Online teaching and learning resources for USC Annenberg

Last updated: April 3, 2020

USC Annenberg is required to adapt class activities for remote teaching and learning for the duration of the spring 2020 term in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The following resources and tips have been curated by USC Annenberg’s director of online learning and USC Annenberg’s Center for Excellence in Teaching (CET) faculty fellows to help instructors adjust their courses to meet student needs and learning objectives.

Latest Updates

  • 4/3: USC’s Information Technology Services has implemented a number of new Zoom security settings that supersede prior recommendations. Please review and update your settings.
  • 4/3: Make sure to apply security settings to your cloud recordings. Please watch this brief video tutorial to learn how to restrict access to your recordings.
  • 4/3: All faculty and students now have access to VoiceThread to create rich, multimedia presentations that integrate audio, video and text discussions right into the platform. Get log-in instructions, and sign up for a training workshop on Tuesday, April 7.
  • 3/30: Online Teaching Mentorship opportunities with USC Annenberg faculty are now available. You can schedule an appointment with a faculty colleague during one of their available mentoring windows.

Zoom, Blackboard and VoiceThread


Zoom is a videoconferencing application that enables audio and video conferencing between multiple users on both desktop computers and mobile devices. It can allow faculty to host class lectures, discussions, share screens and files, and chat with students using a PC, tablet, or even a cell phone equipped with a camera. Zoom is available to all faculty and students at no cost.

  • Instructors must host live class sessions on Zoom at the same day and time as their regular class. 
  • Instructors are required to record all Zoom lectures and discussions for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, but also to accommodate students who may not be able to keep to the original class schedule. 

Links to your recordings should be posted and organized in Blackboard as soon as they are available. For help setting up your Zoom meeting link in Blackboard please review this tutorial. You can also review a recorded Zoom training session, or attend a live training.


Blackboard is the university’s Learning Management System (LMS) used by instructors across campus to distribute course materials, communicate with students in discussion boards, and to collect and assess student work through assignments, quizzes, and tests. A Blackboard course is created for every course at USC and should be the primary tool used for classroom management and communication.

If you aren’t already using Blackboard, get your course set up and available to students. Visit to learn more and be sure to check out upcoming Blackboard training opportunities available through CET


VoiceThread allows faculty and students alike to create polished, pre-recorded multimedia presentations that can be viewed and discussed asynchronously. Narrate and annotate slides, videos, photos and other types of media, while simultaneously engaging participants in a threaded audio/video discussion. USC Annenberg has provided free VoiceThread professional accounts to all faculty and students.

Log in at with the following credentials:
Username: USC email address (e.g.,
Password: Click here and enter your USC email address to set your password

Problems logging in? Contact the USC Annenberg Digital Lounge.

Sign up for a training workshop for USC Annenberg faculty on Tuesday, April 7th. Additionally, here are some helpful guides to get you started on creating and sharing your VoiceThreads:

Key Instructional Tips

  • Set realistic goals for what you can cover for the rest of the semester. Be flexible and understand that your students may be anxious and distracted. 
  • Adapt assignments, exams, and other assessments as necessary to meet learning goals in a distance learning environment. (See FAQ about ADA compliance.) External proctored examinations cannot be supported currently.
  • Create asynchronous opportunities for instruction and participation (e.g., Discussion Board Forums on Blackboard). Use VoiceThread to create interactive, asynchronous lectures and discussions that reserve live sessions for deeper dives into the course content.
  • Avoid long lectures on Zoom. Segment your live sessions into lecture, discussion, and breakout sessions, if possible. You can even pre-assign breakout rooms before your meeting to save time. Remember to use students’ USC email addresses and ask them to sign into Zoom with that account.
  • You can pause your Zoom recording during breakout sessions and restart for lecture. This will create smaller recording files, but you must remember to restart recording.
  • Make sure your Zoom sessions are set up to automatically record. Organize recording links in Blackboard to make sure all sessions are available to students who cannot attend live. Note: Zoom has been experiencing incredible demand and long lecture recordings are currently taking 24 hours or more to process.
  • Use the share screen function in Zoom to present PowerPoint slides, share full-screen videos, demonstrate software (e.g., SPSS, Adobe, etc.), and use the white board tool. If you share a video or a PowerPoint with audio make sure you are sharing your computer sound.
  • Don’t be afraid to invite guest speakers to your Zoom sessions. All they need is the meeting link to join your class. Without travel time, guests may have an easier time participating.
  • For longer classes, be sure to schedule breaks for you and your students to stretch, use the restroom, and get some water or food.
  • Continue to hold office hours using Zoom. Create a separate meeting link enabling the waiting room feature, and consider offering extra appointment times. You can use Google Calendar or Calendly to schedule them.
  • Consider polling your students (using Google Forms or Qualtrics) to gauge their Internet connectivity, access to resources, time zones and priorities for learning.  View a sample survey and download it for importing into Qualtrics.
  • Ask for help if you need it! We will continue to deploy additional tools to support your transition to remote online instruction.

