Remote Instruction Toolkit

As of March 11, 2020, NYU Meyers is conducting classes entirely remotely. This means students and instructors will use the available NYU tools in order to facilitate remote instruction.

This site houses many of the various curriculum & technology suggestions to aid you in your instruction.

Toolkit Resources

There are many reasons you may need to quickly move your face-to-face (in-person) course to a remote format. This guide will give you options and resources for pivoting to distance-format instruction, covering essential activities for a short period of time and offering ideas for more elaborate forms of engagement if circumstances require longer use of the remote format.

Plan and Prioritize

  • Make sure you have covered the basic preparations outlined in this Faculty Readiness Guide for Remote Learning.
  • Evaluate your students’ circumstances. Are they in different time zones? Do they have limited access to the internet or unstable connections? Are there any accessibility considerations? Your choice of remote options, like whether to hold synchronous class meetings or provide asynchronous activities, will be shaped by these circumstances.
  • Use familiar NYU-provided tools, so you can focus on teaching instead of tech support. Tools that are integrated into NYU Classes or accessible through NYU Home are secure and available through single sign-on with Net ID and password. Detailed instructions on using these tools that you can share with your students are available through the searchable NYU ServiceLink database.

Review and Revise

  • Flag any upcoming activities that can only be completed in person. Many activities can be successfully completed remotely but some, like high-stakes testing, may need to be rescheduled or re-designed into an alternate format.
  • Consider your goals and expectations for student work in a remote context. How will you measure participation or handle communication regarding deadlines? Revise instructions and requirements to reflect the new format of the course.
    • For example, if you choose to use discussion forums to replicate in-class discussion time, students will need to know how long their posts should be, how many peers they need to engage with, and the due dates for the initial posts and responses.


  • Inform your students right away that course activities will continue remotely and all updates will be posted via NYU Classes. Send this communication via the Messaging tool in NYU Classes. Messages sent through NYU Classes are archived so that students can access them at any time.
  • Update your syllabus. This includes updating with complete links to remote course sessions and materials and clear due dates for any assignments, such as participation activities and posting in discussion forums.
  • Provide clear and detailed information about the new workflow. Students will need to know how to access course materials, where to submit assignments, and when to join a live class meeting.
  • Share a communications strategy. Include information like the best way of reaching you (email, NYU Classes messages, Zoom office hours, etc) and when they should expect a reply. Let your students know if you don’t plan to check email on the weekend. A Remote Instruction Communications Strategy template Is Available Here.

Remote Instructional Strategies for Specific Contexts

Share Course Materials

  • The Resources tool in NYU Classes is a document repository for instructors to share files with students. Learn About Resources
  • Google Drive can be used to share and receive files. Permissions can be set to restrict editing access as needed. Learn About Google Drive
  • Creating a course group in Google Groups will make sharing and accessing documents easy to do with one click. Learn About Google Group


General advice for creating quality remote discussions is available in "Understanding the Dynamics of Online Discussion, by Stephen Brookfield and Stephen Preskill, which has lots of examples; requires NYU login. Read That Chapter

  • Forums in NYU Classes allow for threaded asynchronous discussions. Instructors can engage with students and assign grades to individual forum topics. Learn About Forums
  • Also see "Five Tips for Improving Online Discussion Boards," by Morton Ann Gernsbacher, of the Association for Psychological Science. Read This Article

Social Annotation/Close Reading

Small-Group Discussions

Class meetings and Lectures

Whiteboard Replacements

  • Zoom's Whiteboard/Annotation tool can be accessed via Screen Share in a Zoom session. You can control the whiteboard alone or share it with students for collaboration.
  • Any G-Suite item, such as a Google Document, Slide, or Sheet, can be shared with the class for an on-the-fly collaborative whiteboard. Creating a course group in Google Groups will make sharing and accessing the document easy to do with one click. Learn About Google Groups
  • Google Jamboard is an online whiteboard tool available through the NYU Google Suite of tools. Learn About Google Jamboard

Student Presentations

  • Screen-sharing and co-presenter options in Zoom
  • Students can use the recording options available in NYU Stream (linked above) to create and share their own videos.
  • Voicethread is a presentation tool in NYU Classes that allows annotation. Learn About Using Voicethread

Assessing Learning and Providing Feedback

  • Writing Assignments

Knowledge Checks/Quizzes

See this excellent FAS Guide to "Writing Better Questions for Online Assessment"

Student Success

Faculty Engagement & Communication

Communicating with your students is the absolute core of a remote class. Active and timely communication supports teaching presence.

