Teaching Strategies for Digital Class Meetings

Digital class meetings are sessions that some or all students attend via Zoom or another virtual meeting platform. Such meetings may be recorded for students to also use asynchronously. Digital class meetings are most often associated with these delivery methods:

  • Attend Anywhere: In-person instruction with remote alternatives for each session or activity
  • Online – Scheduled Meetings: Online courses with required meeting times
  • Hybrid: Fewer in-person class sessions with more online, remote, or self-directed activities

Learn more about PSU course delivery methods, including examples and guidelines, in the Faculty Guide to Course Delivery Methods.

Set Expectations

You and your students may have varied experience with digital class meetings. It can help to gauge student expectations and circumstances at the start of the term and to communicate your expectations clearly.

Try a Pre-Course Survey

A pre-course survey is a great way to get to know your students and understand where they are in their learning. When your course includes digital class meetings, it can help to include questions about students’ technology setups and their expectations for participating. For example, you might ask how students anticipate they’ll usually attend class (in-person or via Zoom). If they’ll attend via Zoom, it’s a good idea to ask about their Zoom and technology setup. Will they join:

  • From a smartphone, tablet, or laptop/desktop computer?
  • At work, on campus, or at home?
  • In a private space or from a shared space?
  • With a camera and reliable internet?

All these factors can influence access to digital class meetings.

You can use what you learn from the survey to set your expectations and plan your digital class meetings. For example, if many of your students will join from a smartphone, asking them to pull up Google Docs, Canvas, or specialized software may prove challenging.

Communicate Your Expectations

As you plan your course, take some time to reflect on your expectations for student participation in digital class meetings.

For all delivery methods:

  • How will you assess engagement in person? On Zoom? When students use recordings?
  • How will you handle questions in the chat?
  • How will you handle technological issues that emerge?
  • Are there bare minimum requirements for participating (e.g. a way to take notes, access to the textbook or handouts)?
  • Will you require attendance?
  • Will you require or expect students to keep their cameras on? If so, how will you handle accessibility, equity, and privacy issues?

For “Attend Anywhere”:

  • Do you expect students to attend in-person and use Zoom only for emergencies?
  • Will you record every session and make it available to all students? Only when requested? Only in some circumstances? PSU student feedback indicates that the availability of class recordings is one of the best features of Attend Anywhere classes.
  • Will you always attend in-person? What is your backup plan if you or a family member gets sick?
  • Will remote students interact with in-person students? For example, during small group activities or class presentations?

For “Online – Scheduled Meetings” and “Hybrid”:

  • If students miss scheduled synchronous activities (whether digital or in-person), how can they make up the work?
  • What will students need handy during scheduled meetings?
  • How do you expect the class to stay in touch and on track between meetings?

Once you have a sense of your expectations, how can you communicate them to your students or even collaborate with students to define participation norms collectively? At a minimum, consider sharing expectations in your syllabus and in early class communications.

Beyond Lecture: Active Learning in Digital Class Meetings

Student feedback indicates that when synchronous class time is heavily lecture-oriented, students are less likely to attend class in-person (Attend Anywhere) or even remotely (Online – Scheduled Meetings or Hybrid). As you plan teaching strategies, remember to factor in what you know about your particular group of students and any technological or logistical constraints.

Among the many teaching strategies to consider, this handful may be particularly well suited to the constraints and capacities of digital class meetings:

  • Include self-paced activities online before class to help build a cohesive and well-balanced blended-learning environment.
  • Use short, ungraded knowledge checks to assess learning during sessions.
  • Give students opportunities for peer-to-peer learning using think-pair-share, jigsaw, and other small group activities.
  • Allow students to choose how to give presentations: via Zoom, in-person, or recorded and shared.
  • Punctuate lectures or course discussions with polls, problem sets, example generation, and/or other applied practice. Use Google Docs and forms to give students space to contribute answers and ideas regardless of how they attend.

Check out Flexible Teaching Strategies for more.

