History Department
History Department

Ideas and Resources for Online Delivery


Note: This guide was developed in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic required a rush to online teaching. Since then the university has provided many resources to help faculty navigate this shift. See especially https://facultyinnovate.utexas.edu/, and view a recording of the Faculty Innovation Center's July 20th workshop for the History Department here (EID log-in required), along with accompanying slides here. LAITS has published this helpful Faculty Course Guide for Teaching Online resource, as well.

Nonetheless the following may still be helpful. It draws from UT resources, from comments made by faculty in emails to the whole department and from outside sites. Every effort is made to cite sources but please let us know if there is something here that is not cited or should not be shared. It is not intended to be comprehensive but is rather an attempt to pool resources to deal with this extraordinary situation. 

Prepared by Adam Clulow and Susan Deans-Smith (with suggestions and comments by many colleagues). Lightly updated by Adam Clulow in August 2020.

In its current form, this guide has five sections

  1. Introduction to Zoom
  2. Different kinds of classes and effective delivery online
  3. Tools to use in class
  4. Annotated Resources (where to look for further information)
  5. Departmental contacts who can help you to set up Zoom/troubleshoot CANVAS, etc

Section 1: Introduction to Zoom

We’re about to all become very familiar with Zoom.  This is a relatively new video conferencing platform that is less than a decade old. It is intended as a business competitor for something like Skype or Google hangouts.  Even just a few years ago, Zoom had a few hundred thousand users. It is about to be tested as never before.

Step 1 is to install Zoom


Key tip: Make sure to Sign In with SSO

You can access Zoom directly via Canvas but it makes sense to have the application (desktop client) installed as this gives you more functionality.   The desktop client looks like this when opened:

Step 2 is to master the Basics


What does Zoom actually do? On the surface, it’s much like Skype but it has many more features. It’s built for business not education so it sometimes takes a while to get used to Zoom terminology. In particular, there are six terms that are worth knowing as they are frequently repeated: meeting, webinar, synchronous, asynchronous, host and co-host.

What is a meeting vs a webinar?

“Meetings are designed to be a collaborative event with all participants being able to screen share, turn on their video and audio, and see who else is in attendance.”  In other words, you share control. 

“Webinars are designed so that the host and any designated panelists can share their video, audio and screen. Webinars allow view-only attendees. They have the ability to interact via Q&A, chat, and answering polling questions. The host can also unmute the attendees.”

So a meeting means you share control and might be useful for a small seminar or office hours. For a webinar, you retain more control.

Synchronous vs asynchronous

As the names suggest, synchronous mode happens in real time and seeks to duplicate a seminar discussion. Asynchronous mode refers to something like a recorded lecture that students might participate in at different times. 

See below for how to record lectures with powerpoint slides

Centre for Learning Enhancement and Research, CUHK offers the following assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of synchronous vs asynchronous delivery:




Synchronous mode


- More dynamic learning through real-time discourse and debate 

- Better student engagement through active discussion and immediate feedback 

- Rigid schedule; not everyone can join the meeting at the same time

- More technical challenges (e.g. internet speed and connection, hardware requirement, etc.)

Asynchronous mode

- Higher flexibility; students can learn at their preferred time, place and pace

- Less collaborative learning environment

- Risk of apathy

They suggest that a “mixed strategy that combines the two modes can maximize the advantages and minimize the shortcomings mentioned above. You may use video recordings to cover the materials that students need to learn before class (asynchronous mode) and conduct face-to-face online teaching to encourage discussion, facilitate collaboration, answer students’ questions, clear confusions, and provide immediate feedback (synchronous mode).

Host vs co-host vs participant

We are hosts even if that’s not the language we’re used to. Host controls allow you to control various aspects of the Zoom Meeting, such as managing the participants.

The co-host feature allows the host to share hosting privileges with another user, allowing the co-host to manage the administrative side of the meeting, such as managing participants or starting/stopping the recording. The host must assign a co-host. There is no limitation on the number of co-hosts you can have in a meeting or webinar.

