Vol State Online Instruction Toolbox

Be Proactive

See the bottom of this guide for contact information for Distributed Education. You can email, call or set up a 1-on-1 Zoom meeting to answer your questions or help you develop your online class. You can also visit the eLearn for Faculty Knowledge Base Articles for assistance with eLearn and online tools.

Teaching online can be rewarding and engaging. Begin the planning process with these steps: 

  • BE SURE you can log in to Vol State resources. Login to the portal or eLearn. If you can’t get in, contact the Vol State IT Help Desk at 615-230-3302 to ensure your account is active and your username and password will get you access to Vol State resources.
  • Move your documents from your computer or network drive to OneDrive or eLearn.  This will allow you to access your documents from any location with Internet access.
  • Gather computer resources that you may need. Complete this form if you need to request a temporary hardware loan from Vol State. Some tools that will be necessary are:
    • a computer (required)
    • Internet access (required)
    • webcam (highly recommended)
    • headset (highly recommended)

Create and Maintain a Presence In Your Online Classes

Instructors are expected to provide “Regular and Substantive Interaction” as part of an online course. Many of the tasks that you will complete each week help to establish this regular and substantive interaction.

Login to the class at least 5 days each week

Good instructors login to their online classes regularly to interact with students through email, discussions, grading, and announcements. Your interaction should be proactive and encouraging. Send/post replies to student inquiries within 24-48 hours. The tips below give additional guidance on how to use your online time effectively to build a strong instructor presence.

Provide students with an overview for the week (via email, announcements, and/or discussions)

Regular announcements can be text or video based. Use My Media to create a short video announcement. If you choose to add a video, remember to get the video captioned.

Post and hold online office hours using video conferencing

Zoom video conferencing is integrated into eLearn and as a stand-alone tool. Learn more about using Zoom to connect with students. Instructors are also able to create Zoom meetings directly in eLearn.

Respond to ALL email (course mail and VSCC email) within 24 to 48 hours (or sooner)

Instructors should check their Vol State email and Course Mail regularly. Respond to emails within 48 hours (or sooner).

Your VSCC can be reached through Outlook on Office 365. Use your Vol State username/email address and password to log in.

Grade assignments promptly and provide formative feedback

Follow these instructions for grading in eLearn:

Create and post mini lectures (text or video based) to reinforce difficult course concepts

Help students grasp key concepts by posting mini lectures. You can post content by creating a new page in eLearn or use My Media to create a short (5-6 min) video where you explain the concept. If you choose to add a video, remember to get the video captioned.

Facilitate discussion boards

  • Respond to some student posts: Make a point to respond to every student at least two times in the course of the semester.
  • Correct misconceptions: If you see students missing the point, be sure to help get them back on track. As the instructor, you are the expert. They need your guidance.
  • Ask probing questions: Sometimes students keep discussion posts at the surface of the issue. Ask questions that really help them go deeper into the discussion topic.

Use the Class Engagement tool to monitor student activity

Send individual emails regularly to offer help or kudos as needed. The class engagement tool is a great way to see some important metrics about the students in your class.

Ideas and Tools for Classroom Activities Online[1]

Even though they are not present in a classroom, students will learn your subject matter by participating in online discussions, working on problem sets, writing research papers or essays, watching videos or listening to online lectures, and more.

Here are ideas of how you might accomplish your learning objectives online:


  • Record short lecture “snippets” using My Media or Screencast-O-Matic (email Kevin Blankenship for a license).
  • Use My Media or Screencast-O-Matic to record a screencast of you narrating your PowerPoint Presentation.
  • Hold class using Zoom at the exact time class would normally meet
  • Search the Internet (or a teaching materials repository) for Open Educational Resources (OER) or websites that teach the same content you would have covered in your lecture. Give students specific instructions on what to review on the website; consider assigning questions they should answer as they review it. 
  • Search YouTube, TeacherTube, TED talks as well as textbook companion websites for videos or interactive websites that explain or expand upon your textbook topics.
  • You can review the steps to adding a video to eLearn in this article, Videos: How to Add Videos to eLearn.


  • Search YouTube, TeacherTube, TED talks as well as textbook companion websites for videos or interactive websites that show the demonstration you planned to do in class.
  • Post a problem to be solved in an eLearn Discussion board and have students post ideas for solutions.


  • Delay lab assignments until the college reopens, if possible.  
  • Create alternative labs that could be safely conducted at home using normal household supplies FREE Virtual Labs.
  • Find video using YouTube, TeacherTube that shows the necessary principles through demonstration.
  • Check out Penn State's Online Lab Toolkit for more resources.


  • Give quiz or exam through eLearn (use the Time Limit feature to restrict the student’s ability to consult materials while taking the test). Check with other online instructors in your department, they may already have a quiz/test created that can be copied/imported into you class.
  • Use Honorlock to virtually proctor your eLearn quizzes.
  • Create an open‐book, take‐home style exam, such as in‐depth essays or document analysis.

Class Discussions

  • Use a Discussion in eLearn. Post some questions for discussion and have students respond to your question and to each other.
  • Create a Zoom meeting to hold class meetings where everyone attends virtually.

Group Work

  • Create small groups in eLearn for student to collaborate in a discussion board and/or submit group work to a dropbox.  
  • Use Office 365 & OneDrive to create shared documents.  
  • In Office 365, use the Microsoft Teams app to facilitate student group communication and document sharing.
  • Have students present their group work to the whole‐class discussion and let other students post questions and comments in response.

Peer Review  

  • Assign students to pairs, have them exchange papers via an eLearn course mail attachment, write up their feedback via email, and send the review to the fellow student and to you for grading.  
  • Create small groups in eLearn for pairs or small groups to collaborate in a discussion board and/or submit work to a dropbox.


  • Have students record presentations using My Media. They can post the video to a discussion board or a dropbox for you to grade.
  • Have students post presentation videos in a Discussion board and let other students post comments and questions in response.

Review a Reading Assignment  

  • Use the ideas in the lecture section to record a video or screencast of you reviewing a reading assignment.
  • Create a guided question‐and‐answer document that lets students lead themselves through the key points of the reading assignment.

Review Course Content  

  • Give students a specific section of material to review and summarize and have them share their summaries with the whole class in the discussion forum.  
  • Use Zoom to hold a review session.
  • Use a Discussion board to have students post their questions and answer their classmates’ questions.

Drill and Practice for Students 

Find Out How Students Are Doing in the Class 

  • Post an open‐ended discussion question in a Discussion board.
  • Create a Microsoft Form and embed in eLearn for students to complete.

Office Hours  

Provide Offline Resources  

  • Instruct students how to use the Brightspace Pulse app to download course materials for offline use. The pulse app is a great resource for students but note that it is created by D2L and Vol State is unable to provide support for the app.
  • Direct students to off-site locations for access to computers, Wi-Fi, electricity, printers, or other needed technology if their immediate location has none of this available.

Support Resources

IT Help Desk

General technical issues or for password assistance, contact the Vol State IT Help Desk at 615-230-3302.

eLearn Support

General eLearn support questions, email elearn@volstate.edu or call 615-230-3665.


Article ID: 100952
Thu 3/12/20 11:38 AM
Fri 7/10/20 4:29 PM