Online Teaching: Getting Started

For help with Blackboard: Contact 213-740-5555, Option 2
For help with Zoom: Contact 213-740-5555, Option 1
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Steps for Moving Classes Online

1. Conduct live (synchronous) classes at the same day and time as scheduled

During an emergency, your course's live (Zoom) sessions should meet at the same day and time as published in the course schedule.

2. Preparing your Blackboard course

Even if you have never used Blackboard for your course before, every course still has a Blackboard site.  The following information will help you to access the site already created for your course in Blackboard.

You will need to use Blackboard because you will set up all your Zoom live class session meetings through Blackboard, not through Zoom

Getting started with Blackboard

Log into Blackboard

Access Blackboard through

For problems logging in to Blackboard, contact local IT, ITS Support (log in/NET ID troubleshooting),, 213-740-5555, option 1.

Find your course in Blackboard

Click Home toward the top-right of the page. Scroll down under My Courses and click on the title and semester of your course.

Make your course available

Your Blackboard course cannot be seen by students unless you make it "available." Go to your course site in Blackboard and click Customization (on left towards the bottom of the menu). Click Properties. Scroll down to Set Availability and change Make Course Available to Yes. Click Submit.

Other Blackboard resources

For Blackboard questions and training, email or call 213-740-5555, option 2.

Visit the ITS website for step-by-step Blackboard guides.

View recordings of Blackboard training sessions.

These resources provide basic information for emergency readiness; for non-emergency use, Blackboard users may wish to review the full tutorial Blackboard Help for Faculty


Your students may be unfamiliar with Blackboard. You can link or send them the Blackboard Help for Students information.  Student support is also available at the ITS website.

3. Communicate with your students about holding class online

In an emergency like this, you can communicate your teaching plans to students by email.  Blackboard gives you an easy method to email all your students at once.

Email all of your students through Blackboard announcements to let them know your plan for continuing the course even though the class will no longer meet on campus. You may want to include

  • Which resources (documents, videos, etc.) they should review for class
  • Any assignments they should complete, and the assignment submission deadline
  • The dates and times of your Zoom online class sessions (which should match your scheduled course dates and times)
  • The Zoom session invitation, which will be created when you set up your Zoom session (see below)

4. Conduct (live) class sessions using Zoom

The simplest approach toward offering your class online might be to hold online Zoom sessions, which need to be held at the same days and times that the course is scheduled to meet on campus.

Zoom is an online platform for conducting online meetings and classes. All USC faculty and students have Zoom accounts through ITS.  Activate your Zoom account here and click Sign In.

Some schools have their own Zoom accounts and do not need to activate their USC main account.  Follow ITS instructions for what to do if you already have a school-issued Zoom account or if you require a HIPAA-protected Zoom account.

Schedule a synchronous class session in Zoom

Zoom is connected to your course inside of Blackboard.  You will need to schedule your Zoom live class session meetings through your course in Blackboard.  These short videos review how to do this and show micro functions used for teaching in Zoom.  Feel free to pause the videos frequently as you watch to follow along with the steps.  The ITS website also offers step-by-step instructions for Zoom.

See all steps below in one 10-minute video tutorial Preparing for Online Teaching: Set Up Blackboard & Zoom

Zoom functions during a session

Zoom functions after a session

  • Recorded Class Session Videos: Review, Share with Students, Delete   View document
  • Zoom Cloud Recording Password Settings    View document

Other Zoom resources

For Zoom questions and training, email ITS Zoom Support at or call 213-740-5555, option 1.  See the ITS Zoom Support resources.

View recordings of Zoom training sessions

5. Provide course content to your students via Blackboard and Zoom

On-campus course content is typically delivered through lecture, readings, or videos. The same holds for moving your on-campus course online in an emergency.

While course content such as articles, textbook readings, and online videos will be handled similarly to on-campus courses, there are a few options for adapting lecture-type content. Lecture in Online Courses    PowerPoint slide deck

Prepare an instructional video lecture

Once you have a prepared PowerPoint slide deck, record yourself narrating the PowerPoint presentation. Then save the recording as an mp4 file on your computer. You can then upload the mp4 file to your Vimeo or Youtube account and provide students a link to it (see below), or you can provide the mp4 file directly to students (also see below).

