Another Look at Non-Traditional Assessments

(I originally write this article for the BYU-I Teaching and Learning Blog, but I re-posted it here for my teaching colleagues who are not at that University). 

A few weeks ago, I helped with the remote roundups on a panel called “Remote and Alternative Assessments” in which we presented different ideas on how we do assessments in a digital class. It became apparent after I presented that the teachers only wanted to learn about traditional assessments (using proctorio, etc.) rather than the alternative assessments that I was suggesting. In fact, after the meeting, one of my colleagues inferred that there was no real merit to what I was doing because, after all, I taught in the Religion department and there we have no real outcomes or benchmarks to which we must adhere. I’ve been pondering that response for quite some time, and I believe I have some additional thoughts to share to help make the importance of non-traditional assessments clear. 

First (in case any were wondering) in the Religion department, we do have real learning outcomes that our students must achieve. For example, one of the alternative assessments that I shared was a website for the Eternal Family Course (REL 200). During the class, we had the students work in teams to create a website that taught about different issues that effect the family unit in our world today. One of our learning outcomes for this course is that students Teach & Declare the Doctrine, obviously this assessment hits that desired outcome.  However, I could also make a case that this particular assessment ties into all four of  the BYUI learning outcomes – that students become 1). Disciples of Jesus Christ, 2). Sound Thinkers, 3). Effective Communicators, and 4). Skilled Collaborators. 

In fact, I would guess that it is much easier to tie alternative assessments to desired outcomes and benchmarks than traditional assessments.

However, that is not the only benefit of alternative assessments. Consider for a moment, the real-world and cross learning  applications that these students now have as a result of that course. Each student had to create a website (both a personal one and then collaborate on a team website) – consider how this current (COVID-19) crisis has taken each of us into the digital world – and perhaps one can see the merits in learning from this particular type of non-traditional assessment. 

There is a drawback though, it does take more time to grade a non-traditional assessment.  In the long run, it is a lot faster to create a quick quiz or proctored digital exam allowing the computer to do the bulk of the work. And while I’ll admit that there are merits to traditional methods of assessment, if we want to truly see the students engage with the content of our courses (and remember those concepts well into the future),  then we may want to take a second look a the power of non-traditional assessments. These creative assessments benefit the learning of the student and help us engage much more richly with the students, allowing us to mentor them (which I believe is another benchmark that this Institution is known for). Perhaps now, a discussion on grading and rubrics is in order – but we’ll have to save that for another time. 

For now, I leave you with some other ideas about Alternative Assessments:

My hope in writing this post is that we can further the conversation about Assessments at BYU-I, as well as to look at the benefits and merits of non-traditional assessments, especially as these types of assessments help to create a depth of learning and engagement that can bless both our students and this University.

COVID-19. Isolation. Work from home. But with the family. How?

So, here we are – ALL together, all cozy, all quarantined. And this is what it looks like –

IMG_0335 2

Trying to get my work done with a 6 year old at home

The good news is that this is not my first rodeo, working from home with children, so I already have some work from home “mommy-muscles” (shout out to my sister for coining that phrase). However, as with anything new, I have to find what works through trial and error.

Here is some edited footage from my first remote lesson to show you some of what doesn’t work 😆 :

I began working full-time in 2017 (almost 3 years ago). As an adjunct professor, I had a little more time to be able to keep up on home and family needs (though it took me a while to develop those mommy muscles). But now, I am finding that I just can’t do for my youngest what I was able to do for the older two. This last week was draining – with everyone in the family trying to do “their stuff”:

  • my older two working on homework and virtual lessons,
  • my husband working from home in a continuous virtual meeting
  • I had to teach remote lessons – it got so bad that at one point, I had to set up my lap-top on the bathroom counter because that was the only “real estate” left in our two-bedroom apartment.
  • Ruby (our 6-year-old) was at a loss – and anytime I tried to get her to work (on the homework that she has been assigned) it went up in flames.

So, this weekend we had a re-boot with the family and Ruby now has a new “teacher” that she has chosen for every subject.

  • Math ( her 12 year-old sister)
  • Language arts – reading and writing (me)
  • Arts and Crafts (her 15 year-old sister)
  • PE (her Dad)

The plan is that everyone will work with her daily for at least 20 minutes in the subject.  I have also posted a schedule for my family so that they will make sure to help with her during the times that I have to meet with students (see the video above).

