Strategies for Teaching Remotely

As you transition to teaching remotely, consider your primary goals and the tools that will help you accomplish those goals. Your institution may issue information about the resources available to you; you may also want to consult guides like the Ethical EdTech Wiki as you make a plan. You can find guides from institutions and other organizations on our Resource Guides page.

For those with accounts on MLA Commons (MLA members) and/or Humanities Commons (open to anyone to join), the Educator’s Guide to Humanities Commons provides some information about teaching with  Commons groups and sites.

Ask Students

Gather information about students’ access to the internet and comfort using the kinds of technology you anticipate using. This can help you make choices and determine what information will help your students make this transition.

Andrea Kaston Tange provides an example of a survey to gather such information. The survey asks about remote access to a computer and internet connection, preferences about how to conduct the course remotely, and concerns about the course and more broadly:

Making a Plan

As you make decisions about the technologies you’ll use to teach remotely, you may also need to take some time to practice using a new platform (or an old platform in a new way). Consider what kind of guidance your students might need. If relevant, be sure to log in, explore the options and settings available to you, and take stock of any software or accounts you’ll need to access remotely.

The structure of your teaching will likely shift. Consider what kinds of activities will help students to engage with the course material and one another.

Amanda Henrichs has shared a handout, “Switching to Online Learning in 9 Days,” which prompts teachers to reflect on their goals and what they already know how to do. Henrichs reminds us that this shift to online learning “requires you and your students to thoroughly shift your intellectual, physical, material, and even emotional frameworks around what it means to learn and to teach.”

Greg Campbell’s “Digital Engagement” post includes advice about introducing components of the course, like low-stakes activities, and how to break up course content for online teaching.

Resources like the Online Writing Instruction Community can provide advice as well as examples of assignments and ways to structure the course.


Video conferencing, learning management systems, presentation slides, discussion boards, blogs, annotation tools, e-mail. The options may feel overwhelming. If you’ve gathered information from your students about their preferences and whether they have access to a computer and wifi, this may inform your approach. (For instance, if your students are using their data plans to access course materials, you may not want to rely heavily on video streaming.)

As you decide on tool(s) to use, you may want to review privacy policies and terms to consider how they handle personal data and the content shared on the platform.

Whatever plan you make, try to have a backup in case students (or you!) encounter difficulties or the platform you’re using is overwhelmed and doesn’t work. If you’re planning to have a video conference but the service crashes, have an asynchronous activity or discussion prompt in mind to distribute by email. Have suggestions for back up plans? Comment below!

This Twitter thread with ideas from Jessie Male’s Disability Memoir students suggests several tools and approaches:

Amanda Licastro created a quick guide to using the LMS plugin for instructors who would like to use an annotation tool with Blackboard or another learning management system. She includes information about using as a standalone tool, as well.

A member of the MLA Committee on Community Colleges suggests the social reading platform Perusall for literature, film, or cultural studies courses: “it’s free, it has the ability of grading reading comments automatically, and allows you to have collaborative conversations about texts.”

Activities and assignments

As you revise your course to take place remotely, consider what want to cover and what kind of structure would facilitate those goals. Limiting lecture time and incorporating activities to allow students to reflect on the material and interact with one another, if possible, can be effective.

Quizzes may be one way to prompt students to revisit readings:

You may want to record some course materials and instructions to allow students to watch on their own time or review later.

With higher stakes assignments, consider what you can do to break up the tasks involved and facilitate students’ success completing them. This may also be a moment to tweak the assignments or exams you have planned. (See the resource guides page for some approaches, and please comment below with more ideas. )

If you typically have students work in groups or review each other’s work, you may be able to provide a structure for that to happen remotely.

For those wondering about ways to communicate feedback to students, Amanda Licastro describes how she has used brief screencast videos to respond to student writing.

Examples of assignments and teaching resources

For those looking to dig further into digital pedagogy, the following publications may offer inspiration as well as specific models to follow:

Crowd-sourced collections of resources

#CovidCampus hashtag on Twitter

“COVID-19 Teaching Resources”

“Teaching in the context of COVID-19”

“Moving Production Courses Online”

Discipline-Specific Examples and Resources for Distance Learning

Humanities Coronavirus Syllabus

This document isn’t specifically about teaching remotely, but if you are considering revising your course plans to address current events, you may find some ideas in this Humanities Coronavirus Syllabus.

Please comment below with any other suggestions, resources, or questions!