Tutorial: How to make a Zoom Waiting Room slide in Canva

310 waiting room slide

Updated Oct 4, 2020

As you set up for your live, synchronous online classes, it’s nice for the students to have something to look at. I also play music from my Spotify lists to keep things lively. If you want to create an interactive Waiting Room slide – check out my tutorial below.

I want to clarify my language on “waiting room.” I interpret it with two meanings:

  1. The Zoom “Waiting Room” allows for some customization. You can upload an GIF, JPEG, or PNG that does not exceed 400px + customize the description up to 400 characters. >> Learn more
  2. The other “waiting room” is once the students have arrived into the session. This is what my Canva slide concept is designed for. To show the students your graphic, simply share your screen. As an added bonus, I suggest using Spotify or Pandora and play music while they wait. Be sure to check the box for “share sound” when you select “share screen.”

Here is an example of a 400px gif for the Zoom Waiting Room:

Be the light for those who are afraid of the dark

Be the light for those afraid of the dark

Finding positivity in the mire of chaos is no small feat. For many, it is easier to succumb to fear and sadness than crawl to the surface to reach the light. I have spent my fair share of time in fetal on the floor when crisis overwhelms. I have cried until no tears were left and pleaded with God for mercy. But always, after acknowledging the hurt, I rise up.

We have been home for more than 160 days. Our stories are all the same. 
We have all lost our ability to move freely, travel broadly, congregate with abandon. 
We can no longer visit our elder parents without risk or give hugs to friends. 
We wear masks, stand six feet apart from fellow humans, use hand sanitizer as a lifeline. 
Plans are canceled, kids are homeschooled, sports are on hiatus. 
Small businesses are struggling and large corporations are folding. 
Relationships are strained, unemployment is rampant, mental health is precarious. 
All around us is civil unrest and bombardment of bad news. 
Our futures are unknown. 
Others decide what happens next. 
COVID is in charge now.

In our respective powerlessness, we can be arbiters of negativity.
We can find our shine and optimize it at home and in our work.
Our hidden talents can inspire others if we share it; talk about it.
With guidance, children can hone new skills or become masters in their craft.
We can take walks, exercise at home, meditate, read, or write.
In our reach is the technology that allows us to stay connected, be creative, enhance our credentials.
Instead of traveling, house projects can be attended to or yards beautified.
Without commutes, we can establish alternate schedules, make more time for self-care
In the absence of in-person meetings, we can shift our focus from appearances to finding comfort in our own skin.
We can embrace the unknown.
We can redefine future goals.
We can reclaim things we thought were lost.

Understanding Online Education: A Guide for Parents of College Students

For the parents

The verdict is in. Your child’s fall classes will be online. For parents of continuing students, this news might be disappointing but at least it is not your first rodeo. For those moms and dads of the newbies – you may be struggling with the unknowns or feeling ill-equipped to properly support your newly minted college student. Here are some guidelines to help you feel more oriented.

Differences between in-person and online course delivery

In April I wrote a piece comparing the in-person experience versus online learning. I open with a quote from essayist Bertrand Russell – “More important than the curriculum is the question of the methods of teaching and the spirit in which the teaching is given.” In this post, I share an infographic I created to illustrate the differences along with a pros and cons list pulled from multiple sources. Here is a quick recap:

Pros (of online learning)
  1. Flexible learning and study option
  2. Students can (technically) learn from anywhere as long as they have a computer (or tablet) and WiFi access, headset and maybe webcam as a bonus
  3. Even with deadlines and course schedule parameters, students have more control over pacing and ability to re-review content they didn’t grasp at a first pass
  4. If students embrace their “online community” within each course, they may find they have more meaningful engagement and make a stronger connection with peers through discussion forums and peer review of work
  5. Taking classes online is a terrific option for place-bound students who do not have geographic access to college campuses or work/family schedules that allow them to be physically present in a classroom setting
Cons (of online learning)
  1. Requires commitment, diligence, tenacity, and self-discipline
  2. Students must be mindful about finding study spaces conducive to learning (quiet, reliable Internet access, good ergonomic setup)
  3. The pace of the course is a blessing and a curse for those who struggle with self-discipline, staying organized, meeting deadlines, or grasping concepts without live, interactive discussion
  4. Students may feel disconnected, lonely, lost, and isolated from peers and instructors if there is not a strong mechanism for them to connect in relative real-time within and outside the course space
  5. Students who are highly social and fed by the energy of others may struggle with the disconnected and independent structure of the online course environment

Terminology: asynchronous vs. synchronous

Synchronous course deliveryasynchronous course delivery
Synchronous learning is remote course delivery where everyone from a given group is online at the same time using a video conference tool like Zoom.Asynchronous learning is remote course delivery where students access pre-recorded lessons or independent learning tasks at any time during the day.
* Students log in to the video conference tool at a set time each week
* Allows for virtual face-to-face engagement and connection, a check-in on mental and emotional health, and builds community through regular interaction 
* Students engage through verbal dialogue and nonverbal tools like chat 
* Breakout rooms are used to encourage small-group discussion
* Instructors deliver live lectures, assignment overviews, and demonstrations
* Guest speakers may join the session
* Sessions are often recorded and posted in the learning management system course space
* Students engage in live Q&A sessions with the instructor
* View recorded lectures, tutorials, or other reference video sources  
* Engage in online collaborative discussions (original contribution and interaction with peers)  
* Complete reading assignments out of a textbook or other references (often accompanied by a knowledge quiz or written task off of a prompt) 
*Complete assignments (independent and collaborative)  
* Peer review in small teams or study groups
* Taking exams (proctored and not proctored). A “proctored” exam is timed and students are monitored by a third-party service (e.g. Proctorio or Examity). The role of proctor is to monitor the exam environment to ensure academic integrity standards are met.
Source: Wilmette Public Schools, 2020

