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Asynchronous Teaching Tools on Brightspace

Posted by on Friday, March 13, 2020 in Uncategorized.

by CFT assistant director, Stacey M. Johnson

With both Zoom and Virtual Classroom available in Brightspace for live video conferencing, many faculty will be moving their face-to-face classes online in a very literal sense, doing similar activities as usual that happen to be conducted video conferencing. However, for some faculty, moving their courses online means using tools that do not require instructor and students to all be in the same virtual place at the same time. In fact, great online teaching normally includes plenty of asynchronous learning! Asynchronous tools are generally more accessible to students and allow faculty to prepare more in advance, limiting the in-the-moment frustrations of things going wrong during a live class session. There are many great tools built into Brightspace that can facilitate this sort of asynchronous learning.

Here are a few ideas of how you can teach remotely and asynchronously.


Instead of delivering live lectures, consider pre-recording lectures for students to view.

You can use a screencasting tool such as Vanderbilt’s Kaltura Media to record your lectures ahead of time when your house is quiet, and then add the lecture video to your course for student viewing. Using Kaltura will also allow you to add captions to your videos, making them even more accessible for your students. You can even set limits on when the lecture is available to make sure students have to watch during a specific time period.

Faculty who like using Zoom but do not want to hold a live Zoom meeting can create a private Zoom meeting, set it to record, present their content using the screen sharing and whiteboard tools available in Zoom, then use that recording as the lecture video for students.

You can also use any screencasting or white board app you prefer on your tablet or phone, and then upload the finished video to Kaltura My Media

Some tips for making the best use of pre-recorded lecture video:

  • Instead of longer videos that are the length of a typical class, break up your content into multiple, shorter videos. There is research that recommends 6-9 minute educational videos. These are better for students, and also have benefits for the instructor making the videos! If you create a long video and then realize afterwards that some element was wrong, unclear, or needs to be changed, re-recording a 10-minute video is a much less daunting task that re-recording a 60 minute video.
  • Whatever tool you plan to use, spend some time playing around with it before you settle in to make your actual class videos. Take one slide and make a quick video trying one set of options. Then, try another video using different options. Try out the writing tools for writing on the screen. Try making videos from different devices if you have them. Take an hour or two and fiddle around with every option to decide which combination works best for you. Then, full steam ahead.
  • If you use Kaltura Capture, print out our Quick Start Guide and keep it next to you as you record. It will help you navigate the tool interface. 


Instead of facilitating live discussions, consider setting up asynchronous discussion boards.

Use the Brightspace Discussion tool to set up, manage, and grade a discussion. Online discussions can be a useful way for students to take time to think through their ideas, read and respond to colleagues, and stay in communication throughout the semester. While many think of online discussions as being primarily a place to exchange written messages, the Discussions tool also allows students to post documents, links, images, Kaltura media files, and many other kinds of content. Students and instructors can even use the Video Note tool (available through the Insert Stuff button) to create videos of up to 3 minutes long and easily insert those videos into discussion posts. Voila! You have an ansynchronous video discussion board.

Instructors can set up discussion boards for the whole class or for smaller groups.

The Discussion tool can also be used to easily set up individual discussion boards where only one student and the instructor can see the discussion. This can be great for ongoing journaling, private communication, and talking about grades like you might during office hours. An individual discussion board can replicate office hours with your students without requiring appointments and live meetings. Students post when they have a need, and the instructor answers when they are able.

Some tips for making the best use of an asynchronous discussion board:

  • While a face-to-face classroom may include a discussion that starts and ends in just one class period, asynchronous discussions usually are better when they last a few days. We recommend that instructors organize the class conversation so they can leave the Discussion available for student contribution for at least a week.
  • Make your expectation for how students should post and how you will assess their contributions very clear up front. Do you want students to post lengthier, more academic kinds of writing in the discussion? Are you hoping for a more conversational kind of discussion where students post what is on their minds, bring in outside links, and replicate informal face-to-face speech? Whatever your plan, share it with students and then remind them again in the instructions for that particular Discussion forum. 

Other asynchronous tools

Other asynchronous tools are available on Brightspace as well. For each of the below options, we have guides available and the Brightspace support team is happy to help you navigate the tools and their uses.

  • The Content area is where most students will go to find your course content. You can create modules for different purposes, add documents, library resources, images, videos, and all sorts of other learning resources in the Content area. For most instructors, this is the home base of the course and where they add everything students need.
  • The Assignments tool allows faculty to set up a drop-box where students can submit papers, videos, text, and dozens of different file types. It keeps student submissions organized and has many options for grading and providing feedback on student work using FERPA-compliant tools so that feedback is only visible to that student.
  • The Quiz tool can be used for summative testing like quizzes, mid-terms and finals. It can also be used for practice activities, lower-stakes check in activities, and to replicate in-class activities.


What other asynchronous tools are you planning to use to teach remotely? Let us know by leaving a response below. 

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