While it may be uncertain if illness, weather, or other extenuating circumstances will affect normal campus activities, faculty can prepare and develop a plan to avoid disruption to class schedules.

There are tools available to allow faculty to continue instruction remotely in the event of a campus closure. Blackboard (GSU’s learning management system), is available to all faculty and there is a course shell already available for every GSU course (including face-to-face courses).

Outlined below are steps designed to provide concise information for making sure online content is ready and available for students. Recommended tools for use and best practice do’s and don’ts to consider, are also provided.

Prepare for Online Teaching

  • Step 1: Plan


    Consider the basics. Students will need to access all readings and courses materials. They will also need to submit assignments and receive feedback. Instructors will need to effectively deliver content, and communicate with students. Clear communication on “what” to do, “how” to do it, “where” to submit it, and “when” students will receive feedback is paramount.

    Since you will not meet face to face in a physical classroom, the Blackboard Learning Management System can support learning. You are able to post documents, submit/receive assignments, and utilize collaboration tools such as the discussion board to interact with students.

    As you plan to move your course to online format, please consider the following items before building your online course components.

    • Identify and list learning objectives for each unit of instruction. This provides clear instructions to students as to what they can expect to learn in each unit/learning module.
    • Determine any resources or training you need for any tools or technology. Review the CAES website for tutorials on all Blackboard tools and other supported technology.
    • Identify and list all activities for each unit/learning module. This may include readings, videos, lectures (synchronous or asynchronous) via Collaborate, Discussions, Assignments, Quizzes, or VoiceThreads.
    • Have electronic/digital copies of course materials available to upload to Blackboard (PowerPoints, Articles, Exams, etc.)
  • Step 2: Develop


    Communicate, communicate, and communicate! Your course content may determine communication tools you select for your course. Synchronous sessions are essential for making yourself readily available to students for questions or virtual office hours. However, asynchronous strategies such as pre-recorded lectures using Collaborate Ultra or presentations in VoiceThread, allow students to engage on their own time.

    Students will also need to communicate and connect with one another, just as they would in a face to face classroom. Having a “cafeteria” or “hub lounge” discussion forum where students can post questions/topics of discussion for one another is ideal. Please note this should be a separate forum from your “Course Questions” forum, where students asks the instructor questions.

    Ensuring that weekly content is organized and available will maximize your online course effectiveness. Additionally, it is useful to create a workspace (laptop/desktop, reliable internet connection) in your home office, and develop a plan for your students to follow. The CAES team is available to offer support to all faculty, staff, and students.

    • Communicate with students using Course Announcements (w/automatic email option). This allows you to post important information in your Blackboard course and have it automatically sent to your students GSU email account.
    • You may ”build as you go”, in extenuating circumstances. Build one or two instructional units at a time. One complete instructional unit/module is more effective than an entire course of unorganized/ad hoc files and documents.
    • Create appropriate links to content, tools and activities within the learning module. This prevents students from searching for materials and being confused on where to access content. Sample content may include:
      • Items: Content will be displayed as a web page in the course
      • Files: Documents will be posted as a link
      • Discussions: Create discussion questions inside forums for students to read and respond on course topics
      • Collaborate sessions: Synchronous or asynchronous lectures
      • VoiceThread: Asynchronous tool for student interaction
      • YouTube videos: embed short videos to support learning
      • Quizzes & Exams: create short answer, multiple choice, or essay quizzes/exams to assess your students.
    • Provide links to student tutorials for tools needed to complete coursework.
    • Provide support for students who require accommodations, differentiated instruction, or accessible digital content (use of screen readers, closed captioning for videos, etc.)
  • Step 3: Deliver


    Students who feel as if they are part of a learning community thrive better in the online learning environment. Establishing a structure for collaboration and having engaging learning activities that build community are key (discussions, group projects, live chats).

    Additionally, being patient, flexible and understanding there may be a learning curve for students who have never engaged in online coursework is critical. (Students may need to be patient with instructors, too!)

    Facilitating your course with clear instruction and resources/support to help students achieve the learning objectives will make an online transition less frustrating for both students and faculty.

