Options for remote teaching

Last updated Thursday, August 6, 2020, 4:15 p.m. Changes indicated in text.

Because of the COVID-19 situation, SFU has moved to remote instruction. The table below presents tools and strategies to support instructors with the transition.* IT Services also has resources to support remote study and remote work

We have created a special resource page for take-home and open book exams. View options for moving your final exam online using Canvas.

Virtual workshops and webcasts

View dates and times for all upcoming workshops

Watch a recorded webcast of selected workshops:

Canvas and Blackboard Collaborate training and resources

Don’t see the workshop you need? Use the blue “How can we help you?” button at the bottom of your screen to request a topic.

Tools and strategies

Current teaching practice

Online/remote options


  • Let students know, via email, your primary method of communication. (Email your students, either through GoSFU or using the Canvas class list tool.) This will be for the whole class and for information on changes and new developments.
  • Use the Canvas Announcements tool to reiterate the above emails and also course-related items. (Make sure to email students that they must turn on Canvas notifications in order to receive the most current updates.
  • Let students know how they can contact you (for example, via SFU email, Canvas mail, phone, text, etc.).
  • Consult the Library’s guide to copyright for instructors for help with putting course materials online.
  • Provide your students with Canvas tutorials on research skills, plagiarism and copyright, available on the Library services for faculty web page.
  • Calm students down and be resilient in dealing with their anxiety-fueled frustration. Some suggestions for online study tips and good at-home study habits to pass on to students.
  • NEW! Guidelines for asynchronous communications developed by SFU communications professor Andrew Feenberg.

Course changes

  • Update your course outline, email it to your students, and upload it to your Canvas course site.
  • Consider copyright implications of shifting material and exams online.


  • NEW! Zoom with recording is now available through IT Services. For classes over 300, please request a webinar Zoom license through IT Services.
  • Record video presentations with your phone, webcam, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra or any other technologies you may choose to use. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is an integrated tool in Canvas, which is the best option for recording your lectures (see the tutorial and resources at the top of this page). All other lecture materials can be uploaded to Mediasite.
  • Record your lecture at any campus in a designated room. Make your request (use your CAS login) with IT Services.
  • DON’T livestream if you can record; if everyone livestreams at the same time, it will result in poor performance across the board.
  • Narrate mini-lectures in PowerPoint (under 15 minutes is ideal) and reduce the file size before uploading to MyMediasite and share your recordings in Canvas.
  • Upload content to your Canvas course in the Canvas Commons.
  • Annotate lecture notes using PowerPoint.
  • Link to existing online content. Use the Library’s Finding and Evaluating OER guide to find open educational resources, or use materials licensed through Library databases. Liaison librarians can help remotely as physical spaces will no longer be open after Friday, March 20, 5:00 p.m.
  • Move synchronous class discussions to asynchronous discussion boards.
  • Upload your media files to Mediasite.

Hands-on activities (e.g., labs, tutorials, seminars, field trips, design labs

  • Provide raw data for virtual data analysis.
  • Post online simulations, collections or demonstrations for discussion, critique and analysis.
  • Provide external media files or links for virtual analysis.
  • Have students submit video or digital recordings of their presentations or performances.

Group projects and group work

  • Break large classes into smaller online groups using the Canvas tool for creating groups.
  • Use Canvas for student collaboration.
  • Provide options for students to meet virtually.
  • Have students do video recording or digital sharing of projects/performances.
  • Structure peer feedback using the Assignments tool in Canvas.

Tests, quizzes and final exams

Office hours

Assignments and feedback

  • Have students upload documents for grading using the Canvas assignment submission tool and download them when they are marked; grades and assignments cannot be emailed.
  • Set up the Grades (Gradebook) tool in your Canvas course and connect items to assignments.
  • Have students submit video or digital recordings of their presentations or performances. The Media and Maker Commons in Bennett Library has AV recording studios.
  • Use rubrics to help grade assignments quickly. Canvas has a rubric tool for assignments uploaded.
  • Provide digital (audio, video or written) feedback on student assignments, using Crowdmark, for which SFU already has a license. Activate your Crowdmark account now with your SFU Canvas login and learn how to use it in one of the daily webinars hosted by Crowdmark.

Course evaluations

*This table is adapted with permission from the Checklist for Teaching Remotely prepared by the University of Calgary’s Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. Thank you, Taylor Institute!  

Want more?

Get in touch with us through the CEE website (use the blue button on the bottom right of every page) or check out these great resources.

Resources created by SFU super-users

Resources created by experts from around the world

And finally, some perspective if you are feeling overwhelmed …

’Twas the night before COVID, and at SFU
All instructors were bothered, knew not what to do.

They wrestled with Canvas, they thought of podcasts,
They wondered how long remote learning would last.

When out in the aether arose such a clatter,
They rose from their keyboards—now what was the matter?

The brightness of sunshine instead of March rain
Made them wonder if they had a touch of eye strain.

Behold Super-Teacher, that jolly old elf!
They laughed when they saw her, in spite of themselves.

Now she jumped to the wall, now she leapt to the roof,
She distributed tip-sheets, and gave them this truth:

You just do what you can, for your students and you;
Don’t kill yourselves trying, try not to get ’flu;

Don’t try to put all of your knowledge online:
It may not be perfect, but it will be fine!

– Composed by Nicky Didicher, university lecturer and faculty teaching fellow in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences