“Old School” Distance Education

Why Should Instructors Consider “Low Tech” Methods of Instruction?

Strategies for Reaching Students

1. A quick and easy way to find out your students access to technology is to ask.

  • Start with a short survey to assess what they have. Keep the survey short.
  • Ask: What is their technology access status? (computer, smart phone, “dumb” phone, TV, Netflix, etc.?)
  • What are their current schedule restraints?
  • What extenuating circumstances do you need to know about?

2. Use text, rather than email, as the primary form of communication. We suggest https://www.remind.com/ with great success. (This is a website that lets YOU blast students with a text!!)

3. Switch out “live sessions” for phone check-ins. Create appointments with https://www.signupgenius.com/ (also free, and easy to use). Allow students to text you times as well, if they cannot access sign-up.

4. Consider switching out Zoom sessions for conference calls. Most major cell carriers have conference calling on the unlimited plan (only you would need to have it; not students typically)*

5. Consider creating a contact list of emails for your class (don’t worry about HB1 – it was changed for educational purposes): https://support.google.com/a/users/answer/9310148?hl=en.

6. For paper/essay assignments consider emailing them to students and then accepting them via email.

7. Make sure you download any articles you want read and have them ready to attach to an email, in case students lack the internet to get into the LMS but CAN get into email. Some text messaging apps also allow file sharing of PDFs/DOCs, etc.

8. Swap out required viewing that may have been shown in class or be required to be checked at the library for things that can be watched via Netflix/YouTube/Hulu/Kanopy. To find a best replacement, search what you were going to assign to be watched and then “streaming online” to first see if it is available streaming. If not, just googling the title with the word “alternatives” usually leads to threads where faculty have already had to “If you like this, try that” sort of discussions about many documentaries.

9. If you are using Canvas for instruction, you can allow students to download the course content by activating ePub in seetting. Check out this Canvas guide to see how to do so: guide

*Also, if you are doing a Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate session and it slows down, tell students to turn off their video but leave on audio. ONE student’s slow internet can affect the entire session.

Consider the Following

Now is the time to really think in a UDL mindset. If that is new to you, watch this short video (if you have time*:

*If not it is basically this: We ALL learn differently, and have different needs, which are more complex than traditional labels. Ergo – to provide the best chance at differentiation and learning success gives students options. “Multiple means” is the key here. Give students objectives and what you want them to demonstrate and have them propose the project/final submission.

Some Assignment/Engagement Ideas

1. Accept Social Media multimedia presentations. Take a Tik Tok video (though they max at 60 seconds), a YouTube presentation, an Instagram Story, etc. These can be shot and uploaded with cell phones (no need to create things with more complex software and upload/email/submit them).

2. Instagram has features called “Questions”  “Quiz” and “Poll” https://9to5mac.com/2019/04/23/instagram-quiz-sticker/ . These make for great discussion and engagement that can be done on a cell phone.

3. Let them mail you an old school paper/book report. Seriously. They will do it. (I had 12 year olds do this, easily). Red pen it and send it back!

4. Oh, and that paper that may need to be mailed? It’s ok to accept handwritten entries. We are in crisis after all.

5. Accept photo galleries (stills) rather than videos if technology is limited.

6. Allow presentations to be made by phone! After all, dissertations have been defended via someone conference calling in!


1. This infographic is a great resource, and summarizes the activities which can be utilized for high and low bandwidth

2. The article Videoconferencing Alternatives: How Low-Bandwidth Teaching Will Save Us All by Daniel Stanford offers great insights into orientating your instruction for online learning

3. You may want to include Student Computer and Internet Access Support page in your class as it informs students the support they have access to through VCU

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

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