m concerned about the mental health of my students. What resources can I share with them?

The Furman Counseling Center has assembled a number of resources for you to share with your students who may be in need of mental health support during flexible instruction scenarios. The Center recently launched a new set of online tools and services available to students, staff, and faculty to support mental health and wellness. TAOConnect replaces previous support provided by Well Track, is available 24-hrs a day, and is free! Students are encouraged to communicate directly with a member of the Counseling Services team for personalized support.   For additional updates and resources, please see this recent campus announcement.

In general, you might consider implementing a number of strategies from trauma-informed pedagogy into your courses to support students during this time. By connecting with our students through these strategies in a way that addresses the whole student, we have a much greater chance at cultivating rich learning and growth through our educational interactions. 

II.13 How can I support students in online environments with text anxiety?

For students who experience test anxiety, a switch to an online assessment format can elevate these feelings. In particular, high stakes online proctored exams can elicit elevated apprehension. You can help reduce online exam anxiety: 

  1. First, ask yourself if there is a pedagogical justification for surveillance? Online proctoring is most useful for verifying the identity of the person taking the exam. Beyond that, if you intend to surveil your students during an exam, consider recommending students minimize their zoom window once the exam begins. This will allow you to continue to monitor each student, but will create a less distracting environment for those completing the activity. 
  2. Second, you might review and share these suggestions with your students on reducing anxiety in remote testing environments. The Center for Academic Success has many additional test taking resources you can share as well. 
  3. Finally, it is good practice to give students the following information well in advance of any online exam or assessment: 
    • Is the test synchronous or asynchronous? 
    • How much time will students have to complete the test? 
    • Is the exam open book or notes? 
    • How will students be able to communicate with you during the exam if they have a clarifying question? How will you communicate with students if there is a change or correction that needs to be made to the exam? 
    • Will students be able to go back and revisit completed questions? 
II.14 Where should I refer students for learning support?

With limitations on group and social interaction, some students may be struggling with self-directed learning habits. Please continue to suggest Furman’s new Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) program . Students can sign up for a session here. If their course is not currently offered, students may submit a request form here. Email jean.schwab@furman.edu or katlyn.sepsey@furman.edu with any questions or comments. 

II.15 How might I ensure that students joining virtually are actually "present"?

Creating community is central to an engaging, robust learning environment and one way we do this is by “seeing” each other during class discussions. This can be difficult when students are hesitant (or even refuse) to use video and audio during some synchronous class sessions. We know that students have a myriad of reasons to do this and we don’t want to assume these. To encourage student to remain engaged during your synchronous course sessions even when joining online, you might consider:

  1. Especially in larger groups (greater than 12) it can be daunting for participants to have video and audio on.  Sometimes using breakouts, and encouraging participants to use video in the breakout, results in more people using video when they return to the “big room”.
  2. Some colleagues have used statements on their syllabus to set expectations for synchronous sessions or facilitated conversations with your students about these expectations early on. You might ask students in a pre-course survey if there is a reason they are comfortable sharing for why they are not using these methods to connect with classmates. Awareness of these issues might allow you to develop creative strategies for engagement.
  3. If students are in situations where they are uncomfortable with video or audio turned on, you might teach them how to upload a photo of themselves that projects while the video is muted, or encourage alternative modes of engagement that demonstrate participation (e.g. comments in chat).
II.16 Are there any promising practices with regard to adapting lecture content for online spaces?

Whether you are teaching an online course or want to utilize your synchronous course interactions for more active learning elements, there are a variety of methods you might use to adapt your lecture content for a digital format. Those might include recorded videos, interactive graphics, narrated Power Point presentations, or short audio or video clips of “mini lectures”. For a closer look at several of these options, click here and for important guidance about creating these videos, see here. For several tips on enlivening your virtual synchronous instruction, see here

II.17 How might I accommodate students in my courses who are located in different countries or time zones?

While it can be a helpful practice for your synchronous sessions to be recorded and made available in an asynchronous format for students who are not able to join live course sessions for legitimate reasons (i.e. in a time zone that precludes participation in a synchronous session at a reasonable hour of the day) this may not always be the best approach.  