Make and Follow a Plan for Each Class

Deliberately plan each class, accounting for the technological complexity of digital class meetings. Plan your first class session especially carefully; it sets the tone for the rest of the term. As you plan, find ways to intentionally bridge the gap between modalities and create a supportive learning environment.

Here are some example plans with teaching strategies to engage students across modalities — and with planning down to the minute.

Along with creating a detailed lesson plan for yourself, consider sharing a brief agenda with students at the start of each class meeting. This can help you set the tone for the day and communicate any particular needs or high priority items.

Here are some example class agendas.

Include All Students in Your Class Plans

Across modalities, it may be easier to connect with some students than others. In Attend Anywhere courses, for example, your instinct might be to pay more attention to the students in the room than those who join via Zoom or use the recording later. However, it’s crucial to engage with all students regardless of how they attend. Here are a few suggested practices to help connect across modalities:

  • Welcome everyone to each class, specifically speaking to in-person students, remote students, and students using the recordings.
  • Learn your students’ names, how to pronounce them, and which pronouns they use. Greet and refer to students by their names. (Get tips on learning students names, even in large classes.)
  • Find ways to show the contributions of remote and asynchronous students live and in class. For example, share the collaborative documents remote students are working on, or screen share the discussion posts asynchronous students have contributed.
  • Use Canvas as a “home base” for the course. This centralizes communications and provides a consistent space for students to interact across modalities when possible.
  • Take proactive steps to foster community and connection in your course.
  • Maintain your digital presence through timely feedback, virtual office hours, regular announcements, and other means.

Practice

Ideally, complete a practice run before your course starts in the classroom or space you’ll teach in.

  • Try out your classroom equipment, run through your day-one plan, make a practice recording, and test anything you’re worried about.
  • Ask a colleague or TA to join as a practice remote student.
  • Practice including all groups of students (in-person live, virtual live, and/or asynchronous).
  • Practice pulling up the various content you want to display and sharing it in the room and on Zoom.
  • Practice switching between items you’re sharing.
  • Practice basic touch-screen functions such as managing participants, turning the waiting room on and off, and starting/stopping the camera and microphone.
  • Use your practice recording to note any potential problems.

"Attend Anywhere" and Zoom Capabilities

Zoom capabilities in general pool classrooms might be different from what you’ve experienced elsewhere. Consider these key distinctions.

Instructor Controls and Sharing

These assume the instructor joined the meeting via the classroom’s Logitech touch panel.

You Can...

  • Start and stop recording.
  • Share screen from classroom computer display, doc cam or HDMI connection.
  • Mute/unmute Zoom participants.
  • Share computer audio to Zoom participants through screen sharing options.
  • Engage in limited chat with Zoom participants.

You Cannot...

  • Show chat screen and gallery view simultaneously.
  • Pause recording.
  • Launch Zoom polls.
  • Launch or manage breakout rooms.
  • Display remote participants in classroom.

In-Person Student View and Sound

These assume in-person students are not individually signed into the class Zoom session and are relying on the default setup for classroom technology.

Available to Students

  • Remote participants are audible. (Volume is controlled by classroom speaker settings.)
  • The instructor’s shared materials are visible — by either computer display or doc cam. This may mirror what the instructor is screen-sharing to remote students via Zoom.

Not Available to Students

  • Remote participants’ video and thumbnails are not visible.
  • What students say in the classroom likely isn’t audible  over Zoom. (The default microphone is at the front of the room; audio pickup varies when the speaker is not close to the microphone.
  • Zoom chat is not visible.

Remote Student View and Sound

These assume remote students are individually signed into the class Zoom session and the instructor is using the default setup for classroom technology.

Available to Students

  • The instructor is visible when at the front of the room, and audible when behind the default microphone.
  • A shared screen is visible, either from a computer feed or a doc cam, controlled by the classroom Logitech touch panel.
  • Zoom chat is available.