I wrote that first part of the post a few weeks ago, while I was still working things out and excited and fresh – ready to tackle the situation.  Now, our governor has announced another 2 weeks of lockdown. Our schools have announced that they will not reopen for the end of the school year. The new virtual semester at the college I teach at starts again on Monday.  And, we’re getting a bit stir crazy here.  My awesome plan (as outlined above) sometimes works, but more than not doesn’t. **Sigh!** So, here are some of my …

Tips for Working with Everyone Home –

  1. Work when you can – sometimes that means that I pull really late nights or really early mornings while the family sleeps.
  2. Forgive yourself and move on – it will not be perfect. You are doing the best you can in the moment, and you won’t be able to fix all of the mistakes. But you are getting it done. Pat yourself on the back and move on. It is about learning the skill of doing, expanding, and growing. “You are expanding your capacity to do!”
  3. Don’t worry about what others think – they will think what they want to think. You can’t change that. If they truly understood what you were going through they would probably be in awe of the juggle that you are doing.
  4. Spend quality time with your family – sometimes you have to let some aspect of work pile up a little (grade, prep, or answer emails later) and be present with the needs of the family. Give them the gift of you in the present moment. We’ve done Sugar Easter Eggs, watching old movies, playing board and card games, teaching them knitting, (here’s my youtube playlist to quarantine fun), etc. It is good to have time together! 😉
  5. Time to retrain everyone – At the beginning of this quarantine, family members were coming to me for everything (can you help me do this homework, can you get me this, can you …).
    • Now, I meet with my older children each day and ask what they need/want to do with the day.
    • I forward their teachers’ emails to their inboxes and make them responsible for their own homework.
    • For my older kids – they can’t do “fun” (screens, movies, etc.) until the work is done, and they’ve been productive.
    • The youngest (6 years) has some “attitude work” that we are trying to retrain with punishments/rewards systems and a lot of love. When the oldest two were young, I only worked part-time and so I was able to train them, but with the youngest I’ve had to work full-time, and she has developed some unfortunate habits. It’s been a huge blessing to be able to work with her in such a “hands on” way.
  6. Home chores  – We’re all working on meals and clean-up together. Again, some days work better than others, but little by little, we’re getting into better habits. This (the balance of tidying, chores, and meal prep) is something we’ve been juggling for YEARS! It takes the time and effort of everyone to keep things tidy, to create healthy meals, and to do the heavier Saturday cleaning jobs).
  7. Make sure that they are creating, not just consuming –  Yes, there are times when I hand over my phone and times when I turn on a movie to my youngest – such as when I have a particular deadline that I have to meet. However, the TV and devices can’t be on all of the time. Even in a small apartment in quarantine there is time each day for creativity, reading, play, etc.
  8. Scheduling at home  – I have certain teaching times in which the older girls watch the youngest. Each night we discuss what hours we have virtual meetings and what needs to be done. Mostly, the older girls play with the younger during my virtual teaching time, and I end up working with Ruby on her school work. That’s okay. I’m blessed to have a little more flexibility with my job (as I said before, sometimes I get my work done in the early mornings or very late at night).
  9. Adding more – Yes, we started up virtual piano lessons again. It’s tough to juggle, but as with anything, you have to practice, sometimes the balls fall, and sometimes you add another one to improve. It’s been good, and my kids have loved having another things to do with their days to keep them busy (and I don’t mean that sarcastically – they need schedules, they need to keep busy, they need to get up and dress and do their hair each day. It keeps them happy and feeling good during this time of uncertainty. )

No, it’s not ideal, but then, neither was the chaos of our weeks before quarantine. My hope is that this time will help me find a happy medium (post quarantine) with my family in the future.


Some Tips on Settings in Zoom.

Some of my colleagues wanted to know how to set up several things in zoom such as –

  • Setting up break-out rooms for groups,
  •  prohibiting students from
    • annotating,
    • having private chats, or
    • changing their backgrounds.
  • As well as some ideas for security measures.

Here is a video that I made on youtube with some ideas for you on how to do it.

Screen Shot 2020-04-17 at 2.36.31 PM


First Day Virtual Lesson Plan

person in front of his laptop

Photo by fauxels on

To continue my helps for teachers while dealing with this situation (COVID-19 and having to race to turn F2F classes into online courses) I am sharing some helps for that first day with a Remote lesson on a platform like Zoom.

So far, so good, the Zoom platform has held up, so we’ve been able to have our first  remote meetings. All of my classes voted, they really want to still meet together in a virtual space, despite the craziness of my life – family home, small apartment, etc.  (more on that in a future post). I assume many of you have already had your first day, so I share this for ideas, or if you haven’t, below, you will find some helps.