Managing expectations: parents

  • If your student is signed up for a virtual > synchronous course, they will be expected to show up to the online classroom (e.g. Zoom) at pre-set times each week. Whether or not attendance is required will depend on the course and the instructor.
  • Your child will need a reliable internet connection to view lectures, engagement, and participation. Check out free WiFi hotspots across the U.S.
  • If your student is enrolled in an asynchronous course, they will be held accountable to the course schedule and expected to deliver work products and actions according to pre-set deadlines.
  • To be successful and earn a C or better, your student must be organized, accountable, and steadfast in reading instructions and understanding what is expected of them.
  • Students can get overwhelmed. The more support they have from family, friends, and instructors – the more likely they are to stay on-task.
  • Your student may fall behind. They will need to stay in regular contact with their instructor and pay close attention to the “late work policy” stated in the syllabus.
  • Plagiarism is no joke. Cheating is not tolerated. It never hurts for parents to be familiar with academic integrity rules to help reinforce these standards. Please partner with your child in helping them to adopt high ethical standards of conduct.  Here is an example of academic integrity standards from the Washington State Legislature WAC 504-26-010.

3 Tips for what to do when…

Problem #1: Your student has a scheduling conflict (e.g. has to work) during the pre-set course time for a virtual > synchronous course.

Solution: This may be a problem for any course that mandates attendance during pre-set times. The student may need to drop the course or seek an alternative time slot. The student can also communicate with the instructor to discuss options or alternatives.

Problem #2: Your student does not have a quiet place to join video conference meetings

Solution: This is not an uncommon problem. My best suggestion is that students let their instructor know of this challenge. While they are in the meetings, they should stay muted and use the chat feature as much as possible. If speaking is required, I suggest they go outside, in their car, or corner of a room where they can limit extraneous noise as much as possible.

Problem #3: Your student does not do well in isolation – especially when it comes to staying on top of schoolwork and being motivated to attend classes.

Solution: Engagement is key. If your student is in virtual > synchronous courses, they should make attending a priority (even if it isn’t mandated). Your student should take advantage of the instructor’s live office hours. If the class breaks students up into teams – they should embrace this opportunity to have a support group and engage accordingly through chat and video meet-ups. If no study groups are established, they should propose the creation of their own with friends enrolled in the class. 

FYI – Zoom etiquette for your student

I recently created an infographic that outlines Zoom etiquette for students. Eating, walking, or calling in from bed are all considered no-nos. Here are some tips:

Zoom etiquette infographic

What else?

You tell me. Post your questions in the comments and I will do my best to respond with helpful answers and resources.

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Online Teaching Tips series. Check out more tips in the “Online Teaching Tips” category.

Stories on the Fly

Stories on the Fly

Washington State Magazine: Fall 2020

By Alysen Boston ’17

Fall 2020 | original piece (posted verbatim)

Cougs step up.

Numerous courageous people on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic—nurses, doctors, first responders, and essential workers—sacrificed and helped us all. Many WSU alumni, faculty, and staff sought ways to support them, and to reach out to those in need…

Not many instructors can say they had to navigate a pandemic during their first year of teaching.

MATT LOVELESS (’07 Comm.), a former broadcast journalist, transitioned to teaching newscasting courses at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication in August 2019. His students are part of a team that produces Murrow News 8, a daily live newscast.

Video screens with Murrow 8 show and Matt Loveless

Courtesy Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

“I’ve been a teacher for nine months,” Loveless says. “To have to learn a new profession and then six months later completely relearn how to do that profession is daunting, but we had such a good team.”

To produce the newscast, students typically spend 22 hours a week in the classroom, with lights, sets, and cameras to synchronize. When the class had to go online, students could no longer access those resources—but they could take pointers from other newscasters and videographers.

“Newscasters on TV were filming from their dens and offices,” Loveless says. “We looked into the technology that gamers or YouTubers use for their shows.”

Students combined live Zoom calls, pre-recorded segments, infographics, and other elements using Open Broadcaster Software to produce their daily newscasts for the last six weeks of the course. Despite initial hiccups and issues with internet connectivity, Loveless says they never missed a show.

“My students were in seven different area codes and three different states, but the distance itself was never the issue, it was what the technology allowed,” Loveless says. “It was tough, but they never let it seem that way. It was so valuable to learn that we can keep telling stories on the fly and we absolutely will be building that into our curriculum going forward.”


Fine Arts instructor DAVID JANSSEN JR. teaches core principles of art and design with guest lectures on Zoom and projects using students’ own materials.

CHRIS COONEY in the Carson College of Business uses dad jokes to lighten up classes on Zoom, while his wife REBECCA COONEY in the Murrow College created assignments for COVID-19 conscious messaging in students’ marketing campaigns.

