Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) Overview
In this section, you will find a series of frequently asked questions that you may have when teaching and/or preparing to teach online. Select the question accordion to get our most common responses. If you find that you are still experiencing issues, please reach out to the Office of Online Education.
Preparing Your Online Course in Blackboard
Here are some frequently asked questions about setting up your Blackboard shell:
If you are not familiar with basic Blackboard instructor functions, or have forgotten how to use specific tools in Blackboard, we recommend that you review the self-paced Blackboard tutorial. Please follow these self-enrollment instructions – you must self-enroll in this course in order to gain access. Please note that you will be prompted for the access code – you can locate the access code on the instructions.
If you have not logged into Blackboard recently, please use these step-by-step instructions on how to access your courses in Blackboard.
To make your course available, please follow these steps: Go to your Course CONTROL PANEL > Select CUSTOMIZATION > Look for PROPERTIES and finally, look for SET AVAILABILITY and simply change NO to YES and Submit! See this PDF for step-by-step instructions. The instructor needs to make the course available to students. If the course is not available, students will not be able to access your course materials.
After activating your Blackboard class site with the minimum content enabled, let your students know by sending an email from within Blackboard and let them know that you will be emailing them announcements from the Blackboard course site to keep them up to date on the class activities.
- Revise the syllabus and schedule as needed to account for how and when you will continue assignments, discussion, tests, etc. during the expected time period you will not meet on campus.
You can arrange for students to submit their assignments via an assignment link in Blackboard. This guide can help you set up assignments for your class assignments in Blackboard. You can use the various tools available there for providing feedback via text, audio, or video, writing in comments directly on papers via the in-line grading function, or grading by means of a rubric. Additionally, you can use Turnitin, which is also available in Blackboard. If you don’t want to use Blackboard for assignments, you can also explore making use of Dropbox to which CUNY faculty and students now both have access.
While the storage limitations for Blackboard class sites have been expanded to 1.5 GB for Spring 2020, if you want to upload large files such as narrated PowerPoint, or very large doc or PDFs, we recommend that you instead upload those larger files to Dropbox. Dropbox is now available to all active CUNY faculty, staff and students. Faculty and staff have unlimited storage space. Once you upload your file to Dropbox, you can copy a link and upload that link as a web link in Blackboard. Large video files can be uploaded to YouTube rather than directly to Blackboard, then categorized as ‘unlisted’, and their URL shared in the Blackboard class site as web link.
Below are some tools used to online annotation:
- Manifold is an annotation tool supported by CUNY. Manifold allows for annotations--highlighting, comments, and social media linking on readable, accessible longform texts. You can also include resources--audio, video, and weblinks anchored within the text or an associated resource collection.
- VoiceThread can also be used for some annotations. You can upload your text to VoiceThread and students can comment on the text using audio, video and/or text.
- You can also Google Apps for Education such as Google docs for annotating. Students have to highlight and comment on text using various Google tools. Currently, Google Apps for Education is only being supported in Schools of Education across CUNY.
There are several resources CUNY and Lehman has on preparing and teaching a HyFlex course. Please navigate to the HyFlex page, for additional context and information on Teaching a HyFlex Course
Below, are some frequently asked questions and resources for teaching a HyFlex course:
Students won’t fully know what HyFlex entails till they have experienced a HyFlex class session. There are a few ways that faculty and colleges can indicate to students that the course has participation options. College’s website and course registration are common places where students can learn about course mode of instruction as well as specifics for how they can participate such as synchronously, asynchronously, and/or HyFlex where they can choose among available options. The HyFlex attribute is available and students should look at the class notes for each HyFlex section for details. HyFlex courses might vary from class to class; it is important to be explicit about the choices students have in each class. As you design your HyFlex class, consider how you can help students make participation choices that will set them up for success.
As we explore and experiment with the HyFlex course design, it is essential to communicate the experimental nature with your students as well. Send a welcome message to students with some key information about your HyFlex course, providing additional course specifics and context. Furthermore, consider soliciting feedback about student experience throughout the semester. Consider informal ways of gathering information from students such as surveys to further develop your HyFlex course design in subsequent semesters.
Faculty should expect that all students participate remotely and not penalize them if they do so. There are faculty who might choose to teach from the classroom whether students come to the classroom or connect virtually. You might ask students about their intended participation on a regular basis. Some faculty offer participation credit to students for responding to a weekly poll. This can help with planning each class session to ensure that you account for student choice of participation.
