Remote Teaching & Working

Keep Teaching: Week In Review
(April 6, 2020)

Finding the New Normal

There has been little time throughout the events of the last month for much thoughtful reflection as to the nature of what we’re doing and what we’ll be doing next. While initial online readiness meant deploying and activating essential online basics to get up and running, week two found us rapidly working to normalize online classrooms as well as working to stabilize student experiences.

As our unprecedented teaching odyssey continues, right alongside a continual, often dizzying narrative of information and misinformation about what’s going on in the world versus what’s going on with Zoom continues, please remember that we’re here to help you navigate and simplify the complex work of online teaching. If you’re struggling to embrace new online teaching technologies, to make course modifications, or to develop new testing and quizzing options, we can help.

Remember, if you have any technology or online teaching issues that impact your ability to teach your class or connect with students, please reach out to the IT Help Desk for assistance. Even if the issue is not technology-related, we will document and route the problem for appropriate resolution. We want to be sure no question goes unanswered!

HELP!  Online Tests, and Quizzes, and Final Exams

Faculty choice remains central to the creation of best testing, quizzing and final examination options for your course.  Last week’s most frequent questions have related to online testing—both from a technology and design perspective. Here are a few of the most common questions and answers:

Do I have to use Canvas Quizzes to give tests and exams?

While Canvas features excellent online testing and quizzing tools, the decision as to how to best measure the learning of your students is yours.  To learn more about Canvas Quizzes, check out this guide.  If you’d like to learn more about other strategies for online testing, the CTE has created this guide to help you plan.  CTE can also consult with you directly to create the best assessment possible, online or otherwise!  Click here to schedule an appointment for help with online test design.

If I use Canvas for online testing, should I use Lockdown Browser/Monitor?  Will it prevent cheating?

If you’re using Canvas, the LockDown Browser & Monitor tools can be added to your online tests to help deter cheating.  Normal online classes commonly employ these technology tools (which require all students to have a sufficient computer, webcam, and microphone) as deterrents to flag probable cheating behaviors.  While using Canvas and LockDown Browser adds a layer of cheating deterrence, during this emergency, many students will have insufficient technology systems to be able to successfully take tests requiring LockDown Browser software.  Simply, if you employ anti-cheating tools during at this time—please be prepared to be flexible and to make accommodations for students who do not have sufficient technology to take a test that uses a proctoring tool, such as a webcam.  As a final word, LockDown Browser and Monitor cannot prevent cheating, but can serve as a deterrent.   For more information about LockDown Browser and Monitor, click here.

A student is refusing to take a Canvas test which uses “creepy” Lockdown Browser and Monitor because they claim it invades their privacy.  What can I do?

There is no doubt that systems which can watch and/or record clips of students from their web cameras seem a little creepy.  However, such systems are common tools employed in fully-only courses.  The cloud technology systems employed by SMU (Respondus LockDown Browser/Monitor, Canvas, etc.) are all bound by privacy and FERPA protection laws and contracts to protect information collected and to ensure that data generated is not shared inappropriately.  That said, we recommend listening to your student concerns and considering the offer of a suitable test alternative or accommodation as possible in such scenarios. (see the section below)

Should I use Zoom as an exam proctoring tool?

Another increasingly popular idea for test proctoring during online tests involves the use of Zoom.  While Zoom is not a proctoring tool, Zoom can be used as an active deterrent for faculty who wish to give scheduled tests.  The idea works by asking students to activate a Zoom meeting for the duration of the exam and you will monitor them in the live video windows.  The live “presence” can help deter (to the extent possible) students from visibly or audibly asking others for help or leaving the room.  This solution is not perfect, but can help serve as a form of deterrent or proctor for online exam taking.

What other online quizzing, testing and assessment alternatives can I consider?

Below is a set of online testing ideas and practices which may be utilized for assessment with SMU’s technology delivery systems.  The Center for Teaching Excellence is also an excellent resource for developing online testing strategies!

  • Consider take-home or open-book exams (timed or not) to challenge students to quickly find relevant information and then to understand, analyze, apply knowledge and think critically.  Use questions based on class materials, power points and discussions, not just on Internet-searchable materials.
  • Have students submit alternative forms of files that demonstrate the achievement of mastery of course concepts such as recorded performances, narrated presentations, written essays, graphical analytical materials or digital exhibits.
  • Offer your online tests at a scheduled time.  A team of conspiring test takers or cheaters will be less likely to collaborate as well as sequentially take your test.
  • Shuffle answer choices so students will not see answer choices in the same order.
  • Use a question bank so students do not see the same questions.
  • Present your test questions only one at a time on live tests.  Students can only work on one question until it is completed.
  • Instructors should change at least one-third of multiple choice/objective questions on each exam every term.  The rotation or modification of exam questions helps to reduce the value of “fraternity/sorority/library test files.”

Answering Zoom Questions

By now, Zoom has become a new verb!  Here are a few tips as you continue Zooming with your students:

Is Zoom safe to use?

The world is relying heavily on Zoom right now, so it’s getting attention from both media and attackers. There’s no question that recent security problems need to be fixed.  Zoom has so far been very responsive to rapidly addressing these threats. Last week, Zoom made major changes to default settings to address the “Zoom Bombing” issue and Zoom also pushed changes this week to address an issue with clickable links in the class chat. Further security improvements continue to emerge as part of Zoom’s DevSecOps model, which shows their real commitment to security standards.  All of us naturally follow concerns in the news cycle, but Zoom’s security challenges are no different than any major software company that continually improves their product through regular patching and updates.

Have you been “Zoombombed” or heard of “Zoombombing?”

The newest form of online trolling in which a participant interrupts or disrupts online meetings and classes is occasionally occurring.  Never fear, by implementing some clear online classroom management strategies and also making slight adjustments to your Zoom class meeting configurations, you can prevent this from happening.  Inside Higher Ed has a good instructional resource article about mitigating/preventing mischief with Zoom or visit the resources on keepteaching.smu.edu for more guidance.

Should I be using Zoom Cloud for archiving and sharing my class recordings and lectures?

No.  Though every faculty member can leverage Zoom Cloud recording for temporary and convenient management of class recordings, Zoom Cloud does not have sufficient space to archive or to share your course recordings permanently.  All recordings made through Zoom, cloud or locally, should be archived and shared utilizing Panopto or Box.

Help and Support

The SMU IT Help Desk is available by phone at 214-768-HELP (4357) or email: help@smu.edu, seven days a week. For hours of operation, visit smu.edu/OIT/Help. In addition to our internal support, SMU provides 24/7 expanded support for both Canvas and Zoom.

  • Canvas: 1-844-629-6842
  • Zoom: 1-888-799-9666, ext 2

We have many short videos, help guides, and frequently asked questions throughout our website at smu.edu/oit but have consolidated most of the information on the SMU KEEP TEACHING website at keepteaching.smu.edu.

College/Program Specific Assistance

Remember your school or college’s Academic Technology Service Director for instructional technology and online teaching support:

If you have any questions or need additional assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  When in doubt please reach out!

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Published by

Jason Warner

Executive Director, Academic Technology Services