WSU students lend their expertise to health partnership

Moscow Pullman Daily News

After success of partnership with Whitman County Public Health, WSU plans on adding more clients

By Scott Jackson, Daily News staff writer

Nov 14, 2019 | original post (posted verbatim)

For more than a year, a public relations class at Washington State University has partnered with the local county health authority to design and implement public outreach.

And next semester, the class plans to take on three new clients.

Clinical assistant professor Rebecca Cooney, who teaches the class, said the program is a valuable opportunity for students to ply skills learned in class in a real-world environment while meeting a need in the community at the same time.

“These different nonprofits have no resources, of course, to do this work,” Cooney said. “They may have a person who’s appointed, but rarely does that person have the bandwidth to do much beyond a certain level of outcome.”

Cooney said when students first began working with Whitman County Public Health, the agency had little by way of cohesive brand messaging or social media presence. To help remedy this, she organized the students into five teams with different areas of focus, including public relations, digital content creation and social media. She said the program is now in its third semester and these teams have since helped WCPH with numerous public education campaigns, addressing subjects like breastfeeding, vaccine and sexual health awareness. She said students also established a presence for WCPH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and beyond and helped them obtain software tools to manage these accounts smoothly.

Kate Thomas, Cooney’s teacher’s assistant and a former student in the class, said the program not only helped her hone important public relations skills, it gave her something tangible to put on a resume.

“It’s kinda like a warmup internship — I was like, ‘OK, this is what will be expected of me when I do go into an internship,’ so I’m not going in just completely blind,” Thomas said. “Obviously, I have my education, but now I kind of know how that’s applied in the real world and so when I move on to the real world, I’ll at least have some of my wits about me.”

Cooney said the program is a collaboration between WSU’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and the university’s Center for Civic Engagement. Cooney said when she was approached CCE Faculty Consultant Jessica Perone about adding service learning opportunities to her class, she was worried it could “hijack” the entire class, but agreed that hands-on learning opportunities are important for students.

Now, Cooney said she expects the program to continue to grow, and some college leaders have mentioned it may be beneficial to offer a full class devoted solely to this kind of experience-based instruction, “almost like a mini agency running out of the college,” Cooney said.

Perone said this kind of collaboration is the entire reason the CCE exists. She said not only does it provide valuable experience to students, but work like they’ve done with WCPH will have a lasting, positive impact on the community.

“Service learning projects like this we know are proven to give the students professional development and academic success,” Perone said. “This type of connection with community gives them a sense of belonging to this new home community, which supports retention in college and it also is meeting a community-identified need.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

From the Other Side of the Webcam: Professor Successfully Completes First Online Course

Online Teaching Tips - Professor as Student

Success as an online student = commitment, accountability, and reading instructions

This is the third installment in a short “from the other side of the webcam” series journaling my experience as an online student at Oregon State University’s Learning XD Design Design Certificate program. For context, check out my first post from June 3, 2020 and second post from June 16, 2020.

I just completed my first of five courses in the online Oregon State University’s Learning Experience Design (LXD) Certificate program: UI/UX in Experience Design with instructor Caesar Wirichaga, Head of Design at Kickstand. As an instructor for online courses for more than six years, this is the first time I have been on the other side of the webcam.

“Learning experience design (LX design) is the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human-centered and goal-oriented way.” – LXD.org

The six-week course was formulaic – a feature I like and prefer to emulate in the online courses I teach. Each week we were asked to read, contribute to a group discussion forum three times, complete an individual assignment that was built upon one week to the next, and engage with three peer students in the class in small group discussions. There were 24 students in the course. I was on Team Green with N.K. – an experience designer from Missouri, D.B. – an information designer from Australia, and A.P. – a trainer from Washington. The remaining 20 students were professionals in multimedia design, instructional design, and marketing. We are all enrolled in the class and/or certificate program for various reasons, but based on self-introductions, the most common theme is our mutual desire to be lifelong learners, improve our knowledge in user experience design, and learning more about mapping empathy to user needs.

It is my goal to confidently add UX/UI design and user experience to my list of core competencies. For the past 25+ years, I have acquired ample applied experience in professional communications, digital marketing, and analytics. Adding to my credentials in user-centered design and usability testing is my main motivation for completing this certificate.

Active UX/UI projects I am working on right now include 1) ongoing development and user testing of a portal that houses research findings for an NIH grant studying the clinical relevance of natural product-drug interactions; 2) future development of courses in user experience design; 3) integration of UX/UI methods in the curriculum; and 4) creation of the Murrow Online Community in the learning management tool – Canvas.

The core theme of the course was the application of user experience design principles in the design of learning experiences. Key topics were visual design, user research, information architecture, usability, low fidelity prototyping, principles of accessibility, and gamification. We were asked to narrow our focus on for the build of a prototype and case study over six weeks. Here was the breakdown:

  • Week 1: Design Narrative and Empathy Map
  • Week 2: Embed Feedback into Design
  • Week 3: Low Fidelity Prototype Concepts
  • Week 4: Prototyping and Identifying Affordances
  • Week 5: Challenging Assumptions and Updating Prototype
  • Week 6: Case Study
Here is the finished compilation of my project over six weeks (built in Canvas)
Weeks 1-6 built in Canvas

Case Study (built in Adobe Spark):
case study cover
Case Study built in Adobe Spark

As we were encouraged to tie our learning experience into something related to our professional lives, I chose to use the development of the Murrow Online Community as the focus for my 6-part task. The goal of Murrow Online Community is to create a user-friendly, collaborative space specifically designed for instructors teaching online courses for The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. Those who teach online have a unique set of needs, materials, deadlines, and constraints not necessarily felt by those teaching in-person classes. Most of the instructors teaching online are also teaching in-person, so helping them bridge-yet-differentiate these two spaces is important. In my final report for the course, I narrowed my remarks to the learner experience hierarchy of needs as outlined by Sundeep Singh Pardal at eLearning Industry (2018).