FAQ on Remote Instruction


Do I need to keep the exact same class schedule? 

You must still hold classes at the scheduled class time, but be prepared to alter the pacing of the class and the way you teach. Note: All instructors are required to record all Zoom lectures and discussions for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance but also to accommodate students who may not be able to keep to the original class schedule. Click here for how to record your class on Zoom. Click here for DSP guidance on remote teaching.

Exams and Assessments

What are the best practices for exams and other forms of assessment in an online class?

Instructors with postponed or upcoming midterm exams are strongly encouraged to offer alternative assessment options that do not rely on synchronous or proctored conditions. Please keep this in mind as you begin planning your final exams, which may also need to be adjusted in format and structure. If offering a take-home exam, please follow these best practices:

  • Tell students what sources they may and may not consult during the exam.
  • Tell students how to cite those sources.
  • Tell students explicitly what kind of collaboration is permitted and what is not (use examples). 

You should consider remote, online assessments through Blackboard and other systems tantamount to a take-home exam. Tests can be created and delivered in Blackboard using a variety of different question formats (e.g., multiple choice, multiple answers, fill-in-the blank, true false, essay, etc.). Some question types are self-scoring while others require manual grading/scoring. Exam questions and answers should always be randomized to deter cheating. More information about each type of question format can be found on USC Blackboard help site.

The ASCJ Excellence in Teaching Resources site (must be logged in to Blackboard first) covers creating online assessments as well as take-home exam best practices. Additionally, CET has online guides, recorded webinars, and weekly workshops to help you develop assessments in Blackboard. 

How do I ensure academic integrity in an online class?

If you are especially concerned about cheating, consider asking students for their thoughts on how to maintain integrity and honesty during remote instruction. Being upfront about the possibility of cheating may deter some students from engaging in it. Make sure students are familiar with USC’s Academic Integrity policy and if you believe a student has violated the Academic Integrity policy, you can, as always, contact your academic unit.

Online Instructional Practices

How can I promote student engagement in remote teaching? How can I make my 3-hour class better suited to an online modality?

Avoid long lectures on Zoom. Break lectures into 20-30 minutes chunks with active learning exercises in between, such as breakout discussions, short exercises or anything that keeps them busy while learning.

Visit the ASCJ Excellence in Teaching Resources website (must be logged in to Blackboard first) for more ideas and links, and CET’s Course Continuity page. 

What are some best practices for breakout group discussions?

Review participating in breakout groups with your students. Students will have a better understanding of what to expect logistically, what tools can be used within the breakout group setting, and options for communicating with the professor.

Determine whether you would prefer to use random groups or assigned groups. If using assigned groups, pre-assign those breakout groups before the actual session. Assigning students to groups during the actual session will waste significant class time.

Share breakout activity instructions in advance with your students or communicate to the breakout groups using the broadcast a message feature. Give student groups a clear deliverable for the breakout group activity and broadcast time reminders.

Make sure to check in on the groups. Just as you might walk around the classroom, you can join and exit breakout groups as needed. 


How can I improve meeting security and prevent Zoombombing?

Zoombombing is a new form of trolling in which a participant uses Zoom’s features to interrupt and disrupt meetings. In order to enhance the security of our classes and meetings, USC ITS is recommending that users update the following Zoom settings immediately to ward against future interruptions:

  1. Require a password when scheduling new meetings
  2. Require a password for instant meetings
  3. Require a password for Personal Meeting ID (PMI)
  4. Control your Screen Share settings
  5. Only enable screen sharing during a meeting
  6. Disable “File Transfer” so there’s no digital virus sharing
  7. Disable “Allow Removed Participants to Rejoin” so booted attendees can’t slip back in
  8. Disable Chat in a Zoom Meeting

USC’s Keep Teaching website has these settings listed here

Watch this brief tutorial video to assist with navigating these settings updates.

Who controls the Zoom recordings of my classes? Can anyone view them? Can students share these recordings with other people?

Faculty have full control of their class recordings and transcripts in Zoom. Once recordings and transcripts are available (currently, this may take 24 hours or more for long lecture meetings), faculty must manually make recording files available to all of their students. Please watch this brief video tutorial to learn how to restrict access to your recordings. Once you have done this, please communicate with your students about where to find and how to view the recordings. CET has produced a tutorial document that shows you how to do this. Students will have access to three files for each class: a video/audio recording, an audio only recording, and a written transcript.

Students are notified in advance that classes are being recorded and are given the option of muting their own audio/video. Faculty should remind students that the class is being recorded and the options available to them, as well as of their ethical responsibility as emerging professionals to keep personal information shared in class private.

Once you share your recordings, your students will have access to view and, potentially, share them. It is recommended that you remind students that sharing these recordings outside of class represents a violation of the Student Conduct Code, which will be strictly enforced.

How long are recordings stored in Zoom? Can I delete them? Can I download them to my computer?