    • Create a time management plan for checking emails, logging into Blackboard, and providing feedback to students
    • Sign up/register for instructional continuity workshops offered by CAES (face to face and/or virtual)
    • Review CAES websites for tutorials and bookmark your favorites
    • Request training by completing the Faculty Training Request form
    • Report any Blackboard issues by completing the Blackboard Issues form

Best Practice and Quick Tips Digest

Provided below is a digest of all the Best Practices our department has been sending out since March 2020.

  • 5/13/2022 - The Correct "Student Resources" Link for Blackboard Courses

    All Blackboard shells have a "Student Resources" link by default that include the most up to date academic, non-academic, tutorial, and technology resources for students. This was updated from the previous "Student Tutorials" link in Fall 2021 to be more QM-compliant. "Student Tutorials" was an updated from the now invalid "Resources/Support" link in 2017. There are some Blackboard courses that have not only the current "Student Resources" link, but need to either update or delete their "Student Tutorials" and "Resources/Support" links. Steps are included for instructors to update and/or delete these invalid links.

    Please view the 05/13/2022 email for more information.
  • 2/15/2022 - What is a Blackboard "Course Package"?

    In response to the recent "expiration date" email sent out to Blackboard administrative and faculty users at all cloud-based subscriber institutions, and to address questions raised by GSU faculty, we created this quick tip to put our faculty user's minds at ease. Within we define what a course package in Blackboard is, when you might want to create one and how it would be used, and faculty can rest assured that the status and availability of all courses currently on Blackboard has not changed, nor will it change without advanced notice from CAES.

    Please view the 02/15/2022 email for more information.
  • 1/28/2022 - Faculty Troubleshooting Guide

    For today’s Daily Quick Tip we are providing this guide for faculty as a “cheat sheet” to help give students answers to commonly asked questions, as well as to self-check features of your own courses if things are not appearing correctly for students. Students will likely come to you first to ask about things that either might not be working as intended or about features they don’t yet understand. The troubleshooting document has been created as a resource so you can help answer those questions. It also contains links to tutorials and resources offered by the CAES Department.

    Please view the 01/28/2022 email and the Faculty Blackboard Troubleshooting Guide for more information.

    Also sent on:
  • 1/21/2022 - Are Students Seeing What You Want Them to See in Blackboard?

    One of the great features for Blackboard is the ability to see things from the student’s perspective. If you think you have everything set up correctly, don’t forget to switch over to Student Preview. If things look good, awesome! But sometimes instructors will put a lot of work into an item, and then forget to turn that content on for students to see. If something isn’t showing up for the instructor in Student Preview, it won’t show up for the students either, so here’s some common ways to set availability and visibility.

    Please view the 1/21/2022 email for more information.
  • 1/14/2022 - What is Hyflex?

    GSU now has hyflex-capable classrooms, but what does that mean? A hyflex class meets in-person in a classroom for students who wish to experience the course in a traditional way, but is flexible in that synchronous classroom sessions are also delivered virtually so that students can participate during those same classroom sessions remotely. Here is some more information about how GSU has implemented hyflex and tips for preparing for hyflex course design and delivery.

    Please view the 1/14/2022 email for more information.
  • 1/12/2022 - Pedagogical Guidelines for Teaching

    The basis of teaching is the same for every modality, it is only the tools and interactions that might be different! As suggested by resources from Harvard University and the QM Rubric, here are some suggestions for successful teaching in any modality.

    Please view the 1/12/2022 email for more information.
  • 1/11/2022 - Update Your Blackboard Assignment Due Dates All at Once!

    In getting ready for the new Spring 2022 semester starting this Tuesday January 18th, have you just completed a Course Copy in Blackboard? That means you will have to update all of last semester’s assignment due dates. You can do this all one by one, which can be time consuming and tedious, or you can do this all on one screen and save time and effort!

    Please view the 1/11/2022 email for more information.

    Also sent on:
  • 1/10/2022 - Spring Courses Available – Annual Maintenance Complete

    Scheduled intersession maintenance on the Blackboard server was completed on 12/31/2021, and as a result there is a new way to login to Blackboard. Technology requirements and relevant tutorials have also been updated. Students who are currently enrolled for Spring 2022 courses will be able to access the course(s) in their Blackboard Course List on the first day of the semester.