  • Generally speaking, responses to emails and other student questions should occur within 24 hours. Some faculty prefer to disconnect over the weekend; however, that is the time when most students are working on assignments and questions may arise. In that case, you may want to indicate that you will respond to only urgent questions over the weekend.
  • If you are getting the same questions repeatedly, post an announcement to the entire class addressing the question or through a QA discussion on Forums. Learn About Posting Announcements
  • It is not necessary to reply to every post every student makes in your discussion forum. Excessive faculty posting can preemptively close down conversations. The question becomes, "How much is too much and how much is not enough?". Commenting on approximately one-third (1/3) of all substantive posts is a reasonable place to begin. Making sure to spread out your comments over the course of the week is also important, to encourage students to actively and consistently participate over time.
  • If you publicly value substantive discussion by giving points for it and modeling it in forums, students will do the work. Make sure that when you post additional thoughts and questions you are "scaffolding" their learning and not talking over their heads. You can pull together threads of ideas or themes that you see across several students' posts and make connections back to the course text or primary concepts.

As instruction moves entirely remotely, some activities that you were able to do in-person will need to be adapted for the online space. To help, a list of resources has been compiled that you can use in your remote-instruction curriculum.

Science Labs

Take a look at this collection of Online Resources for Science Laboratories from the POD Network, which includes information and links regarding discipline-specific virtual/remote labs, simulations, and other resources.

If the focus of your class is on learning techniques and their application to specific experimental situations, consider asking your students to engage in online simulations that may cover at least portions, if not the entirety, of a protocol.

  • Harvard’s LabXchange released a suite of lab simulations with assessments that focus on basic molecular biology techniques; MERLOT offers a collection of virtual labs in a variety of science disciplines; PhET Interactive Simulations supports remote learning by allowing students to vary parameters; many textbooks also provide interactive lab-based resources.
  • You may consider asking your students to watch videos of experiments. You can ask your students to first make predictions and then discuss the results. The Journal of Visualized Experiments offers thousands of videos of experiments, including many designed for students.

Notice: Predatory Vendors

Unfortunately, there have been reports of predatory vendors leveraging the COVID-19 crisis to boost sales and expand their scope. You may have been contacted by one or more of these companies. The University has drafted some language for you to use if you'd like to respond:

"NYU has a Teaching and Learning Governance structure and process that regularly consults with all our schools & sites to understand needs, products, and the Educational Technology market to support teaching and learning.

We are not considering new products during the Coronavirus response period. We ask you to refrain from solicitations at this time, as it adds further confusion and strain for our students, faculty, and staff during an already dynamic time."

It is worth mentioning that while free tools can sometimes be leveraged, they can also sometimes put our student & instructor data at risk. For that reason, it is the College's strongly prefer you to use NYU-supported tools. Find a List of NYU-Supported Tools and Services Here.

Zoom Activities

It is understandable that this new format of teaching can be strenuous and anxiety-provoking. The good news is that many of the activities you have always done in class, like group presentations or guest lectures, can be facilitated online using NYU Zoom.

Still, some of the practices you may have typically relied on for in-person instruction (like asking a question and waiting for an answer) may fall flat in the virtual space, because it is easier for students to "hide behind a screen." So participation can feel a bit lacking.

To help, a list of learning exercises and activities have been compiled that you can try out in your Zoom sessions going forward.

Individual Exercises

The "One Minute Paper"

Modality: Synchronous & Asynchronous

Description: This is a highly effective technique for checking student progress, both in how they are understanding and reacting to course material. This can be done live during a Zoom session, or it can be assigned as homework.