Some topics or conversations may be of a sensitive nature, and thus this must be weighed against the relative benefits of recording class sessions, especially if you have students located in areas where course content could be a risk to their safety. If you do record your course sessions, ensuring these follow these promising practices that require double password-protected access and limiting that access only to those that need the information for a limited amount of time is prudent. Please keep in mind that if you are recording class activities to share with your students these should be recorded LOCALLY and then uploaded securely following the procedures linked above. 

If you decide not to record your full course sessions for these reasons, you might consider recording the most essential components like your lecture content, or “sign post” or summary portions of a larger class discussion where you dedicate a portion at the end of a class conversation for you or course participants to highlight key content from that discussion (definitions, ideas, areas of application). Another option involves assigning rotating responsibility to students for taking notes from class sessions to share with those that cannot attend. 

There are a number of additional asynchronous strategies you might consider to keep students who are unable to join your synchronous sessions due to time zone or security conflicts engaged and participating in the course. Several approaches are highlighted here. 

Beyond time-zone differences, you may have students who are accessing your course remotely from a country that has internet firewall restrictions or strict policies about certain types of content. Students located in China, for example, may not have access to some frequently used instructional platforms (i.e. Youtube.com) and recent laws have made it easier for officials to prosecute individuals for crimes against the state for expressing certain opinions and perspectives. Working with students in these situations early in the course (see several recommendations here and here) to ensure they can access essential course content in a safe and secure fashion will ensure a more equitable learning experience for all your students. 

II.18 In what ways might I consider adapting my assessment for FurmanFlex or Online Instruction?

Some general guidance for FurmanFlex and Online Assessment (with links to additional resources) is available on the FDC’s website (link here).  

Three notes of interest as you consider your adaptations: 

  • Some colleagues have used take home, open book exams and have the following advice: Students aren’t familiar with this testing format and are requiring 2-3X more test time because they are consulting textbooks to look up and then check every single answer. Suggest that they work through the test with what they have studied alone and then use the book sparingly, like a “phone a friend” option.   
  • Slight structural changes to exams can also help students become more strategic test takers. For instance, we are often tempted to add “warm up” short response/identification questions at the beginning of an exam and save the more difficult “long work” problems for the end.  Students who look up every answer burn up precious time on low-value early test items, and then run out of time to complete the more credit-rich questions at the end of the test.   
  • We’ve consistently heard feedback from students and faculty alike that online exams tend to take longer to complete than the same exam given in-person. This is especially the case for students taking the exam on a device with a small screen (requiring additional time for scrolling and loading). One way to determine how long an exam might take students to complete online is to take it first yourself in the digital platform. Once you’ve determined how long it should take someone who knows all the answers, if you plan to impose a time limit on the assessment, a general rule of thumb is to triple the time it took you to complete. 
II.19 I am concerned about academic dishonesty in my FurmanFlex or Online courses - how might I prevent that from occurring?

Where possible, faculty are encouraged to consider alternative applied assessment measures to replace synchronous exam evaluations as these can reduce the ability of students to engage in academic dishonesty. Some ideas include replacing exams with final projects or papers, converting an exam to an applied take-home version, or utilizing the asynchronous exam format that is part of Furman’s learning management system, Moodle. Moodle has a quiz feature with built in capability to scramble answer and question order for added protection against academic dishonesty and faculty can elect to utilize Safe Exam Browser in conjunction with the platform. Other options include open and closed-book application activities for your exams.  

If you feel as if proctored, synchronous exams are essential for your course, you might consider proctoring those via an online video conferencing platform like Zoom. In order to do this, you would set up a timed Moodle Quiz, gather students in a Zoom session, and proctor that exam live.  

If you are using Moodle to administer examinations, consider modifying and including one of the sample statements below to provide students with clarity about your integrity protocol expectations. For example, you might ask students to type a statement, followed by their name, in a blank essay box indicating that the work being submitted is their own and has been completed without unauthorized aid: “On my honor, I have neither given nor received aid completing this test.” 