Step 3: What else can I do with Zoom

The following features may be helpful for class discussion:

  • Chat 
  • Breakout room function 
  • Raise hand feature

Chat function 

A seminar with multiple students dialled in presents problems for communication as no-one knows whose turn it is to speak next. Zoom has a chat function that can be helpful here


Breakout room function

Some instructors have had success with the breakout room function

Breakout Rooms allow you to split your Zoom meeting in up to 50 separate sessions. The meeting host can choose to split the participants of the meeting into these separate sessions automatically or manually, and can switch between sessions at any time.  In other words, it is a small group exercise. 

See one example of a Humanities classroom that uses the breakout room function here:


Raise hand feature

The raise hand feature in Webinar allows attendees to raise their hand to indicate that they need something from the host or panelists. As a host, it may be helpful to inform your participants how you would like to use this feature at the start of the webinar. For example, many webinar hosts use this feature to know if an attendee has a question and would like to be unmuted to speak.

Step 4: Any other tips I should know

One of the issues with our current situation is that many students will have to video conference from environments that are very far from ideal. One way round this is to change the background of the screen. It’s surprisingly easy to replace your actual background with a virtual image as in the example shown here. This is standard for classes and students enjoy playing around with this feature. It’s best done before a green screen so it will look strange for example when you make hand gestures but it’s better than the alternative.

This is how you do it via the desktop client:

  1. In a Zoom meeting click the ^ arrow next to Start/Stop Video.
  2. Click Choose a virtual background...

Section 2: Different kinds of classes and effective delivery online 

In the most basic terms, we might think of three kinds of templates. 

  •  Large lecture classes (60 plus students)
  •  Small lecture classes and large seminars (this is the most challenging format)
  •  Small seminars (less than 10 students)

A and B are more straightforward in some ways. B is the most challenging. The following represent an evolving set of options for how one might teach into such course.

Template A: Large Lecture class

This is the most straightforward kind of class to move online as most content is via lectures. 

The first choice you have to make is between synchronous and asynchronous delivery. 

Asynchronous delivery imposes fewer burdens on students but it has to be supplemented with different ways to engage as a recorded lecture is extremely passive and few students will resist the capacity to jump ahead.  

How do I deliver recorded lectures over my slides?

You can add audio directly to a powerpoint via powerpoint but we don’t recommend it as students are used to seeing a small window with a presenter.  Just looking at slides with no person is not very engaging. 

Your key tool is recorded lectures via Zoom:

The best video tutorial is here:


Essentially you create a meeting, open up a powerpoint, hit share screen, record and save to computer

Key tip: As the presenter, you will appear on the top right-hand corner. You need to adjust your slides accordingly as otherwise you will obscure part of your slides.  If you’re using a virtual background, watch out for hand gestures as these will confuse the virtual background. 

Key tip: These are big files that require time to format, upload and download.  Also something may go wrong with the delivery or in the formatting process. Don’t try and record an hour lecture. Opt for short 20 minute mini-lectures. 

What sort of exercises can I use to engage with students as I can’t talk to them directly in class?

All the standard Canvas tools apply such as Group Discussion apply


One way to proceed (thanks to Jason Chang) is with three basic assignments per class or week

1)    Discussion Forum (and replies)
2)    Journal
3)    Short Answer

Template B: Small lecture classes and large seminars

Such classes present the greatest challenges as they rely on interaction.  

Synchronous delivery is possible here. You can deliver lectures and pause for interactions via the Chat function on Zoom. This creates something close to the classroom experience but it comes with risks as not all students may be able to access what is effectively a live stream lecture.

