It’s that time of year again when one year’s teaching has finished, exam boards are ongoing or just completed and it’s time for a break. Or is it? Realistically, it’s time to start planning teaching for the next academic year.

The incoming academic year looks to be a very different delivery, as it aims to be more online rather than conventional face-to-face teaching. Why does this make a difference?

Due to COVID-19, face-to-face teaching might be available, or may not resume until part-way through the first semester. Delivering teaching online is a solution, but if you’re used to the conventional face-to-face delivery, how will your teaching change?

It can be difficult to recreate the classroom experience online. Part of this is due to the time involved, the separation of students, and sometimes instructions can be misunderstood. Not all students may be happy or comfortable with online study, whilst other students may have more to contribute in the online format.

DigiKnow will look at ways of teaching online and give helpful advice which you can consider for your taught subject. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution and every teaching scenario is different. Over the next few weeks, this series of the blog will help you plan/map out your teaching and look at how it could be delivered online with suggestions of tools.

This week looks at planning your teaching with some useful do’s and don’ts to consider when recording material. Recording materials will be further elaborated on next week.

How do I start planning my online teaching?

How did you plan your face-to-face teaching? There was a plan of what would be taught and how, activities (group work, etc.), assessment, learning objectives to be delivered and assessed.

Teaching materials were created in a logical sequence, to cover the learning objectives and to teach the students on a daily/weekly basis. There was a timetable, teaching/tutorials, formative and summative assessment, feedback sessions, etc.

Along the way, students needed to complete activities, i.e., group work, presentations, research, reading, tutorials, practicals, etc.

Map it all out!

Credit: Gerd Altmann
Credit: Gerd Altmann

Get different coloured post-it notes and colour code the (1) teaching sessions and topics, (2) activity types and (3) assessment(s). Break it all down. Stick the post-it note content on to a wall for each week of the course being delivered.

Identify any gaps. What else might you need to add in? Reading, listening to podcasts or watching videos? Student discussion? Collecting evidence for portfolio?

Once the course has been mapped from beginning to end (including lesson plans, assessment and feedback sessions), it’s time to think about how it will be delivered online. What content needs to be synchronous (live teaching) and what can be asynchronous (pre-recorded)?

As a teacher, what should I do?

Be realistic and consider:

  • What can you deliver online?
  • What are you comfortable with?
  • How can you manage student contact time online?
  • How can you communicate with students and give instructions to match their expectation?

The answers to these questions shouldn’t be any different than how you manage student contact time and expectations currently. However, a little more time is required for online delivery, and as a teacher, you need to have an online ‘presence’ and set boundaries which help to manage expectation.

For example, at the start of teaching online, it can be helpful to set boundaries in the introductory section of the module and state:

  • When you are available, i.e., between the hours of x and y for student queries on a Mon/Wed, etc.
  • Set up an auto-reply for email messages received after 5.00pm, these will be responded to the following working day and in the event of an emergency, contact x (IT), y (admin) or z (other colleague).
  • Organisation policies: code of conduct, etc.
  • Provide instructions at the start of each week in text, to include: Learning Outcomes; a checklist of what is being covered, i.e., teaching, self-directed learning (signposted materials); collaboration; and assignment/portfolio work.

Moving on to the teaching content.

Synchronous v asynchronous

Remember, live teaching (synchronous) needs to fit in to a timetable and the teacher and students need to be online at the same time in the same virtual space for that to happen.

These timetabled online sessions need to be created and shared with students prior to teaching. Instructions also need to shared with students, i.e., read x or ensure y is completed/updated before the teaching session.

Credit: Chris Montgomery
Credit: Chris Montgomery

Other instructions need to be given to students about what is expected in online teaching sessions, i.e., do students need to be seen on camera all the time, and/or do microphones need muted on entry to the session?

Create a code of etiquette for online sessions, i.e., what students are expected to do and how sessions are delivered.

The online teaching session is where you and your students engage with teaching content and interact with each other (in group work, discussion/chat, etc.). Teachers may need some tasks available for group breakouts or have a question(s) ready for discussion or poll (as per lesson plans).

How this teaching is delivered would be with conferencing software (i.e., via Canvas, MS Teams, Zoom, etc.), whichever conference software your organisation has approved.

Credit: Allie Smith
Credit: Allie Smith Mobile conference

Whereas recorded content (asynchronous) needs to be viewed before a particular time, e.g., before the tutorial next Tuesday but in the students’ own time. This provides a level of flexibility to fit in to students lives, and as it’s asynchronous, it can be viewed and reviewed as required.

It may be that you record some material, i.e., a tutorial or screen cast of using a particular software (R, Python, etc.) to demonstrate to students how something works in a particular scenario.

These recorded items can be used again yearly or until they need updated, i.e., when those software packages update. It’s important to future-proof these items and keep them generic.

Other materials to consider may be online articles/video/materials to which students are signposted. It’s not necessarily material you record. Don’t re-create the wheel if it’s available already, although do search the internet for appropriate content. When using these materials, link them via a web address to your teaching module to avoid copyright infringement.

Recording do’s and don’ts:


  • Highlight what is important via narration
  • Rehearse narration and slow it down
  • Limit words on slides and avoid over-formatting text
  • Be generic in terms of date and time (content can be reused)
  • Record in a quiet space (to improve quality)
  • Keep recordings consistent in terms of narration and layout
  • Keep recordings short (no longer than 15-20 minutes)
  • Keep it simple!


  • Say “good morning/afternoon” as students can view content at any time of day or night
  • Add witticisms or funny anecdotes as these can be misconstrued
  • Have too much text on screen (narrate the content)
  • Use animation within slides (its distracting)
  • Use slide transitions (it can disorientate)
  • Use Clipart

For more information on putting a set of slides together, please read MS PowerPoint: Design and Best Practice. This gives guidance on optimum size of text, line spacing, text colour and accessibility guidelines to be followed to widen audience engagement.

This post on MS PowerPoint: Adding Media Content is helpful regards inserting images/video and resizing items without distorting the content.

Once materials have been collated and finalised, you can record and narrate the PowerPoint and this is what DigiKnow will continue with next week.

Do join us then and don’t forget to join us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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