Online teaching strategies we can bring back to the classroom

The fall term is underway, and campus is hopping! At McGill, nearly all classes are taking place in person once more. With the start of a new academic year comes an opportunity to look back on instructional strategies that have worked well that we might use again. Many of the strategies that instructors of large classes have used in online courses over the past couple of years can work just as well when teaching in person. In this blog post, you’ll discover strategies for assessment, teaching, and logistics that colleagues from multiple disciplines shared at the Large Class Teaching Exchange in 2021 and 2022. Though these strategies were discussed in the context of large online classes, they can be adapted to in-person classes of any size. Which of these strategies pique your interest? 

Assessment Strategies 

The three assessment strategies described below include variations on implementing lower-stakes quizzes, and opportunities for students to assess their work before submitting it:

1. Regular quizzes, drop the lowest grade (video alternative


a. Assign multiple quizzes over the term.

b. Explain to students that their lowest quiz grade will be dropped when calculating their course grade.

c. Drop the lowest quiz grade 


In a course with six quizzes, only the student’s five best quiz grades count towards their course grade.

(Strategy shared by Mary Hendrickson and Sandy Phillips, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences)

2. Coin flip quizzes (video alternative


a. Have a one-question quiz ready to share with students, based on that day’s readings.

b. At the beginning of class, have a student flip a coin to see if the quiz will take place or not.

c. Proceed based on the coin flip. For instance, “heads” means that there will be quiz; “tails” means that there will not be a quiz.

(Strategy shared by Manuel Balán, Faculty of Arts)

3. Self-evaluation of learning 


a. Have students reflect upon and evaluate their own work before submitting for grading.

b. Use strategies, such as 3-2-1 assignments or interactive coversheets for targeted feedback (see p. 11) to guide students. 

c. Offer students feedback on their self-evaluations either with specific individual feedback or with generalized feedback for the whole class through a class discussion.

(Strategy shared by Véronique Brulé, Faculty of Science)

Teaching Strategies 

Looking for more tried-and-true strategies? Check out the following five strategies instructors have used to promote students’ preparation for, participation in, and engagement in class discussions. They’re available on the indicated section of the Teaching Strategies web page: 

  1. Icebreaker question: Interactive Lectures page (Strategy shared by Jasmin Chahal, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences; Brahm Kleinman, Faculty of Arts; and Tamara Western, Faculty of Science
  2. Live chat: Interactive Lectures page and short video about live chat (Strategy shared by Barbara Stechysin and Jasmine Parent, Teaching and Learning Services (TLS))
  3. Journal club sessions: Discussion Generation (Strategy shared by Tamara Western, Faculty of Science)
  4. Pre-lab workflows: Class Preparedness (Strategy shared by Jasmin Chahal, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences)
  5. Guided mid-course evaluation session: Mid-course Evaluations (Strategy shared by Jovan Nedić, Faculty of Engineering, and Maria Orjuela-Laverde, TLS)

Logistical Strategies 

Have you already planned your assessment and teaching strategies, and find yourself interested in instructional logistics? Peruse these five logistical insights adapted from instructors’ experiences teaching large classes online: 

  1. Divide content among TAs: Assign TAs to specific weeks (e.g., one TA covers weeks 1-4; a second TA covers weeks 5-8). Instead of each TA having broad and shallow knowledge of all course content, each TA will have a deeper understanding of specific sections of the course. TAs may then be better equipped to support students’ learning. 
  2. Offer multiple ways to participate: Plan participation activities that allow students to contribute in and beyond class (such as online discussion boards), to increase accessibility and opportunities for students to engage.
  3. Have office hours in person and online: Hold office hours both in person and on Zoom to increase students’ access to learning support. Increased flexibility of office hours can also increase the likelihood that students will take advantage of 1:1 time with an instructor or TA.
  4. Clarify expectations regarding time allotted for assessments: If you extend the time allotted for an assessment to give students extra flexibility (e.g., students can complete a two-hour assessment within a four-hour period), sometimes students believe they should use the extra time even if they don’t need it. (Perfectionism may play a role in this belief.) Help students manage their time by clarifying your expectations for student work from the start of term, explaining why you have extended the allotted time and noting that students do not have to use all of it.
  5. Invite guest speakers: Emphasize the application of course content and enhance engagement by having guest experts in your field present their current research in class. Experts might join the class in person or via videoconferencing (e.g., Zoom, MS Teams).

We’re always keen to find out what strategies instructors are using. What is an online strategy from your own teaching that you’re transferring to your in-person class? Reach out to TLS and let us know!

Image credit: CX Insight on Unsplash

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