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WSE Remote Teaching FAQ

Last updated: June 22, 2020 at 1:40 p.m.

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What guidance does WSE provide to faculty as we redesign our courses for remote teaching?


Please consider the following in redesigning your course for remote instruction:

  • Revisit your core learning objectives: Ask yourself whether there are alternative paths to achieve your objectives if you believe your most effective teaching methods do not lend themselves to remote instruction.
  • Focus on the key elements of your pedagogical approach: These are the interactions and experiences that bring the most value to the learning experience. Reflect on how to replicate these, even if you cannot use all of the tools you usually employ.
  • Anticipate that the parameters under which we work will be shifting: This is a dynamic situation in which our public health practices are evolving. What is appropriate now may not be next week, and may change drastically by next month. It is likely that the guidelines in place now, related to access to laboratory facilities, offices, and gatherings also will change. Access to staff, and their capacity to provide support, will be limited by these restrictions. Consider how more limited access to facilities and support personnel may affect you, and what options you may have to address this eventuality.
  • Do not hesitate to reach out: Once you have clarified your goals for remote instruction, your colleagues and our educational experts can help you put your plan into action. Contact the Center for Educational Resources to arrange a consultation with an instructional designer. For faculty teaching lab, design, and/or project-based courses, contact WSE’s Instructional Support.
  • Focus on maintaining a scholarly community for our students: Your students are anxious and are experiencing an acute sense of dislocation. Keeping in touch with your students, and helping them stay connected to each other and focused on their chosen discipline, will help them maintain their equilibrium during this difficult time.
  • Closely monitor student participation: Please be mindful of whether we are engaging all of our students in the remote teaching modality. Particularly at the beginning of remote instruction, we ask that all faculty alert the dean’s office at once if any of your students has “disappeared.” If you find that one or more students are not engaging regularly during this period please contact us immediately. See the answer to the FAQ question “What should I do if I notice that a student is not participating in my class?” below for details on how best to do this. Students who are experiencing technical issues can be referred to our WSE instructional support team at the email address

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What online resources are available to assist faculty in this transition?


The Center for Educational Resources’ website includes substantial content regarding the most common on-line tools used to support remote teaching. The site also lists a number of upcoming training sessions that you can participate in remotely. Materials for faculty teaching design and lab courses include a recording of the March 12 session we offered on the subject. If you experience issues of a technical nature related to on-line course delivery please reach out to WSE IT (

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What direct assistance in the form of consulting are available to assist faculty in this transition?


All faculty are encouraged to contact the Center for Educational Resources to arrange a consultation with an instructional designer. For faculty teaching lab, design, and/or project-based courses, please contact WSE’s Instructional Support.

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Are there any financial resources available for covering unanticipated expenses related to this shift to remote instruction?


Funding is available for unanticipated expenses related to remote teaching. WSE can provide funding for adapting design, lab, and project-based courses for remote instruction. Possible uses for these funds include purchasing and shipping home kits and materials for students, hiring additional teaching assistants and/or technical support to run laboratory activities for your students, and other uses that may arise. To apply for these funds, provide a proposal to your department director, chair or head. They will determine if the identified need can be funded through your department’s current budget. If not, they will forward this proposal to Michael Falk (primarily undergraduate courses) or Sri Sarma (primarily graduate courses) for consideration. The proposal should be no more than two pages and should detail:

  • The course, course number, instructor, and number of students,
  • Whether the course is primarily an undergraduate course, graduate course, or if it serves both student constituencies approximately equally,
  • The number of students enrolled in the course,
  • An estimate of the number of students enrolled for whom this course is required for graduation,
  • An explanation of the pedagogical approach that this funding would enable, and the learning objectives it would help you achieve,
  • A succinct analysis of how this funding could help improve learning outcomes, and
  • A budget

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How can I connect with a community of other Homewood instructors thinking about the challenges of remote instruction?


 Join the Homewood Educator Community on-line. We have created a Microsoft Team that you can join. This Team is a way to share and elicit ideas for overcoming the challenges of remote instruction through chat and file sharing. Three channels have been set up for discussions of Remote Lectures, Remote Labs, and Remote Design.

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What should I do if I notice that a student is not participating in my class?


Students who are experiencing technical issues can be referred to our WSE instructional support team at the email address However, if you find that one or more students are not engaging regularly during this period please contact us immediately. For undergraduates you should either raise a “Remote Class Attendance/Participation Concerns” flag on Starfish, which can be accessed through Blackboard, or send an email to the Engineering Advising Office at For graduate students please email Christine Kavanagh. Instructions for raising a flag in Starfish:

  1. Log into and click the Starfish tab (do NOT click on the “Courses” tab);
  2. In the upper right hand search box, type the preferred name of the student you wish to report;
  3. Once that student’s information has appeared, click on the “flag” button on the upper left hand portion of the screen.
  4. Scroll through the options and choose “Remote Class Attendance/Participation Concerns”, enter any relevant notes, then click “save” at the bottom of the screen.
  5. Your flag is submitted and the assigned academic advisor will be notified and reach out to the student.

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I am afraid that Zoom or other videoconferencing platforms may fail due to a sudden increase in use. What steps can I take to mitigate the chance of this happening?


