Teaching Remotely: Getting started and resources

Teaching Remotely: Getting started and resources

When you realize you have to teach from somewhere other than your Westfield State classroom, consider the following right away.

Get details about the closure or event: Campus closures or emergencies will be reported on the Westfield State University website. To keep up with developments regarding novel coronavirus COVID-19, see Westfield State’s Coronavirus Update web page.

Pick tools and approaches familiar to you and your students: Try to rely on tools and workflows that are familiar to you and your students, introducing new tools only when absolutely necessary. If a closure is caused by a local crisis or an infectious disease outbreak, it may be already taxing everyone’s mental and emotional energy. Introducing new tools and approaches may leave less energy and attention for learning. Consider all the options: Email, PLATO (BlackBoard), or other systems. If you use non-university systems such as Google, don’t hesitate to ask us for help. In challenging circumstances, Technology Support and CIT will do their best to help you make things work.

PLATO (Blackboard): PLATO is Westfield State’s online teaching and learning platform. If you are new to PLATO, sign up for our introductory workshop here. It’s quick and you’ll learn about the basics of getting your course online and some best practices in online teaching. For Assistance with PLATO contact the Center for Instructional Technology:

BlackBoard Collaborate Video Conferencing Software Virtual Training (training by appointment email Lisa at lclark@westfield.ma.edu to set up a virtual meeting).

Phone: 413-572-8130
Email: cit@westfield.ma.edu

Class email: Sometimes simple is best, and most students and faculty are familiar with email. To see a list of student email addresses by class, go to the “My Schedule and Classes” box on your MyWestfield faculty page. Some students with disabilities have trouble with email however, so please contact the Banacos Center if you have concerns (see next section).

Students with disabilities: Some students will require special considerations or accommodations for these changes. For information about how to manage this for your course, please contact Banacos Academic Center Disability Services:

Phone: (413) 572-5789

Email: ds@westfield.ma.edu

Zoom Video Conferencing:

Zoom video conferencing offers simple online meetings with video and audio, group messaging, screen sharing experience across multiple platforms (WINDOWS, MAC, Mobile).
If you would like a ZOOM license, please email your request to mediaservices@westfield.ma.edu

ZOOM Information and tutorials: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us


During the week of March 16 – 20, Academic Information Services will offer in-person and virtual workshops in:

  • Getting on PLATO/BlackBoard – Virtual Plato Course Training
  • BlackBoard Collaborate Video Conferencing Virtual Training
  • Library resources for online learning
  • Using Zoom for instruction and meetings
  • Supporting student technology needs
  • Open hands-on help session for supporting remote instruction

Students with resource challenges:

We are committed to getting EVERY student what they need for remote learning. Please ask your students if they have a computer and access to internet that is good enough to meet the needs of your instruction mode. Once a student with needs is identified, please contact Tom Raffensperger at traff@westfield.ma.edu. These situations are very individual, so we will work with each student in need on that basis. We are working on identifying laptops for loan and have reached out to public libraries to prepare to arrange access if needed.

Check with your department: Your department may issue more details about the situation and guidelines about their expectations for classes. Your college may want to have many of the department’s classes handled in similar ways, so before doing too much planning, check with departmental leaders to get guidance.

Consider realistic goals for teaching from anywhere: As you think about continuing instruction online, consider what you think you can realistically accomplish. Do you think you can maintain your original syllabus and schedule? Do you hope students will keep up with the reading with some assignments to add structure and accountability? How will you keep them engaged with the course content?

Review your course schedule to determine priorities: Identify your priorities during the disruption — providing lectures, structuring new opportunities for discussion or group work, collecting assignments, etc. What activities are better rescheduled, and what can or must be done online? Give yourself flexibility in that schedule, in order to plan for being online for different periods of time.

Review your syllabus for points that must change: Identify what must temporarily change in your syllabus, such as policies, due dates, or assignments, and communicate those changes to students. Ensure any change you make aligns with Westfield State University policies, accreditors, and practices set forth by the Registrar’s Office.

Communicate with your students right away: Even if you don’t yet have a plan in place, communicate with your students as soon as possible, informing them that changes might be coming. Let them know what your expectations are for checking email, PLATO, or other platform so you can get them more details when available.

Reset expectations for students: You will have to reconsider some of your expectations for students, including participation, communication, and deadlines. As you think through those changes, keep in mind the impact this situation may have on students’ ability to meet those expectations, including illness, lacking power or internet connections, or needing to care for family members.

Create a more detailed communications plan: Once you have details about changes in the class, communicate them to students, along with how and when they can contact you (email, online office hours, etc.). Anticipating students will have questions, let them know how and when they can expect to receive a reply from you.

Library Resources: If you have print reserve items at the library, check to see if there is an electronic version, or identify a replacement. If you need help identifying replacement resources for course reserves, please contact your department’s liaison librarian. To look for resources in your subject area, go to the subject research guides.

You can also contact the Library:

Phone: (413) 572-5231

Email: askus@westfield.ma.edu

Computers: Do you have access to an off-campus computer to conduct instruction? Technology support has a limited number of laptops available for instructors. Please contact Nick Wojtowicz for more information: nick@westfield.ma.edu

Instructional software: Some specialized licensed software applications might not be available off-campus, and/or not all computers might be capable of running them. Some companies provide online “lite” alternatives.  Consider alternatives for student work and projects.

For general technology assistance, contact the Technology Support Desk:

Phone: 413-572-4357

Email: supportdesk@westfield.ma.edu

[Thanks to our colleagues at Stanford University for sharing ideas and content!]