    Please view the 1/10/2022 email for more information.
  • 11/8/2021 - The QM-Compliant Blackboard Course Template is Available NOW!

    If you are you preparing a course for delivery this fall, a master course that can be ready for deployment in future semesters, or when spring courses become available in October you want to get a jump on next semester, the CAES team has developed a QM-Compliant Blackboard Course Template. This template provides prompts for a course design that will meet up to 75% of the specific review standards found in the Quality MattersTM Higher Education Rubric – the remaining 25% is based on instructor-provided content and individual teaching styles.

    Please view the 11/8/2021 email for more information.

    Also sent on:
  • 10/29/2021 - Get a Head Start on Preparing Your Spring 2022 Courses!

    Due to the upcoming Cloud Migration over the Winter Break, we are encouraging all faculty to prepare courses prior to January, to account for additional downtime in Blackboard. This will be critical in ensuring a smooth start to the Spring 2022 semester.

    Please view the 10/29/2021 email for more information.
  • 8/19/2021 - Setting Course Availability in Blackboard

    By default, Blackboard courses automatically open for students on the official first day of the semester, and automatically close 2 weeks after the official last day of the semester. Now that the summer semester is finished and we are getting ready for fall, there are situations when students might need access to a course in Blackboard after the end of one semester or before the beginning of another one.

    Please view the 8/19/2021 email for more information.
  • 7/8/2021 - Upcoming Quality Matters Professional Development Opportunities

    As many of you know, GSU is now a Quality Matters institution. QM is a global standards organization in online course design pedagogy. Learn more about GSU’s implementation of QM.

    Please view the 7/8/2021 email for more information.
  • 5/14/2021 - Remote Instruction Assistants Are Here!

    CAES has hired student workers who will act as "Remote Instruction Assistants". Sign up to request one of these student workers to help with your virtual meeting sessions. Student workers can be available 15 minutes before the start of a session and can stay as long as necessary to make sure your session is running smoothly.

    Please view the 5/14/2021 email for more information.

    Also sent on:
    1/05/2021 | 12/21/2020 | 11/04/2020
  • 5/12/2021 - End of Semester Grading Tips

    Remember, students are supposed to be checking their “official” grade through the MyGSU Portal, but confusion can be caused when students see an official grade that doesn’t quite match what the running point total in Blackboard is showing. Students have been submitting work and getting feedback through Blackboard all semester, so that is where they are likely to look first when checking to see why their official grade doesn’t reflect what they are expecting. View the document below to help relieve some confusion at the end of the semester and to help get faculty ready for upcoming semesters.

    Please view the 5/12/2021 email for more information.
  • 4/5/2021 - New Features for Collaborate Ultra!

    Blackboard has heard the feedback from instructors and understands that you may want to see your students' faces clearly. Body language and facial expressions can help you tell if students are paying attention and understanding the material. Moderators will now see up to 25 videos at a time in Gallery view. With the zoom controls, Tiled view, and Speaker view moderators have even greater control over how they want to see their students.

    Please view the 4/5/2021 email for more information.
  • 4/1/2021 - Updated Student Resources for Your Blackboard Shells

    In an effort to make sure students have access to the most up to date resource information, as well as to help courses be better aligned Quality Matters standards, the CAES Department has updated its “Student Tutorials” page to now be a “Student Resources” page.

    Please view the 4/1/2021 email for more information.
  • 1/22/2021 - Upcoming Student Workshops

    Share the Blackboard Learn and Collaborate Ultra workshop schedule with your students.

    Please view the 1/22/2021 email for more information.
  • 10/29/2020 - Now Offering Certificates of Attendance for Attending Professional Development

    CAES will be providing Certificates of Attendance to any faculty who attend professional development sessions offered by our department.

    Please view the 10/29/2020 email for more information.

    Also sent on:
  • 09/01/2020 - Known Issues Resolved!

    During these first two days of Fall 2020, many faculty have brought these technological issues to our attention here at CAES, and we have the solutions.