  1. Ask students to open a blank word document, notepad, or google doc.
  2. Pose a question (either specific or open-ended).
  3. Give students one (or perhaps two, but not many more) minute(s) to respond.
  4. Pose a question. Sample questions include: "How does so-and-so define wellness?", "What is scientific realism?'', "What is the activation energy for a chemical reaction?," and so on. Another good use of the minute paper is to ask questions like, "What was the main point of today's class material?" This will help tell you whether students are understanding and learning the material in the way you envisioned.
  5. Ask students to volunteer their responses or collect the minute papers at the end of the Zoom class session.

Muddiest (or Clearest) Point

Modality: Synchronous & Asynchronous

Description: This is a variation on the one-minute paper, though you may wish to give students a slightly more time to answer the question.

  • Here you ask (at the end of a class period or at a natural break in the presentation), "What was the "muddiest point" in today's lecture?" Or perhaps you may be more specific, asking, for example: "What (if anything) do you find unclear about the concept of 'personal identity' ('inertia', 'natural selection', etc.)?".

Affective Response

Modality: Synchronous & Asynchronous

Description: Again, this is similar to the above exercises, but here you ask students to report their reactions to some facet of the course material — i.e., to provide an emotional response to the material.

  • This approach is limited to those subject areas in which such questions are appropriate. (An instructor should not, for instance, inquire into students' affective responses to cadaver anatomy.) However, it can be quite a useful starting point for courses like applied psychology.

Daily/Weekly Journal

Modality: Synchronous & Asynchronous

Description: This journaling exercise allows more in-depth discussions of course material and student reactions. You may set aside class time for students to complete their journal entries in class or assign this as homework.

  • With this approach (particularly if entries are assigned for homework), you may ask more complex questions, such as, "Do you think terminal patients should be offered experimental trial drugs or not? Explain your answer." Or "Do you think that Dr. Kevorkian's actions are morally right?" and so on.
  • Or you may have students find and discuss reports of scientific studies in popular media on topics relevant to course material, such as climate change and lack of access to sanitation, etc.

Clarification Pauses

Modality: Synchronous

Description: This is a simple technique aimed at fostering "active listening."

  • Throughout a lecture, particularly after stating an important point or defining a key concept, stop, let it sink in, and then (after waiting a bit!) ask if anyone needs to have it clarified.

Response to a demonstration or other teacher-centered activity

Modality: Synchronous & Asynchronous

Description: The students are asked to write a paragraph that begins, I was surprised that . . . I learned that . . . I wonder about . . .."

Group Work

Jigsaw Group Reading

Modality: Synchronous & Asynchronous

Description: Each member of a group is assigned a reading (or theory or concept). After careful review of the topic/resource individually, the group members come back together to explore.

Each member teaches the rest of their group about their assigned reading. They may be required to pose discussion questions to the group, design a small activity around the concept, or answer any questions about the reading the group members have.


Modality: Synchronous

Description: Students are asked to "act out" a part. In doing so, they get a better idea of the concepts and theories being discussed. Role-playing exercises can range from the simple (e.g., "What would you do if a patient repeatedly did not take their prescribed medication to the point where they may be in need of an organ transplant?") to the complex.

Complex role-playing might take the form of a back-and-forth discussion (depending on time). For example, students may be prompted to perform a "mock interview" or a "mock clinical examination".

Student-Curated Panel Discussions

Modality: Synchronous

Description: Panel discussions are especially useful when students are asked to give class presentations or reports as a way of including the entire class in the presentation.

  1. Student groups are assigned a research topic and asked to prepare presentations. (Note that this may readily be combined with the jigsaw method outlined above.)
  2. Each panelist is then expected to make a very short presentation before the floor is opened to questions from "the audience." (the full class). The panelists share their screen on Zoom and present, just at they would if they were presenting in-person. (They should be responsible for rehearsing and taking time to practice.)
  3. The key to success is to choose topics carefully and to give students sufficient direction to ensure that they are well prepared to give their presentations. All students have their own Zoom accounts, so they should feel comfortable collaborating online outside of class to work on their presentations.
  4. You may also want to prepare the "audience" by assigning them various roles. For example, if students are presenting the results of their research into, for example, several forms of energy, you may have some students role-play as concerned environmentalists, transportation officials, commuters, and so forth. This is also great practice and exposure to public speaking, especially in an online modality!