Zoom allows you to delete your recordings at any time; however, all faculty should keep their recordings until the conclusion of the course so that students can access them for learning purposes. If you also wish to keep your recorded lectures or class sessions in your personal archive, you can download them to your computer. Faculty can delete their recording and transcript files after their course is over and final grades have been submitted. Recording files will automatically be deleted from your account after one year.

How is my privacy and that of my students being protected?

According to Zoom, the company does not share or sell its data to third parties, and its service is compliant with FERPA. See more information about privacy and FERPA compliance from Zoom here.

Will Zoom class recordings be used for teaching evaluation purposes?

No they will not. The purpose of asking all faculty to record their classes is to ensure that all of our students have access to our lectures and class discussions—and not to evaluate our faculty. If you normally teach your course on ground, and are teaching online due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the university will not be accessing your recordings to evaluate your teaching.

However, if you typically teach online, and review of recorded class sessions is part of the normal peer evaluation process in your school, that process is not changed by this policy. Faculty who teach in online programs during normal operations should consult their schools about how video recordings of those classes are used in faculty development or evaluation.

Student Support

How can I accommodate students with disabilities in an online teaching modality? 

The USC Office of Disability Services and Programs (DSP) is offering guidelines and support for faculty to ensure that students with disabilities are not put at a disadvantage as classes transition online. This includes guidelines on note taking, translation/interpreting services, and test accommodations. Please visit the DSP site for more information or contact DSP at (213) 740-0776 or via email: 

What if some of my students don’t have reliable internet access at home?

For US-based students, there are several options available. Some ISPs (e.g. Charter) are offering free access for 60 days to college students. Others (e.g., Comcast and AT&T) are opening their Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone. Blackboard and Zoom apps can be downloaded to smartphones and accessed using cellular connections as well. Encourage your students to explore these and other options.

How do I help students who need additional support? 

For students who are resource-constrained and may need extra assistance, please contact Vince Gonzales, Associate Dean, Student Affairs at We are mobilizing as much support as possible for students in need. 

As you all know, this is a very stressful experience for our students. Both medical and mental health services are now available to students via TeleHealth

Faculty Support

Help! I am having trouble using Zoom and/or Blackboard. How can I get support?

Members of the TechOps team are available to provide virtual tech support Monday–Thursday between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. and Friday between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. via Zoom, (213) 740-5297 or These staff are available to advise on Blackboard, Zoom, Sharepoint and Microsoft 365, and Microsoft Teams. Additionally, instructors may reach out to Neil Teixeira at to schedule a 1-on-1 Zoom consultation.

Is there a faculty colleague I can talk to about adapting my class?

A team of Online Teaching Mentors - including CET faculty fellows and online master’s instructors from Communication Management and Public Relations - are volunteering their time to serve as peer mentors. They will each set aside a few hours weekly to share ideas and resources with colleagues on adapting their curriculum. Request an appointment with a faculty member during one of their mentoring windows below:

Mathew Curtis
Request: Wednesdays 10:00-12:00 p.m.

Jennifer Floto
Request: Tuesdays 4:00-5:00 p.m., Thursdays 7:00-8:00 p.m., Fridays 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Hernan Galperin
Request: Thursdays 10:00-11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m., Fridays 10:00-11:30 a.m., 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Courtney Pade
Request: Tuesdays 7:00-8:00 p.m.

Jessica Neff
Request: Mondays 7:00-8:00 p.m., Wednesdays 7:00-8:00 p.m. 

Brad Shipley
Request: Thursdays 11:00-12:00 p.m., Fridays 11:30-12:30 p.m.

Burghardt Tenderich
Request: Mondays 12:00-2:00 p.m., Tuesdays 9:00-11:00 a.m.

Essential Resources

USC Center for Excellence in Teaching: Course Continuity in an Emergency 

There are excellent tips from the USC Center for Excellence (CET) in Teaching here, including active learning and Zoom pointers. CET also has a dedicated page for Course Continuity in an Emergency with excellent resources on remote teaching and contact information for faculty support.

USC Keep Teaching Site

The University has set up a Keep Teaching page with starter guides and tips for faculty and students. Bookmark this page and check back regularly for updates and news.

ASCJ Excellence in Teaching Site

USC Annenberg’s Excellence in Teaching resource site is hosted on Blackboard and contains an array of resources focused on remote, online teaching, as well as resources specific to USC Annenberg disciplines. Additionally, the site is updated frequently to reflect best practices at USC, as well as ideas from other institutions and colleagues as they migrate to online learning. News and resources are added regularly, so check this site regularly. Click here for login instructions.

Additional Resources

USC Zoom Overview: 

Using Zoom in an Emergency: 

Blackboard Help for Faculty: 

USC Annenberg Digital Lounge's Zoom Installation and Account Creation Guide:​ 

Online Meeting Etiquette: 

USC ITS Support: 

USC Annenberg Support: and

Neil Teixeira, USC Annenberg Director of Online Learning: