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Saint Paul College A Community & Technical College

​​​​​​Teaching Online​ Quick Start Guide

For more detailed guidance, check out the What Works Well in Online Teaching​ pamphlet produced by MinnState.

Course Design

When teaching online it is even more important to have a consistent and organized course plan. Be explicit about your learning outcomes and how all activities, assessments, and readings/lectures support them. Create weekly or unit modules within the content area of D2L Brightspace to hold readings/lectures, assignments, and discussions. Have module introduction page and captioned video to preview new concepts and explain how they relate to previous material and the course overall. For assessments, consider creating smaller stake tasks early on rather than a large summative one that can be tricky to administer online.

Download a sample D2L Template

Make sure that:

  • A “start here” post has been created at the start of the course linking to syllabus and introducing students to the purpose and structure of the course (1.2)
  • Course & module outcomes are made clear to the students and are specific and measurable
  • The learning activities align with the learning outcomes
  • introduction pages (with short videos if possible) are made previewing each week or module
  • Multiple methods of assessment measure the achievement of learning outcomes
  • Grading expectations and/or rubrics are provided for all assignments

Pick Course Materials (readings, videos, etc.) that:

  • are relevant to the course and where the connection to learning outcomes is explained
  • Can be connected to students’ lived experiences
  • Represent a diversity of viewpoints and authors
  • Present content using multiple media: text, images, video, audio, etc
  • represent up-to-date and culturally relevant materials

Read more about:

Student Engagement & Community

The biggest thing you can do to increase student success online is to keep them engaged - with one another, with you the instructor, and with the content. Establish clear communication policies and spend time early in the course building a sense of community. Be sure to have students introduce themselves, which is also a good way to introduce tech (ex Kaltura MediaSpace or FlipGrid) early on. Some of your traditional activities and assignments that worked in the classroom may require rethinking in an online context.

If you use discussions, give clear expectations for student responses, like a rubric and an example. Ask evaluative questions that require students to provide evidence from readings, not opinions. And while you should definitely be present in discussions, don’t feel like you need to respond to every post. Try asking follow up questions, or providing a summary at the end.​

Make sure that:

  • You try to build community and trust among your class
  • You introduce yourself and let students get to know one another early on
  • At bare minimum, discussion or chats are used in asynchronous courses for learner interaction
  • There is an FAQ area or other means to post questions
  • There’s a mix of learner-learner, learner-content, and learner-instructor focused activities

You post (or co-create together!) guidelines for behavior online and in Zoom sessions

Read more about:

Tech Tools

There are many free and easy-to-use tools for you to enhance your online teaching. Please read below for key highlights.

Make sure that:

  • You give your students a video “tour” navigating through D2L Brightspace
  • You use the content area to post all class materials, organized into modules
  • All tools you use support learning outcomes and learner engagement
  • The course has links to the privacy policy and tech support for all tools is provided
  • You provide links for students to get IT help
  • Minimum technology requirements are stated

D2L Brightspace
The official MinnState learning environment (LE) is D2L Brightspace. Brightspace provides a variety of powerful tools that enable instructors to create a rich and effective instructional experience for their students.

Below are links to the most common and popular topics for instructors that will help you get started. Additional PDFs with step-by-step instructions are also available at the bottom of the Saint Paul College D2L Brightspace page, under the heading ‘documents’.​

Kaltura MediaSpace
This tool is your one-stop shop for staff and students to record and host webcam and screencast videos. Videos can be embedded into D2L with just a couple of clicks, and there’s even a built-in auto-captioning feature. Login using your Star ID to get started or learn more about recording and sharing videos​.

Use Zoom to livestream your lectures, group discussions, or student presentations! Share your screen, chat live with students, use a virtual whiteboard to deliver lectures, and even record them to MediaSpace. All Minnesota State faculty, staff, and students have an account automatically. Read more about Zoom.​


Providing an equitab​le experience online is easy with proper planning. For example, please caption all videos you show students in Kaltura MediaSpace. If you need help, please submit a Captioning Request Form to our accessibility specialist, download a captioning tip sheet, read the captioning FAQ​, or read more about general accessibility guidelines, including for Word documents and PDFs.

Make sure that:

  • The course is easy to navigate ex. you use the content area in D2L Brightspace
  • The course design facilitates rea​dability
  • You provide accessible texts, files, and images
  • You provide alternate means to view content like transcripts for videos
  • There are links to the Saint Paul College Accessibility and Disability Resources office and 3rd party vendor accessibility statements
On-Demand Assist​ance

​Please visit our Events Page to view and RSVP for scheduled trainings at Saint Paul College. The Minnesota State system office also has extensive support available for faculty and staff.

Need more help with D2L, course design, accessibility or assessment? Book a 30 to 60-minute consultation session with the relevant person here:

Just have a quick question? Send an Microsoft Teams chat to James Smrikarov and open Teams in the web app or desktop version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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