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Online Learning Help for Teachers

This website is currently under construction. You can start with the "Getting Started" section and there are references to MIT recommendations on practices and tools. We will have more math content-specific recommendations soon.

Note these are recommendations, not requirements. This is what we know. We are happy to help with other processes, but we will have to learn with you!

If you have any comments or suggestions on ways to improve the website or information, please post on the 18.FORUM in Piazza.

Help with 18.FORUM

If you are not registered on Piazza, when you follow this link, you will be directed to register with an email. Use your email that was included on the registration email to the Piazza 18.FORUM site. Continue to 18.FORUM, or request access (in case you used a different email).

Getting Started (really, start here)

Overview and Suggestions

  • Classes with Pre-Recorded Lectures (Asynchronous)
    1. Communicate expectations to students
    2. Record your lecture video
    3. Upload your lecture video
    4. Send weekly email to students and course staff
    5. Manage discussion forums
    6. Hold Office Hours over Zoom
  • Classes with Live Online Lectures (Synchronous) Updated 3-15-2021
    1. Create a webpage to share assignments/materials with students
    2. Communicate expectations to students
    3. Schedule recurring meetings on Zoom at regular class times
      1. Use the same link for all class meetings, and make sure students can easily find the link.
      2. Hold your lecture session in a quiet place
    4. Build Online rapport with your students
      • Keep Manage Participants and Chat windows open
      • Have students raise their hands to ask a question (rather than use audio)
      • Mute all participants (except the person speaking). Remind people with raised hands to unmute themselves before asking their question, or unmute them yourself through the Manage Participants window. (You may want to ask them to turn on their video while asking a question.)
      • Stop every 5-10 minutes to check for raised hands and ask if there are any questions. You might ask a TA or student to help manage participants and chat while you lecture.
    5. Record your lecture in Zoom
    6. Upload your lecture video and add the link to your course webpage
    7. Manage discussion forums
    8. Hold office hours over Zoom
  • Hybrid Classes Updated 1-12-2021
    1. Share your iPad screen with your Zoom class, and write directly onto your iPad. Connect a second laptop (also connected to Zoom) to a projector, and share the Zoom meeting to the projector. Warning: To prevent terrible audio feedback, the audio of one device must be muted, and only one device should have audio connected to the Zoom call.
    2. If you are in a room with a blackboard, you can aim your computer at the center board from ~10ft away. Test to ensure this captures the writing accurately and it is not blurry. You may need to have 2 monitors or another student to help monitor the chat. The math department does have a large TV screen that can be used as a monitor so that you can see remote students as you lecture.
      • Hack for blurry video: If the video from your computer is blurry, you can open Quicktime as if you are going to do a movie recording (File -> New Movie Recording). Do not actually start recording, just open the app, then share your screen. It will share a higher resolution version to the Zoom meeting.
  • Recitations Updated 3-15-2021
    1. Poll students ahead of time to learn what type of technology they have, or poll students in your first recitation to see if they have the ability to write on a tablet
    2. Consider giving students parts of worksheets/problems to work on ahead of time.
    3. Host a recurring Zoom meeting or other web-conference at the same time as normal recitation.
      1. Do not change recitation times, but allow more flexibility for students to change recitations
      2. Do change office hour times to have a larger spread of times available to meet with students in different time zones
    4. Post time and links (using Boston time zone) in a visible location, such as Canvas course page.
    5. During class time, you can use Zoom to:
    6. When using Zoom, it may be helpful to assign a student each session to monitor the chat. Then you can address any questions that students are having without dividing your attention between your lesson and the chat window. You may want to rotate this responsibility to a different student for each session so no one is overly burdened.
    7. Consider muting everyone or asking everyone to mute themselves when they are not speaking. Unmute when students want to ask questions or are working in groups. This helps reduce background noise.
    8. Practice with the technology you plan to use in recitation beforehand (especially before the first recitation).
  • Office Hours Updated 3-15-2021
    1. Consider changing times or spreading out more. Poll students to find out the best time for them (when2meet, Doodle, regular email, etc.).
    2. Host a recurring Zoom meeting or other web-conference.
    3. Post time and links (using Boston time zone) in a visible location, such as a Canvas course page.
    4. Communicate any changes to office hours weekly.
    5. Other Ideas:
      • Low bandwidth option devised by former PhD student Gwen McKinley
      • Build Online rapport with your students
        • Keep Manage Participants and Chat windows open
        • Have students raise their hands to ask a question (rather than use audio)
        • Mute all participants except the person speaking. Remind people with raised hands to unmute themselves before asking their question, or unmute them yourself through the Manage Participants window. (You may want to ask them to turn on their video while asking a question.)
        • Stop every 5-10 minutes to check for raised hands and ask if there are any questions. You might ask a TA or student to help manage participants and chat while you lecture.
        • Consider using some sort of queue to ensure that student questions are answered fairly
      • Try using an asynchronous chat tool like Piazza and have students post questions there ahead of time and upvote popular questions to help prioritize your work time.
        • Try the free chat app (created by former MIT grad student Sam Watson). From the student perspective looks like an individual chat with the professor/instructor/TA, but from the instructor view groups similar questions so they can be batch answered.
      • Try a webform that allows students to submit questions prior to office hours. Identify the most common issues and submit answers not covered on the Piazza/Slack Discussion forum
        • Make electronic mud cards: Ask students to tell you something that was clear, something that was unclear (muddy), and outstanding questions they have left.
      • Try to group students into Breakout Rooms based on which problems/questions they wish to work. Send an announcement to the entire class about which breakout room you are in. Make all students co-hosts so they can move between rooms on their own.
        Note: If all students are co-hosts, they can no longer raise their hands! Come up with another nonverbal communication mechanism - (thumbs down?) to use to indicate questions in this case.
      • Try using a Queue to make sure that all student questions are answered. One option is to create a shared Google doc or sheet (share the link in the Zoom chat) and have students sign up for help. You can include a section for students to indicate which problem or concept they have a question about as well, which may help you consolidate by helping multiple students at once.