Can I See Your Notes? Note Comparison & Sharing

Modality: Synchronous

Description: Have students take notes using Google Docs. Then, in your live Zoom class, stop lecturing immediately after covering a crucial concept and ask students to trade notes with a partner and then fill in any gaps in their own note-taking.

Evaluation of Another Student's Work

Modality: Synchronous & Asynchronous

Description: Each student takes their partner's work and, depending on the nature of the assignment, gives critical feedback, standardizes or assesses the arguments/conclusions, and/or corrects mistakes in problem-solving or grammar, etc. This is a particularly effective way to improve student writing (especially for ESL students).

Cooperative Groups

Modality: Synchronous

Description: Pose a question for students to work on in cooperative groups. Using the Zoom breakout rooms, divide the class to start working in their own Zoom room. Circulate between the breakout groups, answering questions, asking further questions, and keeping the groups on task, etc. After an appropriate amount of time for group discussion (probably 15 minutes), ask students to return to the main session and share their discussion points with the rest of the class.

Active Review Sessions

Modality: Synchronous

Description: In the traditional class review session students ask questions and the instructor answers them. Students spend their time copying down answers, rather than thinking about the material.

In an active review session, the instructor posses questions and the students work on them in groups. Then students are asked to show their solutions to the whole group and discuss any differences among the solutions proposed.

Work at the Virtual Whiteboard

Modality: Synchronous

Description: A Whiteboard? Online? Yes!

Rather than illustrating problem-solving, ask students to work out problems themselves by asking them to go into Zoom breakout groups and use their whiteboard (share screen > select whiteboard) in small groups to solve problems.

Using Games in the Online Classroom

Modality: Synchronous

Description: Some concepts or theories are more easily illustrated than discussed, and in these cases, a well-conceived game may convey the idea more readily. Also, a game helps to change the class dynamic, especially if it has become a bit "routine."

Interview Reports

Modality: Synchronous

Description: To reduce loneliness and increase awareness of the learning community, use the discussion board not only for students to introduce each other as a get-to-know-you activity in the first week, but also to ask them to interview each other on given topics and report back to the discussion board. This offers a vivid description of what each student has learned from their interview partner.

Assessment & Engagement

Say what? Student Summary of Another Student's Answer

Modality: Synchronous

Description: Ask a question, then, in order to promote active listening, after one student has volunteered an answer, ask another student to summarize the first student's response. Many students hear little of what their classmates have to say, waiting instead for the instructor to either correct or repeat the answer. Having students summarize or repeat each others' contributions to the course both fosters active participation by all students and promotes the idea that learning is a shared enterprise. Given the possibility of being asked to repeat their classmates' comments, most students will listen more attentively to each other.

The "Chat" Bowl (or Fish Bowl)

Modality: Synchronous & Asynchronous

Description: **This is typically done using index cards and a fishbowl, but it has been adapted for remote-instruction via NYU Zoom.

Students are asked to write down one question concerning the course material. They should be directed to ask a question of clarification regarding some aspect of the material that they do not fully understand. Or you may allow questions concerning the application of course material to practical situations.

Students can do this by submitting privately to the instructor in the chat feature. The instructor then selects several questions from the chat and answers them for the class or asks the class to answer them (using targeted discussion prompts).

DIY Quiz/Test Questions

Modality: Synchronous & Asynchronous

Description: Ask students to become actively involved in creating quizzes and tests by contributing some (or all) of the questions for exams. This exercise may be assigned for homework and itself evaluated (perhaps for extra credit points).

In asking students to think up exam questions, encourage them to think more deeply about the course material and explore major themes, viewpoints, applications, and other higher-order thinking skills. Once suggested exam questions are collected, the instructor may use them as the basis of review sessions and/or to model the most effective questions.


Modality: Synchronous

Description: This is a particularly useful method of testing students' understanding when they are learning to read texts and identify an author's viewpoint and arguments.

  • After students read a representative advocate of each of several opposing theories or schools of thought (asynchronously, before class as homework) and the relevant concepts have been defined and discussed in your Zoom synchronous class, put up a slide (screen share) of a quotation by an author whom they have or have not read in the assigned materials, and ask them to figure out what position that person advocates.