Be aware that the most common pitfall in online instruction is unstable internet connections: While we are confident that the JHU’s infrastructure and Zoom are well-suited to for our purposes, the most likely challenge you will face while teaching remotely is faculty and students’ home internet connections. Zoom and most online platforms will allow the meeting originator to mute all participants and/or stop other participants from sharing video. This can help prevent students’ local connections from affecting their ability to hear and see what you are presenting. If any of your students run into technical issues connecting, please have them reach out to our WSE instructional support team at the email address

In addition, the WSE Engineering for Professionals program maintains a site that describes Best Practices for Remote Course Delivery using Zoom. These practices are designed to provide a robust experience so that students may continue to benefit from your session even if their connection becomes unstable.

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Will I be able to access my office, instructional lab, design studio or other campus facility to conduct my class remotely and to create on-line content?


Access to campus facilities for pedagogical purposes is restricted at this time, but access can be allowed on a limited basis for activities considered essential. Generally, the expectation is that you will devise creative ways to offer online courses remotely from your home. If, however, the delivery of your course requires access to offices, classrooms, laboratories, and/or design studios for pedagogical purposes, or if you do not have sufficient internet connection at your home, you will need to request access through your department director, head or chair. Should your department director, head or chair feel the request is reasonable they will request permission from Michael Falk (for primarily undergraduate courses) or Sri Sarma (for primarily graduate courses). If an exception is made for you to be on campus for educational reasons, you will need to keep social distancing always top-of-mind, and you are expected leave campus immediately after the classes or tasks at hand are over. Except in truly exceptional circumstances these activities will need to be undertaken solo or in such a manner that no individuals cooperating in the teaching endeavor are fewer than six feet apart at any time. No individuals showing symptoms of disease should be present on campus at any time.

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What should I do if I cannot envision any realizable means by which to enable my students to meet the critical learning objectives of my class via remote instruction?


If you believe that it is not possible to teach your course remotely, please contact Michael Falk, vice dean for undergraduate education, or Sri Sarma, vice dean for graduate education immediately. Certain courses, research for credit experiences, and independent study projects may require access to specialized equipment and facilities. Depending on restrictions placed on access to laboratories and design studios it may become untenable for students to achieve the required learning objectives for your course. If you feel this is the case for your class, please reach out immediately. We will work with you and your department to analyze the situation and to assess the impact such a cancellation would have on the affected students.

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How can I best accommodate international students in my course who are in very different time zones, making it difficult for them to attend my remote class live?


The university will move to fully remote teaching starting March 23. We distinguish remote teaching from online instruction in that remote teaching is a stopgap attempt to best maintain continuity during emergency interruptions to normal instruction. In the interest of maintaining continuity, WSE expects that regularly scheduled lecture times will be used by faculty to connect with students remotely at the regularly scheduled class time. If your course has international students or others in a very different time zone that it makes it difficult for them to attend your lectures “live,” then we recommend that you record your lectures and send links to the recording to your students with minimal delay. Zoom videoconferencing allows you to record sessions to the cloud in ways that are easy to share.

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When may faculty teach from home and when do they need to come to campus?


The Whiting School plans to make a sufficient investment in instructional studios such that all faculty have the opportunity to teach in such a studio if they desire. Aligned with this infrastructural investment we have articulated an expectation that faculty teach at their scheduled class time from a classroom or instructional studio so long as campus is open unless one of 3 conditions is met (1) there is a pedagogical benefit to teaching from off-campus that is approved by the VDUE or VDGE, (2) the instructor is in a CDC risk category and has sought accommodation from OIE, or (3) the faculty member has another reason that warrants teaching from home that could include at-risk family members, child care issues, etc and has brought this concerting to their Chair/Head/Director and/or HR to seek a work adjustment. This policy is in keeping with the guidance from the central administration in the Return to Campus: Instructional Guidelines that govern such issues on a university-wide basis.

Faculty may always hold on-line office hours or other ad hoc meetings with students from home if they desire, although we would emphasize that there may be some benefit to being on campus due to higher internet bandwidth.

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How do we define “pedagogical benefit”? Is it a sufficient pedagogical reason to say “I don’t want to get sick this fall and be unable to teach my class”?


The pedagogical benefit of an activity is the improvement in learning afforded to the student as a consequence of the intentional enactment of instruction. The jobs of the academic deans are to ensure the smooth function and high quality of our academic programs. We are not in charge of adjudicating health risks, disability accommodations, and making workplace adjustments as needed for faculty as university employees. For these reasons, the case above would need to be assessed by the faculty member’s chair/head/director and OIE, or could be brought directly to OIE.

A good example of a pedagogical benefit that could accrue for teaching from home would be, “I plan to teach my on-line course asynchronously and meet with students individually and in small teams at times that accommodate their schedules. By teaching from home I will be able to better accommodate the flexibility needed for such focused engagement at various times. This would not be possible if I needed to come to campus for each team/individual meeting.”

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On what basis will a VDUE or VDGE be making an assessment as to whether a stated pedagogical reason is valid or not?


This will be based on our professional judgement as faculty members and teachers

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Are instructors required to reveal personal health information about themselves to their colleagues in order to be excused from in-person teaching?


No. Faculty who are appealing for work accommodations or workplace adjustments can apply directly to OIE or HR if they wish.

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Who decides what is a valid non-pedagogical reason for being excused from in person teaching? How do we maintain consistency across departments and various categories of instructors?


OIE is in charge of accommodations made for personal health issues. HR is in charge of workplace adjustments made for any number of other issues such as at-risk family members, childcare issues, and any other concerns.

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