I found it really interesting to go back and look at the footage of the classes, so that I could see what they could see. Very enlightening, but more on that later!

Here is a link to let you watch one of these classes (raw). By this point, I had figured out a lot of the kinks:

  • I pause the recording so that the students at home don’t have to watch dead moments (when students are working in breakout rooms, etc.)
  • I give students at home instructions
  • I know when to use the spotlight (when I am giving pertinent information) and when to let the camera go to the students (when we are discussing, Q&A, etc.)
  • The link is below, I invite you to watch it so that you can see what your students are seeing as you prepare for your virtual classes.

Topic: REL 212 2pm Class – New Testament
Start Time : Mar 19, 2020 01:55 PM

Meeting Recording:


Thank you for your reading, sharing, comments (here or on the other channels)!

Other posts in this series –

7. An Example of a Robust At Home Lesson


My lesson ideas follow:

This is the item I posted on the white board as the students came into the room:


Come into the room

Play around with the features of Zoom

  • Locate the place to turn on and off your video, mute, etc.
  • Locate the controls at the bottom of the screen
  • Locate and start the “Manage Participants” feature
  • Locate and start the “Chat” feature
  • Let me know any questions you may have

This is going to be exciting!


And this is my lesson plan. I had it ready so that I could copy and paste items onto the whiteboard or into the chat-box so that when they went into discussion rooms they could use the information.

First Virtual Meeting Schedule


  1. Welcome and Opening Prayer
  2. Check Tech – let the kids play around and see what’s what (White board display “Welcome” with suggestions) 
  3. Practice going to breakout rooms
    • Meet each other
    • Get to know the tools of the breakout room
    • Practice sharing your screen with each other
    • Make sure that you can hear each other
  1. Discuss logistics
    1. Polls – options
      • Synchronous – (together or with groups during class time)
      • Asynchronous – (together around a certain experience – at home lesson, video, PowerPoint, etc. but whenever we can during the week)
    2. Questions about logistics
  2. Lesson
    1. Go to breakout room (10 minutes)
    2. Discuss these things –
      • Are you doing okay – what are you worried about, what are you looking forward to?
      • Discuss the following questions:
        • How has working on memories and histories over the past week helped you feel connected to your ancestors?
        • Why is connection so important, what have you learned as you have been preparing this material for class?
        • Who do you feel the most connected to (if there were a real crisis, who could you call on to help you)?
        • Why are we supposed to connect to our ancestors, how can/has this helped you?
        • Why do you think the Lord has prompted the Prophet and Apostles to do more with connecting families spiritually through the Home Study Program?
    3. Back together:
        • Questions?
        • Comments?
        • Thoughts?
        • Feelings?
        • Concerns?


An Example of a Robust At Home Lesson

To continue my helps for teachers while dealing with this situation (COVID-19 and having to race to turn F2F classes into online courses) I am sharing an example of a robust at home lesson that I created for an REL 250: Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel course.  I will share the assignment on a post following this one.

Principles to consider while creating a longer, more in-depth at-home lesson:

  • Think about the experience you want your students to have in class (perhaps go to a F2F lesson plan).
  • Now, conceive of this lesson as something different, you obviously can’t create the same F2F experience, so how can you take each section from your lesson plan and allow the student to go on a guided journey through the material.
  • It will take some effort to switch your thinking from traditional teaching to online, but think of one of your students at home and how you can best help them have an experience with the material.
  • I find it best to allow them to make choices in the lesson (think of the old “choose-your-own-adventure” books) because it helps them engage more in the process.

I find it very synchronistic that the at home lesson I have is a lesson on creation and creativity! Enjoy the process of being creative as a teacher. This is why I love this profession – each day, each class affords me the opportunity to be creative!

Enjoy! And please share it with those who need it, and comment on ideas that you have for at-home lessons, etc.

Other posts in this series –


My lesson follows:

“At Home” Lesson on Creation

Hello Dear Students!

I put the words “at home” in quote marks, because I don’t care where/when you do this assignment. We will not be having class on Thursday, May 3rd, and so instead we will be doing this lesson. It will require at least 3 hours – (to make up for the hour of pre-class work, a one hour class, and the one hour after class assignment typical of the university requirements.) This assignment will have a beginning, which you must complete and then have a section of principles. The principles will be in 3 parts and I leave it up to you to decide (by the spirit and your desires) how you want to do that part of the lesson.

