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2020-21 COVID-19 Guide to Hybrid & Online Teaching at JMU

Readings, Assignments, Projects, and Discussions

Note: This guide was updated until June 30, 2021. Some of the content may be outdated starting in July 2021. Some pages in this guide will redirect you to more current/updated content on the JMU Libraries website. Visit our new Guide to Online Teaching

As you think about readings, projects, assignments, etc., in online or hybrid classes, you may want to consider some of the following issues.

On this page:

What are my options for finding and posting readings that students can access electronically?

  • The Connect the Library to Canvas guide has many helpful suggestions for working with library resources. Before scanning documents or seeking copyright clearance, search for documents in electronic form that may be available online or in the JMU Libraries databases.
  • JMU instructors can click here to authenticate (you will need your JMU e-ID and password) and search the 200,000+ titles from the Virtual Library of Virginia's (VIVA’s) shared library collections, open textbooks, and ebooks available for purchase.   
  • Use the Open Textbook Library to discover freely available textbooks in accounting, business, economics, education, foreign languages, humanities, information systems, law, marketing, natural and physical sciences, statistics, and more.
  • Streaming media (audio, video):
  • ‚ÄčUpload documents, readings, text files, video, audio to Canvas. 
  • For copyright, TEACH Act, and fair use questions, check our Copyright for Distance Education page.

How can I hold students accountable for readings in an online learning setting?

Students can:

How do I create assignments and projects for students on Canvas?

Assignments include Quizzes, graded Discussions, and online submissions (i.e., files, images, text, URLs, etc.). More information:

Is there a way for individual students to present work when a face-to-face meeting is not possible?

Depending on the type of assignment, there are a variety of ways for students to submit their work online. If a live class presentation is optimal, then a web-based conferencing program like Zoom is the best choice. Students can use Zoom to give class presentations using PowerPoint slides, audio, video, or text chat. Students can also use Zoom to record presentations that can be accessed through their Canvas course site and viewed later by the entire class.  (Note: For recordings and video conferencing involving observing clinical sessions, telemedicine activities, discussing patient information, etc., please refer to subject-specific HIPAA guidelines.)

How can I grade and monitor student progress?

Grades can be recorded and monitored in the Gradebook in your Canvas course site. Here is a video on How to use Gradebook in Canvas.
Speed grader can be used to provide feedback and comments on student work.
You can track student work and notify students of their progress by using Canvas Analytics.

How can I promote class discussion in non-face-to-face formats?

Zoom: Zoom video conferencing offers the ability for synchronous real-time audio and video interaction for a class. Students can participate in discussions using audio and video or via the text chat function in Zoom.
Canvas Discussions: The following are recommended best practices for using the discussion board in Canvas.
  • Require student participation
  • Grade students' posts
  • Require students to comment on each others' work
  • Structure discussions
  • Relate discussions to your course objectives
  • Pose questions and scenarios that require students to relate the discussion to their own experience
Canvas Conferences: This is a synchronous collaboration tool for text chats, whiteboarding, and guided instruction. (No audio or video conferencing capability.) See a detailed description and setup instructions on the Canvas Community site. This online annotation tool can be used to hold discussions, read socially, organize your research, and take personal notes. For more information about using, see our presentation slides, our handout with step-by-step instructions for instructors, and video tutorials by

How can I structure small group discussions electronically?

For synchronous (real-time) discussion, you can use Canvas Conferences or Zoom training sessions through Canvas. Zoom allows you to create breakout rooms that simulate small group discussion. These can include group whiteboard, application sharing, audio, video, and text chat. Students can work together on projects, record and save their work, and share with the rest of the class. See thiPDF tutorial from UNC, Charlotte for tips on getting started.
For asynchronous discussion groups, you can use the People menu in the Canvas to create small groups. See the Canvas Community site for instructions on how to set up a group in Canvas. is another asynchronous option for small group electronic discussions. This online annotation tool allows instructors to create and moderate groups in which students can share annotations and comments with their classmates. Read the Annotating with Groups guide from or refer to the previous FAQ on this page for more information. 

How do I assess online class discussions?

  • Before implementing a grading scheme for a discussion board, consider why you want students to add posts. If your goal is participation, you can determine how many posts each student has contributed to the discussion and have Canvas automatically grade the forum based on the number of posts. These grades can be directly added to the Grade Center for your course.
  • If you want to grade the posts for content or length of post, you will have to manually grade each post and enter the grades into the Grade Center.
  • Finally, students can grade each other using the same rubric that you provided for the discussion board. This strategy helps students reflect on the quality of the conversation rather than the quantity of posts or post length.
  • Note: You are welcome to use the rubrics, assignment templates, and syllabus templates that we have created for JMU faculty. Log in with your JMU e-ID to get started.

How can students present to the class?

By adjusting permissions in Zoom sessions, students can share their screens and give presentations synchronously to the class. This most closely resembles face-to-face presentations and can provide students with a new set of experiences to prepare them for a mediated world. 

Students' individual presentations can be done asynchronously with a screen recording tool like Screencast-o-Matic, which allows recordings up to 15 minutes for free. Students can upload their recordings to Youtube with the privacy set to Unlisted and share the Youtube link to class Discussions on Canvas. Check out the Beginner's Guide to Screencast-O-Matic for videos and written instructions on getting started.

Students can also collaborate on a FlipGrid through Canvas to present as a group with short videos. If you are already familiar with FlipGrid, check out slides from our presentation on FlipGrid and Canvas or this Canvas blog article: Using FlipGrid in Canvas. Using FlipGrid for the first time? Check out this tutorial video for beginners on Creating Video Assignments in FlipGrid.

Students can also audio narrate with video/audio posts to Discussions in Canvas. Learn more in this Discussions Overview video from Canvas. 

Note: This guide was updated until June 30, 2021. Some of the content may be outdated starting in July 2021. Some pages in this guide will redirect you to more current/updated content on the JMU Libraries website. Visit our new Guide to Online Teaching

Find more topics in this guide on the A-Z Page List or in the menu.