Not Available to Students

  • In-person students are not visible.
  • The in-class whiteboard is not reliably visible or legible.
  • In-class questions or conversations are not reliably audible.

To learn more about the technology for teaching an Attend Anywhere course, contact OIT’s Audio Visual Services and/or review OIT’s full technical documentation for Zoom rooms.

Getting More from Zoom in the Classroom

Before using these suggestions in class, try them privately to evaluate what you’re comfortable managing, along with which ones you feel will benefit you and your students the most.

Move the podium or the monitor/webcam to capture different camera views, if possible. This may be helpful for student presentations, or other times when you want to share a view of the full classroom with remote students.

Ask an in-class student to join the Zoom meeting and keep an eye on the chat. Make sure that student does not join audio. When questions or comments come up in chat, the in-person student should raise their hand and voice the chat contribution, crediting the contributor. Rotate this role each class session and let remote students know the plan. Let remote students know that direct messages to you may go unnoticed.

Join as the meeting host or co-host from your laptop or the podium computer. Don’t join audio (recommended), or keep your microphone and speakers muted to avoid audio feedback. As a host or co-host of the meeting from your laptop, you can:

  • Add live transcription to your meeting.
  • Pause and restart the video recording.
  • Initiate and manage breakout rooms.
  • Expand the chat window on your laptop view so you can more easily monitor and respond to chats.
  • Check audio or other Zoom functionality as a regular meeting participant.
  • Launch polls.

Join from your smartphone. Mute the phone microphone and speaker when using the podium mic, and vice versa, to avoid feedback. Adding the additional microphone connection allows you to:

  • Move around the classroom without dropping audio.
  • Use the second microphone to pick up student questions that can’t be heard clearly through the default microphone.


Teaching in Inclement Weather

In inclement weather, PSU may have a delayed start, an early closure, or a full-day closure. Here’s how to:

  • Reduce impacts to class meetings and learning outcomes.
  • Accommodate hardships and safety needs — for yourself and your students.

In Advance

At the beginning of each term, discuss the University Closure Policy and Inclement Weather Procedures (Campus Closure) with your students. Include any alternative plans or instructions in your course syllabus, so students fully understand:

  • How to get closure information before traveling to campus
  • What to expect if classes are cancelled or final exams are impacted

During Inclement Weather

When PSU remains open, exercise normal flexibility and make reasonable accommodations for students who miss class, miss an exam, or don’t submit coursework as a result of inclement weather — including effects from other community closures.

When PSU is closed, don’t require or even suggest that students be on campus. This includes early closures. When a closure occurs during a class or exam, release students immediately.

In all cases, it’s important and helpful for you to communicate course expectations to concerned students. You can send your entire class an email through your PSU Gmail account.

During campus closures, OAI and OIT offices will continue remote support. You can submit a support request or chat with the OAI Faculty Support Desk Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please direct students to OIT phone or chat support.

Considerations for Online and Remote Courses

Because online and remote courses don’t require campus attendance, they may continue during inclement weather closures — at your discretion. Although your virtual class may remain open, the library and most other university buildings will be closed. Please exercise normal flexibility and make reasonable accommodation for weather related impacts such as:

  • Loss of access to Internet connections and devices, or even electricity
  • Changes in students’ and instructors’ work hours, childcare schedules, and more

Plan ahead for how you might accommodate power outages or other weather-related impacts. This could include:

  • Extending deadlines
  • Rescheduling exams
  • Recording class meetings
  • Not requiring students to have cameras on
  • Alternative learning activities instead of scheduled class meetings

No matter how you approach your remote or online class during inclement weather, remember to clearly and quickly tell students your expectations and any changes. Email and online course announcements (in D2L or in Canvas) are two good options for communicating with students.


Stream Class Sessions Remotely

Here are tips for live streaming your class sessions. They may be especially useful if you’re new to remote teaching and/or streaming, or if you’ve very recently moved your class to remote.