Students can also participate via the Raise hand function. You can also combine this with other communication channels like Slack

Template C: Small Seminars

Here you may wish to opt for the meeting format in which other participants can share their screens 

Section 3: Tools to use in class

  1. CloVis
  2. Slido 
  3. Slack 
  4. Canvas chat 
  5. Instapoll
  6. Hypothesis 

Using ClioVis (from Erika Bsumek)

Link to webapp: http://cliovis.org/

Tutorial videos: https://cliovis.org/index.php/tutorials/

Support team: support@cliovis.org

Here are some ways you can use ClioVis as either a synchronous or asynchronous tech for teaching.

ClioVis is a tool you can use to facilitate more engagement than a Canvas discussion board or a Zoom classroom. You could, for instance, use ClioVis to enhance a zoom classroom.

I realize there might be a learning curve for many of you but I, and a number of others who have used the platform, could help new users get things set up. We also have a few grad students that help you set up class projects.

Ideas for use:

1) synchronous - you can set up a class project and create a timeline that students can build based on lectures and readings. You can get it started by adding a few events to the timeline — these could be things you were going to discuss in lecture.

Next, you can have the students add other events to the timeline (maybe from the class readings or previous lectures) — and start make connections between the events. Connections could be analytical, straightforward, interpretative, etc based on what you want them to focus on. You could also ask students how they would categorize events and add those categories to the top menu. Or, you could predetermine the categories you wanted the students to use. (This is very easy).

You and your students can then discuss and comment on the emerging timeline in real time using the chat feature or Zoom (if you were sharing your screen.)

*You could do a version of this as a asynchronous assignment as well.

2) you could have the students “reverse engineer” an article they are going to read.

a) Ask the students to plot the events the author discussed. “Events” can be broadly conceived in this case — (I.e. if it’s historiography events could be books).

b) Then, ask them to think through how the author is connecting material/ideas and map out those connections.

c) You can log on as they are building these timelines and comment in real time on what they are going – or you can log on afterwards and provide comments that guide them to consider things they may have missed, etc.

(Again, you could do a version of this in real time or asynchronously.)

There are many other ways you could use this tech if courses go online. I’m happy to help. We even had a set of sample assignments.

ClioVis allows for real time collaboration so can be used as a remote learning/teaching tech.

As a side note: there have been MANY updates to the platform over the past 5 months. So, if you tried it before and ran into problems, you want to check it out again.

Using Slido 

This is a very effective tool for online polls. It has a very straightforward mobile app that students find extremely easy to use

Using Slack

Slack is an instant messaging platform

Some instructors have reported success with Slack as a tool for rapid communication during Zoom sessions:

“The instructors used slack as a “rapid-fire” channel during class sessions. For example, one exercise involved quickly picking out and sharing striking words from a reading.”




Hypothesis is a platform for shared annotation of documents.

Here are some Canvas-specific Hypothesis resources:

Here are a few general Hypothesis resources, all of which could also be shared with students:

Section 4: Annotated Resources

Resources from UT 

Please remember to complete your Course Plan for Instructional Continuity for each course you are teaching this semester.



LAITS has also put this page together for us:


From UT Co-op 

With our transition to online learning, some students will lose access to course materials that they previously shared with classmates or instructors, or accessed via the library. To support these students, we’ve partnered with our digital course materials provider, VitalSource, and leading publishers, to launch VitalSource Helps, a program that provides free access to ebooks to all University students through May 25th. Students may begin accessing these materials today at bookshelf.vitalsource.com. If you are using "Custom" materials, those materials will not be available through this program.

Further information, including how to access the program and answers to frequently asked questions for students and faculty please click on the following link https://support.vitalsource.com/hc/en-us/articles/360044467674   

If you want your students to have access to this free program, please forward them the above link. Additionally, please let them know they must use their ".edu" email. Personal emails will not work for this program.

Resources from outside UT

Tips from Jason Chang (shared by Madeline Hsu)

I've taught quite a few online courses. I have a couple quick tips for managing the workload.