With the focus on experiences (people, activities, context), here is a breakdown of how I want to sustain and/or change my approach to the creation of the Murrow Online Community:

I will close with a formula I use when asking students to reflect on learning experiences:

What I thought I knew before coming into the UX/UI for Experience Design Course
I thought I knew enough about UX/UI design principles to be successful in the course and grasp high-level concepts and lingo. In reflection, I believe this is true but was pleasantly surprised at how much I would enjoy meeting others on the same journey and seeing how they interpreted assignments and prompts.
What I learnedI like taking online classes. I assumed I would struggle based on my learning style but I have not. I really enjoy the pacing, interaction with peers, and the process of learning.
What I would do differently given a second chanceI would spend more time reading and pay closer attention to the overview of the course. I didn’t fully grasp that we would be building on a single prototype so, in the first two weeks of assignments, I was treating my work as individual tasks vs. a culminating experience. This is my fault as I did not do my diligence in fully grasping the beginning > middle > end results.
Greatest challengesMy greatest challenge was being a student again. I haven’t been a student in more than 17 years so I am not used to having these types of deadlines, following strict instructions, and reading through expectations on assignments. It was very instructive.
Greatest winsI believe this experience will help me not only achieve goals in adding to my UX/UI credentials – but it will help me be a better professor, instructional designer, and creator of course content. I would recommend that all instructors teaching online classes should actually take an online class unrelated to what they teach so they can benefit from the experience of being on the other side of the fence.

Next up:

  1. Lifelong Learning Engagement Strategies (July 20 – Aug 30, 2020)
  2. Advanced Tools and E-Learning Trends (Sep 7 – Oct 18, 2020)
  3. Elements of Learning Experience Design (Oct 26 – Dec 6, 2020)
  4. LXD Practicum: Applications in the Wild (Oct 26-Dec 6, 2020)

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Online Teaching Tips series. Check out more tips in the “Online Teaching Tips” category.

Conscious Onboarding: 10 Ways to Support New Online Instructor

Conscious Onboarding Evolllution article

Originally posted in The Evolllution on Oct 17, 2019

It is a widely accepted standard that in order for an academic department to recruit and retain valuable teaching faculty, they must provide orientation, professional development opportunities and sustainable support. This principle is true for all faculty and instructors, whether they are full-time or part-time; teaching in-person or online.

According to a report by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, of the 22 million students enrolled in postsecondary education, 3.5 million are registered in a mix of online and in-person courses (Lederman, 2018). As the demand for online course delivery continues to increase, academic units must respond, manage growth, and design instructor onboarding and support programs. Considerations must also be made for instructors teaching only online versus those teaching both in-person and online courses, since their situational needs, expectations and motivations are inherently different.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but focusing on the educators’ shared goals—meaningful engagement, quality curriculum and consistent user experience—provides a good foundation for the development of an effective and sustainable faculty onboarding program.

I served on the launch team for our first online master’s degree program six years ago. Everything moved so quickly. In the scramble of course design and delivery, assessment and accreditation, and recruitment, we ran out of time to establish a formal onboarding and sustainable support program for instructors teaching online courses. Instead, the orientation and support program of our faculty teaching online vs. those teaching both in-person and online has developed over time. Some aspects of our program are fully formed while others are still in process. Based on my personal experiences and working closely with peers, here are my top 10 ways to prepare and sustain faculty across modalities:

#1: Establish an Online Community of Practice Devoted to Faculty Teaching Online Courses

When executed well, a culture of community establishes a set of shared values and expectations that influence how a group interacts, functions, and collaborates. By developing a specific online community of practice for your instructors teaching online courses, you provide them with a real-time information hub they can refer to for topics and materials that directly impact the work they are doing every day. An online community of practice includes announcements and discussions, a shared files system, FAQs and how-to’s, templates, databanks for approved-to-use lecture slides, recorded lectures, tutorials, standard syllabus language, approved digital assets and rubrics.

Learn more and download a report about exploratory research in the value of developing online communities of practice. (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.)

#2: Establish A Support Network Of Dedicated Staff and Digital Resources

The widely publicized proverb “it takes a village” comes to mind with this tip. Increase confidence and security of your instructors with the development of a customized support network. It should include an organized and categorized bevy of digital resources for building your online course, recording video lectures and creating rubrics, as well as a regularly updated list of dedicated personnel who can answer questions about instructional design, teaching assignments, policies or tech support.

