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Pandemic Influenza Continuity of Instruction: Ideas for Social Distance Teaching

By: Samantha Muehleis

The chance of a pandemic emphasizes the need for social distance teaching approaches that can establish a connection between the student and instructor that exists beyond the classroom and can be used anytime throughout a semester. Three professors at UW-EC have done just this and have proposed ideas for social distance teaching. Dr. Paula Kleitntjes Neff (Biology) has created audio files of her lectures, Dr. Emilia Bikbulatova Oswalt (Russian) has narrated her PowerPoint presentations, and Dr. Marcela Depiante (Spanish) has created streaming video clips of a program relevant to her curriculum. For the continuing development of social distance teaching, Help Desk and BITS support staff will be available for technology support and can be contacted at, by calling 836-5157 or emailing  

Audio Files of Lectures

Dr. Paula Kleintjes Neff, Professor of Biology, is using a digital audio recorder to capture her classroom lectures into audio files that can be distributed in the case that she or a student is unable to attend class. The audio files – Windows Media Audio (.wma) - now reside in a media folder created for her by LTS staff on the new streaming media server. The audio files are archived by date and topic of lecture and can be shared with students by embedding a link to the media folder in an email or webpage in the case that Kleintjes Neff is unable to interact with her students face-to-face. These audio files complement the PowerPoint slideshows that Kleintjes Neff has stored on D2L.


Getting Started

To get started, an instructor must have access to a digital voice recorder that records audio files in .wma format. In addition, instructors have the option to download the Microsoft Windows Media Encoder for free.  This software allows simple editing – such as setting a start and end point - of the .wma files that are created by the digital voice recorder.


Storage and Sharing

The digital voice recorder is connected to the computer with a USB cord and is recognized by the computer as another storage device – this is similar to the connection of a thumb drive.  By connecting the digital voice recorder to the computer, a user will be able to view the recorded audio files and can copy them onto the computer or the video drive - a UWEC server containing space to edit video and audio files (the video drive is explained further in the next two examples.)  The new streaming media server is the home for the final versions of the video or, in this situation, audio files. The new streaming media server allows files to be shared but does not allow a user to download the files, which avoids copyright and ownership issues.  When saving files on the streaming media server, a ‘pointer’ file must then be created for the .wma file to be shared with students. A ‘pointer’ will become a part of the link or URL that an instructor sends to students and LTS staff is available to help create these ‘pointer’ files.

According to the UW-Madison Podcasting Site, when recording audio files it is best to avoid overly conceptual ideas and core course content that requires supplemental explanation with facts and figures. Complex content is best addressed through classroom lecture and textbook readings and should be avoided when recording audio files. It is best to keep the focus of an audio file narrow as to avoid communicating a dense amount of material in a single recording. Concepts and issues should be developed into separate three to fifteen minute recordings and addressed thoroughly to focus the scope of the content. In most cases a student will not take notes while listening to an audio file and will engage in other tasks (i.e., working out, cooking dinner, completing homework for another course). When recording audio files, an instructor must keep in mind the learner’s environment and avoid conveying an abundant amount of information but rather focus on and develop individual concepts and issues.

Teaching and Learning with Podcasting

Narrated PowerPoint

Dr. Emilia Bikbulatova Oswalt, Professor of Russian in the Foreign Languages Department, has enhanced her daily PowerPoint presentations to include a voiceover of her lecture. If students are unable to attend class, Oswalt plans to send emails with an attached narrated PowerPoint for students to use. Oswalt has already sent one of her narrated PowerPoints to a student who has been ill. “I did listen to the MP3 and looked at the PowerPoint…it was a very good review,” the student replied. “Thank you for putting your time and effort into preparing it for me. I appreciate it!”


Getting Started

To get started, an instructor must have access to a set of headphones and a microphone. In addition, instructors must download the free Audacity application and a LAME MP3 encoder in order to record voice files and convert the files to an MP3 format that can be shared with students. This equipment and software is available in the LTS training lab, Old Library 1100. Instructors can request assistance at the LTS Help Desk, OL 1106, or set up an appointment by filling out the one-on-one training request form available on the BITS website. 


Storage and Sharing

In recording and converting audio files, it is also important to consider the amount of space that audio files consume. The audio files should be kept fairly small; consider dividing the presentation into portions that span a few minutes and are stored as separate MP3 files. When creating a narrated PowerPoint the audio files can be stored in a folder on the video drive. The ‘Video and Audio Projects’ link on the BITS webpage allows an instructor to create a folder on the video drive, which is similar to the H: drive, but is a defined storage space for large multimedia files. To put this in perspective, a user’s H: drive has a 400 MB quota while the video drive has a 40 GB quota.

During the development of audio or multimedia files, an instructor must save audio files in his or her video drive folder. Once the PowerPoint and sound files are created, an instructor can use email or the video drive folder to share files with students. Instructors can grant students access to the video drive folder by assigning appropriate permissions or can email the files to students in conjunction with each classroom lecture. In Oswalt’s case, email works as a mechanism for distribution because she created short audio clips that are small in file size. In general, for a minute of recorded sound, the exported MP3 file would be about 1 MB. To put this in perspective, at UWEC an instructor cannot email a file larger than 20 MB and the overall email quota is 200 MB.