  1. Option 1: Stress-Reducing Version: The exam is open-note, open-book, but not open-person. It must be your own work in accordance with Furman’s academic integrity policies. Please do not discuss the exam with other students until after all students have had a chance to take it. 
  1. Option 2: Direct Version: Students are required to refrain from discussing the test until they receive an email from the instructor that all exams have been completed. 
  1. Option 3: Consequence Reminder Version: You are expected to turn in your own work, not give un-permitted aid to others, and not consult unauthorized sources for support.  You are also expected to provide a statement indicating as such at the conclusion of and prior to submitting your test.  Moodle provides mechanisms to analyze your responses against your classmates. All matters relating to academic integrity violations will be forwarded to the Academic Discipline Committee. 

Considering how course design may be related to opportunities for integrity concerns is also a helpful issue to address. One line of defense is sprinkling each week with low-stakes assessment opportunities and crafting assignments that build upon these and prevent cheating all together.  A recent Inside Higher Ed article includes more leads for preserving academic integrity in your courses. 

Check out these seven tips for promoting academic integrity in your virtual or hybrid classroom without joining the “arms race” in cheating-prevention tools. 

II.20 How do you suggest I collect course feedback from my students during the semester?

The half-way point in the semester provides an opportunity to solicit early course feedback from your students. If you’d like to consider a more formal mid-semester feedback process, find out more about the Small-Group Instructional Feedback process offered by the FDC. You could also utilize the Moodle Feedback feature to employ the simple KQS Feedback approach – Keep Doing, Quit Doing, and Start Doing. Consider posing the following two questions to your course participants: 

  • What could I as the instructor keep doing, quit doing, and start doing to help you learn? 
  • What can you as a student keep doing, quit doing, and start doing to promote your learning? 
II.21 How might I handle timed quizzes in Moodle for students in different time zones?

You cannot set Moodle to automatically adjust a deadline to replicate in a different time zone. If you have a quiz deadline of 2pm EDT it will be due at 2am for someone in a timezone with a 12-hour difference, not 2pm their time, for example. 

Instead, you might consider setting your quiz/assignment to be open for a 24-hour period, let students start whenever they wish, but restrict the time in which it must be completed to however long you feel is necessary (one hour, two, three) to complete. This allows students to take the quiz when they are able, but they all have the same time limit in which to do so.

It is also worth noting that students can set their Moodle profile timezone to whatever they want, and then all assignment due times will show correctly in their timezone. These will adjust from the timezone from which they are set (EDT in our case). If the end of a 24-hour period in which you’ve given students to take the quiz is 5pm EDT, for example, then someone who has adjusted their timezone for PDT would show a deadline of 2pm PDT. 

II.22 What are some promising practices for using virtual office hours?

Be clear with students about when you are holding office hours, how you will facilitate the meetings, what platform/s you will use, and why students should attend them. You could encourage or require a meeting early in the semester (within the first 2-3 weeks) with every student. Remind students each week or 2 about how they can take advantage of time with you in office hours. Being explicit about the different things you can talk about with a professor during office hours (content questions, internships, etc.) is also helpful to make it transparent for all students. 

When establishing your office hour schedule, consider the following: 

Appointments vs Drop-ins (or both) 

  • Do you prefer to meet with students 1-on-1 or in groups?  
  • Do students benefit from hearing other students’ questions and the responses in a small group?  
  • Are students more likely to share their challenges with you individually? 
  • Are you available when students are working on your course? 

Weekly or Responsive 

  • Do you want to have a weekly scheduled time for office hours that is consistent over the semester? 
  • Do you want to have more office hours in the days before an exam/quiz/assignment is due and not have it be as consistent over the semester? 
  • Would it be useful to students if you have 1 consistent weekly time and one by appointment or on-demand? 

After Hours? 

  • Do you want/have a system to share relevant questions and responses that happen during office hours with the class to create more equity and access for all students?  
  • Could students post what they discussed with you in office hours to a discussion board which allows you to see what is clear and what might need more explanation/practice? 

III. FurmanFlex and Online Learning Technology

III.1 Do students need licenses (for Zoom, etc.) for online instructional technology?