#3: Design A New Instructor Orientation Program Specific To Faculty Teaching Online Courses

In a Canvas article, it was noted that “the online learning environment presents a unique set of challenges that require a clear definition of instructor performance.” Delivering a class online for the first time is an entirely new landscape, regardless of whether an instructor is new to teaching or has been in the classroom for decades. They will need orientation and training specific to the world they are about to experience. Tracks can be developed for those teaching online-only versus those who teach both online and in-person as part of their regular schedule. A sample outline of topics includes department overview (program structure and contacts), services and resources, mentorship and stewardship, teaching and learning, faculty resources, and training and development. Learn more about the value of creating a tailored faculty orientation program. (Herdklotz and Canale, 2017)

#4: Design A Mandated Training Program For New Instructors Teaching Online Courses

Even the most seasoned instructor can use a refresher now and then. Requiring all new instructors complete a course devoted to excellence in online teaching will not hurt—but may help an instructor gain valuable insights and knowledge about best practices in online course design and delivery. These courses and workshops are often developed and managed by the college division devoted to online learning and continuing education or a third-party vendor.

Learn more about the value of new online instructors completing a mandated training program. (Lieberman, 207)

#5: Design A Communication Strategy That Includes Regular Touchpoints and Check-Ins With Instructors

Establishing a sustainable—and ideally, automated—communication strategy is a great way to have regular contact with instructors teaching online courses. Through announcements, emails, shared calendar with reminders, virtual or in-person meetings, confidence and connection are born. The strategy should allow for a feedback loop with pre-determined appropriate responses so individual needs, requests or issues are addressed in a timely fashion.

#6: Create A Series Of Checklists and Tip Sheets

Who doesn’t appreciate a good checklist? How helpful is an indexed-for-search FAQ list? It may seem simplistic and obvious, but good quick tips and checklists can go a long way in fostering confidence and community among faculty. Checklists for new faculty can include topics such as set-up information, introduction to the department, understanding technology requirements, an overview of policies, and what-to-do-when information. FAQs should contain relevant practical information about when grades are due, how to give an incomplete, midterm grade submission, student support resources, reporting violations to academic integrity or student conduct, where to find information, etc.

View an example page outlining checklists and resources for faculty teaching online courses at the University of Connecticut.

#7: Establish A Program For Ongoing Professional Development and Training

Training and professional development for faculty is often readily available through an institution’s office devoted to teaching and learning. They offer training in syllabus design, online and in-person instruction, pedagogical assignment design and student engagement. An academic media services department may offer additional training and workshops in use of online and in-person classroom technology, recording lectures and interactive teaching tools. From my experience, the challenge is not access to training. Whether they are part-time or full-time, instructors typically wear many hats and juggle multiple priorities. Taking time out for continuing education is the biggest barrier, so it is most effective to identify highly relevant training opportunities for instructors that are convenient, self-paced, and require a limited time commitment. As an added bonus, you can incentivize faculty to continue their education through programs such as micro certifications and badges that count toward promotion and/or build credentials.

Learn more about how to provide incentives for faculty participation. (TopKit, n.d.)

#8: Create A Faculty Handbook Specific To Online Course Delivery

One of the issues that came up early in my tenure as the director of online programs was the absence of clear and consistent steps and responses to common challenges unique to online courses. Working with my leadership team, we began building a faculty handbook that not only included many of the items listed in tips 1-7, but also workflow processes for issues such as what to do when an instructor suspects an academic integrity violation, a student requests leave for military assignment or medical emergency, and recommended responses to no-shows, perpetual tardiness or inappropriate discussion forum etiquette. As issues arise, we create a workflow for response complete with key messages, email templates and step-by-step instructions.

View a sample faculty handbook for online instructors from the University of Texas at El Paso.

#9: Create Opportunities For Engagement, Collaboration, and Sharing Information

As an online program grows, more instructors are hired to cover the course load. As a result, a department will inherently need to hire adjunct instructors or draw upon a pool of instructors based outside the regular faculty roster. Although complex and diverse in many positive ways, this unique group of educators is also at risk of feeling like they are on an island – disconnected, out of the loop, and unsupported. Implementing ideas from this tip list is a good start to solve this problem, but finding additional ways to motivate engagement and inspire collaboration will contribute to job satisfaction and retention.  Suggested programs include the creation of course teams (faculty teaching the same classes collaborate and share ideas), assigning peer mentors (senior instructors support junior instructors), live chat sessions led by senior instructors and the department chair, and the creation of a shared folder system that stores files, templates and digital assets.

#10: Adopt A Continuous Improvement Mindset: Survey, Assess and Adjust

As with any iterative initiative, adopting a mindset for continuous improvement is the best way to impact quality and retention, simplify work processes, create efficiencies and enhance overall job satisfaction. Through surveys, focus groups, or workshops, an academic unit can gain valuable insights and usable feedback that results in ongoing improvement and evolution of online program design and delivery.

Read more about creating a culture of continuous improvement in other articles published on The EvoLLLution.


Designing, implementing and maintaining a sustainable faculty onboarding program is no small task. It takes strategy, coordination and cooperation to pull off. It is laborious, iterative and requires prioritization. Take it one step at a time and build from there. Communication and consistency are the greatest paths toward success. I will close with a quote by author and poet Sir Michael Morpurgo, “It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom.” Whether our instructors are teaching in-person or virtually, the ultimate goal is that they bring their best selves to the curriculum. Solid onboarding and sustainable support programs are ways a department can inspire and retain valuable teaching faculty.

