Remote Teaching Resources

 

Tech Needed for Remote Teaching From Home

Each community here in the law school is a little bit different, so we have created this site to communicate the information you need to support how you work; Whether you are faculty, students, or staff,  we are here to help with your digital learning experience.

Faculty members who are are teaching in the fall now have a Canvas site dedicated to Northwestern Law Remote Teaching Guides providing the tools and information they need to incorporate remote teaching into the design of their courses. 

Below are the recommendations and required items needed to create a successful remote teaching environment.  These suggestions are based on best practices and comments from our faculty.

 

Required:

Optimal Internet Speed

We ask that all faculty test their Internet speed.

The Internet speed you get from your service provider must accommodate what is being accessed on your home network:

  1. Concurrent Zoom Meetings, Netflix streaming, etc.
  2. How far you are from your Wi-Fi router as signals weaken through your home
  3. Environmental factors such as peak times of Internet usage in your area.

Recommended minimum speeds:

Download Speed: (This is what is allocated for accessing remote files to your home.) Minimum of 150Mbps (megabits per second) is recommended.

Upload Speed: (This is what is allocated for streaming Zoom audio and video from your home to the participants in your meetings or classes.): Minimum of 20Mbps (megabits per second) is recommended.

When shopping for an Internet Plan, note that the vendors will only list the download speeds. You may need to reach out to the vendor directly to find the combination of download and upload speeds that meet your needs.

Installation Considerations: When you are working with your chosen Internet service provider, consider the placement of your Cable Modem/Wireless Router ensuring it is in a location that best supports connectivity where you plan to teach from. Plugging your computer directly into the wireless router will offer the fastest most stable connection. 

The three biggest cable vendors in this space are:

Many times, only one or two are available in your area. Use this link to put in your address and it will list the options. We recommend looking at one of the three listed above.

 

Two Displays

This can be a laptop and a single external monitor, or a desktop PC with dual monitors. Having enough screen real estate will help you manage all of the activities in your meetings or classes. Contact Law IT (LIT@Law.northwestern.edu) for assistance.

 

WebCam/Microphone

For teaching at home, having a good microphone, a high-quality web camera that can be positioned appropriately to capture the right angle, and a separate screen to see the students can be useful. Depending on your preference, either a USB headset or a desk microphone.

 

Highly Recommended Audio/Visual Devices:
Other Hardware: (If you miss having a whiteboard)
  • Document Camera
  • Tablet and Pen

 

Tips for better audio/video

 

Remove visual distractions from your background

Simplify your background and lighting to streamline your video. Consider using a Zoom virtual background in situations where it is not feasible to do this in your environment.

Keep your webcam slightly above your eye level:  

Move your reference material to the top of your screen, near your webcam, to keep your gaze there. This means you’ll be looking straight ahead at people in the class, which feels more personal.

 

Sit facing a light source:

Sitting with your back to a window or bright light source can negatively impact the quality of the video call by giving you a harsh silhouette effect. Whenever possible, sit facing the window, desk lamp, or other light sources to ensure your face is well illuminated and clearly visible.

 

Use headphones whenever possible:

Although some laptops and software can automatically turn down the microphone when other people are talking, they’re not perfect. Using headphones will prevent feedback loops and echo that results from your microphone picking up other people speaking.

 

Place your microphone 5 to 6 inches from your mouth:

If you can’t get that close or don’t want to use a separate microphone, try to place your microphone in the path your voice normally projects.

 
Use an external microphone:

Almost any plug-in device, a desktop USB mic, a USB headset, or the built-in microphone on a USB webcam will sound better than the built-in microphone on a laptop. Anything you can do to remove distractions such as inconsistent audio quality increases your student’s ability to focus on your lecture.

NOTE: There may be multiple microphones on your computer in addition to your USB microphone such as your laptop’s built-in mic. Verify your USB microphone is selected in your Zoom settings as the input source to ensure you are using the correct device.

 

Tips for a successful class session using Zoom:

 

What do you have for a Plan B:

 

Internet Outage:

What will you do if you are teaching from home and your internet goes down? If your internet, goes out can you easily just power off/on your cable modem? Do you know how to use your smartphone as an Internet hotspot to get back online? Have you tested your smartphone hotspot to know how Zoom operates when you are connected to it?  Working out these scenarios ahead of time will greatly reduce the stress of an Internet issue and streamline a resolution.

 

Communication Plan:

How will you communicate with students in those first moments when Zoom isn't working? Consider laying out a policy in your syllabus that you will communicate via the Announcements feature on Canvas if Zoom isn’t functioning***. That way you can update them easily on whether they should be waiting for you to restart Zoom, update them with the progress towards getting the class session back live, etc. In addition, if students are unable to access Zoom, their first question is going to be whether the problem is with their connection or yours**. You need to tell them. Whatever course of action you choose, make sure you can easily access it from your desktop/laptop/phone, that you can easily update messaging, and that students have easy access with the ability to ask questions.

 

**Ensure you have selected the option that lets students post comments/questions so that communication is two-way.

 

*** Access Canvas via your smartphone if your laptop and/or Internet is keeping you from using their capacity to communicate.