While there are some online software applications that require individual users to register or pay for an account, the instructional technology resources Furman encourages you to use with your students do not require this. Furman has a site license for Zoom, which means that all Furman faculty, staff, and students have access to a Furman Zoom Professional account. If you need a Zoom account, please contact Susan Dunnavant. All Furman employees and students have free access to Microsoft Teams. 

III.2 What resources exist to help students learn how to utilize online instructional technology?

We’ve prepared several resources and pre-packaged material for you to utilize to help prepare your students for FurmanFlex or Online instruction. In addition, most online learning/meeting platforms have pre-existing, easy-to-use end-user tutorials. Zoom, for example, has a host of text and video tutorials available online. Microsoft Teams provides similar resources. Once you have adopted a specific online instructional technology, part of your initial communication to students about engaging with that platform should include training resources of this nature. You should spend time with your students to orient them to their online learning landscape for your course. 

III.3 Why don’t we use G-Suite for Education applications?

Furman has an agreement with Microsoft that ensures they can meet the security features we require and that we are FERPA compliant, which is why we work more directly with MS applications at the moment. ITS has been in conversation with Google about G-suite products, but no such agreement exists at this time and we cannot ensure it would provide the same level of security or compliance. As such, we recommend you consider MS alternatives that allow the same function. In addition to Box and Moodle, Microsoft Teams allows many of the same features as G-suite applications, as does OneNote for Education, both of which are free to Furman faculty. More information about both of these platforms can be found on the online learning resources page here. 

III.4 I’ve got a technical question about how to use Zoom or Microsoft Teams, where can I find an answer?

Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams have robust user tutorials available online that cover a number of typical usage questions. Please first consult these resources to see if an answer to your question is available. If you still can’t find a suitable answer or are having challenges operating one of these platforms, please contact service.center@furman.edu. 

III.5 I’d like to record my Zoom sessions and post them online, how do I do that?

For instructions on how to record your Zoom session, click here. Please keep in mind that if you are recording your Zoom session to share with your students these should be recorded LOCALLY and then uploaded online. If you’d like to record Zoom sessions on a classroom computer, please first save to the desktop, and then transfer to Box. Please do not record these sessions to the Zoom cloud as Furman’s Zoom cloud space will quickly fill and your recording will not be saved. In order to protect student privacy, you should follow these promising practices when recording, uploading, and sharing course video sessions.   

Please keep in mind that some topics or conversations may be of a sensitive nature, and thus this must be weighed against the relative benefits of recording class sessions, especially if you have students located in areas where course content could be a risk to their safety. Working with students in these situations early in the course (see several recommendations here) to ensure they can access essential course content in a safe and secure fashion will ensure a more equitable learning experience for all your students. 

III.6 I’d like to add someone else in the role of teacher to my Moodle site. How can I do that?

For those instructors who wish to add individuals in the role of teacher to your Moodle courses, please consult these instructions for guidance about how to do so. However, please note that you are not able to add participants as students using this procedure. Any individual you manually add to your Moodle course as a teacher will have access to student records, grades, and assignments. Please do not attempt to add student participants using this feature, as it has the potential to create student privacy violations.  

III.7 Can I set minimum technical and/or software requirements for my FurmanFlex or Online course?

It is not uncommon for courses that involve online components to implement minimum technical and software requirements. At a minimum, participants in most online courses will need some sort of internet connection and computer device, although more specific software, internet connection speeds, or equipment may be needed for your course. While it is acceptable to set minimum standards for your courses, please do so only in cases where the requirement is essential to complete the basic functions of the course. As much as possible, please consider that students may have limited access to certain types of technology or software and modify your course design as much as possible to reduce exclusivity. 

III.8 Can I re-arrange, move, or unplug classroom or lab technology?

Please do not unplug, move, or re-arrange any classroom or shared lab instructional technology managed by Furman ITS. Each teaching station or computer lab has been carefully configured to ensure connectivity among those in-person and those that may join remotely. If you have a question about technology configurations or have a problem you need addressed, please contact service.center@furman.edu.