The most important things are these:

  1. That you understand what the Lord’s teachings through His words to Prophets and Apostles (not what the world’s teachings) are on each section.
  2. That you learn, and enjoy doing it!
  3. That this time teaches you. You will know that you have been taught if after the time spent – you have drawn closer to God, and you want to make changes in your life to be better.
  4. You complete the study and the assignments.

Okay, ready? Here we go!



(you must all complete this part)


Jehovah Creates the Earth, by Walter Rane, 

Jehovah created the earth under the direction of the Father

PONDER these questions as you study this section:

  • As you observe the world around you, what do the creations of God teach you about the Savior, about His priesthood, and about His stature in the pre-mortal world?
  • How does understanding these truths influence your feelings toward and testimony of Jesus Christ?
  • How does understanding these truths influence the way you feel about the earth?

The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles (Links to an external site.)” states: “Under the direction of His Father, [Jesus Christ] was the creator of the earth. ‘All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made’ (John1:3)” (Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2000, 2). As you come to understand the eternal purposes of the earth’s creation, you can live with greater resolve to fulfill the measure of your own creation.

First, please study the following:

  • Moses 1:27-42
  • READ:  [Then] Elder Russel M. Nelson, The Creation (Links to an external site.), April 2000
  • and then choose one of the versions of the creation –
    • Moses 2, 3:1-3
    • Abraham 4, Abr, 3:24-26
    • Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-2

As you read, copy down questions or impressions in your journal. You can use these as guiding questions if you’d like – What question came to mind about the creation of the Earth and Universe? How are the Father and the Son Creators and what is their purpose for creating?



(study this section as you see fit, maybe spend equal time on each one, or skim two and focus in deeply on one, your choice)

Section #1 Principle: God created our mortal body and we have a stewardship to care for it.

PONDER these questions as you study this section:

  • Why is it important to see myself as a steward, responsible to care for my body?
  • How is Satan tempting me to misuse my body?
  • What am I doing each day to care for my body? Why is that important?

READ: [Then] Elder Russel M. Nelson, Thanks be to God (Links to an external site.), April 2012


Look over these resources and make some goals/changes to help make yourself healthier during your time here.

Section #2 Principle: In Honoring God’s Creations, We Honor the Creator

PONDER these questions as you study this section:

  • Knowing that the Lord’s teachings are usually in the middle of the debate – how can we learn to use (have dominion) and yet be good  stewards of the earth at the same time?
  • How can you “make your own living space more beautiful and inspirational”? How would that improve your life?
  • How have you, or could you, enjoy more of the Lord’s creations here in Rexburg? How would that improve your life?

READ: In Honoring God’s Creations, We Honor the Creator (Links to an external site.), LDS Newsroom, April 2018


Ponder this is from the new Young Women’s Camp Manual (Links to an external site.)

“A fountain of pure water” and “a thicket of small trees” (Mosiah 18:5)—Mormon used these words to describe the place where Alma hid after fleeing from King Noah. Those trees and that water became “beautiful . . . to the eyes” of the people who joined Alma there. Why? Because in that place, Alma and his people “came to the knowledge of their Redeemer” (Mosiah 18:30). The location of your Young Women camp—whether it is in a forest, in a park, on a beach, or in a meetinghouse—can become beautiful to the eyes of all who gather there. Like Alma and his people, young women need a place where they can gather together, separate from worldly influences, feel the Spirit of the Lord, grow in unity and love, and strengthen their faith and testimonies of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Section #3 Principle: Choose to be a creator, not merely a consumer

PONDER these questions as you study this section:

  • What do you seek when you have free time?
  • Are you a Consumer or a Creator?
  • What are you consuming?
  • What are you creating?

READ: [Then] President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Happiness Your Heritage (Links to an external site.), October 2008


Look over these resources and make some goals/changes to help make yourself more productive and creative during your time here.

Talent and Interest Survey (Links to an external site.), (for fun and to get ideas)

Recognizing and Developing Talents and Abilities (Links to an external site.), From Institute Manual; The Gospel and the Productive Life.


Assignment: After completing this lesson, please complete this assignment.

Thank you for your hard work!!!


For Further Study –

The First Presidency Statement about the Father and Son–1916

At Home Lesson Assignment Example

I start classes tomorrow. (So I will need our devices and the internet).

Bryan, my husband is working from home as a precautionary measure because I feel a little “off” (so he will need our devices and the internet).

My children begin school closures tomorrow. Two of them have scheduled at home assignments/ meetings. (So they will need our devices and the internet).


And this is my rambunctious six-year-old who constantly keeps me on my toes! (So far, she has no assignments, but she will need our time and attention, and sometimes our devices and the internet.)

