Stay the Course!

Virtual Drop-In Hours

CTEL staff held drop-in sessions each day until January 28th, 2022. Even though that period has passed, you can still request help and/or a consultation with a learning designer by emailing us at

Brightspace 911

Our Brightspace 911 page is for complete beginners to Brightspace. It shows you how to communicate with your students via Brightspace FAST. You’ll learn how to get to Brightspace, find and activate your course, and post an announcement that is automatically sent to your students via their email account. It sounds like a lot, but we promise you it can be done in as little as 10 minutes! In addition to illustrated tech instructions, the page also includes a video demonstrating all of the steps.

Important Student Considerations

Before you make decisions about course schedule, activities, homework, exams and tech tools for your temporarily online courses, begin with the following student considerations.

Proactively check with your students

Proactively check with your students about their needs and schedules, and add a degree of flexibility to course schedules and deadlines. A university closure may coincide with widespread closures of businesses and schools. Closed schools and child care centers – or sick family members – can make your adult students daytime caregivers and make it challenging for them to accomplish course work. 

Communicate with all your students in advance

Communicate with all your students in advance and create a contingency plan. Recommend printing out non-textbook materials and downloading media onto their smartphones or tablets before a closure. Consider using a mobile-friendly technology to teach your course. Be available to them over email and Zoom.

Your students may be sick and in quarantine at home. This may or may not affect their progress if their illness is mild and they use a home computer. However, if they typically depend on computer access away from home (such as their workplace, a university lab or the public library), then they will not be able to participate in your course.

Use online technologies that the help desk can support

If your students do not have any experience with online courses (or some unfortunate experience with online courses!), then they may find the transition overwhelming.

Our recommendation is to use online technologies that the help desk can support, such as Zoom, Brightspace, and GSuite. This will make sure that we can answer student questions. As an added bonus, these technologies are FERPA compliant, a critical consideration in any case, but even more so when accidentally disseminating sensitive student information is a real possibility. Even though you may be comfortable with other platforms (social media, skype, etc.), your students may need to learn them and their privacy will be subject to these companies’ terms.

And finally, remember that you can always provide extra support to your students via phone (or Google Voice) and virtual office hours in Zoom.

Selecting the Right Technologies

Below are some of the common methods of face-to-face instruction and assessments, and the appropriate system supported tools that can help you stay the course. NOTE: All things being equal, we strongly recommend choosing the tool that you are familiar – and ideally comfortable – with. Your confidence can make a world of difference to your students. The Resource section directs you to basic tutorials about Zoom, Brightspace, and GSuite.

Course Materials & Activities

ActivityToolTech NotesDesign Notes
Live lecture and class discussion, including small (collaborative) group work. Zoom; Google DriveYou can record each class meeting to the cloud. 

Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Slides can serve as workspaces both during and after each session.
Recordings and Google Docs can serve as a proxy if students cannot attend live for the reasons listed above.
Live lecture with a demonstration or annotation Zoom; Open Educational Resources (OER)Zoom: You can annotate a shared whiteboard, image or slides during class, or record a short lecture beforehand. 

OER: Find existing demonstrations and other material on Khan Academy, MERLOT, PhET, YouTube, etc. Consult
this library page for more.
Asking students to refer to hand-picked OERs or a short pre-recorded Zoom lecture before class can free up time that can be spent toward discussions and problem solving.
Class presentations and assistant-led (TA’s, GA’s or Learning Assistants) activities ZoomEveryone already has access to Zoom, even students. They can present live in class, record individually for an assignment or record a session with an assistant.Consider modifying assignments or changing deadlines to accommodate student access to technology and learning curves.
Pre-lab workOER; Brightspace; Google DocsSome lab demonstrations and simulations may be found online and these links can be shared with students via a Brightspace content item, or a shared Google Doc.Brightspace can also serve as a place for asynchronous Q&A about the videos or simulations. These questions can help you pick up the thread when you can teach in the lab again. 

Pending access to a physical lab, create online assignments for students based on the online simulations.
Essay-type questions, papers, image-based assessments, etc. Brightspace; Google Drive; USM emailSend details of the assignment via USM email or Brightspace announcements. To collect submissions, set up a dropbox in Brightspace or receive them as emails or Google Docs. Brightspace’s drop box is a convenient way to keep track of all submissions and generates a confirmation for both you and your students for added peace of mind.
Tip: Set up an easy-to-distinguish naming convention for all files.
Group workZoom; Google DriveZoom: Ask students to meet online in their own meeting rooms.

Google Drive: Just like class activities, group assignments can be created in Google Drive.
Students who do not work online may find online group work challenging. Share a helpful resource like this.

Alternative Exam & Quiz Options

The following options can be used in combination with the above, or as alternatives to exams to make academic dishonesty pointless, or impossible.

