Gereral information for working with students

General Information about Communicating with Students

Consider intangibles. You communicate your commitment and care to your students through your presence in the classroom. The affective (emotional) content of your teaching also matters when working remotely. Express your commitments—you may have to say (write) things that you would otherwise demonstrate (e.g., care for progress, encouragement). Explain what you’re doing and how you’re going to respond—for example, if your evaluations of a question are going to be brief, set expectations in advance, to avoid misinterpretation. You are also their primary connection to RISD. Remember to check in, ask how they are and if they need support.

Think about continuity, if there is a specific classroom experience that you do all the time (e.g., a 3-minute sketch), keep it going online. The sense of connection to what the semester was like before will be helpful to students whose life has just been upended.

Be the steering wheel, not the engine. The most valuable thing you provide your students is your unique interaction. The energy you would spend recording a demonstration that already exists is better spent mentoring your students. You don’t need to create entirely unique content. Instead orchestrate videos, lectures, and other high quality content online in your lesson plans. Writing an introduction or critique of a video or presentation can be instructive in and of itself.

Synchronous and Asynchronous Teaching

Class time will need to be distributed between synchronous and asynchronous. When is it important to be “live” and when is it better to develop an online dialogue that can be picked up at will (with deadlines of course)?

Participating in online discussions and monitoring student discussions take time, as does responding to student work in writing or other forms. You will have to re-imagine teaching core concepts using modest materials and technologies that are easily at hand. How you choose to run class and communicate may also depend on the technologies you feel comfortable with. While it’s reasonable to try some new tools for discussions, it’s not time to reinvent the wheel. Use the tools you know well. A course could be managed primarily through email.

Be conscious of the fact that your students will have multiple, sometimes overlapping, responsibilities, if you have synchronous conversation times, you may want to consider having multiple availabilities or create a recording of the session so as not to disadvantage those who can’t be there.

Our student body comes from all over the world. While it’s tempting to think you could simply broadcast your class live, it’s important to understand where your students are.

  • Be conscious of equity, and not disadvantaging distant students. If you have synchronous conversation times, you may want to consider having multiple availabilities so as not to disadvantage distant students. 
  • Asynchronous discussions can be had in numerous ways:
    • Using online tools such as SlackPiazza (a free tool that allows discussion questions), 
    • Blogging tools such as can allow for the intermingling of images text and comments over set periods of time.
  • Tips for asynchronous discussions:
    • Set boundaries and expectations, for instance for concision or acknowledging other students’ comments.
    • Assign roles to students so that they understand when and how they might respond to you or their peers. 
      • For example, students might “role play” as particular kinds of respondents or you might ask them to do particular tasks (e.g. be a summarizer, a respondent, a connector with outside resources).
      • Students might answer guided questions around an assignment prompt, staying on one “topic” for each student in class (e.g. one talks about form, another the historical context, another contemporary context, and another give an alternate reading)
    • You may have to hold back, or draw attention to other students’ comments to encourage peer to peer interaction.
    • A discussion board or thread is really easy to do on Digication or Slack and useful if you want to replicate a class discussion with multiple participants responding to each other
    • Google Docs “comments” works great for one-on-one commenting.
    • Model the type of responses and behavior you want to see.
    • Show up: make your presence known on a regular basis.


It is considered best practice to break online lectures into sections or chunks, usually no more than 20 minutes each. Consider requiring students to answer a few questions about what you just said before they move on to the next section to make sure they understood the content. This is also an opportunity for them to ask questions which can be addressed later, keying back to the section of the lecture being referenced. The ability to pause and replay a lecture is also a huge benefit to non-native speakers and students with learning differences.

  • If you generally use Powerpoint you can take an existing deck and add narration
    • Click on the “insert” menu and then look all the way on the right, top for the “audio” button.

Students or Faculty Presentations

  • If students are sharing their presentations asynchronously
    • Have them record themselves at their screen, using a web camera, the built-in microphone on their computer, and screen sharing software combined to capture both their faces/persons as well as the slides on the screen. 
      • An easy way is to use Powerpoint with narration, just as you might do lectures. If students don’t have the Microsoft Suite, Keynote works well and also has a “collaborate” function if you want group presentations
      • ZoomJing, and Screencast-o-matic can be used for audio/video recording in this capacity, as can Quicktime (on Mac only). 
  • If students are sharing their presentations synchronously: 


Remote critiques may require explicit opportunities to calibrate process and expectations. Providing opportunities for exchange and interaction before the critique starts can ameliorate this, and even make critiques more equitable and productive. Developing a shared set of expectations can help direct the discussion around student work

  • Create community norms for discussion (e.g. talk about the work not the person, ask questions before you make assumptions, whenever you say “I like it” or “I don’t like it” be specific and explain why). This likely is something you do implicitly in a classroom, but might find it beneficial to be explicit about online
  • Ask specific questions you want students to respond to
  • Require students to respond to each other
  • Live large-group discussions can get unwieldy. Without body language, several people may start to speak at once. You may need new systems of indicating who will speak. You might also distribute speaking roles. For example, just three specific students are assigned as respondents for each student’s critique.
  • Advantages of remote critiques include the ability for students and instructors to 
    • Bring all voices into the critique by requiring all students to respond
    • Take some pressure off the performative aspect of critique culture
    • Allow students to revisit peer feedback during the revision process
    • Have the ability to track growth over time, from one project to the next
    • Develop socially shared regulation of learning by allowing space and time for reflection and response
  • Digication is an easy way to collect and respond to assignments in one place. There is a portfolio function for submitting visual work that allows students to organize the presentation of their work