– – – –


Canvas (n.d.). 20 best practices and expectations for online teaching. Retrieved from https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/1068822/pages/20-best-practices-and-expectations-for-online-teaching

Denoyelles, A. (n.d.) How to provide incentives for faculty participation. TopKit. Retrieved from https://topkit.org/developing/tools-techniques-strategies/provide-incentives/

Herdklotz, C. and Canale, A.M. (2017, Dec 19). Made to order: A one-size-fits-all faculty orientation program may not effectively reach all faculty members, given differences in ranks, roles and experience. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from


Lederman, D. (2018, Nov 7). Online education ascends. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/11/07/new-data-online-enrollments-grow-and-share-overall-enrollment

Lieberman, M. (2017, Nov 1). Should online instructors be online students? Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2017/11/01/online-instructors-differ-whether-they-need-online-course

Morrow, D. (2017, Sep 15). Faculty resources for teaching online at UConn. UConn Campus Knowledge Base. Retrieved from https://kb.ecampus.uconn.edu/2017/09/15/faculty-resources-for-teaching-online-at-uconn/#more-2967

Office of Educational Technology (n.d.). Designing online communities of practice for educators to create value. Tech.ed.gov. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/designing-online-communities-of-practice/

University of Texas at El Paso. UTEP connect faculty handbook [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.utep.edu/extendeduniversity/_Files/docs/utep-connect-faculty-handbook-final.pdf

Youngstown State University (n.d.). What is culture of community? YSU. Retrieved from https://ysu.edu/multicultural-affairs/culture-of-community

Connecting with Students from a Distance: 10 Ways to Stay Engaged Inside and Outside the Learning Environment [infographic]

Evolllution article 2 cover

Originally posted in The Evolllution on June 23, 2020 without infographic

“Our ability to connect with others is innate, wired into our nervous systems, and we need connection as much as we need physical nourishment.” 

Sharon Salzberg, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection

In the first two weeks of March 2020, faculty across the U.S. were notified in waves that they needed to move their in-person classes online due to COVID19 stay-at-home mandates. All of these individuals were in the final weeks of winter quarter, past the mid-term of the spring semester, or poised to take a desperately needed pause with the upcoming spring break. Classrooms shuttered, offices were abandoned and dining rooms became makeshift workspaces.

These same individuals also faced the daunting tasks of homeschooling their own children, braving grocery stores to stock up on essentials and reconfiguring their homes to become offices/schools/bunkers. Even the avid “preppers” were not prepared for this. How could anyone proactively anticipate a disruption of this magnitude?

Fast forward and it is now June. We have survived. We will make it through the next rough patch. But what lies ahead continues to be undefined and unknown. Few of us can say for sure what the 2020-2021 academic year will look like.

Some universities have already opted to stick with 100% online course delivery through fall while others plan to return to in-person classes with a side note that they will “look and operate in new ways.” What does that mean? It is too early to say for sure, but if we learned nothing else from this pandemic and #StayHomeStayHealthy era-–-we must find creative ways to connect with students inside and outside the learning environment.

Taking into consideration best practices and practical tips, here are ten ways faculty can engage with students from a distance:

  • Be yourself

    In a classroom setting, we put on our professorial hats and stand at the front of the room. This helps us command attention and set a tone for each class session. Online, we can let our guards down a bit and remove some of our armor. Perhaps this is how we dress (more casually), play with virtual backgrounds or introduce our kids or pets (briefly) to the group. It is not unprofessional. It is relatable.

  • Practice empathy

    Both you and your students are disrupted. COVID-19 news and stay-at-home orders create anxiety, impact confidence and heighten fear. Soften how you speak to your students, infuse warmth and patience into your language and tone. Pull away from the bold and direct and replace them with acknowledgment and understanding. This does not mean your standards decrease or your deadlines disappear. Empathy will bridge the distance between you and your students and help inspire them to keep going.

  • Live office hours

    Office hours can be set at fixed times throughout the week or scheduled as separate meetings. They can be open-format with drop-ins or established as 1-on-1 meet-ups. Do what works best for you, but to maintain a sustainable connection to your students. You must be available outside of class. Interactive face-to-face sessions will be most engaging but phone and real-time email or chat sessions are good alternatives.

  • Weekly announcements with to-do lists

    Create weekly announcements using a repeatable model, so you can build and schedule them in advance. An example of a repeatable model would be to start with an introduction, provide a summary of what was covered the previous week, include a to-do list for the current week and close out with an update on your priorities (e.g. grading, prepping next lesson, etc.)

  • Livestream lectures in real-time

    Pre-recorded asynchronous video lectures are a great way to deliver course content. They are typically one-way, however, and are not as effective at inspiring real-time student engagement. As an alternative, consider hosting live video conference sessions via Zoom, Skype, or GoTo Meeting. In this digital space, you can run your course more organically by sharing your screen (e.g. walking through lecture slides, demonstrating a task, or navigating through a case study or website) and encouraging a mix of live discussion and virtual chat. These lectures can be recorded sessions that are stored in the Cloud or on your desktop and posted later for those who were unable to attend or who want to review the content at a later date.

  • Get creative and be visually appealing

    Whether you record lectures for asynchronous delivery or hold live virtual sessions, getting creative and adding visual appeal will go a long way in keeping students engaged. Adding visual appeal does not necessarily require design skills or training. By simply adding virtual backgrounds in your video conference sessions, color and pictures in your lecture slides, or showing video clips or infographics, you will inherently create a more engaging user experience. We all must be mindful of making our content accessible. Refer to Medium’s University Design for Learning (UDL) Center for various resources on principles for adapting course content that supports all learners.