        *Please Note: Students in China will need to use MIT VPN to access Google documents

  • Assignments Updated 3-24-2020
    • Post electronic copies of your assignment to website/Piazza/etc
      Students will scan and upload their assignment to be graded.
      • The Dropbox app has scanning built in, and it will automatically upload files to your Dropbox account.
      • Use Genius Scan for Apple and Android
      • Use Adobe Scan App for Apple and Android
    • Students upload pdf to Gradescope
    • Graders grade pdfs and save grades to Gradescope.
  • Exams and Alternate Assessments Updated 3-15-2021

    Strategies to minimize cheating

    • How Students Cheat
      • Students search online for answers
      • Students communicate with peers during exam
      • Students have another person take their exam
    • How to combat cheating
      • Warn students of negative consequences for cheating. (This study in online learning in MOOCs suggests that warnings of negative consequences are more effective than honor codes.)
        • Search for test questions to see if they are easily available online
        • Google your test questions
        • Search for your test questions on Chegg (a cheating website)​
        • Check if your exam questions are posted before and after your exam
      • Consider proctoring the exam (over zoom). Note that MIT does not use AI based proctoring software for exams.
      • Randomize exam questions so each student has a different exam.
      • If your class is fewer than 40 people, consider giving oral exams.
      • Consider alternate assessment types.
        • High stakes, infrequent exams will have higher incidence of cheating. Consider changing your exams so that they are lower stakes, and the emphasis is as a measure of learning rather than a punitive assessment.
        • See examples below for alternate assessment types.

    Alternate Assessment Types to Consider

    • Give open book, timed exams (for example 1hr) within a 24 hour window.
      • Both Gradescope and MITx allow for this setup.
    • Give more frequent quizzes (weekly or every other week)
      • MITx can be used to automatically grade these quizzes
      • Canvas can be used to automatically grade very simple quizzes.
    • Use polls in lecture as a type of quiz
      • Use Zoom polls. If Zoom links are created via Canvas, undergraduate TAs can download the data and help assign grades to these.
      • Use rapid response problem type in MITx to give multiple attempts (and employ methods like think-pair-share to improve learning gains) and then assign grades.
    • Give 24 hours for students to submit corrections. Detailed feedback is given on each exam, but full solutions are not posted until after corrections have been submitted.
      • Note this approach changes the emphasis from assigning grades to using the exam as a measure of student learning, and encouraging them to use this opportunity to reflect on their mistakes and learn from them.
    • 15 minute Oral exams
      • See the link to strategies for giving oral exams in the talk by Paul Bourdon in ESME seminar, January 5, 2021 [Slides].
        • Have a list of pre-prepared questions.
        • Let students choose the first questions they present from a prepared list of questions. You choose others.
        • Give a detailed rubric of how oral exam questions are graded, and how many points are taken off for hints etc. (Encourages equity and minimizes chances for unconscious biases of student ability to affect grades.)
    • Allow collaboration on open book exams, but require students to list sources and collaborators.
    • Consider giving projects or group projects instead.
      • Group projects work best when the project is scaffolded as several intermediate assessments throughout the term.
      • Include a peer feedback step and a self-assessment step with a predetermined rubric.
      • Create time dedicated for students to share their projects with the entire group.
  • Promoting Engagement Added 3-15-2021

    Many instructors have commented on the fact that teaching online to a bunch of squares with names can be difficult, and many are left feeling like they are teaching to a void. The following strategies can help promote connection and engagement in remote classes, and most of these techniques can also be applied and reframed to be used in face-to-face settings.