III.9 Do I have to create Passwords for my Zoom sessions?

All Zoom meetings are required to have either a Passcode or Waiting Room. If hosts do not want their guests to have to wait in the waiting room or enter a Passcode they can go to Meeting Settings and choose to “embed Passcode” into the meeting URL and then set a Passcode. If hosts do not set a Passcode or enable a waiting room, a waiting room will be added to the meeting automatically.

III.10 What is the best way to utilize the new remote-ready technology in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classrooms?

In BYOD classrooms (mostly in the science complex) where there is not a teaching station computer available, users will need to connect instructional technology devices to their computer for all the features (classroom microphones, speakers, etc.) to work. Both Macs and PCs are compatible with these systems. If your computer is a Mac, a small driver will need to be present for the system to function properly. 

III.11 Can I use a Mac in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) teaching station?

Yes! All BYOD classroom teaching stations are every bit as compatible with Macs as they are PCs. The only difference is that Macs do require a driver. Instructions will be posted about the required driver at each BYOD teaching podium. 

III. 12 How do I utilize the document camera in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom?

Displaying the doc cam to both in-person and remote learners is as follows in a BYOD room where there is not a teaching station computer: 

  1. Connect your device to the in-room projector and document camera using the provided cables. 
  2. Turn on the document camera. 
  3. In Zoom, select Share Screen at the bottom of the screen. 
  4. In the pop-up window, select the “Advanced” tab. 
  5. Click “Content from a 2nd camera.” 
  6. Click the blue “Share Screen” button to start sharing. 

Trying to show the document camera (or whiteboard, or projector screen) from a secondary device’s camera will not be an adequate solution. Instead, make use of Zoom’s “Share Screen” function to show the content you need for class. 

III.13 If there is a teaching station computer in my classroom, can I use my laptop to connect to the new classroom technology?

To enable all of the new remote-ready features like classroom microphones, speakers, and audio in the rooms where there is a teaching station computer, that computer needs to “drive” what is presented to those in the classroom and those connected remotely. Although a professor may connect to Zoom, for example, with their laptop to display material or join as a participant, the main teaching station computer should be utilized to project this information in the classroom and to those joining virtually. 

III.14 Can I encourage my F2F students to join my classroom zoom session to interact with those joining remotely?

It is possible to facilitate interaction among your F2F and remote students through the zoom client by having your F2F students join your zoom classroom on their personal devices. If you are opting for this approach, be sure to advise your F2F student to mute their computer speakers AND mute themselves in Zoom. The classroom microphone (Huddle USB) will pick up your lecture and your students’ comments. 

III.15 What process should I follow to schedule and invite my students to course Zoom meetings?

There are a variety of options for scheduling and inviting participants to Zoom meetings. We recommend that you create one recurring Zoom meeting for each of your remote or FurmanFlex courses instead of creating separate meetings for each course session. Information about how to join your course Zoom room should be posted in your online learning platform (e.g. Moodle) so that students can easily access that information from anywhere. For a quick guide on scheduling a Zoom meeting and inviting participants, see here.   

III.16 Is there any way to improve classroom speakers or microphone capability?

As you receive feedback from students about their experiences in your FurmanFlex classroom, please inform our colleagues in ITS (service.center@furman.edu) if your in-person or remote students are having trouble hearing class activities. The remote-ready technology recently install in classrooms may need to be adjusted to accommodate your classroom set-up and activities. 

III.17 What should I do if my preferred method of synchronous engagement crashes?

Despite the many benefits of flexible instructional technology, there may be occasions when the platforms we rely on are not available. In order to prepare for such circumstances, it is helpful to: 

  • Have a back-up online platform set up for emergency situations. This might be a Microsoft Teams channel, a shared Box document, or a Moodle discussion forum where you could post alternative instructions or assignments in the event you can’t gather synchronously. 
  • Communicate your back-up plan/platform to your students in advance so they know what to do if your preferred method of engagement is not working properly. This could be as simple as “always check Moodle Announcements first for further instruction”.  
  • Post the full details about how students might join your course video conferencing sessions in a ready-available repository for students. If you are using Zoom, this includes not only the direct URL link, but also the Meeting ID and call-in phone number. 
III.18 Zoom fatigue is starting to set in. What can I do about it?