Yes, these courses can work very well as HyFlex if they have a lab, recitation, or some other built-in small group interactions. The lecture component can be recorded and shared to enhance group work. Parsing out asynchronous and synchronous components of the class, as well as scheduling flexibility, in line with facilitating small group interactions can make a larger class particularly well aligned with a multi-modal approach.
For additional support, we invite you to review previous Archived Trainings.
Here are some frequently asked questions about teaching strategies and best practices for an online class:
As you begin to teach remotely, you may need to update your syllabus to reflect the necessary changes to your course. Susan Ko, our faculty development consultant in the Office of Online Education has provided strategies in her book Teaching Online A Practical Guide on how to design your syllabus for online and blended courses. You can review examples of sample syllabi on pages 126 - 127 of Chapter 5 Creating an Effective Online Syllabus.
As you begin to redesign your course you may want to use a planning document to help you map out your course. This planning document can then be used to create your course schedule. Course Planning Document: Version 1, Version 2 (Table version).
You have many choices for presenting or lecturing online, whether you want to use slides, or just create an audio or video presentation. The following are all relatively easy to learn:
You can present your lecture, with or without slides, via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (or using other video and audio conferencing options) with students attending in real time or you can record it beforehand and make it available for students to access later, then create a discussion forum to engage with students. You can also record a live session and share with students who were not able to attend live.
You can use VoiceThread which can be enabled in Blackboard to upload slides and add narration, or just create a short video or audio recording. Students can comment and engage directly with the VoiceThread lecture you created. This page contains tutorials on what it is, how to add and enable it in your Blackboard course site, and information for your students. Also, you might find it helpful to review our webinar on the subject.
- If you have a class that requires you to draw or sketch, note that some of the video conferencing tools include a whiteboard feature you may want to explore. Additionally, you may request a LiveScribe pen from the Office of Online Education to take home to record your demonstrations. It is particularly helpful for STEM subjects. Visit the Lehman Livescribe support page.
It is best for you to use Blackboard to communicate with students and to share course materials.
- You can send an email to students via Blackboard.
- You can also send and email to students via Lehman360.
- You can also send an email to your students through CUNYFirst.
Students would receive an email to the account associated with that tool, note that it might not be their Lehman email address. Ask students to check and confirm their email is updated and correct in Blackboard and other systems.
For tests and quizzes offered online in Blackboard, help ensure academic integrity by creating a large question pool from which you draw your test, randomizing the questions for the test taker, and add other test options like no backtracking, time limits, or password enabling, depending on the nature of the test. To review these options and find those most appropriate for your tests, see Test and Survey Options.
Plagiarism in writing assignments occur no more frequently for students in online classes than those who attend only in-person classes, because all students have access to the internet. For writing assignments submitted online, consider using SafeAssign or Turnitin in Blackboard. This may allow you to reduce the chances of plagiarism by noting similarities of content submitted with other content. You can also use Google to search for specific odd phrases and vocabulary that don’t seem to fall into the student’s usual writing patterns. Consider asking students to review the originality report and resubmit after revising, if need be.
- To discourage students in online discussion from simply repeating or copying what other classmates have said, use the “Post first” settings option in Blackboard discussion. This will prevent students from reading others’ responses before they have posted their own.
Please see below for some options for reproducing these online:
- Both Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate Ultra have a whiteboard feature which allows you to share a whiteboard that you and other participants (if allowed) can annotate on. This can be used during a live session or a recorded session.
- Search for YouTube or any other sites for video tutorials which can be used to replace the written content. Links to these videos can then be placed in your course sites.
- You can write out the demonstration by hand and either scan or take a picture of the written work then upload the scan/picture to your course site. If you would like to provide an audio explanation to accompany your written work, record your audio using an Online Voice Recorder tool and upload to the course site.
- Similarly you can upload your written work to VoiceThread. Visit Lehman’s VoiceThread for tutorials on what it is, how to add and enable it in your Blackboard course site, and information for your students.
- You can use a LiveScribe Pen to write your notes in a special notebook and record your audio with the pen. You can then save the notes and audio as PDF and upload to your course.
- If you do not have a smart tablet or touch screen computer, you can use your mobile device or a webcam attached to your computer to focus directly on the paper as you write during the Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate session.
No, you do not have to be online 24/7. It is important at the beginning of course to outline your communication protocol. Let your students know the length of time when they would expect a response to their email, questions in a dedicated Q&A forum in Blackboard, etc. For example if you create a dedicated Q&A forum in the discussion area in Blackboard (highly recommended to cut down on email), you can tell students you will respond to all questions within 24 hours or 24-48 hours on weekends, whatever the case may be.
