University of Wisconsin–Madison

Remote Instruction

Remote Instruction involves the use of technology to connect with students instead of the typical face-to-face method of teaching.  Teachers and their students are not physically present in a traditional classroom setting, and instead, meet over online interfaces such as BBCollaborate Ultra, Zoom, etc. Find out more about the different features of BBC Ultra and Zoom

Types of Remote Instruction

Synchronous Instruction

Synchronous Instruction occurs when a professor meets their class over a video interface on specific days and times. This system allows an easy way to keep track of attendance and is closer to maintaining a classroom-like feel to the course. An advantage to synchronous instruction is the ability for class participation over the interface in real-time.

Asynchronous Instruction

Asynchronous Instruction does not involve meeting during a specific class time, instead, professors can record videos for their students to watch at their own pace throughout the semester. The videos are similar to how a teacher would lecture in class but does not allow for real-time class participation. An advantage to asynchronous instruction is the flexibility students and teachers have for watching and creating the content.

Instructional Activity Synchronous Example Asynchronous Example
Discussions Zoom or BBCollaborate meeting with breakout rooms Canvas Discussion board
Lectures Zoom or BBCollaborate meetings Recorded lectures
Presentations PowerPoint presentation with questions PowerPoint file or recording
Assignments Team assignments Uploading a review paper to canvas
Quizzes and Exams in-person exam or having the quiz/exam available during a specific time frame The quiz/exam can be available during a specific time frame or over multiple days

Connecting with Students during Remote Learning

Keeping students engaged during remote learning can prove to be challenging, but there are still ways professors can ensure active participation during their course.


Piazza is a free tool that has been integrated into Canvas and acts as a platform for students to ask questions about the course. Students can use tags to organize their posts and have the option to ask their questions anonymously. Both students and professors can answer questions, and professors can verify a student’s correct answer. Professors can also pin threads to the top of the class feed as a way of providing information or bringing attention to a question they thought was important.

Discussion Sections and Discussion Posts

A course with a discussion section can be very beneficial during the time of remote learning. A discussion can easily be held during its original time on an interface like Zoom or BBC Ultra and allows participation to be tracked and questions to be answered in real-time. If a course does not have a discussion time, an asynchronous discussion post may be better suited to keep students connected to class material. A weekly post surrounding a certain question or topic covered that week keeps students on topic, and can act as a way to keep track of participation remotely. Having a post open for Q&A throughout the semester can also enable students to ask any new questions they have as the course progresses.