Making even small changes to your zoom video conference meetings can go a long way. Check out these eight tips for dealing with Zoom fatigue.

III.19 How do I share sound in a Zoom meeting?

In order to share your sound with participants in a Zoom meeting, you must check the “share computer sound” option when selecting what to share during your session. Please see these instructions for more. 

IV. Low-Tech Flexible or Online Teaching Options

IV.1 What if I need to scan documents and don’t have access to a scanner on campus?

You can convert any smartphone into a portable scanner. For several options for both iPhone and Android users, click here. This is also a valuable trick for your students so that they can submit work that isn’t easily captured with traditional word processing tools.

IV.2 What if I need to utilize a whiteboard for virtual instruction off campus?

The Zoom whiteboard allows for real-time text and drawing features in a synchronous session, although the articulation is not precise. If you have an ipad, there are a number of interactive whiteboard apps for this purpose, including AirSketch and Notability– you could then share your iPad screen with students in a Zoom session, for example. Several web-based applications exist if neither of these options is feasible, including many that are free. One of our favorites is whiteboard.fi. 

IV.3 How can I foster collaboration and engagement in asynchronous formats without synchronous interactions?

For tips on how to foster engagement in online discussions, click here and for ideas about how to foster student engagement asynchronously, click here.

Some ideas include:

Email: It might seem basic, but email is a foundational item in all online courses. It’s a great tool for asking questions, keeping in touch, and receiving materials, updates, reminders, and even assessments.

Digital Curriculum Materials: While this could also be found in synchronous programs, digital materials to supplement the curriculum may be especially prominent in asynchronous learning. This could be anything from uploaded PowerPoint presentations, to document sharing, to podcasts and video streaming.

Discussion Boards: Often, this is used to facilitate debates, collaboration, and discussion about course content, just like you might have in a physical classroom. The difference is that, in a discussion board, participants pop in and comment whenever they are able.

Social Networking: Consider integrating social networking platforms into the course structure by creating a course page or account, making it easier for participants to connect with you and other participants.

Wikis and Collaborative Documents: These might be used in a few different ways. For one, wikis could be a great way for your online courses to build and maintain class notes and references. Wikis and other collaborative documents also facilitate group work, creating a central hub for you and your classmates to work together on a shared project. Moodle has a built-in wiki feature that allows students to collaborate, edit, and comment on common documents asynchronously.

IV.4 What if I am not able to connect with my students via synchronous video?

Although nice, synchronous video interaction is not always necessary for online instruction. Several platforms exist to support live chat features without a video interface. The Moodle platform supports a chat feature. Microsoft Teams, part of Microsoft 365, has a chat feature that keeps chat history, and allows for one-on-one, group, or small group chat. Other options for free chat platforms include Chatzy or YO Teach.

Additionally, Moodle forums allows students to upload short video clips (clips larger than 2-3 minutes are often too large) in response to a prompt or assignment in an asynchronous fashion. Applications like WhatsappMarco Polo, or FlipGrid also allow students to create group chats where they can send and listen to short recordings using their cell phones.

IV.5 What resources exist to create video recordings or screen capture compilations from home?

Microsoft PowerPoint allows you to record a slide show with narration and slide timings and upload that to any shared digital platform. Several other tools with free options like ScreenCast-O-Matic, Renderforest, and Animaker exist that support easy video recording, editing, and sharing from your home office.

Zoom can also be used for this purpose by setting up a room to yourself and recording your lecture. Please keep in mind that if you are recording your Zoom session to share with your students these should be recorded LOCALLY and then uploaded online (e.g. Box, Youtube, Vimeo) for student access. Links generated from these sites can be shared in Moodle. Please do not record these sessions to the Zoom cloud as Furman’s Zoom cloud space will quickly fill and your recording will not be saved. 

IV.6 How might I have students submit assignments that involve drawing, completing formulas, or showing their work?