Oh, and did I mention, we live in a two-bedroom apartment.

This is going to be fun! 😉


Here is a simple assignment that goes with the longer at home lesson that I will post tomorrow.

For this Assignment, please do the following –

  1. Spend time studying the At Home Lesson on the Creation [this is linked to the content on canvas]
  2. Write about your insights, thoughts, and questions from the reading. What did you learn and how will it change you?
    • Please use quotes from the scriptures and/or talks and readings that you studied.
    • Answer some of the questions from the prep work.
    • Make some goals based on your study, what will you do differently in your life because of this study?
  3. Ensure that your response is at least 250 – 300 words in length, not including the quotes. Remember that this is college level writing, and so I will be expecting papers free from grammatical and mechanical errors, citations for all sources used, and thoughts that are fully developed, relevant, and well-articulated in order to get full credit.
  4. Then submit your assignment here.
  5. I hope that you enjoyed this lesson as much as I enjoyed creating it! 🙂

An Example of a Shorter At Home Lesson

To continue my helps for teachers while dealing with this situation (COVID-19 and having to race to turn F2F classes into online courses) I am sharing some examples of an example of a simple at-home lesson and a quick assignment. Later, I’ll share a more robust version. I suggest having a few of these types of shorter lessons so that you can have some time to spend on creating longer lessons, fielding phone class, emails, virtual meetings, juggling family, (as we will all be quarantined together in a small space – more thoughts on that later!) etc.

This is a simple one (if my children or I are sick, or if I just don’t have a lot of time to prep because of said illness/emergency, etc). On those I try to emphasize a lot of choice – which gives the student the freedom to work on what they would like and to go at their own pace on the days and times that work for them.

Linking in a lesson or assignment

Sometimes it is too much with all of the material to have it on one page. So I create multiple pages and link them into the page I want to use it for. Linking is my best friend on canvas 😉

The Scripture Study link below (it is underlined and green, see the first bullet point) would take them to another page on canvas (our LMS system) that has a complete set of Scripture Study Skills (this was a page that they had to use for one of the major projects). I left them below as dead links so that you can see them. The red links below are live (just in case you want to do some family history). 😉

After the at home lesson, I have an example of the simple assignment that I give in connection with the lesson. If you create a few of these simpler ones, than you can spend some time working on learning the new tools for screen-casts, etc. (there is a learning curve for each one.)

Hope this helps (and I would love to see anything that you create as well). You can do this and I will keep adding ideas to help you. Feel free to send these posts along or to follow this blog if it is of use. I would also LOVE to hear your thoughts, comments, ideas, or suggestions.

Other Posts in this series –

Shorter At Home Lesson and Assignment follows:

Day 15: At Home Assignment Instructions

In place of class today, we will be doing an at home assignment. I have given everyone full points for the daily quiz, so no need to worry about that.

For this assignment, you have your choice of the following:

  • Do the reading for today – 2 Corinthians 6-13 and practice using at least 2 of the Scripture Study Skills  in your study (this should take  at least 3 hours)


Please enjoy and take advantage of this opportunity to get your fingers on the pulse of family history work right now!

Report your findings here – Day 15 At Home Assignment (it is due on Saturday by 10:30 pm, but you can turn it in whenever you wish)

Day 15 At Home Assignment Report

Make sure that you have completed the prep work – Day 15: At Home Assignment Instructions

  • Please tell me a little ( 250-300 words, approx 1 page) about what you have done and what you have learned while studying 2 Corinthians 2-13.
  • Make sure to include the following to get full credit:
    • Tell me which two scripture study skills you used.
    • Share some of the verses that were the most important to you.
    • Share your insights from these verses.
    • How will you apply your learning into your life?
    • Any other thoughts and insights about the learning (using the scripture study skills)?

OR if you did the family history option –

  • An accounting of your time
    • Log your dates and hours for both NT study and the conference (should total at least 3 hours)
    • The classes that you watched
  • Share your insights from each class and from your study
    • What did you learn that you think will be of value in the future?
  • Give your overall thoughts about this experience

Thank you, I hope that this will be a very beneficial experience for you!

Teachers – Don’t Over Think It!

