You might want to find ways to mix things up and try active learning strategies with your students when you’re teaching remotely. Here you’ll find some tried and true active learning techniques that you can easily transition to a remote setting using D2L, Zoom, and Google Docs.

Think, Pair, Share

Think, pair, share is a good way to help students think about a challenging question or topic from a variety of perspectives, allowing them time to make notes about it individually before they compare their ideas with a few peers and finally share with the whole class. This activity is versatile and can be used to introduce a topic, discuss readings, make decisions about a project, or in many other situations. Using Zoom and Google Docs, your students can move between pairs or small groups and full class discussions. Take these steps to get your remote course set up for think, pair, share:

Getting started with Zoom

Zoom 101: Breakout Rooms (Video, 03:19)


Before Class

  1. Create a Google Doc that all of your students can edit. See how to change the share/edit settings in a Google Doc.
  2. Type instructions in the Google Doc.
    1. Example #1: After making notes about the reading on your own, share your ideas and questions about the reading in your small group. As a group, determine which ideas from the reading are most important to this week’s guiding question. Record those topics in the Google Doc and include any questions you have about the reading. If your group knows the answer to someone else’s question, please answer it using the Google Comment tool.
    2. Example #2: Now that you’ve read over this week’s assignment prompt individually, pair up, and share ideas about what topic you’ll focus on for your project and what resources you’ll need to be successful. Record one person’s project ideas in the Google Doc, and as a pair make comments on one other pair’s project ideas using the document’s comment tool.
  3. Verify that Zoom’s breakout room feature is enabled for your Zoom meetings. This will allow you to instantly put your students into pairs or small groups. You can assign students to groups individually or randomize the groupings via Zoom.
    • Note: When students enter their breakout rooms, you will not be able to use Zoom’s chat to communicate with. Give them a specific time to come back together, and when that time comes, you can end their breakout meetings yourself.

During Class

  1. Think: You and your students are in Zoom together. You’ve asked students to take a moment to consider something on their own. Perhaps you want them to write for a few minutes about a topic or question, or maybe you want them to look at a text or video, or read an assignment prompt.
  2. When students finish working individually, paste the Google Doc link in the Zoom chat window, and give students instructions for what to talk about in their breakout rooms and what to add to the Google Doc.
  3. Pair: Zoom can randomly place students into groups, or you can manually select groups yourself. You can enter breakout rooms while they’re in session, but let students know you might drop in if you plan to visit their rooms.
  4. Share: After you’ve closed breakout rooms and the class is back together on Zoom, you will have a Google Doc full of ideas, questions, and comments to discuss as a class. Share your screen if you want for everyone to focus on specific parts of the document or if you want to move to your presentation slides.

Peer Review

Having students give feedback on each other’s work is a good way for them to think critically about assignments-in-progress and learn from their peers’ ideas. Using the same Zoom’s breakout rooms and Google Docs, you can easily set up peer reviews by following these steps:

Before Class

  1. Create specific questions or prompts to help students provide quality feedback. You might place this in your slides or in a handout that you share via Google Docs.
    1. Example #1: Locate your peer’s thesis statement and comment on what you think the rest of the essay will be about based solely on this statement. Find 1-3 places in the essay where further research would strengthen the thesis.
    2. Example #2: Using the assignment prompt/rubric, label all of the major requirements in your peers’ work. Make note of one strength of the work, and suggest 1-3 ways you would revise the work to better meet the requirements.
  2. Try out Zoom and make sure you know how to use the breakout rooms.
  3. Ask students to bring work-in-progress to be shared with peers using Google Docs, because sharing and commenting is more streamlined in this platform and students won’t have to download anything to complete this activity.

During Class

  1. Explain the expectations of peer review and the prompts you’ve created for your students. (It can be helpful to remind students that detailed feedback that answers “why” or “how” is more helpful than surface level feedback that only answers “what” questions about their peers’ work.)
  2. Explain how Zoom’s breakout rooms work, and place students in pairs. Ask them to swap Google Docs using the Zoom chat within their rooms. When students are finished reading and commenting on their peers’ work, give them 5 minutes or so to discuss their work together, clearing up any confusion and sharing final recommendations.
    1. Note: When students enter their breakout rooms, you will not be able to use Zoom’s chat to communicate with them. Give them a specific time to come back together, and when that time comes, you can end their breakout meetings yourself.
  3. Bring students back together to discuss their work, answer questions, and explain next steps.


Your students can give presentations remotely using Zoom’s “share screen” feature (synchronous) or Kaltura Capture (asynchronous).

Small Group Learning and Study Groups

Students have full access to Zoom via with their Odin accounts. Consider encouraging your students to work in small groups (on their own schedules) for studying, or other learning tasks. You can ask students to summarize their small group activities if you like, or you can leave the meetings as entirely student spaces. In either case, remind students that their use of Zoom is governed by university policies such as the Student Code of Conduct and the Acceptable Use Policy. Students should contact the OIT help desk for help with Zoom.

How does D2L fit into these activities?

  • Use D2L for asynchronous activity such as discussion boards, readings, announcements, your course Q&A forum, and to launch Zoom meetings.
  • Have students submit work in D2L’s Assignment area.
  • Organize course materials in the Content area.

For additional ideas on active learning in digital environments, see Digital Activities to Support Student Engagement