School of Law

Strategies for Suspended Classes

This page is designed to help you keep teaching during events that prevent us from meeting face-to-face on campus. Wake Forest provides faculty, students, and staff a number of resources to help you conduct your work or teach a class remotely.

Before you consider technologies, take a moment to consider your learning goals and whether they may need to be altered in light of changed circumstances. Whether you decide to deliver your course live or via pre-recorded video, remember that you do not need to replicate every item on your current syllabus (especially those that you feel may benefit from an in-person explanation or from face-to-face interaction among students/teams). Please refer to the bottom of this page for pedagogical and other tips for transitioning to remote instruction mid-semester.

To get started, we recommend you test the following equipment at home to be prepared for working and teaching remotely:

  • Laptop or desktop computer.
  • Microphone & Speakers/Headphones – these may be built into your laptop or computer, or you may use an external device such as a USB microphone or headset.
  • Webcam – a camera may already be built into your laptop, but you can also use an external USB camera for video conferencing.
  • Internet – either commercially provided (e.g., Spectrum, Windstream) or a wireless hotspot through your mobile phone (which uses cellular data).

There are a variety of tools available for working and teaching at home; use what you are most comfortable with to facilitate your work. We recommend the following resources.

Sakai (collaboration and assignment management)

Sakai is the university’s current Learning Management System (LMS). It has many features for collaboration, document distribution, grading, threaded discussions, live chat, assignment uploads, and online testing.

Canvas (collaboration and assignment management)

For those of you who currently are using Canvas, you should continue to do so. It has many features for collaboration, document distribution, grading, threaded discussions, live chat, assignment uploads, and online testing.

WebEx (live classes)

All Wake Forest faculty, students, and staff have a license for Cisco’s Webex, a platform for hosting and attending online meetings and presentations, webinars, training, and online presentations. You can join a meeting using your browser, the WebEx desktop app, or your mobile device. Key functions include screen sharing, audio/video, chatting, and recording capabilities. Many of our law students are familiar with WebEx already and comfortable in this virtual environment.

If you are new to WebEx, you can view a 6-minute WFU-specific tutorial on getting started with WebEx.

Getting Help:

For assistance with any of the technologies listed below, please contact the Law School Help Desk at 336.758.4300 or via email:

Upcoming Training Opportunities:

The School of Law will offer training on WebEx on Tuesday March 17, 2020 during our regularly scheduled TeRSe talk. Additional trainings will be scheduled as necessary.

    What are you trying to accomplish?

  • Communicate with students

    Keeping in touch with students is vital during any changes to your class(es)—whether a planned absence on your part or because of a crisis impacting all or part of campus. You’ll want to let students know about changes in schedules, assignments, procedures, and broader course expectations. Early and frequent communication can ease student anxiety and save you dealing with individual questions.

    Keep these principles in mind:

    • Communicate early and often: Let students know about changes or disruptions as early as possible, even if all the details aren’t in place yet, and let them know when they can expect more specific information. Don’t swamp them with email, but consider matching the frequency of your messages with that of changes in class activities and/or updates to the broader crisis at hand (for example, the campus closure is extended for two more days; what will students need to know related to your course?).
    • Set expectations: Let students know how you plan to communicate with them (i.e. email, Canvas Announcements, etc.), and how often. Tell students both how often you expect them to check their email and how quickly they can expect your response. If you are using Canvas to manage communications, you might also suggest that they update their notification preferences.
    • Manage your communications load: You will likely receive some individual requests for information that could be useful to all your students, so consider keeping track of frequently asked questions and sending those replies out to everyone. This way, students know they might get a group reply in a day versus a personal reply within an hour. Also, consider creating an information page in Canvas and encouraging students to check there for updated information.
  • Deliver lectures

    Deliver lectures

    Depending on your course, you may need to deliver some lectures to keep the course moving along. Be aware that a 45-minute live lecture sprinkled with questions and activities can become grueling when delivered online without intellectual breaks. Here are a few suggestions to improve online lectures:

    • Record in small chunks: Even the best online speakers keep it brief; think of the brevity of TED talks. We learn better with breaks to process and apply new information. To aid student learning, record any lectures in shorter (5-10 minute) chunks and intersperse them with small activities that give students opportunities to process the new knowledge; make connections to other concepts; apply an idea; or make some notes in response to prompts. Smaller chunks also lead to smaller files, especially when using voiced-over PowerPoint presentations.
    • Be flexible with live video: Lecturing live with Webex or Zoom is certainly possible, and it can do a good job approximating a classroom setting, since students can ask questions. Some students won’t have access to fast internet connections and others may have their schedules disrupted. So, record any live classroom session, and be flexible about how students can attend and participate.
    • It’s not just about content: Lectures can mean more than just providing course content; they also establish a sense of normalcy and a personal connection. In online courses, we talk about the importance of “instructor presence”, and that’s just as true during short-term remote stints. So, consider ways that you can use lectures to make students feel connected and cared about: acknowledgement of current challenges, praise for good work, and reminders about the class being a community. This affective work can help their learning during a difficult time.
  • Foster communication and collaboration among students

    Foster communication and collaboration among students

    Fostering communication among students is important because it allows you to reproduce any collaboration you build into your course and maintains a sense of community that can help keep students motivated to participate and learn. It helps if you already had some sort of student-to-student online activity (for example, Canvas Discussions) since students will be used to both the process and the tool.

    Consider these suggestions when planning activities:

    • Use asynchronous tools when possible: Having students participate in live video conversations can be useful, but scheduling can be a problem, and it can be challenging to manage large classrooms. In such cases, using asynchronous tools like Canvas Discussions or VoiceThread allows students to participate on their own schedules (i.e. asynchronously). In addition, bandwidth requirements for discussion boards are far lower than for live video tools.
    • Link to clear goals and outcomes: Make sure there are clear purposes and outcomes for any student-to-student interaction. How does this activity help them meet course outcomes or prepare for other assignments?
    • Build in simple accountability: Find ways to make sure students are accountable for the work they do in any online discussions or collaborations. Assigning points for online discussion posts can be tedious, so some instructors ask for reflective statements where students detail their contributions and reflect on what they learned from the conversation.
    • Balance newness and need: As with any changed activities, you will need to balance the needs and benefits of online collaboration with the additional effort such collaboration will require on everyone else’s part. Learning new technologies and procedures might be counterproductive, particularly in the short term, unless there is clear benefit.
  • Collect assignments

    Collect assignments

    Collecting assignments during a campus closure is fairly straightforward, since many instructors already collect work electronically. The main challenge during a campus disruption is whether students have access to computers, as anyone needing a campus computer lab may be unable to access necessary technologies. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    • Require only common software: Students may not have access to specialty software located in on-campus computer labs. Software @ WFU provides an overview of items generally accessible to students, but keep in mind that they may be limited in what they can use in situations that keep them away from campus. Be ready with a backup plan for such students.
    • Avoid emailed attachments: It may be easy to collect assignments in small classes via email, but larger classes might swamp your email inbox. Consider using tools better suited for this purpose (i.e. Canvas Assignments). Balance what is simplest for students with what is easiest for you to manage.
    • State expectations, but be ready to allow extensions: In the case of a campus closure or other crisis, some students will undoubtedly have difficulties meeting deadlines. Make expectations clear, but be ready to provide more flexibility than you normally would in your class.
    • Require specific filenames: It may sound trivial, but anyone who collects papers electronically knows the pain of getting 20 files named Essay1.docx. Give your students a simple file naming convention, for example, FirstnameLastname-Essay1.docx.