FAQ: What if I suddenly have to teach online?

VIUOnline Rooms (Zoom) accounts are available to all VIU employees. All VIU Zoom accounts are automatically created as a Licensed account. If you do not yet have your account, please go to http://viu.zoom.us and sign in to have the account automatically created.

Please note that Zoom is an American company. For more on staying compliant with FIPPA when using online tools please click here.

Students do not need an account—they simply download a the Zoom app on their device. Zoom is a free app on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android.

If you are new to VIU's online learning tools or if you want a quick refresher on how to use these tools, we strongly recommend signing up for our self-paced VIU Teaching and Learning Technology Orientation for Employees. This course will introduce the tools available and give you steps for the basic uses of these tools.

You can sign up for that course with these steps:

  1. Go to http://learn.viu.ca and log in using your VIU Computer Account
  2. On you homepage, click Discover in the navigation bar
  3. Click on VIU Teaching and Learning Technology Orientation for Employees
  4. Click Enroll
  5. Click Open Course to go to the course home page

You can also learn more about what tools are available and how to access them here

In the case of a crisis or unexpected emergency, instructors may have to work remotely, conducting their classes from beyond VIU. In addition to using robust online tools, instructors can also consider transitioning their coursework to a more self-directed or independent study model. In this case, students are given greater agency, autonomy, and responsibility over their learning with instructors guiding and facilitating them as they go. But how do you accomplish this mid-way, or even later, through the semester? Continue reading on CIEL's blog..


The Library has created a guide with key Copyright considerations. Download the PDF here.

Uploading content into VIULearn can be done from anywhere you have an internet connection. You can even add files or links using your smartphone. Students can access your course any time from anywhere to view the files you share. 

To help students see what content needs their attention, VIULearn has built in content tracking features in the content tool. Students will see a number next to each module title that indicates how many unread topics are in that module. They also see a progress bar at the top of each module which tracks their progress through the content. finally, they will see a check mark next to the topics they have visited and a dot next to the topics they have not to help highlight which specific topics have not yet been read. 

In addition to these built in options, you can help students find newly added and newly modified content by posting announcements to let students know something new is available. Announcements appear on the course home page and students can subscribe to receive notifications by email whenever a new announcement is added.

What options do I have if I don’t use VIULearn?

If you prefer not to use VIULearn on short notice, you can always send documents, links, or other materials to your students through email. You can email students from within VIULearn (even if you're not using your online course for anything else) or from the Class List Management tool from the Records department. 


If you are posting new content “just in time” for your students, you can send an email to your students through the VIULearn Classlist tool or the Class List Management tool from the Records department.

You can use Announcements to point students to the new content items and let them know what you expect them to view before a synchronous meeting. These announcements will be visible on your course homepage.

We would recommend students subscribe to the following notifications in order to receive email notification of important changes to the course: 

  • Announcements - new announcement available. This will send an email notification every time there is a new announcement posted in the course.
  • Content - content item updated. This will send a notification when you choose to reset content tracking after updating a content item.
    Important: You will have to check a small box at the bottom of a content page that you have edited to trigger the notification.

  • Assignments - assignment due date or end date is 2 days away. This will notify students when one of their assignments is due (or if there is no due date, ends) within 2 days. 

VIUOnline Rooms (Zoom) can be used to hold virtual synchronous classes, group discussions, or office hours. All newly created VIU Zoom accounts will be automatically created as a Licensed account. If you do not yet have your account, please go to http://viu.zoom.us and sign in to have the account automatically created.

Students do not need an account—they simply download a the Zoom app on their device. Zoom is a free app on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android.

VIUOnline Rooms can be used to hold virtual office hours for students. To facilitate this, we recommend selecting the following settings when scheduling your office hours: 

  • Set up a recurring meeting- this  allows you to share a single link with all of your students for the entire semester (or beyond). 
  • Turn on the waiting room - this feature is like  a virtual office door which allows you to control who enters your meeting and when.  For virtual office hours, the waiting room allows you to conduct confidential conversations with students without anyone being able to enter the online room during that conversation. Participants who try to join your meeting when the waiting room is enabled will see a message asking them to wait for the meeting host to let them in.

Have an established time and procedure for them to ask their questions.  Make it clear you are open to their questions and explain the process they will use to communicate. You may already have planned on creating virtual office hour to make a space for students to ask questions. We recommend setting up a waiting room for your virtual office hour meeting so you can chat confidentially with individual students during that time as needed. You can also set up an asynchronous discussion where students can publicly post questions and see the responses you post

If you’re using VIULearn, you will need to make sure that you are very “present” in the course.  This means you can leave friendly announcements, contact students individually, make videos of yourself talking about something relevant or use Zoom to create eye contact and “face time” with your students. Whatever you do to make students comfortable in person should be done via video, Zoom or written formats.

Being "present" in an online course can be a bit more challenging than in a face to face classroom. Video and synchronous sessions can both help maintain that connection between you and your students. You may want to consider adding short introductory videos for each topic, or posting occasional video announcements to help students stay connected. You can use VIUTube to quickly capture your webcam and microphone, or to create a more robust video with a shared screen or slides. VIUOnline Rooms (Zoom) can be used to host synchronous sessions where you and your students can meet virtually

If you’re happy with asynchronous discussions, you can set these up through VIULearn. Asynchronous discussions sometimes give students more time to think and lead to shyer students participating more in discussion. They also leave a ‘trace’ of the discussion so that you can see the quality of their thinking.   You can have small group discussions or discussions open to the whole class.  To have small group discussions, you’ll need to set up the groups ahead of time.

