Resources for Teaching Online

Many educators this Fall 2020 semester, particularly those new to online teaching, are talking about how teaching during this global health crisis feels like teaching for the first time. Even those with many years of experience feel this way. Fortunately, colleagues around the world are sharing their online teaching resources. However, it can be hard to navigate this avalanche of advice and information mid-semester. To help you, we’ve broken up some of these tips and resources into categories below.

Boosting Student Engagement

Inventory Methods

  • The easiest way to boost engagement is to start your class with a quick Think-Pair-Share (TPS). Remember that early engagement (e.g., TPS or an Entry Ticket) boosts engagement throughout a synchronous meeting by indicating to students that participation will be expected throughout the class.
  • Take the baton and pass it on. In a synchronous session, after one student says something, make it a routine to end their comment by passing it on to someone else.
  • During asynchronous work, turn discussion boards into places for peer-to-peer learning where students are required (and given ample time) to respond to one another.

Give Students Autonomy

Create Community

  • Start your session with some music. Students might rotate who picks the song each week based on their preferences or you could pick a song that matches the topic for the day. Then, at the end of the class, share the playlist with everyone.
  • Play a game of Kahoot! (trivia for the online classroom), BINGO or Jeopardy.
  • Try an interactive activity like a Zoom poll or asking your students to post to a Padlet.
  • You can even do an interactive activity with plain old pencil and paper (BYO) or using the chat function to transform crisis into community.

Better Breakout Rooms

  • Use slides to give students prompts to start the conversation.
  • Create differentiated learning spaces.
  • Use collaborative documents during breakout sessions.
  • Make sure you ask for clear deliverables from each group.
  • Designate someone to be the spokesperson for the group, or remind students to pick someone to report back by broadcasting a message before the breakout session ends.

Give the Eyes a Rest

  • There are some ways to overcome Zoom fatigue.
  • Plan a 5-minute “water break” in the middle of class for anyone to get up and use the bathroom or refresh their glass of water. You might play a song while everyone’s away and then when the song ends, class resumes. This way even if students go into another room, they can listen for the song to gauge how much time they have left in the break.
  • Try incorporating 5 minutes of mindful meditation or yoga stretches into your session, either to start the class or to end it. Even stretching one’s arms and neck can make a world of a difference.
  • Find an engaging and short podcast or radio broadcast related to the topic and ask students to close their eyes and listen.

Pedagogy of Care

  • Add resources to your syllabus for accessing a nearby food pantry, health insurance, emergency housing, legal support, or other urgent issues like referrals for those students dealing with domestic violence or substance abuse.
  • In synchronous classes, turn your Entry Ticket into a quick, optional wellness check. Greet every student (if the class is small enough to do so in a timely manner) and ask them how they are doing. Or, students can say hello and how they are doing, then pass it on to the next person themselves. If the class is large, you could do this as a poll.
  • Show students that their health and wellness matter to you by sharing some best practices and tips for self-care.


Ways to communicate with students outside a synchronous session


Black Lives Matter Resources

Resources specific to teaching at CUNY

More extensive resources for remote teaching during COVID

Press Release: CUNY to Transform Humanities Education with New Program of Innovative Teaching Methods

On October 15, 2020, CUNY published a press release announcing the launch of Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH), “an innovative faculty initiative that will help the nation’s leading urban public university reimagine teaching of the humanities in ways that make it more accessible, engaging and imperative to students, consistent with CUNY’s broad mission of building a more inclusive and equitable society.”

This $2 million grant from Mellon Foundation will support faculty professional development workshops focusing on the best ways to ensure student success.

Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost José Luis Cruz is principle investigator of the historic $10 million grant to CUNY, of which the TLH program is a part. TLH will be co-led by Distinguished Professor Cathy N. Davidson, founder of the CUNY Futures Initiative and co-founder of the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC); and Professor Shelly Eversley, Provost’s Faculty Fellow and interim chair of the Department of Black and Latinx Studies at Baruch College.

Some highlights from the announcement:

The Transformative Learning in the Humanities program will be one of the inaugural offerings of CUNY’s larger-scale Innovative Teaching Academy, which will put a spotlight on teaching that aligns the way people are learning, accessing, using, sharing and creating knowledge in the Twenty-first Century,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost José Luis Cruz, who also serves as the principal investigator on the Mellon grant. “A major element in this pedagogy is a shift in emphasis from content per se to learning how to learn, and to making learning a lifelong pursuit.”

“CUNY has become remarkably nimble and innovative in its teaching in recent years and the Mellon Foundation is pleased to contribute to the University’s capacity to be creative about humanities-based pedagogies,” said Armando Bengochea, senior program officer at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “This initiative promises to reach dozens of faculty members and hundreds of students with opportunities to improve the classroom experience in the humanities.”

“We envision our most creative faculty coming together to share ideas and methods with one another and with their students who, in turn, will contribute their own ideas about what it means to ask profound humanistic questions about the worth and value of all people in this historic moment,” said Professor Davidson. “It is crucial that CUNY—the nation’s largest urban public university—be the national leader in this pedagogical revolution.”

“Engaged learning is empowered learning, a necessary approach to helping ensure students have the tools they need to live and work in a world of uncertainty. The humanities offer a set of critical and communication skills that fill this crucial need right now,” said Professor Eversley. “Public education is where this kind of empowerment must happen.”

Read the full press release here.


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the City University of New York $2 million for an innovative new faculty training initiative that will help the University reimagine the teaching of humanities in more urgent, relevant ways designed to contribute to student success and to a more equitable society 

The gift, part of Foundation’s historic $10 million gift announced in August, will enable CUNY to establish and implement a program called Transformative Learning in the Humanities (TLH), which will engage humanities faculty who are interested in making their classes more participatory by capitalizing on the rich diversity and vast talent of CUNY students, with the ultimate goal of preparing students for a world that requires collaboration, communication, analytical reading and cross-cultural thinking.