If you use email as a main method of communication, it can become overwhelming. To help decrease the amount you might receive from students, create a Q&A or Ask the Instructor discussion forum in Blackboard and have the students post course related questions to the forum, reserving email for the personal questions. Let them know when to expect a response, and for private questions they should send via email. Also encourage the students to subscribe to the forum so they can receive email alerts when questions/responses have been posted and to respond to each other’s questions if they can.
The Announcements tool in Blackboard is another feature to help decrease the amount of emails. You can post periodic announcements in your course providing students with important updates and deadlines, clarify any misconceptions, provide general feedback, etc. When you create your announcements you can check the option to send the announcement immediately as an email to the students. Announcements and responses to Q&A forum questions remain in the course and can serve as a reference for students throughout the course.
It is important to establish a consistent pattern of communication for students. In order to manage student expectations, consider establishing a regular pattern of posting announcements--for example, at the beginning and end of each week. Or you might want to post a midweek announcement if there is an upcoming deadline. For email...you will respond within 24 hours to an email or question posted in the Q&A forum in Blackboard, or you will respond within 24 hours M-F, and within 48 hours on weekends (whatever the case may be).
To measure student learning online, you need to design regular low stakes and periodic high stakes assessments. Low stakes assessments can range from quizzes to weekly discussion boards, etc. High stakes assessments can be papers, exams, presentations, etc. If you are facilitating a synchronous session online, you can use polling, placing students in breakout rooms to work on an activity, etc. to engage students and also measure their learning during these sessions. If you are using Blackboard, you might have a requirement to post each week in discussion, or on a class blog, or to comment in VoiceThread, depending on the tools you are using.
Please see below for some options for conducting student presentations online:
- Asynchronous option: students can view each others’ presentation during a period of time, they don’t have to be online at the same time which allows them to actually spend more time and focus better. VoiceThread is ideal for student presentations, with students being able to add their own slides along with video or audio. Such presentations also afford the ability for other students in the class to comment on those presentations. You can have students create their own VoiceThread presentation and post the URL to the Discussion Board. Note: before you have students create a presentation in VoiceThread, instructors can create Blackboard Collaborate Ultra sessions for students to conduct group presentations in real-time. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra can also be used by students to communicate with each other while working on their project without the need for the instructor to be present.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the academic integrity of your online class:
You can use a Blackboard announcement to refer to portions of the Definitions and examples of academic dishonesty from https://lehman.smartcatalogiq.com/2019-2021/Undergraduate-Bulletin/Academic-Services-and-Policies/Academic-Integrity or make some of these guidelines into a credit/no credit quiz. There are many good resources, videos, quizzes, etc. available from academic institutions online regarding such aspects as paraphrasing, quoting, documentation. The Purdue OWL writing lab has a good collection of exercises that you can do or adapt as an activity you’re your students to raise their awareness of these issues.
Explain the principles behind academic integrity—providing evidence to support one’s statements and opinions; giving credit to others while indirectly demonstrating one’s own originality, powers of analysis, knowledge, skills; enabling others to better follow your arguments; and providing a valid basis to receive real feedback from the instructor, allowing one to improve; the advantage of having a degree from an institution with a reputation for outstanding student work and integrity.
Provide a statement in your syllabus, mention with every announcement or discussion of assignments due, encourage them to look at their own matches in Turnitin to see if any are out of line with guidelines, after assignments have been submitted and grades are in, remind them. Create a short quiz that is credit no credit on academic integrity rules and provide it before the first writing assignment or test is due.
Follow CUNY and Lehman policy and rules (https://www.lehman.edu/academics/arts-humanities/documents/CUNYPolicyonAcademicIntegrity.pdf and https://lehman.smartcatalogiq.com/2019-2021/Undergraduate-Bulletin/Academic-Services-and-Policies/Academic-Integrity), but in marginal cases, give the benefit of the doubt, deduct enough points so as to get student attention to change behavior, or for extensively and obviously compromised work the first time this occurs, consider giving a choice between an F on the assignment or an opportunity to redo and resubmit.
Depending on the type of assignment, one can use a number of tools.
