Teaching Strategies

Jump to: Ready-made survey | Promoting engagement | Implementing discussions | Moving in-class activities online | Planning fixed (Zoom) classes | Enhancing student wellness | Implementing strategies | Remote experiential learning

 

Interested in surveying your students for the Fall term?

You can now use a ready-made survey available in myCourses to ask students questions about what time zone they will be studying in, if they have the system requirements to participate in Zoom, and what concerns them about remote learning.

  1. Access this survey by logging in to myCourses and copying the survey entitled ‘Remote Learning Survey – Fall 2020’ from ‘TLS - Shared Course Components’ into your course(s). Instructions on how to copy a course component are available here in PDF format.
  2. Once you have copied the survey to your course, you will be able to edit it and add questions relevant to your course. Note: Only make changes to the survey after you have copied it into your course. For information on how to add questions to myCourses Surveys, see this article in the IT Knowledge Base.

More TLS-created course components that you can import into your course will be available in the future. Stay tuned.

 

Looking for guidelines on how to promote engagement in remote coursework?

This section lists five guidelines with concrete strategies to consider when adapting your course for remote delivery. This information can help you start thinking about what would work in your context, but keep in mind that the main principle at work as we approach the new academic year is to keep it simple. Choosing to implement even one new strategy may make a big difference, so there is no quota for the number of strategies—it’s important to adapt to your course context. You may choose one of the strategies mentioned or be inspired to create your own.

1: Promote a sense of belonging

  • Start the semester by creating an introductory survey. Ask students about their background knowledge, access to technology, and anticipated challenges. Find out what you need to know to help them succeed.
  • Share your story. Create a sense of togetherness by telling students how your life has been disrupted by COVID-19, and invite them to do the same.
  • Explore methods for gathering and responding to student feedback (office hours, one-minute papers, mid-semester feedback, etc.)
  • Offer options. Consider that students now may be in different time zones, have limited data plans, and no Wi-Fi, or may not have a quiet space to work, so provide more than one way to participate in classroom activities and complete assignments.
  • Pay attention to students who experience barriers to being part of the class community (access, disability, living situation due to COVID-19). For example, check that you are using technology that is accessible for students with disabilities. This resource provides information about assistive technology that has been made freely available during COVID-19.
  • Engage student mentors and/or TAs to provide small-group and individualized support to students.

2: Clearly outline course expectations

  • Send a welcome email before the first day of class to greet students, convey important information, and set a positive tone for the semester.
  • Add new sections to the typical course outline that address the current situation. For example, state how you will communicate with students, how they can reach you, how the course will happen (e.g., a mix of lectures at regularly scheduled class times and activities in myCourses), whether lectures will be recorded, and what students need to do to engage fully in learning. In addition, let students know how to access course resources and get technical help.
  • Establish norms for class participation and communicate these clearly. For example, if you are using Zoom, decide if students should speak up or if they should use the “raise hand” feature or another signal. You may also ask students to co-create these norms.
  • Use myCourses to communicate regularly with students by sending individual email messages or posting Announcements for the whole class. For example, you might begin each week with a message highlighting key ideas to be addressed and student work to be completed. (Read more in Using Announcements to Give Narrative Shape to your Online Course.) Note that students can set up Notifications in myCourses so that they know when you post new information for them.
  • For variety, consider recording the occasional short audio or video message to communicate the tasks students should be working on and those that should be completed. Encourage them to reply with an audio or video message of their own. All of this can happen in myCourses.

3: Use technology that is easy to access

  • Favour content delivery that allows students flexible access so that students with poor or limited internet access can still participate fully.
  • Start small with adding new technologies. For example, if you would like to integrate video into your course, consider using a smartphone to record casual, 90-second videos of yourself giving a class update. You may also invite students to post brief video responses (using their phones) on your myCourses discussion board.
  • Maintain students’ attention by breaking online lectures into segments of approximately 12 minutes or less. If you are lecturing in a remote class setting, separate these segments with individual or small group activities.

4: Promote the exchange of ideas

  • Ask students to co-create course content by having them create short videos explaining key concepts or writing multiple choice questions for quizzes.
  • Help students to engage online in meaningful dialogue—simply telling students to talk to one another is not sufficient. For example, provide instructions that require students to reply directly to the comment of another, and/or to synthesize the comments of several students and then add something new.
  • Create opportunities for students to process the moment by linking course content to current events.