You can hold your regular lecture in Zoom by using the share button to show your prepared slides while you speak about them on camera with your students.

Provide links to readings, publicly-available videos, or your own video lecture

You can upload your own files (documents, videos, graphics) or links to resources on the Internet for your students to access in Blackboard.  You can also upload files to the chat feature during your Zoom live session with students.

6. Facilitate activities for your students so they can develop competence with the course materials

Maintaining engagement with the course content is critical to students developing mastery of the course learning objectives. Many on-campus classroom activities have corresponding versions in online courses.

Students review documents, videos, graphics

Have students read, watch, or view resources by directing students to the Content section into which you uploaded the resources in Blackboard.

Students participate in online discussions

7. Create graded assignments that your students can submit online

Graded assignments, or assessments, typically take the form of exams, essays, reports, projects, or presentations. All these types of assessments can be managed online.

Develop online assignments

Course assessments/exams can be administered in online courses.

Selecting online assessments

Prepare well-structured assignment descriptions. In online courses, it is more important that assignments are clearly described, as students have less opportunity to discuss clarifications face-to-face with faculty.

Have students submit assignments in Blackboard

There are options for online assignments. General assignments for which students will upload a product for you to grade can be managed through Blackboard assignments.

Blackboard also allows you to create tests and quizzes.

Discussion boards (see above) can also be used as assignments if you award students points for their posts in the forum and/or their replies to other students.

For student work that is typically written or drawn by hand, student work can be photographed and the images uploaded to a Blackboard assignment. This type of student work is particularly common to STEM fields (equations, drawings) and the Arts (sketches, paintings, images of 3D pieces). The mobile app Adobe Scan is an option that can be suggested to students. The Adobe Scan app is free, available for both Android and iOS, simple, and intuitive. The app takes photographs of multiple documents or objects, combines them into a single, multipage PDF file, and can email the PDF to the user. The user can then upload the PDF to Blackboard. Please note that Adobe Scan is not a USC-supported technology, so assistance for the app is not available through ITS.

8. Manage student accommodations

If you have students with accommodations provided by DSP (Disability Services and Programs) they are still relevant if your course is delivered online. However, it might not be easy to translate the accommodation from the classroom setting to the online setting.

Additional Support

Consult with CET Instructional Designers about planning course continuity for an emergency.  We can provide

  • Workshops for schools or departments
  • Workshops for groups of faculty
  • Individual consultations
  • During regular operations, consider joining a teaching institute or consulting with CET Instructional Designers for more comprehensive best practices in course design and teaching

Contact colleagues who are Faculty Mentors experienced with online teaching and volunteer to share their advice and practices.

Contact ITS and USC Blackboard for Zoom and Blackboard trainings.

  • Zoom training contact ITS Support,, 213-740-5555, option 1
  • Blackboard Support contact, 213-740-5555, option 2

Many schools/departments/programs have their own local resources for supporting their faculty.  One example is Rossier's Keep On Teaching Resource.  Check with your department whether similar support is available in your own school.

Key Terms

The following terms are often used when discussing online courses.

  • LMS for Learning Management System (i.e., Blackboard) is where course materials are stored and accessed online
  • Zoom is online meeting software with video and audio simulating a classroom environment with the ability to show slides and do groupwork
  • Synchronous describes an experience when the instructor and students are participating at the same time, communicating in real time. This applies to both classroom situations and some online classes (i.e., a Zoom live session).
  • Asynchronous describes an experience when the instructor and students may be participating at different times, using an online tool such as an LMS to facilitate their communication (i.e., a Blackboard discussion post).

Other Universities' Resources for Course Continuity in a Crisis

For information on how other institutions of higher education prepare for course continuity in a crisis, you may wish to review this external Google Doc of Emergency Remote Teaching Guidelines compiled by DePaul University's Center for Teaching Learning.

CDC Statement on Interim Guidance for Administrators of U.S. Institutions of Higher Education