Puzzles & Paradoxes

Modality: Synchronous

Description: One of the most useful means of ferreting out students' intuitions on a given topic is to present them with a paradox or a puzzle involving the concept(s) at issue, and to have them struggle towards a solution. By forcing the students to "work it out" without some authority's solution, you increase the likelihood that they will be able to critically assess theories when they are presented later.

Create this puzzle/problem-task and then separate the students into Zoom Breakout Rooms. Task them with deriving a solution, and then have them present their findings when the class reconvenes into the main session.

Turn & Talk

Modality: Synchronous

Description: Using Zoom Breakout Rooms, assign students to groups of two. Give students a question or topic to discuss. In a classroom setting, this is often called a "turn & talk," because students are literally prompted to "turn" and "talk" to a neighbor. Here, students briefly switch to chat online.

Show & Tell

Modality: Synchronous

Description: Perhaps there is something you would like students to "show" the class, for example, if they have worked on individual anatomy drawings and you would like them to share their drawings and get feedback. To do this, it is recommended that you inform students when it is their time to show or present (i.e., March 28th, 7:00-7:15), and when it is their turn, they will unmute their mic and either hold up their drawing or share their screen. As a reminder, in Zoom, all participants have the ability to screen share, so you do not need to grant anyone permission to share their screen or speak.

Assessment & Grading

Online Testing: Creating the Test

One option recommend for high-stakes testing is NYU Qualtrics. It is recommended for its platform stability, mobile responsiveness, and ease-of-use/learnability. Academic Technology will create this exam in concert with you, the Instructor, or the Department Administrator. The steps and workflow for this process are described below. NOTE: Schedule at least one week of lead time for this work. If you would like help creating an exam, please email

To Be Performed by Academic Technology:

Make a copy of the Assessment Template and add the instructor and whoever else needs access as collaborators to the copy. NOTE: If you do not see the instructor’s name when searching in “Collaborate,” that means they have not yet activated their NYU Qualtrics account. They will need to log into to activate it. Once activated, their name should appear when searched.

To Be Performed by the Department:

Importing Questions from a Word Doc to Qualtrics:

  1. Have a digital copy of the assessment ready with an answer key. 
  2. Update the “Instructions” block with relevant exam information and instructions.
  3. The template is currently set up for a maximum of 65 questions. If you have more than that, you can add additional question placeholders by scrolling to Question 65 at the end of the exam and using the Copy Question feature. This will duplicate the 65th question. Then, you will update the copied question (66th question) with the correct text, etc.
  4. Click on the Question you wish to copy. It will be highlighted in grey. Select "Copy Question" to the right. This will duplicate the question. Change the text of the new question.
  5. Extra questions can be deleted, along with its corresponding page break, by hovering over the question and clicking on the red minus sign.
  6. In the “Questions” block, copy and paste your exam questions and answers.
  7. When all questions have been populated into Qualtrics, go to the Scoring tool (Tools > Scoring) to add an answer key. Simply click on the correct answer choice for each question. Qualtrics will automatically give each correct answer a score of 1.
  8. Once you've entered all your questions & answers, select Preview to review your exam from the student’s view. 


Gradescope allows instructors to create and grade paper-based and online assessments with integration through NYU Classes. Open to all faculty, Gradescope Integration is specifically geared towards the following domains: Computer Science, Physics, Math, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering, and Economics. Gradescope is a great option for multiple-choice tests, but not for tests containing open-ended questions.

Gradescope is available through the Lessons Tool in NYU Classes. Instructions for Turning on the Lessons Tool and Adding Gradescope Can Be Found Here

Instructor Resources

Student Resources

Students will need modified instruction and help acclimating to a remote learning environment.

The Student Remote Instruction Readiness Guide can be shared with your students on your NYU Classes Course Site or via email.

NYU Zoom allows NYU faculty and staff to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world for a face-to-face, point-to-point, or multi-point meeting without the need to travel. Your video conference participants do not have to be on the NYU network or even be an NYU employee. They can join you using any device capable of receiving a video call — whether an in-room system, desktop software, or a web browser.

The Zoom support page has many resources for your review. Watch or share the NYU Zoom videos below:

Zoom for Students

Zoom for Faculty