Lower the Stakes

Students cheat because they perceive the risk of being caught and the effort required to cheat as more tolerable than the consequences of a poor grade. Therefore, one solution is to reduce those consequences. For example, if your final exam is worth 30% of the course’s final grade, change it to 10%, and give more weight to other assignments. These lowered stakes may make the effort of cheating less desirable than simply taking the exam or quiz honestly.

Allow Them to Use Their Textbook/Notes

Students can’t cheat if “cheating” is allowed. Do this in combination with the next item for a truly challenging assessment that will help you understand how well your students understand your content.

Ask More Challenging Questions

In order for this to be an effective strategy, however, you will likely need to craft more difficult questions that can’t directly be answered from the book or notes. It can be very difficult to create multiple-choice questions with sufficient difficulty, so you may wish to switch to essay-type questions with specific scenarios.

Consider a Project or Paper Instead

If you are able to clearly define what you want students to be capable of doing as a result of taking your class, it may be possible to replace your exam with an Authentic Assessment such as a project, presentation, or even a paper that in some way allows them to demonstrate those skills.

Ask them for Personal Relevance

It’s difficult to fake something that originates from students’ own lives. Whenever possible, attach your content to your students’ lives. Ask them to demonstrate how a particular concept applies to them, and their goals.

Still not sure what to do about your Exam? Contact CTEL and we’ll help you brainstorm!

Respondus LockDown Browser

IMPORTANT: Respondus Lockdown Browser does NOT support Android or Chromebook devices. These devices are the only means of accessing the internet for many students. Furthermore, many students do not have access to environments which are reliably connected AND quiet enough for an exam. Please consider these factors before implementing Respondus Lockdown Browser on your exams. There are other ways to assess students which are outlined in the previous section.

The University of Maine System recently completed an agreement with Respondus to offer us a technology solution for academic dishonesty in Online Exams. Enabling and having students download Respondus Lockdown Browser for your Brightspace exams will cause them to display in fullscreen on students’ devices, prevent them from minimizing the window, and disable their browser’s navigation, copying, and printing controls for the duration of the exam. Respondus Monitor takes exam security even further by using students’ webcams and artificial intelligence to remotely proctor the exam. It will even provide you with a report on the student’s behavior during the exam to allow you to assess if any academic dishonesty has occurred.


Using the tools already offered by the university also reduces the inadvertent barriers technology may pose for students in your courses that may have physical or cognitive disabilities. Awareness is your most important tool, both in terms of being inclusive, and as an educator. The same consideration you give the materials and tools you use to teach will enhance the learning experience for ALL of your students, not just those with different physical or cognitive needs. To put it another way, being aware of and putting accessibility into practice is the essence of good teaching and inclusivity.

Even if a technology is endorsed as being “accessible” by the university, the things you create with that tool may not be. We have a full Accessible Content Guide on this site, but for the sake of urgency, please keep the core concepts below in mind as you prepare to teach online

Electronic Text is your touchstone

At minimum, provide all your content as selectable, electronic text. Avoid PDF’s. Distribute Google Docs, HTML in Brightspace or other web platform, or even MS Word files and email. This is not to say the PDF’s are not accessible, it just requires extra work and extra software to ensure that they are.

Visual information

Know the difference between electronic text and digital images of text. The latter are not accessible on their own without some additional electronic text alternative. Many programs and websites have ways of allowing you to provide this, but the most sure-fire way is to directly reference the image in the accompanying text and provide a functionally equivalent description.

Audio & Video

There are a few things to keep in mind to make audio and video accessible. Audio should be accompanied by an electronic text transcript (not in a PDF) that includes bracketed descriptions of non-spoken events, such as sound effects. Video is more complex, and what is necessary for accessibility varies depending on the content. For A simple lecture video with no on-screen diagrams or visuals, captions alone are fine.

If there is visual information shown on the screen (pictures, charts, etc) the narrator should vocally describe them thoroughly that is functionally equivalent. Once captioned, the on-screen visuals will have an auditory alternative (the narration) and an electronic text alternative (the captions created from the narration).

Getting help with digital accessibility

If you are unsure if you are providing your learning materials in an accessible manner, the university has multiple resources available. The Disability Services Office works directly between you and your students to ensure accommodation. CTEL can also help you proactively determine if your materials are accessible to students with disabilities and show you techniques to ensure that the materials you create in the future are accessible as well. While we have provided the most basic information here, we also have a full Accessible Content Guide that goes into much more detail, and approaches digital accessibility from the context of teaching.

Technology Tools


Read about G Suite. Includes Google Docs, Google Drive, etc. You can also learn about it on the UMS Learning Academy.


Set up your Zoom account, create a meeting room and direct your students to use it as participants. Read more about getting started with Zoom here.

Zoom for Lecture Recording

Zoom can also be used to create lecture videos, or your students can create presentation videos and share them. Read about using Zoom to record on this page.