    Please view the 09/01/2020 email for more information.
  • 08/27/2020 - Is Your Course Ready?

    Just a friendly reminder, the Fall 2020 Semester officially begins Monday August 31, 2020, and all Blackboard shells by default will be available for students at 8am CDT. View some of the tips to help create the best possible experience for students.

    Please view the 08/27/2020 email for more information.
  • 06/03/2020 - The Quality Matters Self-Review Rubric

    As we now begin implementing QM, we at CAES have been getting questions about how faculty can access the Quality Matters Rubric. GSU is now a QM Member Institution, which means all GSU faculty can use the Higher Education Evaluation Rubric to start benchmarking their courses. A score of 85% or better is required for a course to become QM Certified when the course is “officially” reviewed. Using this self-review tool can be a good indicator if a course is ready for the next step in the review process.

    Please view the 06/03/2020 email for more information.
  • 05/29/2020 - What is Quality Matters?

    There is plenty of buzz related to Quality Matters, Master courses, Professional Development, Collaborate, Zoom, and everything else related to online teaching and learning! Please review the information below to address any questions surrounding the upcoming implementation of Quality Matters and course design/development.

    Please view the 05/29/2020 email for more information.
  • 05/28/2020 - Preparing for Fall 2020

    We at CAES have been getting a lot of requests to make Blackboard shells ready for Fall 2020. We are glad that so many faculty wish to get a jump on Fall and be prepared as early as possible. Fall 2020 Blackboard course shells will be ready June 12th. We understand that this is still several days away, but it is necessary to ensure proper course creation, specifically with cross-listing (see link here).

    Please view the 05/28/2020 email for more information.
  • 05/21/2020 - Training & Continuity Planning for Summer & Fall 2020

    Here at CAES we are trying to best meet the needs of all GSU faculty and students in all things remote learning. We are trying to plan out our training seminars for later this summer and into the fall, as well as determine how to best meet your technology needs now that we are in full remote learning mode for the time being. Please let us know what training seminars you took last year, seminars you are interested in for upcoming trainings, and what Blackboard and other online tools you use.

    Please view the 05/21/2020 email for more information.
  • 05/08/2020 - Copying Blackboard Shells from Previous Semesters

    Here are some helpful resources for getting ready for the next semester. Here is how you can copy content from a previously taught Blackboard course shell into a new blank shell so you can prepare and update materials for the upcoming course.

    Please view the 05/08/2020 email for more information.
  • 05/01/2020 - Netiquette Guidelines for Faculty and Students

    Now that we are fully immersed in an eLearning mode for this Spring semester and Summer, it may be time to review “netiquette”, etiquette on the internet, or how to conduct oneself in an online environment. Students today are used to virtual modes of communication in social media and texting on their phones, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to project professionalism when it’s appropriate. Instructors as well may need a refresher of how to let students know what behaviors and practices are deemed acceptable and unacceptable in a virtual classroom environment, and how they may be different from a face-to-face classroom, especially now that we are preparing to start completely online for all classes this summer. Every instructor is going to have their own style, and every subject area may have its own modality, but here are some general guidelines (feel free to adapt for your own course needs).

    Please view the 05/01/2020 email for more information.
  • 04/27/2020 - Attendance

    It is nearing the end of the semester and with this COVID crisis underway, and it is possible that your department is requesting some record of attendance in your courses. Some departments may have different directives in this matter, and there are quite a few options available on campus, such as through GSU Star. Here is how to use Blackboard’s own built in Attendance tool.

    Please view the 04/27/2020 email for more information.
  • 04/13/2020 - Best Practices for Backing Up Course Materials

    It never hurts to be prepared in case you have trouble accessing your files online. In this current COVID environment when everyone is online at the same time during peak access times during the day, it may be possible to experience slow connections or even no connection with online tools. You may have even experienced this yourself and possibly seen your students lose connectivity in the middle of a Collaborate session. If you happen to (but hopefully not) lose connectivity, do you have a back-up of the materials you use for online delivery?