I haven’t slept tonight. I keep just writing post after post. I’m feeling driven by the Holy Spirit because I keep thinking of my dear friends and colleagues who are OVERWHELMED right now.  I have LITERALLY been doing this – teaching while the world has been burning down around me for the past 17 years. 😆 Anyone who knows me will tell you that the Waldrons just keep moving from crisis to crisis. In fact, I  JUST finished a Nov – Feb ordeal in which I was teaching my 6 classes at BYU-I as a visiting professor (each class meets 2 times a week with a total of approx. 300 students) and a daily Seminary class at Madison High School (add 5 more weekly classes, 23 students) to try to get hired on SOMEWHERE as a teacher when my BYU-I contract ends this July. Yes, that’s 11 preps for 17 classes weekly – all while, I am the mother of three and my poor husband (who already has other medical conditions) had a shoulder surgery (12/23/19) and then a bout with internal bleeding  at the end of January that left him zero energy for quite a few weeks. 

I GET how difficult this is for you, for all of us around the country and the world. My daughters’ schools are closing the same day that I am supposed to go live teaching my collage classes again – and we’re all going to be one big happy family in a two bedroom apartment as I try to teach students who are also in chaos (more on how to do that coming soon). Fortunately, I only have my BYU-I classes right now and my husband is doing much better – so this for me is like a vacation. 😉

My point is, these posts are here to help you. For whatever reason, I feel compelled to share, but I can’t get these posts into the hands of the overwhelmed teachers without your help.

So, breathe, and let’s start over –

Remember when you were a first time teacher and you did it one class at a time?

You only need to get one class up at a time.

Don’t overthink the whole few weeks at once, don’t stress.

Simple lessons and assignments.

(I have already written posts with more examples that are coming)

Here’s a quick example of something easy that you can do – (I sent this to my cousin who is an art instructor)

  1. Watch this video (use a youtube video from someone who is showing you how to use a certain technique, make sure to give that person praise, gratitude, and credit)  If you are worried about copyright and how it will effect you, here is some information Public Statement: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research
  2. If you can’t find a video on youtube or pictures on the web – grab your simple camera phone – 1-2 minutes video demonstrating the technique or procedure, or a succession of pictures (think old slide shows). Throw them up on a platform that you understand (Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc.) and send it in a link to your students in an email with a short lesson.
  3. Have your students try the technique and
  4. Answer these questions:
    • What did you learn as you used this technique?
    • What do you need to do to improve as you move forward?
    • How can you use this technique in the future?
    • What else would you like to learn about?

Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission.

In this post – Help! I have to change my face-to-face classes to online in just a few days I have a link to the first announcement that I gave my classes. Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission.

In this post – Okay, Virtual Reboot, Now What?  I give tips and examples of instructions for the students to know what to do on the day that they come back. Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission.

In this post – Tips for Virtual Conference Lessons I’m sharing some hard-learned advice and tips on video conferences. They are great, but I don’t anticipate that they are going to be what the classroom experience is. So I am trying to put up other options as fast as I can. Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission.

In our short meeting tomorrow (see the instructions on the post above) I will likely spend the time doing the following (that is if the tech doesn’t crash)

  • Practicing the different features of the room – going in and out of breakout rooms.
  • I have some questions based on their prep for them to discuss. Oldest in the group leads the discussion, youngest takes notes, all are expected to participate) – we may or may not get to that, depending on the tech. Yes, I do think it’s going to be a problem, but that’s just based on my past experience. 😉
  • I have other plans for if the tech breaks down which you can read about in this post on – Tools for Teachers Who are Mired in the Middle of Converting F2F classes into Online Classes which is scheduled to be published in one minute and has a great suggestion for a discussion board that I can use in case it all breaks down. Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission. 
  • I will give announcements like – I will be talking about asynchronous work  (I’m changing all of my due dates to the end of the week) and working on lessons that they can do anytime during the week. Because this is a hectic time for everyone!


See, here’s an ugly picture of a whiteboard with instruction on it for a lesson that I did.  😉 Take simple pictures, take pictures of you handwriting something, of you demonstrating a vocal technique, or a dance move. It won’t be brilliant, but it DOSEN”T have to be perfect right now. I agree with this article from Rebecca Barrett-Fox, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Arkansas State University, Please Do a Bad Job of Putting Your Courses Online who reminds us to not take the prep and tech too high-end right now, because we are all in a crisis situation. Agreed! Use what you know. Be simple. If you have time, try out a new tech. If you need to do a quick discussion board for the first day, there is that idea again.

47506077-B7D8-4C02-B9D0-011DB74FA719 Again – YOU GOT this!!

Tools for Teachers Who are Mired in the Middle of Converting F2F classes into Online Classes

To continue my helps for teachers while dealing with this situation (COVID-19 and having to race to turn F2F classes into online courses) I am sharing some examples of tools to have in your “back pocket” as you begin to covert your face-to-face lessons into on-line lessons.