In general, we recommend Zoom for your virtual classroom. It has a white board, screen sharing, and other functions for real-time meetings. If you’re worried streaming from off campus won’t work for you, consider our suggestions for accommodating unique classroom setups.

Some students may not have adequate technology or Internet access to meet regularly via Zoom. Let your students know that if they can’t attend live, they can watch a recording later and email comments. We recommend planning optional synchronous sessions with regular office hours held via Zoom, email, phone, or whatever mode works best for students.

Suggested Practices

Run a practice meeting.

  • Practice using the Zoom controls. Take a look at this Zoom Cheat Sheet for a quick reference.
  • Check whether you’re clearly visible within your camera’s field of view.
  • Avoid sitting with your back to a strong light source, such as a window. If possible, place lighting in front of you and above/behind the computer screen.
  • Check your meeting plan and try any tools and resources you plan to use in the session.

Then, at the start of your first session with students, make sure everyone can hear and see you.

Set expectations for remote participation.

Let students know your expectations about:

  • Whether to chat their comments/questions or chime in verbally.
  • Using the “Raise Hand” button in the “Participants” section to alert you to a question.
  • Chatting with peers during a session.
  • Keeping their audio and video muted until it’s time to talk — along with why and when you would use your ability to mute or unmute them.

Give specific instructions for using Zoom tools.

For example:

  • “I will present some slides. Please wait until I ask for questions before speaking.”
  • “If you have a question, use the ‘raise hand’ button so everyone can get their questions answered.”
  • “Following my comments, we will discuss the course material for today. If you have a comment, please make a note in chat so we can give you the floor.”
  • “Please mute your microphone when not speaking — and mute your microphone and video whenever you are away from the computer.”

Communicate the session’s goals.

Post the goals and/or outline of the session so students can stay on track.

  • Begin each session by briefly going over the agenda. You can do this by screen sharing a document or slide on your desktop.
  • Consider giving a quick Zoom Poll at the beginning of the session to gauge how students are doing or to ask a few low-risk questions about the topic of the day.

Structure your presentations.

  • If you plan to give a presentation, build in plenty of time for students to ask questions or respond.
  • Prepare students during an initial orientation or introductions. For example, during introductions students can practice muting, unmuting and using the “raise hand” function.

Wrap up your session.

As you might in a campus classroom, summarize the key points of the session and prepare students for what to do before the next session, leaving time for questions. We strongly recommend including this information in writing. It will assist remote students and save you time in answering questions.

Suggestions for Engaging Students

Consider polling.

Before the session, you might create a quick Google Form survey and send it to students via email with up to three questions about students’ experiences relevant to the topic, or their reaction to a portion of the reading. For example:

  • “What daily transportation challenges most impact you?”
  • “What do your readings suggest are the three most important research areas in transportation and supply logistics?”
  • “What supply logistic management issues do you see as most relevant to the Covid-19 situation?”

During the session, you can use Zoom Polling.

Incorporate students’ responses.

Students are often very interested in and learn much from how others respond. You can summarize, either in writing or verbally, what you learned from student polls. If possible, you might incorporate students’ responses as you move through related topics in the session.

If possible, share visuals.

Slides, websites, graphics or brief videos can illustrate and underscore the goals of your session, and can provide a springboard for discussion with students. Whenever possible, give students access to the files you’ll use during your remote session so they can review and reference as needed. You can share these before the session — or during, using Zoom’s Screen Share feature.

Try to keep it active.

You can engage students during live remote sessions by involving them in:

  • Testing or applying ideas
  • Generating examples
  • Reflecting on course activities

OAI’s Active Remote Learning Kit has more strategies for involving students in live streaming sessions.

Pro Tips

We’re all learning to work remotely. OAI staff have developed some tips to ease common challenges in streaming from home.