    Please view the 04/13/2020 email for more information.
  • 04/01/2020 - Cyber-criminals Targeting Online Videoconferencing Software

    Today’s Daily Quick Tip is more of a warning given the technological climate we are currently working in as educators. As K-12 and higher education institutions go into e-learning mode nationwide, we must be ever diligent in our awareness of possible scammers and other IT Security risks.

    Please view the 04/01/2020 email for more information.
  • 03/31/2020 - Best Practices for Creating Videos for Your Courses

    We have been getting many requests for this information at CAES during the past few days. Many instructors are interested in using video for recording lectures or for content delivery. We have been covering this in our open sessions and we have dedicated some specific sessions to these topics as well, and we also plan to offer these sessions again in the very near future. Today’s Daily Quick Tip is a list of resources for using various forms of video enhancement for your courses.

    Please view the 03/31/2020 email for more information.
  • 03/25/2020 - How to Add Tools to Blackboard Navigation

    On Monday we reminded everyone how to make tools available to students in Blackboard’s left navigation. But as we have been showing everyone how to use Collaborate Ultra, we realized that in some courses Collaborate Ultra is not showing up in the left navigation to show or hide from students (even though it is potentially available). Today’s Daily Quick Tip will show instructors how to add any tool to Blackboard’s left navigation, including Collaborate Ultra.

    Please view the 03/25/2020 email for more information.
  • 03/23/2020 - Making Sure Students Can Find the Course Content

    Today we went live with our endeavor to convert face-to-face courses into an online-only format. As we start developing more in our Blackboard shells, it is key to remember that if students cannot see the content, it doesn’t do any good to have the content there at all. Today’s Daily Quick Tip is going to show the ways to make sure students can see what we are posting online.

    Please view the 03/23/2020 email for more information.
  • 03/20/2020 - Student Resources & Troubleshooting Guide

    The following troubleshooting document has been created as a resource to share with students. Now that we are going into an online-only format for the remainder of the semester, both courses and non-academic groups are going to be using Blackboard for content delivery and virtual student interaction. Please share the attached document asan Announcement in your Blackboard shells, AND also email to your students directly. This document contains answers to many of the questions students may have during this time of adaptation. It also contains links to tutorials and resources offered by the CAES Department.

    Please view the 03/20/2020 email and the Student Blackboard Troubleshooting Guide for more information.
  • 03/19/2020 - Best Practices for Remote Instruction

    Today’s Daily Quick Tip is more general to teaching remotely instead of specific to any particular software. We at CAES know that instructors need to adapt quickly, but sometimes we have to go with what we know in order to be the most effective for our students. No matter what modes you are using for course delivery, here is a suggested checklist adapted from Quality Matters, a nationally recognized standards authority for remote instruction, on how to approach changing from face-to-face to a more virtual and asynchronous modality.

    Please view the 03/19/2020 email for more information.
  • 03/18/2020 - Best Practices for Monitoring Student Participation in Blackboard

    Here at CAES we have been getting questions and concerns about how to monitor student participation or “how to take attendance”. Because online-learning from the student perspective can be more asynchronous than traditional face-to-face courses, instructors need to make sure students are accessing and INTERACTING with the content. Today’s Daily Quick Tip involves ways to ensure interaction for the student AND instructor in an online learning environment.

    Please view the 03/18/2020 email for more information.
  • 03/17/2020 - Best Practices for Quiz/Test/Exam Settings in Blackboard

    In a continuing effort to help faculty adapt to an online-instruction mode during this time of adjustment, this is the first in a series of “Daily Quick Tips” for using online learning tools to aid in instruction. Today, we will be going over the best practices for setting up quizzes, tests and exams in Blackboard. We will be addressing how to create assessments in an upcoming training session, but if you already have assessments created, you may view the settings one by one.

    Please view the 03/17/2020 email for more information.

