Fall 2021 Planning for Teaching

To help those who are preparing to teach for this fall, the Enhanced Digital Learning Initiative (EDLI) team has collated some resources and thoughts that might be of some use.

Technology in the classroom:

The University has modified many of its rooms with better technology that can help instructors to either capture the live lecture for people to watch later or to stream the live lecture to those who are remote.

Using this technology to create asynchronous or synchronous in-person/online experiences of classes can help with multiple scenarios. Some of these scenarios you may consider are:

  • International students who cannot enter the country
  • Meeting RCPD VISA requests for accommodation 
  • Students who have to suddenly miss classes do to illness, caretaking, or other emerging situations
  • Promoting social distancing and choice by offering the course synchronously in-person and remote (not recommended without assistance in managing the classroom)
  • Some guidance for when you are required to offer instruction in different modalities can be found in the faculty and staff section of the Together We Will FAQ

Trainings for how to teach in different modalities can be found at

Managing the classroom

In addition to the information put out in the Vaccine and Mask Mandates FAQ some items that might help with managing your class:

  • Use in-class microphones to amplify masked voices. Regardless of how loud you feel you are, this will help with the range of student hearing capabilities. We have confirmed with IT that it is safe to wipe these mics down with isopropyl alcohol pads. If you teach with a slide show, you might consider using the live subtitle functions in PPT or Google Slides as a way to further reinforce your voice.
  • Test your equipment before semester starts to see what the capabilities are of your room to see what has changed and what might help you in improving your efficacy…also that the technology is all in working order.
  • Have a contingency plan for if you must miss a few class periods. Some have already considered versions of this question, but given a larger number of in-person courses, if you have to miss class in this current context, how might you manage it? If you are well, but unable to come in, could you teach to a room of students through Zoom? Could you have a colleague or TA set up the Zoom session? Might you record the session and offer it asynchronously? How would you communicate to students about the shift?
  • Generosity, Flexibility, and Transparency were the values that we tried to stress over the last year to recognize that there is a wide range in how people are experiencing the constantly evolving pandemic landscape. Building off of what we have learned in applying these concepts, one new addition would be how to have a discussion around face coverings. The Dean of Students Office has developed conversation starters for wearing masks that might help to make the issues more transparent and you more comfortable with having these conversations. Returning to the idea of what modalities you offer in the teaching of your class, more than what you are required to do is what you are able to do to be generous, flexible, and transparent with both your students and yourself.

New confusion around recitations and labs associated with courses in D2L

There is a new look for recitations in D2L. The new registration system now creates an LEC# course shell (from the non-enrollment section in Campus Solutions) that contains all students in addition to individual recitation sections (from enrollment section in Campus Solutions), and it is leading to some confusion about how to treat that D2L course. 

Recommendations from the D2L Help Desk are that  

  • Recommendation: you can merge the LEC# section with the recitations and students will only be added once to the classlist,
  • OR, you can merge the sections as you normally would rather than using the LEC# section, which you can keep inactive and students will not see
  • OR you can just use the LEC# course if you are teaching all of the recitations and make the recitations inactive, (Challenge, the LEC course will not have section information if you need to sort students by recitation/lab, you will need to use the inactive course shells )
  • OR you can keep everything unmerged and make the LEC# inactive so students only see their recitation (Challenge: you will need to add course materials to each section)

The main issue that we are concerned about is that the tool to submit grades to the registrar is still being built, so it is not clear how grades will be reported (i.e. by the LEC# course, recitation courses, or both). One can always add grades through the Registrar’s site, but if you normally go through D2L, you might want to use the recommended strategy.

Stephen Thomas

Dr. Stephen Thomas is a faculty member and the Associate Director for the Center for Integrative Studies in General Science at Michigan State University and the Digital Curriculum Coordinator for the College of Natural Science. He provides expertise for the EDLI team in pedagogy, curricular reform, and visual thinking.