  • Video conference small-group breakout rooms

    Breakout rooms are a terrific way to inspire engagement in large groups when leading live virtual sessions. Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams all have this feature. You can manually create groups or let the tool select participants randomly. Simply assign the larger group a prompt for discussion or activity for completion and send them off into their virtual breakout rooms. You can pop into each room to observe how things are going, and you can later bring the large group back together to convene on what was discussed. It breaks up the time you have together and motivates students to engage with each other as well.

  • Incorporate interactive tools

    Using interactive features in your course can improve attendance and participation, as well as build confidence and increase retention of key concepts presented. Several free, web-based interactive tools work well in distance delivery. Here are a few free tools that are worthy of exploration:

    1. Padlet: Padlet is an online virtual bulletin board where students can easily collaborate, share pictures and links and contribute to the discussion as themselves or anonymously. In Padlet, you can create polls, lead brainstorming sessions, conduct Q&As, share content or give writing prompts with which students can build off of each other’s contributions.
    2. Kahoot: Kahoot is an interactive game and study tool. You can create your own games or select one from a large databank. Topics range from academia to pop culture. It is simple, fun, free and interactive.
    3. Slack, Discord, or Microsoft Teams: These are all tools for keeping a group connected, interactive and supported over a long period of time. Through the creation of folders, channels, messaging and file sharing, students can engage with each other and with the instructor on a moderated and curated platform.
  • Start a conversation

    Learning management tools like Blackboard and Canvas have a discussion forum feature that works well for sustained engagement between students and the instructor. Through the use of prompts, students can be asked to provide an original contribution, and with guidance, engage with their peers to create a well-rounded conversation. Discussion prompts are a great way for students to demonstrate their completion of assigned readings or reviews of critical course material. Professors can also create a “questions for the instructor” forum as a central place for students to post questions or ideas. Often, they will answer each other’s questions in this forum and ease the burden on the instructor.

  • Survey students often

    Using tools like Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, or Google Forms, is an efficient way to get regular feedback from students on how they are progressing through the course, identify pain points and gain a better understanding of overall sentiment. Surveys can be distributed at various times and in various formats, depending on the breadth and depth of information. They can even be issued through a live virtual session using a tool like Zoom’s polling feature to check in with students to get a pulse on whether or not they are keeping up, need a break or would like additional information.

student engagement infographic
Infographic created by Rebeca L. Cooney in Canva [download]

These ten ideas barely touch the surface of what is possible in engaging students in a virtual space. Here are three other articles that cover this topic:

Resources for faculty teaching classes online:


Professor as online student: 3 big take-aways; 3 weeks in

Online Teaching Tips - professor as student

This is the second installment in a short “from the other side of the webcam” series journaling my experience as an online student at Oregon State University’s Learning XD Design Design Certificate program. For context, check out my first post from June 3, 2020 and final post for this course from July 13, 2020.

I’m in week 3 of my six-week class in user experience design and I am feeling empathy for our students. What a different mode and energy are required for the online student. It is projected we are to spend 4-6 hours per week on our readings, engagement, and assignments. I can’t say for sure if that is accurate. Maybe I will track it better this week. While serving as a student for OSU, I am also serving as faculty for a Washington State University online graduate-level capstone course. Going back and forth between the two has been eye-opening.

Here are my three biggest takeaways as I sit on the other side of the webcam:

  • 1) Course organization is critical

    All online classes should be free of frills and organized. All unnecessary noise should be removed. All students really need to see when they arrive in the course space is a logical home page telling them where they are. Side navigation should include announcements, modules (or lessons), syllabus, assignments, course schedule, discussions, and grades. Other tabs for people (so they can see who else is enrolled), Zoom, or collaborations may also be valuable.

    Easy access to announcements, calendar items or to-do lists are handy. Otherwise, videos, article links, images, and other resources should be housed contextually within each lesson.

  • 2) Predictability is key

    Establishing a steady formula for each lesson (or week/unit) has been my practice for some time. It has been affirmed as a good idea as I attend this class as a student instead of a professor. Each week, without fail, we will have the following tasks:

    1) Overview of the week that includes learning outcomes and task list
    2) Weekly readings and resources (required and optional)
    3) Individual assignment due by Friday (because of peer feedback)
    4) Small group assignment (I am on Team Green with three other students) that includes peer feedback
    5) Full group discussion board that relates back to the readings (3 contributions throughout the week)

    This is just an example but I appreciate the absence of mystery. Because it is predictable, I can plan my week out accordingly. I know I need to read and contribute to the group discussion forum by Wed, Fri, and Sunday of each week. I need to have my individual assignment done by Friday and my peer feedback completed by Saturday.

  • 3) Instructor engagement is necessary

    Creating a “questions for the instructor” discussion forum is so important. It is also important that the instructor subscribes to this forum and pays attention to posts as they come in. If the instructor does not moderate this forum, enrolled students will slowly take over and begin answering questions on the instructor’s behalf. This can be helpful – but it can also put the instructor in a position to lose footing and credibility. The absence of the instructor in this space appears negligent. Engaging with student questions within 48 hours is the best practice.

I am doing pretty well so far – better than I expected given my assumption I would not perform at my best in the virtual space. I like the course structure, appreciate how it is organized, and like the fact I can essentially self-pace within the confines of posted deadlines. I need structure and timeline. Otherwise, I tend to procrastinate.

