Online Course Toolkit

From WSU Technology Knowledge Base
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This Online Course Toolkit includes links to wiki articles and external resources to assist instructors design mostly and fully online delivery.

Your online teaching toolbox

Winona State University supports many tools for facilitating online instruction. Assuming you are pressed for time and already know how to use common Microsoft Office applications like Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint, focus your attention on the following tools:

Your networked devices

For many of you, this means your laptop. If you have a Winona State University laptop through the eWarrior Digital Life and Learning Program, you already have a device capable of preparing and delivering high-quality online learning experiences. While you are off-campus, it's essential that you apply all HP Elitebook and Macbook Pro patches and updates. If you are using a personally-owned computer, compare it with our current models and contact TLT ( if you have any questions about its capabilities. Your phone can also be a powerful tool for communicating with your online students and handling some class management tasks. There are some very helpful phone and tablet apps that can make your job easier.


If you are teaching on your laptop from your home office, you might consider acquiring some peripheral equipment, including an external monitor and a mouse. A docking station is helpful if you need more ports for your peripherals and like to work from multiple locations. Other peripherals are more course-specific, including document cameras, graphics tablets, and external microphones and webcams. Printers are not as important as they used to be, as most student work is submitted and evaluated online. However, the ability to print and scan documents can be helpful for certain instructional activities. Explore the many alternatives to printing before investing in a printer for your home office.

The Internet

Reliable access to the Internet is critical when delivering online courses. While connected to the Internet using your laptop or phone, check your Internet speed using a tool like the Spectrum Speed Test. Most high-speed home Internet plans provide around 7 to 50 Mbps speeds for uploads and downloads. Your upload speed is typically much slower than your download speed. Working with email, Brightspace, and Zoom usually requires very little bandwidth and acceptable performance may be possible at speeds that dip below 1 Mbps depending on the nature of the activity. On a slow Internet connection, you will notice a lag when uploading large files (e.g., a video or big document) and you may experience some degradation of Zoom audio and video performance. Consult our recommendations for low-bandwidth teleworking and contact TLT ( if you have any questions or concerns about your access to the Internet.

Email, announcements, and text messages

The most important tools in your toolbox are those that help you communicate with your online students. Maintaining teacher presence in your courses should be your top priority. Our supported email system at Winona State University is Microsoft Outlook. Most students access their Outlook mailbox online through their Microsoft Office 365 web portal, while most instructors use the Outlook application installed on their computers. You can also access your campus email on your phone or tablet using the Outlook mobile app. To send email to your entire class list, you can use a Contact Group in Outlook or the Brightspace Email Tool. You can post announcements to your Brightspace course homepages using the Announcements Tool and you can text your students using Microsoft Teams.


D2L Brightspace is a suite of tools used to support online instruction. This learning management system (LMS) includes tools for organizing learning materials, communicating with students, gathering assignments, administering assessments, and posting grades. You might use some or all of these tools to develop an engaging online learning experience. If you are using Brightspace already in your onsite courses, it may be easy enough to simply expand your usage by adding more content, activities (e.g., discussions, quizzes), and structure. Access Brightspace using the web address, the link on the Winona State University website, or the bookmark in Chrome. Activate your Brightspace courses when you are ready for your online students to access them. (There is more information on Teams below.)


Zoom is a web conferencing tool that you can use to host online meetings with students. You can meet as an entire class, individually, or in small groups. Use your laptop's camera and microphone to communicate and share your screen with your students. Students can also share their screens with you. Meetings can be recorded and shared online. Zoom supports polling, voting, breakout groups, and text messaging. Access your Zoom host dashboard to activate your account and schedule meetings.


Kaltura MediaSpace is an online video storage and streaming service where you can produce, upload, and share your instructional videos with your students. Students can also use MediaSpace to share their videos with you. MediaSpace comes with a simple video production tool called Kaltura Capture that you can install on your laptop and use to capture audio and video input (e.g., screen, webcam). Videos uploaded to your MediaSpace account are captioned automatically. Access your MediaSpace account to activate it, upload videos, access Kaltura Capture, and share videos.


Microsoft Teams is an application that can be used to support collaboration. You can create your own class Teams site, add your students as members, and configure it to meet your needs. It includes a text messaging feature and is well-suited for supporting group projects and teamwork, something that Brightspace lacks. Access Teams online or using the desktop or mobile app.

How to


Post annoucements

Send email

Text message

Moderate discussions

Host online meetings

Share learning materials


Brightspace content


Collect and review assignments and surveys



Online versus onsite instruction

Whether you are teaching online for a week or several months, there are some general differences between online and onsite learning experiences to consider before you dive in:

Online learning can be disorienting

Even the digital natives who grew up with smartphones, Facebook, and Xboxes are not comfortable or familiar with online learning. Do your students know what they are supposed to be doing online each day? If they get confused and have questions, do they know how to get help? When teaching online, try to address this disorientation by communicating your expectations and structuring your activities more explicitly and frequently than you would in your onsite courses. This can be done online using frequent emails and announcements and clear descriptions and instructions.

Online learning can be lonely

Going to class is typically a very social experience. Sitting in a room full of people, asking questions, engaging in class discussions, and working on group projects are all meaningful social activities that facilitate learning and help develop productive relationships. When teaching online, try to include as many or more opportunities for social interaction and engagement as you do in your onsite courses. This can be done using discussion boards and web conferences.

Online learning can lack feedback

Students evaluate their academic performance through direct feedback and indirect verbal and nonverbal cues during class meetings. Much of this indirect feedback is lost when instruction moves online and this can cause students to misjudge their own understanding and lose track of how they are doing in the course. When teaching online, find ways to provide meaningful performance feedback and allow students to test their own understanding more frequently than they do in your onsite course. This can be done using low-stakes quizzes and surveys.

Pro tips for maintaining perspective

If you have to teach online suddenly and temporarily due to an unexpected turn of events, and perhaps in the middle of the semester when your onsite class is already well underway, it may help to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Maintain your instructor presence as you move your course online. Communicate with your students frequently through multiple channels. Over-communicate your expectations to keep them oriented and engaged. Check in on them regularly and give them feedback on their progress. Their perception of the quality of the online learning experience is driven largely by their sense of connection with you as their teacher. Humanize the experience as much as possible.
  • You don't have time to redesign your entire course for online delivery. That usually takes a year or more. Your goal is to maintain instructional continuity online for a limited time. Be efficient, be flexible, and do as much as you can to meet your major learning objectives. Be open with your students about your strategies and concerns. They understand that you are being put in a tough position and can help you build an experience that works for them.
  • Technologically speaking, it has never been easier to develop engaging, high-quality online learning experiences. You have a lot of choices, a lot of support, and the tools are all very reliable and easy to use.
  • Don't struggle alone. Use the support that's all around you. Reach out to colleagues, look for ideas online, and contact TLT ( for support. Don't waste hours trying to figure out how to do something that we can show you in five minutes.

More wiki articles

External links