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Distance mode

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Asynchronous Distance Mode can be carried out offline. For some course contents and student assignments, asynchronous formats may be more suitable. An additional advantage is that asynchronous materials can be prepared ahead of time and provided as needed, and can be accessed by students on a more flexible basis. This is especially important for both teachers and students with caregiving responsibilities.

Design & Structure

Which elements of my course can students be expected to learn independently? How can I structure the course into units?

The switch to distance mode means you are no longer bound by scheduled class times and time-based units. In many cases it might make sense to review the contents of your course carefully and think about which of the elements students might be able to learn on their own and where they will need input from the teacher.

As a rule of thumb, anything that you yourself have compiled from a variety of different resources or where many different individual subject areas are interwoven is more difficult for students to work through without help than things like well-defined textbook chapters. Also keep in mind that access to the libraries is restricted.

Create new calendar entries

In order to help students organize themselves during the semester, you can manually create important appointments (e.g. new synchronous activities such as chat, forum activity, team meeting, web streaming, etc.) in the calendar of your course on MyLEARN. 

Courses in block format

Courses planned to be held in block format do not have to be held on the date they were originally scheduled for. Individual units, contents, and performance components can be distributed throughout the semester. If your courses are only partially in block format or normally held as regularly scheduled classes, we ask you to stick to the original scheduling, so that students aren’t faced with having to complete dozens of performance components all at the same time at the end of the semester.

Providing materials

In what form can and should materials be provided to students?

Not all materials need to be provided in video formats.

Book chapters or journal articles

If students need work on a well-defined subject area, book chapters or journal articles can be used, which are available to students via VPN access (see the library homepage).


In some cases you can provide students with links to websites / documents that are available online and give them research assignments.

Screen recordings and annotated slides

Materials that students can’t be expected to learn without input from the teacher can be presented as screen recordings which can be accessed by students on demand. PowerPoint is a useful tool for this, and you can record voice-overs for each slide (see Microsoft support). It might be sufficient just to add comprehensive comments to the slides or to include references to textbook chapters or lecture notes where students can find further information.

An important aspect for the success of all of these scenarios is making sure students have the support they need for independent study – especially because you, as the teacher, may not be available for students’ questions while they are working on the materials (see "Giving the right assignments").

Giving the right assignments

Which assignments should I give my students to support them in their independent learning?

As you are not immediately available to answer questions like you would be in a classroom setting, it’s generally not a good idea to make assignments all too detailed. For responding to any questions that come up in a time-efficient manner, we recommend using the course forums on MyLEARN, because then students can see all the questions that have been answered previously (see MyLEARN-Guide).

Provide guiding questions for text analysis

Instead of simply instructing students to read a specific text, you should prepare clear guiding questions on the individual sections of the text for students to answer, and have students submit the results of this exercise on MyLEARN.

Tables or graphics

Tables or graphics that need to be completed based on literature research can also help provide orientation.

Virtual group work

For more complex assignments or tasks that were intended to be completed as group work in the classroom, students can work in virtual groups on MyLEARN. Please remember that face-to-face group meetings should be avoided.

Homework Assignments

The Teaching & Learning Academy has a number of ideas for additional assignments, especially under “homework assignments”: (German only)

Providing feedback to students

How can I give constructive feedback in a distance-mode?

To provide optimal support to your students in their learning, it's a good idea to incorporate different forms of feedback.

Rubrics for textual feedback

Written feedback is effective but time consuming. To save time, use rubrics to give individual, detailed feedback to your students. See the Teaching & Learning Academy for tips on creating rubrics (German only).

Feedback by telephone or in virtual office hours

Feedback on group work or individual feedback can be given during office hours or by telephone.

Automated Feedback

Think about creating assignments that can be assessed using multiple-choice questions. The questions can be posted on MyLEARN and student can get immediate feedback on their learning progress.

Recording feedback

Alternatively, you can give feedback via screen recording or audio recording (podcast). Both can be created more quickly than a detailed text report.