There is one key individual assignment in the course that builds with each week. I like this approach. One feature that would be helpful would be to see an example of a fully finished project at the beginning of the course. I am happy with the focus I selected but reading some of the peer student comments – several wish they had known more early on so they would have gone a different direction for their class-long task. Regardless, I feel a sense of accomplishment and progress as each new puzzle piece is put in place. I look forward to pulling it all together over the next few weeks.

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Online Teaching Tips series. Check out more tips in the “Online Teaching Tips” category.

Online Portfolio Tips & Tricks

Professional Pathways - Online Portfolio

In a recent live virtual session with my graduate students, we discussed online portfolios – what to feature, what goes into the write-ups, and best practices with blog content. As this content is new and updated from previous posts and course content, I am passing it on here as well.

Let’s begin with the online portfolio value proposition…

“A solid, cohesive, and comprehensive portfolio establishes your distinction in a sea of candidates. It provides “evidence” to an employer of your accomplishments, skills, and abilities. It is a good way to show the scope and quality of your experience and training. A portfolio can also help demonstrate your talent and ability to produce high-quality work in your field.”

Alison Doyle, The Balance Careers

What to Feature

Showcase your Core Competencies

Source: “Career Readiness Defined” by NACE (n.d.)

NACE – National Association of Colleges and Employers (est. 1956) is a professional association made up of college career services professionals, university relations and recruiting professionals, and business solution providers who serve this community. Through a task force of college career services and HR professionals they worked with employers to identify the following 8 competencies most associated with career readiness and strength:

  1. Critical thinking and problem-solving
  2. Oral and written communications
  3. Teamwork and collaboration
  4. Digital technology
  5. Leadership
  6. Professionalism and work ethic
  7. Career management
  8. Global and intercultural fluency

Career readiness as defined by NACE

“Career readiness is the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.” – NACE

Points to ponder…

What are some examples of past assignments or professional work that fall into these categories that you could feature in your online portfolio?

Here is what we discussed:

1. Critical thinking and problem-solving
Examples related to analysis, problem-solving, data-driven decision making, and originality

2. Oral and written communications
Examples of presentations, writing samples, proposals, white papers, strategic plans

3. Teamwork and collaboration
Work where you were a member of a team, collaborated with others inside and outside the organization, managed conflict

4. Digital technology
Showcase of original creative work: design, audio, video, digital content creation using tools such as Adobe, Canva

5. Leadership
Examples of projects where you took the lead, trained others, served as a project manager, or traffic coordinator

6. Professionalism and work ethic
Samples that exemplify personal accountability, ethical work habits, time management, and professional work image

7. Career management
Examples of materials that speak directly to the position descriptions you seek – those that articulate your strengths, knowledge, and experiences that coincide nicely with the types of work you want to do

8. Global and intercultural fluency
Samples of work that demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people (e.g. social justice)

Write-Ups & Reflections

Preparing and outlining

  • Step One

    Decide on the structure and CMS tool – introduction (who you are), showcase of work (portfolio index), your services or work history, ways to contact you

  • Step Two

    Decide on what of your BEST WORK you will showcase – use the categories listed in previous slides to help narrow it down

  • Step Three

     Provide context for each project including:

    >Lessons Learned

Breaking down context

Describe the overall purpose, goal, and framework for the piece you are showcasing. Outline your role, others involved or who it was for, and timeline.

Here you can describe the elements of the task – what it took to complete (writing, design, interviewing others, research). It is also a good place to note if you stayed in budget, on track or if not – how challenges were overcome

Process includes the steps you took in the project, why you did them, and the value of those actions. Be sure to share your specific approach and contributions, any decisions made or concessions, and ideas or pathways that did not pan out.

Lessons Learned
This is your reflection section – things that went well vs. challenges, as well as outcomes, and any data you can provide that demonstrates success or forward progress – even if milestones and goals were not fully achieved.

Points to ponder

What else have you seen that you think is a value-add in a showcase of work or portfolio?

Online Portfolio Features

  • Key achievements and skills
  • Testimonials
  • Hobby projects (e.g. wood working, photography, crafts, knitting)
  • Blog and published works

Online Portfolio and Blogging

  • If you plan to write about professionally-relevant topics or work experiences – you can create a blog section within your online portfolio.
  • If you plan to write about topics outside your profession, create a separate blog or self-publish in places like Medium and LinkedIn.
  • If you want to monetize your blog, I suggest it is separate from your online portfolio to limit “muddying the waters.” You will have to enable e-Commerce and paid ad features that may not be in line with your personal brand or the core purpose of your professional portfolio.


Showcase core competencies – keeping in mind those attributes most valued by employers

  1. Critical thinking and problem-solving
  2. Oral and written communications
  3. Teamwork and collaboration
  4. Digital technology
  5. Leadership
  6. Professionalism and work ethic
  7. Career management
  8. Global and intercultural fluency

Provide context for each project

  • Background
  • Scope
  • Process
  • Lessons Learned

#KeepGoing #KeepGrowing

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways – Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Cooney is a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Director of Murrow Online Programs at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She is also a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research. Rebecca has more than 26 years of professional experience. Her core areas of expertise include user experience design, integrated communication, brand strategy, and digital communications. She holds a BA in organizational communications and MS in communications and is the recipient of the 2019 Oaks Award for innovation in teaching, 2015 Scripps Howard Visiting Professor in Social Media, and 2014 Plank Center Educator Fellow awards.