    The approaches described below involve two shifts in perspective:

    1. A shift in focus from you as lecturer and teacher, to students as active participants in their own learning.
    2. A shift away from asking questions that can only be answered by 1 or 2 students, to thinking about ways of engaging your entire class.


    • Consider creating guided notes available before class that give space for students to take their own notes.
    • Have your own camera on so students can see you while you are teaching. (You want to see them, and they also want to see you!)

    Strategies for large sized classes

    • Prepare slides or lecture notes in such a way that all necessary information is available on a slide and there is no need to look back.
    • Prepare concept questions/check ins ahead of time on slides.
    • Utilize Zoom Chat or other synchronous chat (Slack, Discord, etc)
      • For very large classes, consider setting Zoom chat to “Chat with Host only” so that the chat is not distracting to other students. Stop frequently (at the end of every slide/page) to let students absorb the conclusion made, and look through and answer questions.
      • If students can chat to everyone, assign someone whose role it is (TA or undergraduate TA) to monitor the chat, and bring common questions to your attention.
    • Create Power Point slides for the active learning portion of the class.
      • Prepared problems with instructions make activities clearer to students.
    • Check-in with all students
      • Use polls or nonverbal feedback through camera or Zoom feedback to ask students how things are going regularly. Too fast, too slow. Clear, muddy, etc.

    Strategies for small sized classes

    Try varying the types of interaction you use. Keep things varied and interesting, and change the ways and methods of engagement. Here are some options.

    • Use a google document / google sheet organized and labeled in rows that are paired together. Students find an empty row and type answers, then pair with the student in the adjacent row and discuss.
      • (Described by Stan Yoshinobu in the Electronic Math Education Seminar [Slides][e-handout])
    • Use Concept Board or Jam Boards with sticky notes. (Method used by Susan Ruff.)
      • Students type questions they have in sticky notes/predefined regions.
      • Then students read all questions and add stars to the questions that they want to hear answers to most.
      • Move questions over to another section of the board, and collaboratively answer together.
      • (Best with < 10 people using typing rather than free sketch.)
    • The following methods of interaction were described in Maria Andersen’s talk in the Electronic Math Education Seminar [Slides]

      • Chat blasts (also known as 3-2-1 go).
        • Everyone types the answer to a question in the chat (generally short form answer, that cannot be done as multiple choice) BUT DOES NOT PRESS ENTER
        • Once everyone has had time to type, everyone presses enter at the same time.
      • Ask students to share work up to camera
        • Use hand held whiteboards or paper with sharpies to ask students to share graphical work via their web cameras simultaneously.
        • Can ask specific students to talk more about their answers directly, or to comment on another students’ answer.
      • Create Power Point slides for the active learning portion of the class.
      • Check-in with students
        • Encourage visual nonverbal feedback to encourage keeping cameras on.
        • Ask students who have cameras off how it is going by name

      The following active learning techniques described in Maria Andersen’s talk involve using breakout rooms. Do assign a group leader, and consider assigning a group leader as someone who has their camera off to keep them engaged.

      • You be the grader, but solve the problem first.
        • Give a problem with a specified predetermined number of points. Students solve and determine how to allocate points.
        • Then students go into small breakouts with 3-4 students and determine how to grade prepared solutions by 3 people (made up or real, but de-identified) to the same problem together.
        • Come back together and share how each group graded each person’s problem. Compare with instructor grading rubric.
        • Students sharing work.
        • After breakout rooms, ask students whose cameras are off to share different steps of the problem through the chat.
        • Can use whiteboards and ask groups to share full solutions.
      • Engaging students without video.
        • Assign students without video to be discussion leaders or reporters
        • Modified 3-2-1 go (chat blast) where students without cameras on are asked to answer first.
        • Call on people directly who have cameras off and who did not answer in the chat.
      • Think-Pair-Share
        • Assign students without cameras on to be group leaders and share to the entire class

      Additional Resources

How To


  • iPad - Installation Guide Updated 3-26-2020

    If you need assistance setting up your iPad, please contact

  • Zoom - Video Conferencing Software Updated 3-15-2021
  • Gradescope - Grading Management System

    Get started with Gradescope


    • Students upload documents, and label each page by problem.
    • Graders create systematized grading rubrics
    • Pro tip: May need separate instances for problem sets and exams for larger classes that have undergraduate graders.
    • Contact Sapphire Tang ( if you want to use Gradescope in your class.
  • Piazza - Online Discussion Forum

    Create a Piazza class forum:

  • Slack - Team Chat Application Updated 3-24-2020
  • Notes or Whiteboard Apps Updated 3-23-2020

    One way to replicate writing on a chalk board or whiteboard is to use a notetaking or whiteboard app on a tablet or with a computer connected to a Wacom tablet.

  • Overleaf - Collaborative Latex Editor Updated 4-2-2020