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Tips for Engaging Large Classes Online

Although teaching large classes online can pose many challenges, both for instructors and students, it's possible to create an engaging and meaningful experience.

General Tips for Engaging Large Classes Online

Make sure to ask for help when you need it. Oftentimes, you will find that students are eager to help out with class activities. Enlist students to help with activities like monitoring the chat, facilitating small groups, etc.

If possible, flip the class. Try presenting course content through an asynchronous method so that synchronous class time can be used for critical thinking and collaborative activities.

Prepare for Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Online Courses

Asynchronous Sessions

  • Make recorded lectures for asynchronous sessions short
  • Make sure that quiz questions or reflections are associated with the material

Synchronous Sessions

  • Hook the class at the beginning and expect a “product” from them
    • Break class into small groups
    • Assign and rotate roles (timekeeper, note-taker, summarizer, devil’s advocate, reporter)
    • Use Whiteboard/Google Docs/etc. for synchronous teamwork
    • You may pop in and out of different groups
    • Bring everyone back together for report-outs, wrap-up, reflections, etc.
  • Intersperse formative assessments (Top Hat, Poll Everywhere, Kahoot, etc.)
  • Assign a post-lecture reflection or follow-up activity
  • Consider “weekly” review or tutorial sessions

Communicate Effectively

As it is with most relationships, communication is a key factor in building strong relationships with your students. By communicating effectively, we can foster a positive learning environment that helps students achieve successful outcomes.

  • Send weekly updates to students
    • Reminders
    • Upcoming quizzes, tests and project due dates
    • Tips or information about how to prepare for the next class, etc.
  • Manage your email communication and expectations
    • Provide clear expectations on your typical response time
    • Send group/topic-based emails
    • Consider having an FAQ
  • Manage office hours
    • Share information about your office hours, including any changes to scheduled office hours, etc.
    • Consider holding “targeted” office hours (topics-based) and invite groups of interested students to join. Record the session and make it available for those who cannot attend.

Ask Students to Evaluate

Engaging students online can also mean asking them to evaluate the course, activities and your instruction.

Example prompts:

  • What is working well?
  • Provide 2-3 suggestions on how I can further facilitate your learning

Additionally, consider reflect back and/or discuss the responses with your class.