- For writing assignments, consider using TurnitIn within Blackboard. TurnitIn will try to identify matches to content in the paper, and you can then determine which are due to acceptably displayed quotations, citations, or other insignificant matches, and which appear to be copied from the internet or other sources. TurnItin also has its own feedback tools, and you can actually see if students have accessed your feedback.
- An oddly phrased or placed passage in a student paper that is not identified by TurnItin will sometimes show up by simply copying the phrase and searching for it in Google.
- To ensure a higher degree of test integrity, use the test-making features in Blackboard—create a large enough pool so that if you then randomize the questions, it will be less likely that two students will receive the same set of questions. Use features such as no backtracking or a timed test or even a password for access (which is only revealed to students in a short interval before the test).
- Acknowledge how your own habits may contribute to the problem. Whether writing assignments, quizzes, or other types of assignments, make an effort each semester to slightly revise your assignments, change your test questions or simply add more questions to the pool from which you draw your tests to prevent copying from semester to semester. This dishonest circulation of answers or the questions in advance can happen in on-campus classes but is often more easily done when everything is already in digital format.
- For group projects, ask students to make their drafts or initial work visible to you. This can be done within a group discussion board in Blackboard or a Blackboard wiki, or a recording in Zoom. Another method is to ask groups to keep a weekly log of progress on the project and who has contributed. This not only promotes academic integrity but also helps motivate students to contribute to the efforts of the group, as well as reassure them that you are aware of their individual efforts.
- In a smaller upper-division class, have students show their work in a presentation, and take questions from you and/or classmates on their work. It may also be appropriate in some cases to arrange for an oral exam or “debriefing” with a student via Zoom for a high stakes assignment or to have the student create an assignment presentation in VoiceThread. Provide questions that the student must answer that will indicate the student has a command over the knowledge and facts behind an assignment.
- For postings in discussion in which the response requires objective answers or higher stakes assignments posted in the discussion, consider using the feature “post first” which means students must post their own work before they can see the posts of others.
If you teach a hybrid class for which in-person attendance is required, then it is wise to reserve the in-person meeting for high-stakes tests or assignments. Be sure to prepare a version of the test for students who might miss and have to make up the test, or an alternative assessment. If students are taking a test online in a computer lab, in addition to walking about and monitoring the test session, you can consider using the Respondus tool (which features a lockdown of the internet browser) to discourage students from browsing for answers. CUNY policy states that the Respondus LockDown Browser may only be required if its use has been noted in the course description or syllabus. CUNY policy on using Respondus and information on Respondus for instructors can be found here, https://cunyithelp.cuny.edu/csp?id=cuny_kb_article_find_answer&sys_id=63d31141db2e7050887a92c5d49619e6
In the on-campus classroom, be sure to use traditional academic integrity methods in person like making sure all student electronic devices and books are stored out of reach, and that any blue books are brought empty to class (announce you will collect and re-distribute—have some additional empty blue books or paper on hand for those who don’t bring any). Remember that it’s important to revise your exam and assignment questions each semester.
For low-stakes quizzes (for example, each worth no more than 1-5% of the course final grade), use well-designed online quizzes, taking care to randomize and draw from a large pool. Or, depending on the goals for the quizzes (for example, to encourage students to carefully read more of the course content), try allowing multiple attempts (for example, 2 or 3 tries) with “open book,” encouraging students to look for the information, and awarding the grade to the best attempt.
It’s helpful to include more than just a single statement about Academic Integrity in your syllabus. Look for other opportunities to talk about issues related to academic integrity. Also, recognize that many students resort to using whatever is most easily found on the internet because they don’t really know what is available through the library or how to search and use its resources. Students could benefit from more encouragement, information, and specific examples about how to make the best use of library resources, and how to find and determine what are reliable, academic sources on the internet.
Don’t assume students understand when and how to properly cite sources or the finer points of what is considered copying or cheating. Typical points of confusion are the difference between citing within a text and compiling the list of references at the end, and correctly paraphrasing.
Some CUNY college libraries also have good resources for students on plagiarism, citation, paraphrasing, and related topics. You can select one that seems best suited for your class. Some examples to review are at:
LaGuardia CC, https://guides.laguardia.edu/c.php?g=143229&p=936407 (plagiarism, paraphrasing, etc.)
Lehman College, https://libguides.lehman.edu/citation
Two situations are that students might engage in informal study together outside of the class environment, or students might be officially assigned to work together in class groups to discuss or prepare assignments and projects. Clarify that appropriate informal study in groups includes sharing and exploring ideas, helping classmates better understand the course material, sometimes expanding and pooling research findings, or better preparing and studying before composing one’s own assignments or taking exams.