For those interested in capturing more advanced input responses (formulas, calculations, etc.) to assignments or assessment tasks, consider using draw and write with ink features in Office 365 applications (word, excel, PowerPoint) to capture student work (equations, formulas, show-your-work scenarios).

IV.7 I usually provide assignment feedback in writing on paper documents or face-to-face, how might I do that electronically?

Textual feedback can easily be integrated into electronic documents using track-changes features like those offered in Microsoft Word. Once you’ve received your student assignment files, you can annotate those assignments with your suggested changes and comments, save that file, and send it back to your students with your feedback. 

Spoken feedback can also be shared with your students through remote instruction. Four tools below provide you with options for recording spoken feedback and sharing that with your students. 

  • Moodle allows you to record audio or video feedback when assignment grades. 
  • SoundCloud: An easy audio-recording tool that you can embed in your learning-management system so students can click an arrow and play your recording. 
  • Vocaroo: A simple, PC-friendly tool for recording your voice. You can immediately get a link to the recording and give it to students. 
  • Kaizena: A site that helps you provide verbal feedback directly on student documents and track their progress by comparing your feedback history over multiple assignments. 
IV.8 How can I create an email distribution list for phone tree for my course?

If certain types of synchronous interaction aren’t available because of increased demand or if internet access limited altogether, you may want to have email distribution lists developed for each of your courses as back-up. You can also create a simple phone tree in Microsoft excel.  

IV.9 It is taking a long time to upload my video lectures or recordings of class sessions online – what can I do?

This is likely because of poor or limited connectivity at your location. On strategy to reduce the size of the video files you want to upload involves compressing those files before you attempt to put them online. This document may be useful as you consider video quality and editing when selecting a compression size. The document lists several desktop and web file compression options for you to consider. 

IV.10 I use a document camera regularly in my instruction. Is there a way for me to create a document camera at home?

Furman’s Joe Hiltabidel has created this short video to walk you through the process of building a quick document camera at home using Zoom meetings, your cell phone, and your computer! 

V. Community Health and Wellbeing

V.1 What mental health resources exist for staff and faculty?

Faculty support services remain fully functional regardless of instructional scenarios. This includes colleagues here to support your technical challenges, your pedagogical development, and your personal health and wellbeing. Other forms of support are also available to you. This includes:  

Several resources you might utilize include:

For more on faculty self-care and balance during the pandemic, please see here.

V.2 What kinds of course contingency plans should I have in place should I become ill?

Although Furman continues adhering to thorough health and safety guidelines, we encourage you, before the semester begins, to familiarize yourself with procedures to follow in the event you become ill.  You might consider the following to prepare for such an event:

  • Draft an out-of-office message (sample here) with contact information for those whom should be contacted if you are unavailable.
  • Add at least one colleague to your Moodle course (instructions here), so that they can access the course if you are unable to do so.
  • Set up an alternative host for your course Zoom sessions.
  • Prepare and post course material as far in advance as possible.
  • Discuss contingency plans with your students, making them aware of how to proceed and whom to contact if you become ill and are unable to continue instruction.
V.3 My students are exhausted. I’m exhausted. How might I facilitate a mental ‘break’?

Although a couple of new weekday breaks are included in the spring 2021 calendar (February 18, March 10, April 2), extended breaks have been eliminated to reduce potential travel. As such, consider opportunities to build your own breaks/breathing room for you and your students by diversifying your instructional practice throughout the semester. Some colleagues have suggested the following strategies:

  • Plan an active asynchronous course activity that provides an opportunity for students to reflect and share ideas, deepen their thinking, or compose their thoughts to replace one of your synchronous course meetings.
  • Substitute a synchronous session for a “writing and/or research day” for students working on culminating projects or designate time for groups to collaborate on a joint project.
  • Consider adjusting assignment deadlines so that they do not fall directly after one of the weekday breaks this spring, to ensure that students are able to take full advantage of the breathing room provided.
  • Substitute a full class synchronous session with short small-group consultations around a major project, paper, or in preparation for an exam.
  • Periodically elicit student feedback or conduct a poll to determine the ideal time for a just-in-time instructional adaptation.