  1. Create a work plan for generating all online content, usually takes me 3-4 days to do a whole class.
  2. Use any camera-to-PDF smart phone app to create accessible pdfs of readings. Use existing online content whenever possible. Dump these into a cloud folder.
  3. Each week gets three assignments: Discussion Forum (and replies), Journal, and Short Answer. Add links to reading materials in the assignment prompts.
  4. Set rollout dates and due dates / stagger these to pace students and grading burden
  5. Attach word count limits for all responses, at most 500 words for every assignment.
  6. Write main take-aways for each assignment on separate document. Cut & paste these into grading comments when needed.


From site: “Welcome to the NYU Shanghai Digital Teaching Toolkit. Here, under the Toolkit Tab, you will find a guide to the battery of digital tools we recommend for faculty seeking to deliver high-quality distance learning for their students. Not every instructor will find the same tool useful – so under the Teaching Modes tab, we suggest several ways to meet unique teaching needs and preferences. The Discussion and Test tab suggests strategies for promoting active class discussion and administering tests and quizzes. The Webinars tab offers video trainings on each of the tools. Under Case Studies, NYU Shanghai faculty share their experiences and lessons learned so far.”

Bard – Center for Experimental Humanities

From site: “With campuses moving online in response to COVID-19, most transition guides offer helpful introductions to using learning management systems, web-enabled video meetings, and more (at Bard, this information is available at https://www.bard.edu/it/course-continuity/). However, faculty still need to decide what we will actually do with our students online, asynchronously and at a distance — which is why we developed this list of assignment ideas, which offer ways of rethinking how students might meaningfully engage with course content under these differently mediated circumstances.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education.

How To Keep Teaching During Corona Virus:

This special Chronicle collection includes our best advice guides and opinion pieces on online learning, to help faculty and staff members make the adjustment.”

College Art Association  

From SDS: “a very helpful collection of resources and discussions for teaching remotely. I particularly like #CovidCampus that recommends  involving your students in any transition to online teaching with a short survey (sample survey provided) of what resources they have access to if they cannot come to campus. Both the docs.google...preview (second link) and the docs.google...document (third link) are excellent resources and also can be edited if you want to add in additional information”

1) http://www.collegeart.org/news/2020/03/09/coronavirus-online-resources-for-teaching-remotely/

2) https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ccsudB2vwZ_GJYoKlFzGbtnmftGcXwCIwxzf-jkkoCU/preview#

3) https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yBE1cCqJ_4M-JZ62K4CefmYsZugqAWkGmZmdwESt0IM/edit#

From Megan Raby:

Rebecca Barrett-Fox


Some very helpful tips on how to use our time and to grasp the students’ actual situation.

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory):


These are focused less on the possibilities of a variety of digital tools for an online course, but instead on quickly designing simple and effective asynchronous assignments that generally use minimal new tech.

Teaching Effectively During Times of Disruption, for SIS and PWR

Jenae Cohn, Academic Technology Specialist for PWR, jdcohn@stanford.edu 

Beth Seltzer, Academic Technology Specialist for Introductory Studies, 


Section 5: Departmental Contacts

The following are Departmental contacts who can help you to set up Zoom/troubleshoot CANVAS/Cliovis, etc (as more colleagues become familiar with Zoom, we will continue to add to this list)

- Adam Clulow (adam.clulow@austin.utexas.edu)
- Erika Bsumek (embsumek@austin.utexas.edu)
- Vasken Markarian (vgmarkarian@gmail.com
- Rachel Ozanne (rachel.ozanne@austin.utexas.edu)
- Jesse Ritner (Jesse.Ritner@utexas.edu)
- Jeremi Suri (suri@austin.utexas.edu)
- Jonathan Seefeldt (jonathan.seefeldt@gmail.com)

Use of dedicated departmental CANVAS site for discussions, questions and/or advice

By now you should have received an invitation to join the History CANVAS Sandbox. Please use this for messaging/suggestions/group discussion.

Updated March July 28, 2020.