Peer feedback

In order to provide feedback and at the same time encourage student interaction, you can integrate peer feedback into your course. The forum on MyLEARN is well suited for this: Students upload the results of their (group) work to the forum, fellow students can comment on them directly. As a teacher, you should – in advance – give advice about what kind of feedback you expect and, if necessary, get involved in the discussion yourself.

Alternative work

How can I replace partial performance components?

You can plan alternative work so that students don’t need to be present or attend a live streaming event.

Videos to replace student presentations

If students are required to hold presentations, you can have them make videos. Most students won’t need any special equipment for this, as smartphones and tablets are capable of making excellent recordings. Students can then upload their presentations directly to MyLEARN.

Online-Exams on MyLEARN

If you have planned to hold mid-term tests or other exams, you can make them available as sample exams on MyLEARN. Available formats include multiple-choice questions, single-answer questions, and fill-in-the-blank questions. Please see the webpage Examinations for further information. Additional information on how to create multiple choice questions is available in the Teaching & Learning Academy (German only).

Online-Quizzes instead of classroom participation

If you are unable to assign points for participation like you would in the classroom, have students earn them by taking quizzes on MyLEARN to test their knowledge (see MyLEARN-Guide).

Student support interaction

How can I support online group work?

Work assignments for virtual group work should be more detailed and smaller than in the classroom, as there is no possibility for you to clarify ad hoc questions.

Define milestones

Instead of a single deadline for the groups’ entire work product, it is recommended to set deadlines for individual milestones. In this way, it is possible for you as a lecturer to give brief feedback at defined dates and in addition, you get an overview of where the students are in their process.

Collect group works on MyLEARN

The results of the group work can be collected with different tools of the learning platform:

  • Use the forum if you would like other students to read along and comment on the submissions. Students can upload all kinds of files there (e.g. PDFs, Word files, videos in mp4 format, pictures as png or jpg).
  • Use “student submissions” in learning activities if you do not want other students to have access to the submitted files. This also allows you to evaluate and grade the assignments easily.  
  • Use the Lecturecast application if you plan to ask students to upload their own video productions. If you activate the commentary function, you and fellow students can provide scene-specific feedback on the videos.

Provide tips for virtual collaboration

Keep in mind that many students have no experience with virtual teamwork. Hence, it is helpful if you provide your students with basic tips on virtual teamwork (clarify responsibilities within the group, define communication tools, arrange time slots for virtual meetings, joint project documentation, etc.)

Create a working space for groups on MyLEARN

You can support students via the learning platform by providing a group workspace on MyLEARN. There, students can communicate with their group colleagues, exchange files and work on group assignments (see MyLEARN-Guide).

How can I support online discussions?

If you want to conduct a discussion in distance mode, the forum on MyLEARN can be very useful.

Use the forum for discussion

For example, you can ask students to discuss texts which they prepared in advance in the forum. Formulate a starting question or a thesis in a discussion thread and ask the students to comment on it.

It is helpful to define some simple rules in advance, e.g:

  • New postings must follow up on a previous discussion and contribute something new. This can mean that students contribute a new aspect or that they (critically) discuss a statement already brought up by someone else.
  • Every student must comment at least once. You should take into account that in courses with a large number of students some of them will not be able to come forward with a new aspect in the discussion. Hence, if you want all students to participate, you should provide several discussion threads which focus on single aspects of the general theme that is discussed.  
  • As lecturer, you should take on the role of a moderator and take part in each discussion thread. For more information, please visit the Teaching & Learning Academy (in German only).
How can I organize virtual student presentations?

MyLEARN can support student presentations as part of distance mode:

Discuss annotated slides in the forum

You can ask students to comment on the slides of their own presentations and then upload them to the course forum. You should point out to the students that the annotations must be detailed enough to allow other students to understand the slides and ask questions directly in the forum.

Comment videos in the forum or in the lecturecast app

The same applies if you ask students to create videos (see point 5). If the video presentations are uploaded in the forum or the Lecturecast application, other students can comment and ask questions directly there. The „producers“ must answer questions and comments thereafter.  

Give feedback on students posts

The most significant disadvantage of the distance mode is the lack of interaction between lecturers and students, in this case the missing direct personal feedback on the student performance. As lecturer, you should try to compensate that by providing at least a (short) written feedback on every presentation.