  • If you can, use a wired connection (not Wi-Fi) to your modem or router. If you can’t, set up your workspace close to it.
  • Ask others in your location to take a break from Internet use, or at least from Internet gaming, to ease the system load during your session.
  • Restart your computer before the session. This will clear the memory and help the computer run Zoom more efficiently.
  • Do a test session to try your camera, microphone, and any features you want to use.
  • If you experience glitches during the session, ask yourself, “How much will this impact class?” Little things may not be worth the worry.
  • “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?” It’s surprising how often refreshing the page/stopping and restarting the screenshare/leaving and re-entering the meeting will fix things.
  • “Have you tried unplugging and plugging it back in?” Likewise, you can often clear up an errant headphone connection or video signal by reseating the cable!

If glitches happen…

You and your students are embarking on a new experience together, and they will be forgiving. Develop a backup plan just in case things go awry. For example, you could:

  • Temporarily phone into your class until you restart your computer and get back on Wi-Fi.
  • Move to a backup discussion tool if something in Zoom does not work.

Student feedback data shows that audio is key to student understanding and participation. Audio backup is a must.

Most of all, be kind to yourself! Your first face-to-face teaching session probably wasn’t perfect either.


Flexible Teaching Strategies

When adapting your course to a new format, it can help to review instructional strategies. This article looks at different ways to provide content, peer learning, and student inquiry activities. In a traditional course classroom activities are synchronous (everyone is present at the same time). That includes lectures, discussions, labs, and small group work. Activities that are usually asynchronous include reading, media viewing, and homework.

With technology, teaching strategies that are usually synchronous can become asynchronous and vice-versa. For example, you can break lectures into short videos and have students view them online. Reading can become a peer activity using a shared annotation tool like Hypothes.is. Below are some strategies to help you stay flexible and explore new options.

Content Strategies

Sharing knowledge with students through written and media content is often the backbone of academic teaching. The challenge is to help them care about and question that material in productive ways. Students learn better when they feel your enthusiasm and insight. They’ll also learn more when you connect new ideas with their prior experience and knowledge.

Suggested Guidelines

Deliver or record your presentations in 15 minute “chapters” interspersed with activities. This is particularly important for challenging reading material or presentations. Some examples of what to record:

  • Demonstrate a procedure, project, or method of reasoning.
    • Show examples of the kind of work you want students to produce.
    • Explain abstract content with practical examples or case studies.
    • Show students a solved challenge and give them a new, partially-solved problem to complete individually or in groups.
    • Present recorded field work, subject-expert interviews, or sample project work.
  • Focus on introducing, roadmapping, sparking curiosity, and integrating new material with previous topics and course activities.
  • Motivate students by displaying enthusiasm for and showing the relevance of the material to real-world applications and students’ current and future lives. Students learn and remember new material when it’s presented in relation to things they already know (or think they know) about.
  • Introduce a new topic by walking through its sequenced components and methods. Build toward increasing complexity. Ideally, teach the steps in the same sequence that students must perform them.
  • Give students the most help and rapid feedback early on, followed by prompts for independent inquiry instead of direct instruction.

Note: Explore the wide range of available media and Open Educational Resources. Don’t reinvent the wheel, but address any differences between your perspective or knowledge and those presented in the external media.

Activity Ideas

Many of these are adapted from Todd Finley’s 53 ways to check for students’ understanding of course material. Students could:

  • Use audio or video to record questions and interpretations, or to amplify the course material.
  • Identify the theory or idea the material is advancing. Then identify an opposite theory and how that framework presents a different perspective.
  • Create a concept map connecting the new material to topics already covered in class.
  • List the three most interesting, controversial, or resonant ideas you found in the material and record/write a short rationale for the selection.
  • List 10 key words from the material and write/record a summary based on these words.
  • Write three substantive questions related to the content and share them with the class.
  • Summarize the author’s or presenter’s position or objective. What are its assumptions or preconceptions?
  • Identify the main point, and arguments or evidence for and against it.
  • Choose three key words or concepts from the material and define them.
  • Create a collage or video around the material’s themes, and briefly describe their choices.

