Class meetings online

The information on this page was prepared in Spring 2020 for the transition to emergency remote teaching. In preparation for Fall 2020, Duke Learning Innovation has developed a new resource, Flexible Teaching, which features a series of guides for course design, delivery, and materials. Please refer to as you prepare for your fall course(s).

Holding class meetings live with Zoom best approximates a classroom setting, since students can ask questions and engage in discussion and group work. During a crisis when students aren’t coming to campus, a live class meeting in Zoom may be a good way to provide some sense of normalcy and regular schedule. However, faculty should not require that students participate live, as many students will be facing challenges due to technology, connectivity, time zones, and other unforeseen access issues. Therefore, live class sessions should be recorded, to be viewed by students at alternate times.

Suggested best practices

  • Be aware that during a crisis some students won’t have access to fast internet connections, and others may have their schedules disrupted. So, record any live classroom session, and be flexible about how students can attend and participate. If you or your students have privacy concerns, consult the FAQ section or visit the Privacy page on ScholarWorks.
  • If a crisis is disrupting classes, class meetings should mean more than just providing course content; they also establish a sense of normalcy and a personal connection. Class meetings can be times to make students feel connected and cared about: acknowledgement of current challenges, praise for good work, and reminders about the class being a community. This affective work can help student learning during a difficult time.
  • Make the class sessions as interactive as possible – this may be one of the few hours per week when the students are intellectually engaged with their peers, so make the most of it. Have students discuss the readings, work problems, engage in case studies, role play scenarios, work in break-out groups. 
  • Provide clear expectations for how live discussion will go, and what your expectations are. Consider reminding students about your class discussion guidelines (or institute some, if you hadn’t used any before). 
  • Share other materials ahead of the live meeting. Move materials you would normally have presented in class lectures, outside of the live meetings where possible. Find pre-existing video modules or other materials that explain concepts, provide or create additional readings, or make short (<10 min) video lectures, demonstrations, or problem-solving sessions.

Tips for using Zoom

Zoom is the recommended tool at Duke for holding live class sessions and online office hours. Some tips:

  • Require students to use their video cameras during synchronous sessions. Using photos as a stand-in for video can help students connect with each other when a student’s bandwidth is too low to use video.
  • When possible ask students to use a headset with built in microphone rather than their laptop’s speakers and microphone. If that is not possible, as students to attend class from a quiet location. Students should mute their microphones when not speaking. 
  • Enable auto-record in the cloud (so your class meetings are always recorded and the recordings are saved in the cloud instead of on your hard drive), and turn on the non-verbal feedback options, which allow students to respond with quick signals to your questions (thumbs up/down, yes/no, etc.)
  • Use break-out rooms periodically for moving students into small groups to work on problems or discuss. You can move between the groups as needed, and return groups to the main room to provide summaries or continue discussions. Break-out groups can be created with random assignment of students to groups, or students can be pre-assigned into groups by you before the session starts. 
  • Use polls periodically to gather student input, but be aware that you need to set up polls before your session starts. 
  • Each Zoom user has her or his own “Personal Meeting Room” in Zoom, which is always available with a permanent URL (which you can configure) and which doesn’t need to be scheduled – you can give others the URL to your Personal Meeting Room and they can join you there at a time convenient to you both. Use this for office hours, meeting with advisees, and meetings with colleagues. 
  • Zoom can be enabled in your Sakai site, and we recommend scheduling class meetings from there, so that links to the meetings are located easily by students. Links to recordings will also appear in Sakai if the class meetings are scheduled from there.

Help and documentation

If you’re using VoiceThread – a program that allows users to create and share dynamic conversations around videos, images, documents, diagrams and more – here are some useful tips and guidelines for delivering lectures online.

Using DukeCapture for remote teaching

If you have not used any video conferencing or lecture capture software before, we recommend using Zoom as outlined above.

If Zoom does not meet your needs, Duke also offers DukeCapture, also known as Panopto, which can record and/or livestream from your laptop or mobile device.

Differences between Zoom and DukeCapture

Both applications offer similar functionality. Generally speaking, Zoom is better for live discussion while DukeCapture may better suit a traditional lecture.

Requires prior approval before use
Live audio/video class discussions
Remote lecturing
Recording for later viewing
Share webcam, presentation slides
Share desktop/web applications

To start using DukeCapture, you must first contact your DukeCapture Site Administrator and get an account.

If you already have a DukeCapture account, user guides for the DukeCapture desktop and mobile applications can be found on the Duke OIT website.