Faculty Options for Teaching Online

The teaching techniques that you are used to using in class can also be used online. The information below is designed to help you identify useful tools for translating your pedagogical approach into an online environment.  Some of these are standalone tools, but many are part of Scholar or the portal.


Put your lecture notes in a PDF file and post them to Scholar, the portal, or your own website.

  • If you post your lecture notes as a Microsoft Word file, students who do not own Word may not be able to read them. Anyone can download Adobe Reader for free to view PDF files.
  • Even if you don’t own Adobe Acrobat, you can create your own PDF files by downloading a free program such as PDFCreator that functions as a printer driver.  This will allow you to print anything from virtually any program into a PDF file.  After installing the program, all you have to do is print — just select PDFCreator from your list of printers.

Create an MP3 audio file of your lecture for students to listen to on their computer or iPod.  You can post this file to Scholar, the portal, your own website, or a podcast site.

Create a video file showing your computer screen and including your voice as you lecture.  Post the video to Scholar, the portal, your own website, or YouTube.

  • All you need to create a video is a microphone for your computer and the screen capture recording software Camtasia (log on with your Simpson username and password).
  • This document explains how to download and use Camtasia.

Class Discussion

Use a discussion forum to have students discuss topics online asyncrhonously. Discussion forums are similar to e-mail in that people can read and post messages whenever they log on.  Because it is asynchronous, students can discuss topics online without having to all log in at the same time.  Discussion forums differ from e-mail in that rather than clogging up your e-mail, all the messages are stored on Scholar or the portal.

  • Moodle Docs provides information about the different kinds of discussion forums available on Scholar and how to use them.
  • The video creating forums (5:23) shows how to add and edit a forum in Scholar.

Use a chat room to have students discuss online all at the same time.

  • This video chat tool (4:34) shows how to add a chat room in Scholar so that you can communicate with students in real time.  This is a text-only feature.  Students cannot see or hear each other.
  • If you want to communicate using audio and video, consider using Dimdim (free for groups up to 20 people).

Use e-mail.  You could provide all the students with everyone’s e-mail addresses and have them discuss class topics via e-mail.

  • Because people tend to receive a lot of e-mail, it’s best to have a set subject line that everyone will use (e.g., PSYC 222).  That makes it easy for you and your students to identify the course-related e-mails.

Class Announcements

The Portal provides a quick and easy way to make announcements to your students.  If you have a portal course site for the course, when you post an annoucement the title of the annoucement (like the subject line of an e-mail message) appears in the My Involvement section on each student’s main portal page.

E-mail provides an easy way to send annoucements to your students.  Scholar even has a tool that allows you to easily send an announcement to all your students without having to create a contact list in your e-mail program.

If your students are all carrying cell-phones, short (140 character) messages can be sent using Twitter.  Twitter can also be used online.  Setting up an account is free, but you’ll need to have all your students create accounts too.

Group Projects

Scholar will allow you to create separate discussion forums for each group in class.  Students can use the discussion forum to talk about the project and to exchange files.

Google Docs will allow groups of people to create and share Word documents or Excel documents online.  Getting an account is free and it makes editing the same file very easy.  The biggest drawback is that you can’t tell who made which changes to the document.

Have students work together to create a wiki.  A wiki is an website that anyone can edit.  Anyone who has access to the wiki can add webpages that are automatically linked to the existing pages.  In addition, you can easily tell who made which changes when.

  • Scholar has a Wiki.
    • Moodle Docs provides instructions for creating and using a wiki in Scholar.
    • The video, creating a wiki (6:36), shows how to add and use a wiki in Scholar.
  • The portal has a Wiki.
  • Simpson also has a standalone Wiki.  Contact Chuck Johnson to have a Wiki site created.
  • You can also create a standalone Wiki for free online.  Just visit WikiSpaces.

Journaling Assignments

Have students create a blog.  A blog (short for weblog) is online and often public.

  • Scholar has a blog which is viewable only by the members of the course. Instructions are available in text form on Moodle Docs and in video form on 2 Minute Moodles.
  • There are lots of places which will host blogs for free.  WordPress is one option.  Not only can you get a free blogsite, but you wordPress provides software that makes blogging easy even if you don’t know anything about websites.

Scheduling Meetings

Need to make an appointment to meet with a student face-to-face, on the phone, or online?  The following online tools can help:

  • Students can use their Outlook webmail account to schedule appointments with you.  If they have the newest version of webmail, all they have to do is click on Calendar and then click New Meeting Request.  Have them enter your username (i.e., firstname.lastname without the @simpson.edu) and then click on the Scheduling assistant tab.  They’ll be able to see when you are busy versus free.  Once they have picked a time, you’ll be notified via e-mail and can either accept or reject the appointment or recommend a different time.
  • Google Calendar is also a useful tool that’s free and easy to use.