At my school (BYU-I) many are suggesting using online meeting rooms for the virtual classroom experience. Many of the teachers are working with screen capturing materials to create video lessons (more on that later) so that the students can watch them asynchronously. Both are great tools, and like anything, present their own unique challenges (such as the learning curve with tech, engaging the students, etc.). In this (and a few following posts) I will present some ideas to have as other tools in your “back-pocket” so that you can have time to learn the tech and deal with the myriad challenges that we will be facing shortly – think fielding phone class, emails, virtual one-on-one meetings for your office hours, juggling family, [as we will all be quarantined together in a small space – more thoughts on that later!].

Back-up Plans if “Zoom” or other tech wonders falter

I am concerned that with so many of us (think all colleges closed during this pandemic as well as businesses working remotely … worldwide) using technology (especially the more popular ones like the virtual meeting space Zoom  – don’t get me wrong, it is an AMAZING tool!) that some of these tools may falter. When I did conferencing in a hybrid set-up for an English course at SLCC (shout-out to Lisa Bickmore, Benjamin Solomon, Kati Lewis, and the rest of the team) we had many quirky tech situations and I learned to have a few things ready as back-up plans.

  • Make sure the students know where to go for further instructions if the tech fails (I’ve told my students to check the announcements. I have one pre-written (but not published) for each class linked to another option – like a discussion board. If I need it, all I need to do is hit “publish”.
  • Other conferencing tools (think of it as driving a different route when the freeway is at a stand-still) such as Google Hang-outs, and many, many others. Here is a list from Capterra (a software review company) of video conferencing software that is available. I’ve used Cisco, Big Blue Button, and Zoom in my teaching. Don’t overthink it and get overwhelmed. Start with what you know, what your school recommends, or those which your school has purchased a license.
  • Simple Discussion Boards (see below for an example)
  • Simple at home lessons (post on this topic coming tomorrow)

Virtues of asynchronous learning for this situation

Consider the power of asynchronous learning(where the students have the opportunity to study a common resource when they want to/can rather than at a set time) in addition to the virtual meeting spaces. If you choose this option, consider changing all due dates to a certain time at the end of the week. Then remind the students (in an announcement, or however you communicate with them) that they have all week to complete the work but that there is a common due time (see my late work policy below). Encourage them to work on assignments and turn in work early.

Taking time to learn new technologies and the learning curves

I suggest creating a few at home assignments, some group work, and some simple discussion boards so that you can take time to learn new tech. I also recommend, longer at home lessons instead of meeting in a conference each day (post with an example on this topic coming Friday, I believe). This will give the students a rich learning experience while affording you the needed time for all that is ahead.

Each one has its own learning curve, but you can learn them all with a little bit of practice. When I first started delving into tech, I felt like I was learning to write with my toes – everything was so foreign! But my job as a Technical Writing Professor (shout out to my awesome colleagues for encouragement and support – Brian Whaley UVU and Elisa Stone SLCC) demanded that I become proficient in web-design and many other proficiencies. Soon, each new tech felt like writing with my left hand, a challenge, but nowhere near as bad as when I first began.

So, I would recommend choosing one or two (or maybe even 3-4) new tech skills to master during this unique experience. It will change and bless your teaching in the future.

Simple Discussion Boards

Here is an example of a very simple board that you can get ready. Typically, I would have it “dolled” up with the course image, a title, and then have it linked to the lesson or reading that was to be prepared that day. This was for an REL 275 Teachings and Doctrines of the Book of Mormon course and was very successful, I think because of the pose a question and answer a question. There was a lot of rich created content from the students.

Please post the following and then reply to 3 (or more) students:

  1. A quote from the reading that you thought was really profound or answers a question that you had.
  2. A principle from the reading (that you can use to guide your life).
  3. A gospel question (can be about the reading or anything that you would like).
Go through and respond to 3 or more students, answering questions with a source (a source is a scripture, words of the living prophets, etc. ), discussing, adding insights, etc. (if one post has a lot of respondents, please move down and make sure another post has comments).
20 points for your high quality post
10 points per high quality response – to be a high quality response, it must have a source (see above) in addition to your thoughts (up to three, but you can earn a little extra credit for more than 3).
Thank you so much!!