For synchronous discussions, you can use VIUOnline Rooms (Zoom). The Breakout Rooms feature allows you to split students into smaller groups to facilitate group discussions. As the instructor, you will be able to pop in and out of the individual breakout rooms to check on each group's progress, and students can request assistance if they need it.   

Asynchronously, students can share their work and feedback through VIULearn discussions. You can set up group restricted discussions so each group that is offering peer feedback only sees their group members' work and comments.

Students can also email each other directly through the classlist inside VIULearn if you do not need to see the peer feedback exchanges.   

If you’re not using VIULearn, students can submit Word documents to their peers via email and peers can use track changes to give feedback. If they are unfamiliar with track changes, or do not wish to use it, they can just make comments in a different colour of text to show their feedback. Please note that if you are asking students to email outside of VIULearn, they will need to share their personal email address with their peers. Students who are not comfortable with this can use the email tool within VIULearn to send and receive email. 

Synchronously, Zoom has small group discussion possibilities: You can set up Zoom sessions that your students can use which you do not attend. You would schedule them ahead of time and send invitations to the peers you have chosen to give one another feedback.

If you’re teaching a flipped class, students already have access to all of your materials online. You’re in great shape for the next step.

Use Zoom for synchronous class and small group discussions or VIULearn for asynchronous class discussions and group discussions.

Collecting Student Work

Multiple choice exams are easily transferred to an online environment.  However, online exams change the level of control you have over what the students will do during the exam.  They will, for example, have access to information (textbooks, internet, etc.) that they might not have had in a face to face exam.

This means that you need to think differently about the questions you ask: factual answers that students can look up are no longer a good measure of student knowledge. Your questions will have to be more conceptual in nature or broader, so that students can use facts/things they can look up but then answer questions that require them to apply what they have found to a specific scenario or situation. 

VIULearn Quiz tool can be used for many different types of online testing.

There really is no way to guarantee that students will not work together during an online or take-home exam.  Exams that test only knowledge of facts give you no insight into who did the work or whether they know the information or have just looked it up.

If you ask questions that apply facts or knowledge to a situation the students might see in the real world, it actually doesn’t hurt to have students discuss the question: their discussion is a useful learning moment.  You can still require students to write up their own answers individually and give credit to how well each responded. In this case, you need to warn them that you won’t accept word for word identical answers, but that collaboration on ideas is acceptable.

If you really want them each to have a different question and you have time to plan the exam, you can ask each student to identify a realistic situation they wish to work on before the exam.  You can then ask everyone the same questions about processes or actions or concepts and have each student aim their answer at the scenario or situation they have already identified. In this way, your students will be able to show how well they can apply their understanding of a common concept to a scenario that other students do not have.

Have students use a Word document for planning and submit it with the final project to show the trace of their preparation. For the final project, each student can record their own part or contribution, upload it to VIUtube and share the link in VIUlearn’s Assignments. 

VIULearn assignments can be set up as group submission folders when you have groups already set up. One or more members of the group can submit. Submissions will be organized by group. You can assess all members at once.

If students use email to submit, have each team elect one person from the team to submit the final product, and copy all members of the team. All VIUTube submissions should be links in the final document, as they are too large to email.

Discussions in VIULearn can be used as planning spaces. 

Individual students can make a video of themselves doing the skill and post it on VIUTube. They can then submit it as a link with an explanation of their work (via email or in VIULearn Assignments).

Team Based Learning (TBL)

  • You can do this in VIULearn and Zoom, used simultaneously:
    • Do a 10 minute timed quiz for individuals in VIULearn
    • Then use Zoom breakout rooms for discussion of the team quiz
    • Use VIULearn for the team quiz: students need to elect a person to answer each team question for the team. When the teams have finished the quiz (or time runs out), they will be able to see their grade, and their incorrect answers. You can set it up so they will not be able to see the correct answers for the questions they got wrong.

Limitations: This process will not achieve immediate feedback on each question during the team quiz. The grade will be computed for the whole quiz, not for each question as they answer them. 

Also, be aware that you still need to manually give the team members who did not submit for their team the team mark. Only the person who actually submitted the team quiz will automatically receive the mark in VIUlearn.

    • Use Zoom rooms or VIUlearn group discussions for preparation of any appeals.
    • Use Zoom with whole class for any clarification that needs to happen now

VIULearn can do this in its Grades tool. The simplest way would be have a category with two items and split it up by weight. So each I-RAT/TRAT would be one category that is split up with appropriate weights (60/40 or 50/50—whatever you and your class have decided as the weight distribution).

Activities and applications are possible to do synchronously online with Zoom.

  • Start by giving the teams the question (share your screen)
  • Put teams into zoom rooms for team discussion,
  • End zoom rooms.
  • Let teams ‘vote’ by posting their answer in a VIULearn discussion or by holding up an answer via Zoom. Debrief in Zoom by asking ‘why’ for each team as you would in class. 

Students could make a PowerPoint poster: use group discussions for planning and collaborating.  Then the final product gets posted to a discussion topic open to the whole class.  Class can view and comment as per your instructions.