Streaming Video Clips

Dr. Marcela Depiante, Assistant Professor of Spanish in the Foreign Languages Department, has developed a social distance teaching approach that can be enacted if she or a student is unable to attend class. By earmarking three Spanish television shows, Depiante plans to create three lessons by converting the television shows into video clips that students can access from home. The links to the video clips will reside in her email folder in Microsoft Outlook along with a corresponding message that explains the assignment that must be completed after viewing the Spanish programs. These emails can then be sent to students if Depiante is unable to interact with her students face-to-face or can be designed to fit anywhere in the semester.


Getting Started

In getting started, it is important to consider the amount of time required for the creation of streaming video clips. In order to stream a video to students, the program (i.e., film or television) must first be imported onto the computer in real time. This means that if an instructor would like students to view an “x”-hour program, importing this video to a computer will be equivalent to the length of the program (i.e., a one-hour program could take an hour or more to import).  After the file is imported onto the computer, the file must then be converted to a .wmv file. In entirety, the importation and conversion of a one-hour program may take a minimum of three hours to complete. It is more efficient to consider converting a one-hour program and sharing it in fifteen- or thirty-minute clips with students, which could then provide content for two to four class periods rather than one.

When converting a program from film or television, copyright guidelines must be considered and the restrictions enforced by copyright are rather complex. For instance, streaming video clips of a program must be kept under three minutes or restricted to ten percent (whichever is shorter) of the entire length of the program to remain within the boundaries of the law. It is recommended that an instructor seek permissions from the copyright holder to use the material for educational purposes.  To avoid the restrictions of the copyright law, it may be beneficial for an instructor to consider accessing videos from a creative commons webpage like TeacherTube or YouTube. By directing students to a video sharing webpage there is no need to create streaming video clips or consider copyright as the videos are freely accessible via the host site.


Storage and Sharing

Time is not the only factor to consider, as storage space is also an issue. The “Video and Audio Projects” link on the BITS webpage does provide access to a defined storage space for instructors to save large video and audio files. These folders are automatically allotted 40 GB of storage space and may be extended to 80 GB; however, it is important to realize that four minutes of video will absorb 1 GB of storage space, allowing potentially 160 - 320 minutes of video to be stored in a video folder. LTS staff must then export the file to a streaming media server, and then provide the instructor with a link  to a compressed file type that can be embedded on a webpage or within the body of an email and then shared with students to make the production available.

Section 508 - Accessibility Guidelines

When providing course content online, instructors must be compliant with Section 508 of the American Disabilities Act. This is a federal law that requires the public to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities, which encompasses the use of instructional technology and requires that an instructor provide social distance teaching content in an accessible format. As a general guideline, Section 508 standards require updating existing and creating new media and web-based resources to guarantee accessibility by all individuals. The UW System has mandated that instructors adhere to these standards to ensure that all students have access to a quality education. This means that for all course content that is distributed in conjunction to social distance teaching must be supplemented by a written manuscript.

Section 508 - Accessibility Guidelines

Section 508 Checklist

Copyright Considerations

Copyright grants protection under the law to the authorship of a medium of expression. Copyright covers both tangible published and unpublished works. As a form of the intellectual property law, copyright protects the original works of the author whether it is artistic works, musical ballads, poetry, movies, songs, etc – if it is tangible it is more than likely covered by the copyright law. The copyright of any piece of intellectual property authorizes the owner of the copyright to dictate reproduction, derivative works, and performance of the original work. The bounds of the copyright law are extensive and are applicable to the university setting. According to Gene Leisz - Distinguished Graphic Artist for LTS, under the copyright law if an instructor uses copyrighted images in a PowerPoint presentation, after three semesters the images and/or PowerPoint must be updated or discarded or permission must be sought from the owner of the copyright. Another instance of the copyright law requires that a recording of a program be used within forty-five days of the recording and once this timeline expires permissions must be sought or the recording must be discarded. Copyright laws present a vast array of guidelines that must be adhered to and it is important to either seek the permission of the copyright owner or ensure that use of the material is within the bounds of the copyright law.

Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for Teachers

Copyright Fair Use and Tip Sheet

General Fair Use Guidelines for Student Multimedia Projects

Teacher’s Guide to Fair Use and Copyright

UW-Eau Claire Copyright

UW System General Counsel Copyright Law in Text

UW System General Counsel Copyright Law FAQ

For Further Resources and Considerations, Visit:

Help Desk and BITS support staff will be available for technology support; please contact us at, call 836-5157 or email

Please contact CETL (836-CETL or with questions about course redesign issues.

Influenza Information and Planning at UW-Madison

Instruction in Time of Pandemic at UW-Madison

UW-Eau Claire Creating a Pandemic Course Contingency Plan


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