Peer Learning Strategies

Students create more personalized learning experiences by engaging with each other. They often feel more comfortable asking questions and can gain deeper knowledge by explaining concepts. Peer-to-peer learning is very flexible — it can take place both synchronously and asynchronously.

Suggested Guidelines

  • Give students a clear understanding of the purpose of paired or group work. It can make students anxious or irritated, but is very effective when students feel it’s relevant and useful.
  • Interactions in class are often skewed toward more confident students. You can assign roles or have students change roles to make sure all voices are heard.
  • Address grading anxiety by making peer work low-stakes or having each student produce an artifact for individual assessment (not just a group grade).
  • Designate time within the weekly workload for students to discuss and collaborate on the group activity.

Activity Ideas

  • Have students pair up and peer review each step in a multi-step project for feedback and help (“workshop” each incremental step).
  • Pair or group students and have each address a different question or challenge. Have them share answers in a Google Doc, a discussion thread, or in synchronous breakout rooms with a shared worksheet that all groups use. This allows groups to observe each other’s work.
  • Use pairs or small groups in which each student peer teaches one concept, process, or method in their own words, and gets feedback from their peers. This can be done via Zoom or video recordings.
  • Use problem-, case-, or project-based activities divided into clearly defined contribution roles and then workshopped or presented as a group. Grade each contribution individually to reduce anxiety. This can be done via Zoom or video recordings.
  • Collaborative written reports in which each student in a group contributes one topic. This is an “authentic” exercise since workplace writing is often team-produced.
  • Have students post “One thing I understood well” and “One thing that’s still unclear” in a discussion forum. Use one student’s post as help on a topic. This lets them peer teach and highlights any topics you need to review.

Student Inquiry Strategies

Inquiry-based approaches let students discover knowledge rather than having it presented. Discovery generates better learning retention, particularly when assisted by timely guidance (Halpern & Hakel, 2003). Used across disciplines, this approach helps students learn to do scholarship rather than absorb it. Communicating findings is a key part of this process.

Suggested Guidelines

  • Inquiry learning is question-based rather than thesis-based. Spend time fostering good questions and projects. Help make them relevant to personal, social, or community issues along with course learning outcomes.
  • Students formulate new knowledge by associating it with and refining existing knowledge. Make sure you have a good benchmark understanding of what your students know, so you can give them appropriate challenges.
  • Give students inquiry or research projects before presenting a full explanatory framework. The students’ work will generate questions, making them want the explanations you present afterwards.
  • Inquiry is particularly effective when students can share their plans with other students for discussion and feedback.
  • Inquiry is most effective when students have a degree of control over their work. Try letting them choose the specific path or topic they pursue. Give them resources and guidelines instead of step-by-step directions.

Activity Ideas

  • Have students formulate a question that takes them into their environment to document evidence (social, environmental, aesthetic, political). Field-based experiential inquiry lets students connect their work to a community rather than abstract values.
  • Create a media literacy challenge for your course subject. Have students find media examples and create a process to evaluate them.
  • Have students write or revise interview questions for a subject matter expert in the community. The interview can be audio, a recorded video meeting, or an email exchange. This can also be an oral history interview.
  • Structure a group project or experiment in which each student suggests strategies, and have the group vote on the approach(es) taken. This provides a realistic experience of workplace constraints and collaboration.
  • Use a Design Thinking model to research a particular problem (physical, social, environmental), collect data, and create a prototype solution. Have students or groups present conclusions for whole-class discussion.
  • Have students find a historical artifact relevant to your course topic and analyze it using a rubric.