Best Practice Do's and Don'ts

  • Do's

    • DO organize/chunk course content within a weekly unit of instruction
    • DO make sure students are clear on how to receive communications from you (Announcements, Course Email, Course Messages, etc.)
    • DO provide dates and times for all activities (including live lectures, assignment/discussion due dates
    • DO remind students of Student tutorials for Blackboard
    • DO recognize students may not prioritize learning and work. Be realistic with expectations for students who are not experienced online learners.
    • DO utilize Microsoft Word “Check Accessibility” feature before posting documents
    • DO encourage students to check their student emails for “submission receipts” for all submitted assignments. This will give students assurance about their work and can alleviate missing assignments/academic disputes.
  • Don'ts

    • DO NOT randomly add/list files in the course. Doing so will potentially confuse students, and increase the amount of issues and emails you receive.
    • DO NOT receive assignments via email. Please utilize the “Assignments” tool to create a drop box for student submissions.
    • DO NOT use transitions or animations in PowerPoints that will be uploaded to Collaborate. They will not appear properly, and may distort presentations (any existing ppts with transitions/animations should be converted to a pdf file for uploading to Collaborate).
    • DO NOT assume students know where to go inside the course to find content. Communicate all course details and instructions to students.
    • DO NOT post copyrighted materials in your online course. Provide a direct link to the original source.

Additional Support and Resources for Faculty and Students

  • Collaborate Ultra Quick Reference Guides


    Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is GSU's web conferencing software. Use Collaborate for prerecorded lectures, live lectures, office hours or just to communicate with your team.

  • University Business

    This website provides 59 free Higher Education resources during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Please visit the University Business website for more information.

    This information is provided as information only. GSU is not endorsing one product over another.
  • Comcast offers 60 days of free internet.

    Please visit the Internet Essentials website for more information. This information is provided as information only. GSU is not endorsing one product over another. Also note this information from the Comcast site regarding this offer:
    Offer ends June 30, 2021. Restrictions apply. Limited to Internet Essentials service from Xfinity for new residential customers meeting certain eligibility criteria. Offer limited to 2 months of complimentary Internet Essentials service (taxes excluded). After promotion, regular rates apply. Comcast current rate is $9.95/mo. (subject to change). Taxes extra. Pricing subject to change. Advertised price applies to a single outlet. Actual speeds may vary and are not guaranteed. For factors affecting speed visit www.xfinity.com/networkmanagement. If a customer is determined to be no longer eligible for the IE program, regular rates will apply to the selected Internet service. Subject to Internet Essentials program terms and conditions. May not be combined with other offers. Call 1-855-846-8376 for restrictions and complete details. © 2020 Comcast. All rights reserved.
  • Cengage Online Resource Hub

    This Hub provides best practice and guidance resources to help for a quick transition to online teaching and learning. Please visit the Cengage Online Resource Hub for more information.

    This information is provided as information only. GSU is not endorsing one product over another.
  • Elsevier Online Resource Hub

    This Hub provides best practice and guidance resources to help for a quick transition to online teaching and learning. Please visit the Elsevier Online Resource Hub for more information.

    This information is provided as information only. GSU is not endorsing one product over another.
  • Microsoft Online Resource Hub

    This Hub provides best practice and guidance resources to help for a quick transition to online teaching and learning. Please visit the Microsoft Online Resource Hub for more information. GSU does offer support for Office 365. Please visit the GSU Microsoft Office Support for more information.
  • McGraw-Hill Online Resource Hub

    This Hub provides best practice and guidance resources to help for a quick transition to online teaching and learning. Please visit the McGraw-Hill Online Resource Hub for more information.

    This information is provided as information only. GSU is not endorsing one product over another.
  • Pearson Online Resource Hub

    This Hub provides best practice and guidance resources to help for a quick transition to online teaching and learning. Please visit the Pearson Online Resource Hub for more information.

    This information is provided as information only. GSU is not endorsing one product over another.
  • Wiley Online Resource Hub

    This Hub provides best practice and guidance resources to help for a quick transition to online teaching and learning. Please visit the Wiley Online Resource Hub for more information.

    This information is provided as information only. GSU is not endorsing one product over another.

The GSU Operating Plan contains an outlined model to help keep the individuals on campus safe. This plan may change depending on the degree of the coronavirus pandemic. Open the GSU Operating Plan to learn more. For more information regarding Corona Virus (COVID-19), please visit the GSU Corona Virus (COVID-19) website.