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Understanding Your Teaching Environment

What is the Remote Learning Environment?

Comparisons between Remote and Online Delivery

The communication medium used to deliver remote courses dictates many of the deliberate course design strategies and pedagogical approaches used in creating an effective remote course. It is the medium (and the requirements of that medium) that direct what will and won’t work remotely. For a remote course, simply posting materials that were designed for classroom delivery (e.g., lecture notes, PowerPoint slides or recorded lectures) is not as effective in online mediums. To understand the requirements of the remote learning environment, let’s examine its unique strengths and challenges.


  • Flexibility of time and space.
  • Learner independence with more control over their learning.
  • Access to course resources and learning content.
  • Non-linear presentation of information (e.g., links, videos).
  • Boundless connectivity to people, places and information around the globe.
  • Integrated tech tools and software.


The above strengths can also present challenges, plus:

  • Social isolation when not meeting others face-to-face.
  • Lack of community.
  • Role change from an active participant (in class) to a passive observer.
  • Pacing – students can fall behind due to absence of set meeting times.
  • Lack of visual cues, feedback, indirect communication, or technical glitches that can lead to misunderstandings or missed class participation.
  • Lack of immediate instructor presence can result in lack of clarity of instructor expectations.

Introducing Blended Approaches to Teaching

The strengths and challenges of remote learning promote a blended approach to delivery that allows you to maximize the strengths and minimize student challenges. A blended approach in this environment necessitates a mixture of asynchronous learning to improve student access to the content they need to be successful, and synchronous learning to allow access to you as their instructor, and their peers, to assist with building community and ensuring support for students while they engage with the content. We will explore in more detail how to consider these different approaches in Topic 5: Aligning Assessment to Learning Outcomes.

Technology as the Delivery Method

Remote learning leans heavily on technology as the vehicle for delivery. This enables many opportunities for how you can build engagement and interaction in your course but also creates issues, particularly around access. Technology by its nature is unstable and issues of access and equality are quickly amplified. We cannot assume equitable access to stable internet connections with the speed to deliver or receive video conferencing seamlessly. We cannot assume that all of our learners are functioning in the same time zones. Nor can we assume that all of our students have living arrangements that permit them access to suitable, private spaces where they can learn without disruption. Similarly, we cannot assume everyone can afford the appropriate technological tools to ensure the best experience. This necessitates flexibility in your course development. It is this nature of technology that encourages the lessening of the reliance on synchronous delivery and the importance of ensuring multiple pathways to engage in any synchronous sessions that are part of your course.

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What are the Tools for Remote Learning?

The Role of MyLearningSpace

MyLearningSpace (MyLS), Laurier’s learning management platform, is an important part of the student learning experience in all modalities of delivery. Within the remote learning space its importance is heightened and the need to be aware of all of its functional abilities becomes essential. MyLS in this environment essentially becomes your classroom, the place for students to access the important course information and engage with their material, you, and their peers. All of the technological assessment and pedagogical tools are embedded within MyLS, including Zoom, to ensure that you can manage your class and students from a single portal. To ensure you have all the information you need to utilize its features please visit the MyLS online instructors help guide for information and tutorials. To connect your students to the information they need to utilise MyLS please direct them to the student help page for information and tutorials.

Teaching with Zoom

For synchronous delivery of lessons and office hours and asynchronous development of content, Zoom is now our dominant medium. Zoom offers many embedded pedagogical tools that can enable more engaging delivery of your synchronous sessions, such as breakout rooms, polling, whiteboards, etc. Classes are accessible to students through the course MyLS page, and students are authenticated through their Laurier single-sign-on credentials for added security and ease. Topic 3: Using Zoom as a Pedagogical Tool of the Teaching section of this guide has been developed to support you in thinking through the pedagogical application of Zoom. Other technology and resources for teaching remotely are available on Connect.

Teaching with Teams

An alternative technological tool that can be used to deliver your synchronous sessions or office hours is Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams offers similar functionality as Zoom, although can be less reliable in large class settings, and has the added benefit of having the Office365 suite of software embedded directly into its interface. New updates, such as Together mode, can also make it a more authentic classroom experience for smaller sized classrooms. For more information on using Teams as a teaching tool can be found on Connect.

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How do I Approach my Practice in Remote Teaching?

Keeping Things Simple

When approaching teaching in a remote setting the first, and most important, thing to remember is to keep it simple. The medium is more difficult for you and your students to navigate, and it is essential that you don’t approach remote teaching by adding a lot of new complexity, novel pedagogical approaches, or extra assessment to your course. The key is to think about what is at the core of learning in the course, what’s worked in the past, and what you can do to achieve that in this new environment. It might mean using some new technologies or technological tools, it might not. The best idea is to engage in a purposeful remote course design process so that you can reconsider your course in a methodical and supported way. Laurier offers such Course (Re)Design modules which are available for self-registration in the Remote Instruction course in MyLS, and are supported through consultations with the educational developmers on the Teaching Excellence and Innovation team. Laurier instructors can reach out to for support, questions, and one-on-one consultations. 

Achieving Your Outcomes

The heart of this design process is your student learning outcomes. Everything that you do, and change, as you redevelop your course for remote instruction should be driven by these outcomes. They will inform your assessment, your pedagogical strategies, and your engagement strategies. What are my learning outcomes for this course and what do I need to guide my students to attain them in this environment? This is explored in more depth in Topic 3: Navigating the Course Design Process.

Setting the Environment for Your Students

We cannot deny that life, and learning, have changed profoundly, and it is fundamental that we engage with the new reality of learning remotely and spend time with our students to make sense of it all. Addressing the environment early and discussing how you will be approaching things with your students is a critical strategy to set the class in context and build awareness and clarity. It is useful to address the following questions when discussing your approach with your students:

  • What is the role of the synchronous time/asynchronous tools in this course?
  • How will you be available to support students in their learning?
  • What relevant supports are available from the university to support students’ academic success and mental health?
  • What are the expectations of behaviour in Zoom sessions, discussions, etc.?
  • How do the assessments used in this course achieve student learning outcomes?
  • How will we build community in this course?
  • What behaviour is expected of students to help foster this community?

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