5: Provide meaningful assessment and feedback

  • Include mechanisms for self-reflection. For example, have students fill out a rubric as a self-reflective exercise and include this when submitting an assignment. You can create rubrics in myCourses.
  • Create materials that can be re-used for either remote or classroom-based teaching in the future.
  • Improve the chances that everything will run smoothly for high-stakes assignments by assigning low-stakes assignments beforehand where you and students can test out the system. For more information, visit this webpage and see Principle #3 for Shifting Your Assessments to a Remote Teaching Environment.
  • Build in flexibility: allow students to choose from a collection of assignments and/or provide options for the weighting of assignments.
  • Offer students options over a certain portion of their grade. For example, you may allow them to drop one quiz, choose between different assessment types or choose among multiple due dates. For an example, visit this webpage and see Evaluation Scheme #2.
  • If you use polling during a remote class to engage students and informally assess their learning, consider adding a survey to myCourses with the same questions so you can reach students who cannot attend the class at the regularly scheduled time. Students’ responses to these questions can help you keep track of student progress and highlight which course concepts you may need to revisit.
Additional resources

 

Wondering about recommended practices for planning and implementing myCourses discussions?

Good reasons exist for having students participate in myCourses discussions. They encourage students to:

  • Engage with course content
  • Exchange ideas with peers
  • Practice expressing ideas (prior to larger assignments)
  • Reflect on and develop responses
  • Develop interpersonal connections
  • Stay on track with course content

    (Aloni  & Harrington, 2018) 

 

However, fostering productive and meaningful discussions in myCourses can be challenging. We’ve put together some strategies to help you plan and implement effective discussions in your courses.

Planning

  • Consider why you are implementing online discussions and how discussions will support the learning outcomes you have set for your course.
  • Consider what group size will be most effective in your course: whole class discussions, small group discussions, or a mix throughout the semester are all possible.
  • Articulate your expectations for student participation by providing explicit instructions that include, for example:
    • the type of intellectual engagement (e.g., building on peers’ ideas; providing evidence for claims)
    • the number of posts
    • the length and format of posts
    • the opening and closing dates for each discussion
  • Set simple and consistent expectations about students’ responsibilities so student can focus on the substance of what they need to do rather than the how and when (Ives 2020).
  • Include example posts along with the instructions so students can see what they need to do.
  • Allow students multiple opportunities to participate so they can develop their skill with this type of engagement.
  • Give discussion assignments a name in the course outline that captures what you hope students will gain from participating. Rather than “Online Participation” or “Online Discussion,” consider names such as “Community knowledge building” or “Deepening understanding through discussion.”
  • Integrate discussions into the overall course content. For example, if you’ve organized your course content in myCourses according to modules, link the discussion forums to the appropriate module.
  • Assessment and feedback:
    • Assign a grade to provide extrinsic motivation for participation. A weight of 10-20% is recommended (deNoyelles, Zydney & Chen, 2014). If myCourses discussions are part of a participation mark that exceeds 10% of students’ final grade, keep in mind article 3.1.6 of McGill’s Student Assessment Policy.
    • Let students know how their posts will be assessed. Some considerations:

Implementing

Encourage effective participation:

  • Link the brief Getting the Most Out of myCourses Discussion Forums video to myCourses and encourage students to watch it.
  • Enhance active participation with these strategies and sample phrases: Moderating [complex, meaningful] discussions
  • Remind students to look at the example posts you provided with the instructions.
  • Pose questions that are open-ended (no single right answer), meaningful, and debatable (Simons, 2018) so that discussion is truly merited.
  • Post prompts in a variety of formats: text, images, video, and audio.

Clarify the roles of all those involved in moderating discussions:

  • Will your role involve posing questions? Intervening if the conversation goes off topic or becomes disrespectful? Answering questions?
  • What will the TA’s role involve?
  • What is students’ role? For example, students can be responsible collectively for keeping the conversation going; individual students can be responsible for moderating on a rotation basis; or one student can be responsible for starting the discussion and another for summarizing it (University of Waterloo, n.d.).

References

Aloni, M., & Harrington, C. (2018). Research-based practices for improving the effectiveness of asynchronous online discussion boards. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 4(4), 271-289. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/stl0000121

Darby, F. (2020, August 24). The secret weapon of good online teaching: Discussion forums. The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/the-secret-weapon-of-good-online-teaching-discussion-forums

deNoyelles, A., Zydney, J., & Chen, B. (2014). Strategies for creating a community of inquiry through online asynchronous discussions. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 153-165. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol10no1/denoyelles_0314.pdf

Ives, K. (2020, April 1). Moving classes online is hard. Online discussion can help. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2020/04/01/how-cultivate-student-collaboration-and-engagement-online-learning-opinion

Simon, E. (2018, Nov. 21). 10 Tips for effective online discussions. EDUCAUSE Review: Transforming Higher Ed. https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2018/11/10-tips-for-effective-online-discussions

University of Waterloo. (n.d.). Collaborative online learning: Fostering effective discussions. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo. https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/alternatives-lecturing/discussions/online-discussions-tips-for-instructors

 

Wondering how to transform your in-class activities into online activities?

