Strategies and Tools for Rapidly Moving Your Course Online

For tutorials on how to accomplish specific tasks using OWL or other Western Technologies, please see the links on the lefthand menu. For useful strategies and tools, please see the recommendations and other information below.


  • Communication is Key. No matter how you structure your course online, communicating to students should be a priority. Choose a communication method (e.g. OWL announcements, email, OWL messages) and be consistent in it’s use. You will need to communicate:
    • where and how to access course material
    • important dates
    • how to submit assignments
    • preferred method for students to communicate with you and your TAs, as well as a respected response time
  • You may need to simplify aspects of a course, but should endeavouring to preserve its learning outcomes. For example, some assignments may be altered or cancelled and existing assessments may be reweighted, but the essential requirements of the course should remain constant.
  • Keep Your Course Site Simple. A main goal of putting courses rapidly online is to enable students to complete their courses during the regular academic term. Priority should be placed on quickly putting learning resources, activities, and assessments online rather than creating a “perfect” online experience
  • Use OWL as the main portal for sharing and linking to course information and content so that students have a single point of access for all their course materials and activities.
  • Where possible, used Western’s centrally-supported eLearning tools. Western has dedicated student and instructor supports in place for these tools and then do not require individuals to access, sign up for, or learn new tools
  • Working with TAs: Workshops will be open to GTAs, but course instructors remain responsible for the form and content of the online material, as well as for their GTAs’ hours of employment.  Under the current circumstances it is reasonable to substitute new duties not previously outlined in the Duties Specification Agreement, but they should not exceed the number of hours remaining in the contract.  Supervisors should also be aware that attendance at workshops or any other time spent acquiring new competencies must be counted as part of the GTA’s workload.

I’m New to OWL and Using eLearning Tools

  • Clearly communicate to students where and how to access course material as well as important dates, how to submit assignments, and the preferred method for students to communicate with you and your Teaching Assistants for the duration of the course.
  • Focus on providing asynchronous content (i.e., posting pre-created material rather than providing “live” lectures). This will minimize technical issues that may disrupt the flow of instruction.
  • Focus on a more basic use of OWL to do the following:
    • Create the OWL course site (if not already done)
    • Uploading simple course content files (e.g., Lecture notes, readings, PowerPoints, videos, weblinks) to OWL using the Resources or Lessons Tools
    • You may need to modify assignments so that they can be submitted digitally. See the chart below for suggestions. Where applicable, use the OWL Assignments tool for students to submit their work
    • If student presentations are required, encourage students to submit video/audio content

I’m Comfortable with eLearning Tools, Including OWL

  • Clearly communicate to students where and how to access course material as well as important dates, how to submit assignments, and the preferred method for students to communicate with you and your Teaching Assistants for the duration of the course
  • Use the eLearning tools with which you are already comfortable to move the course online to OWL
  • Instructors who use synchronous technologies (i.e., “live” classroom experiences) are encouraged to continue to use these services. Institutionally supported tools—Blackboard Collaborate and/or Zoom—are recommended.

Specific Strategies and Tools

Communicating Expectations and Course Information to Students

Strategy eLearning Tools
Course announcements
Video messages
Live video chat/virtual office hours*
Communicating events and deadlines
Course syllabus
Create course FAQ

*Instructors are encouraged to continue or increase office hours to allow students to ask
questions about course content and other course requirements

Sharing Lectures and Course Materials

Strategy eLearning Tools
Post links to course readings in OWL
Link to documents, video, podcasts
Post lecture notes to OWL
Record video presentations and embed in OWL
Create a narrated or annotated PowerPoint
Embed or create links to other online content
(including Open Education Resources,,
OASIS and others)
Host a live online class

Active Learning and “Hands-On” Activities (e.g., Labs,* tutorials, seminars, field trips)

Strategy eLearning Tools
Sharing, editing, and collaborating on documents
(e.g., Word, Excel)
Have students work on case studies or other
problem-based learning
Share, link to, or embed online simulations,
collections, or demonstrations for discussion, critique,
Share, link to, or embed raw data or digital media for
data analysis
Share or link to case studies for discussion and
Students submit video or digital recording of their
presentations, performances, or skill application
Student give a live demonstration/presentation

*the POD network has compiled a list of online labs currently available for rapid adoption

Group Work and Projects

Strategy eLearning Tools

Break students into smaller groups

Virtual collaboration

Virtual Meetings

Peer Feedback

Sharing Group Presentations and Projects

Feedback, Quizzes, and Assignments

Explore online assessments such as reflective writing, written or photo essays, research
reports, critiques, simulations, scenarios, simulations, scenarios or case studies,
presentations, online quizzes.

Strategy eLearning Tools
Providing individual feedback
Providing feedback to a group or course
Administering Quizzes and Tests
Submitting assignments
Returning Grades