A total aside as I share some thoughts on extra credit –

Some teachers absolutely HATE it – which is totally fine. I use it sparingly, I find it a funny little “motivational tool”.  I tend to not give a lot, maybe through the semester enough to make up a minor assignment, but certainly not enough to make up a major assignment.
On this discussion board, I ended up giving 5 points as extra credit for any worthwhile comments for a student who did more than 3. It wasn’t a lot of points, but I think some who were in desperate circumstances did gladly accept the opportunity.
I use our LMS canvas to automatically take off late points for any overdue assignments and I will not change that.
Here is a section from my syllabus (when my students ask to turn in something late, I just direct them to this) –  taken (with some tweaks to fit my style) from a dear colleague at BYU-I (shout out to Bill Riggins) with great gratitude.

Late Work:

God is both just and merciful and so I try to emulate him. If you miss a deadline, you can still submit your work; that is merciful! However, mercy cannot rob justice, thus you will be docked 10% per day that it is late. Please don’t ask me to waive the late points. I will not do this for any reason.  I give ample time for you to know what the assignments are and to do them, early, if need be. If something happened and you have to turn an assignment in late, do it, take the penalty and move on.  If you are really behind, work on what is current, and then see if you can go back and finish any old assignments. Stay as current as you can!


Thank you!

I wish you all the best in this work – feel free to comment about what you are doing (your ideas, questions, epiphanies), subscribe to get posts to your in-box, and to share with other teachers who need it right now.

Other posts in this series –

Help! I have to change my face-to-face classes to online in just a few days

Okay, Virtual Reboot, Now What? 

Tips for Virtual Conference Lessons

Tips for Virtual Conference Lessons

photography of woman using laptop

Photo by Christina Morillo on

To continue my helps for teachers while dealing with this situation (COVID-19 and having to race to turn F2F classes into online courses) today I am sharing a few tips to help your video conferencing lessons. There are SO many posts right now:

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 3.59.42 AM

on how and what, etc. when it comes to virtual conferences that I decided to just hand out some practical wisdom for the teachers as we break into it (mine start on Wednesday, I know others have started and some are just a few short days away). Whatever your situation, here are some thoughts to help out.

Tips for Virtual Conference Lessons

  • Be aware that it is even easier for the students to be disengaged in the conference rooms (they can mute their videos and their sound, so they may or may not be present with you – in body, mind, or spirit!)
  • Be engaging – here are some ideas:
    • assignments to give them and have them break out into conference rooms for those discussions.
    • Share your screen – images, photos, polls, games (yes it’s okay to have a silly game or get-to-know you activity in the middle of all of this), videos
    • Make these times enjoyable to be there. I know that some of the content is serious – perhaps turn those more serious lessons into at home lessons (see posts Thurs and Fri this week).
  • Consider using the meetings for major general announcements, or teaching basic important principles and concepts.
  • Then put them into groups for:
    • deeper study,
    • to quiz each other,
    • small group assignments,
    • discussions based on prepared questions, etc.

Tips for Teachers Before and During Virtual Conferences

  • There are videos online of how to work EVERY new technology. Just google what you need, for example this search – zoom video conferencing how to use, scroll down and find the video that you can watch in the time that you have available.
  • Get into a test conference room with friends. See what it looks like from the POV of a laptop, a phone, etc. Use all of the gadgets a head of time.
  • You can have a word document, whiteboard, or slide ready in the room when they enter with instructions such as:
    • virtual classroom etiquette
    • virtual classroom rules
    • A starter assignment, question, or item to ponder
    • Something to quickly get ready based on the reading materials, etc.
  • Have everything practiced, pulled up, and ready to go well before the meeting (just as you would a class).
  • Have the students wait in a virtual waiting room if need be and then let them enter when you are all set up and ready for the meeting.
  • Have a word document ready on your computer with things to be copied and pasted on the whiteboard (It is AWFUL to try to write with a mouse – think signing your name on the digital pads).

Tips for not messing up

That’s hilarious! 🤣😂🤣

You will mess up. You will look incompetent.

Laugh at the problems – blame the corona virus, technology, whatever, but show the students that it is okay to have moments in life when we are not in control. This is real. This is human. Many of our students feel out of control right now (just as we do at times in front of a class). [Many of our students are celebrating not being in school and “carpe diem-ing” the crap out of life and they will freak out when they realize that yes, we were holding class the whole time, but that is a discussion for another time.] 😉

Teach them how to walk away from a moment and still move forward with dignity and a positive outlook – ready to show up the next day.

You’re a teacher. It’s what we do!


Enjoy! And please share it with those who need it, and comment on ideas that you have about tips and tricks for video conferencing.

Other posts in this series –

Help! I have to change my face-to-face classes to online in just a few days

Okay, Virtual Reboot, Now What?