Explain that it does not involve sharing one’s actual assignment submission, collaborating on the final product of what is meant to be an individual submission or helping classmates find answers during the taking of an exam.
For assigned group projects, whenever feasible have students show their individual contributions by using a format that you can also see (blog, wiki, discussion board, group log recording work, etc.) or divide the final group grade into both a group and individual grade. This incentivizes students to want to demonstrate their own best efforts.
When they have delayed studying, missed classwork, or waited until the last minutes to start on an assignment, students are sometimes tempted to use shortcuts like copying or stitching together materials not their own, asking classmates to give them answers, etc.
Encourage students to log in frequently to a largely asynchronous online class, to make up missed work in a timely way (motivate them by increasing late deductions over time), and not to wait till the last minute to begin their work by creating an incremental step(s) for major assignments. For example, on a major research paper, have students first submit and receive a grade for an outline, or for compiling a reference list, a summary of their chosen topic, a preliminary draft, etc.
When appropriate, create one or more relatively low-stakes open book (but not open discussion) exam that allows 2-3 attempts, with the highest graded attempt as the score. The goal is actually to get students to review or more closely read the material. This not only reduces overall pressure on students but also provides an opportunity to give them feedback and make sure they are on the right path.
You can report Academic Integrity violations by submitting the following online form:
Violations may fall under one or more of the following categories:
- Internet Plagiarism
- Obtaining Unfair Advantage
- Falsification of Records and Official Documents
Details of each of these can be found at https://lehman.smartcatalogiq.com/2019-2021/Undergraduate-Bulletin/Academic-Services-and-Policies/Academic-Integrity
Here are some frequently asked questions about meeting online:
If you do not already use a Blackboard class site to support your course, we recommend that you get your Blackboard class site ready as a potential back-up. Each course automatically gets a Blackboard course site when courses open for registration and students are automatically enrolled. Instructors need to manually make the course available in order for students to view course materials and resources and to engage. To set up your course site in readiness, do at least the minimum:
- Post an announcement telling students where to find everything.
- Post your syllabus and/or class schedule by uploading a file to the Blackboard course site.
- Create at least one discussion forum where students can ask questions (you can call it something like Ask the Professor or Q&A forum). You can easily add more discussion forums if they are needed--generally a good idea to have one for each week of the class.
Prepare your students by having a conversation with them about the following:
- Show them the Blackboard class site and explain how you would use it to continue the class in the event you or students are not able to meet on campus. In the event you are not able to meet in person, you can record a walk-through video (screencast) and share it with your students.
- Have students download the Blackboard app to their phone or other device and test it out together. (Note that you can also access Blackboard via a mobile app).
- Ask students to check and confirm their email is updated and correct in Blackboard.
- Find out who does not have a remote computer or smartphone to access Blackboard. It may be possible to arrange for the student to borrow equipment from the college.
- Also find out how many have only limited access to wifi at home - you will want to adjust the kind of content you post in Blackboard accordingly, avoiding materials for which prolonged access or bandwidth is necessary like long videos or the use of video conferencing.
- Reassure your students by communicating before any eventuality, and if you do experience a disruption to campus meetings, keep your students informed by emails or emailed announcements from within Blackboard.
- Include info on how to contact the Helpdesk in your communications, and on your syllabus.
- Encourage your students to complete Blackboard online student orientation - "Are You Ready?" It is a self-paced course that takes about an hour to complete and students can enroll themselves by following these guidelines.
- Students can visit the Student Resources page to access specific resources.
For those interested in meeting online in real-time with students, learn more about using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra or explore other video and audio conferencing options. Breakout groups are available for small student group meetings. Meetings can be recorded and saved for later review. Also, you might find it helpful to review our webinar on the subject.
There are a number of options available.
Create break-out rooms when using a video conferencing tool.
- Have students use Teams in Microsoft 360. To learn about Teams, see this tutorial.
To take attendance in Zoom, you can have the students register for the session. When you set-up a meeting in Zoom, you have the option to enable registration. You can then run a report to see all registrants for the session. Alternatively, you can create a non-anonymous poll where you ask students a question at the beginning of the class, you can then generate a report for the poll and you will be able to see who was present at the time of the poll. You might also want to do another poll midway through the meeting in the event someone joined late. You can also use the chat to capture attendance. Students can type the first and last name in the chat at the beginning of the meeting and you can save the chat with the information.