References

Halpern, D. F., & Hakel, M. D. (2003). Applying the Science of Learning to the University and Beyond: Teaching for Long-Term Retention and Transfer. Change, 35(4), 36–41. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40165500


Designing a Hybrid or Blended Course

In blended and hybrid courses (with the two terms used interchangeably in this article), students complete activities both in the classroom and online. Online activities typically prepare, supplement or assess in-class work. Online activities can also invite engagement and exploration in the open web or within closed digital learning environments such as a Learning Management System forum discussion board or collaborating on a Google document. Blended learning creates opportunities for students to engage with content and each other digitally in addition to learning in the face-to-face environment. Designing online activities and experiences that operate in tandem with face-to-face learning promotes activities that explore real-world problems (informal and formal), can be “problem-based” learning and develop relevant digital skills that support learners to co-create knowledge.

Digital Activities

As you design learning experiences for a blended course, you have the web as an additional classroom space to support your face-face course activities and content sharing. Offering activities online in conjunction with in-class experiences raising students’ digital literacy, and addresses multiple learning preferences. Digital activities such as going on a “digital field trip” where students conduct research, engage in a discovery activity or analyze web content can support multiple learning goals. Educators can also design activities that require interaction and engagement online that enhance the community of learning already established in class. Examples include using annotation tools (for example, Hypothes.is) to annotate websites and online articles, co-edit a Wikipedia page, create and comment on public blogs, build an eportfolio, collaborate on creating a digital document, infographic, website, podcast, or video.

Even though classroom time is available to facilitate discussion and meaning-making, educators can design online forum discussions in small groups to take in-class discussions to a different level or add additional engagement opportunities to the course content. Creating opportunities for digital exploration and engagement increases digital fluency for life-long learning and can enhance comprehension.

Strategic Activity Design

When designing assignments and activities,, consider both the in-class learning environment and the online learning environments to create deeper and more diverse learning opportunities. This often opens up a new way of teaching and co-creating communities of learning.

Educators who plan effective in-class activities that run in tandem with activities online will find that students’ motivation and engagement increases. This is also true when digital learning spaces are presented as just as important as the in-classroom space. This is best achieved when the digital space is designed to be connective and collaborative. One such activity to enhance connection and collaboration is dividing students into project groups for discussion and projects. Requiring student-led discussions or annotation activities and designing question prompts that are meaningfully relevant and/or reflective can foster online communities of learning as well. Starting off the term with a personal share or declaration of course goals is a great way to build community and connection early on that can lead to easier interdependence and motivation for collaboration later in the term.

Instructors might use in-person meetings to tackle difficult course concepts, provide lectures, facilitate group/lab work and in-class presentations. Students have access to an accompanying online course shell, 24/7, hosted on the learning management system. The online course shell is used for course content, assignment submissions, videos, readings, participating in discussions, submitting quizzes, exams and accessing the gradebook tool. The logistics of course administration and ease of giving students timely feedback can be a great time saver for faculty. Students prefer the flexibility of reviewing course content anytime, anywhere on their mobile devices and using the course tools, such as the assignment dropbox, discussion tool and quick access to the library widget.

As you plan activities and weigh which activities to move online and which to implement face to face, consider the following:

  • Identify potential challenging content areas in the course, and consider what new online resources can support students learning complex concepts.
  • Design your assignments first and consider what smaller activities will support their success (scaffolding). Which ones can be done online?
  • Ask if content can be given through a recorded lecture watched before or after class. This can act as a prompt for in-class activities or enhance concepts from class time.
  • Is the labor involved in the online experience appropriate?
  • Is the activity or content clearly outlined and presented? Why are they doing it?
  • Does the activity or content you present match your learning outcomes and is it realistic for your student population to succeed? Consider technical capacities, collaborative skills, and communication styles when designing and planning for alternatives. It’s possible that you may not know your student population well enough to determine success but having an open and adaptive mind will help you navigate these choices and create just-in-time solutions.

The most effective and engaging blended courses create digital learning experiences that enhance course content and provide opportunities for students to create, connect, and collaborate. Success is often achieved when educators make strong connections between learning that occurs in the classroom and learning that occurs online. Educators can place self-paced activities online as preparation for class or design activities for meaning — making and reflection to build a cohesive and well-balanced blended learning environment.