Go to “Comparing in-person and remote learning activities” and scroll down the page to the table. Note that synchronous options would happen in "fixed" time and asynchronous options would happen in "flexible" time. Excerpt from the table (Fensie, 2020):

Instructional Need In Class Activities Synchronous Distance Options in Zoom Asynchronous Distance Options
Assessing and/or activating prior knowledge
  • Entrance tickets: Ask students to write down what they already know about the topic
  • Have a conversation about what students may know
  • Review earlier content/connections
  • Screen share a prompt or question while you wait for students to log in
  • Ask about previous knowledge in chat, for students to respond to
  • Create a guiding question or prompt before the content to help student contextualize
  • Create a checklist or a short video or text reminder of what was previously covered
Introduce students to content
  • Lecture
  • Presentation
  • Demonstration or whiteboard work
  • Reading
  • Lecture via Zoom
  • Screen share to present your PowerPoint
  • Use white boarding in Zoom or a document camera, and pen & paper
  • Read a passage over Zoom
  • Record an audio recording in 5-10 minute increments
  • Post written lecture notes
  • Create a presentation video
  • Add worksheets, or create a short video demonstrating a process
  • Assign Reading

 

Wondering how to adapt your classes to Zoom sessions?

The four examples below illustrate how classes can be adapted to fixed (live) sessions in Zoom. Each example begins with a summary, which is followed by a description of what would happen before (if applicable), during, and after the session. We imagine you will adapt the examples by adding, removing or substituting activities to best support student learning in your course(s).

When planning fixed sessions, instructors should keep in mind that students may be attending several classes in a day. Holding Zoom sessions that are shorter than the scheduled on-campus 90-minute and 3-hour class times may be preferable. The examples illustrate fixed sessions of 60 minutes or less. We recommend that you adjust the allotted times to suit your teaching context.

In each example:

  • Asterisks (*) denote opportunities for creating parallel activities in myCourses Discussions so that students who can not attend fixed sessions can participate in flexible time.
  • TA in superscript (TA) denotes tasks, such as moderating the chat and managing breakout rooms, that you might want to assign to a TA. (Note that you must assign TAs the “Host” role if you would like them to manage breakout rooms.) If you don’t have a TA, you can certainly manage these tasks on your own.

The examples involve breakout rooms in Zoom. Note that:

A lion stretchingSince sitting at a computer and being online for extended periods may cause students physical discomfort and “Zoom fatigue,” consider suggesting to students that they take a break and perhaps do a physical stretch at the end of each Zoom session.

(Photo credit: Yathin S Krishnappa; photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.)

 

Examples

1: Interactive lecture

This largely lecture-based session incorporates several interactive lecture strategies, including a modified version of the 10-2 interactive lecture strategy. This session may be especially well suited for large classes.


During the session (~50 minutes)
Minutes What How Details

5

Welcome and check-in

Type in chat or raise hand to speak*

Share with students how you’re doing and allow students to do the same.

12

Situating and lecture

 

Show an illustration on screen that situates today’s content in the course so far. Introduce content.

1

Think break

 

Ask a question. Allow 20 seconds for students to think about it before you go on to address it.

10

Lecture

 

Address the question as you continue with content.

5

Picture prompt*

Give students a few minutes to think and then have them type in chat or raise hand to speak*.

 

Alternative: Randomly assign students to breakout roomsTA.

Show students an image—related to course content—with no explanation. Ask them to identify/explain it and justify their answers.

If you opt for the breakout rooms alternative, allow time afterward for students to report back and share their ideas.

12

Lecture and wrap up

 

Address students’ responses to the image as you continue with content. Summarize the session activities. Let students know what to prepare for the next class meeting. Direct students to homework instructions in myCourses.

5

Exit cards*

Post to a myCourses discussion forum and then exit class.

Show on the screen or write on the whiteboard a prompt that relates to the day’s topic(s) or anticipates upcoming content. Ask students to respond to the prompt in myCourses. Decide whether you would like submissions to be anonymous. (Anonymous submissions can be enabled in myCourses.)


After the session
  • If you would like to keep a record of student interaction during the Zoom session, save the chat transcript in a folder related to your course.
  • Review students’ exit cards.

2: Interactive lecture and small group discussion

This example incorporates interactive lecture—with polling—and small group discussion. This session can work well in any type of class.


During the session (~55 minutes)

(Adapted from a University of Minnesota example)

Minutes

What

How

Details

5

Welcome and check-in

Type in chat or raise hand to speak*

Share with students how you’re doing and allow students to do the same.

2

Introduction of topic

Poll*

Ask a question that engages students by making the topic personally relevant to them.

10

Lecture

 

Use the annotation features in Zoom to mark up your slides.

2

Knowledge probe

Poll*

Ask one of more questions to check students’ knowledge of an important concept/theory.

10

Small group discussion*

Randomly assign students to breakout rooms.TA

Ask students to address the polling question(s). Each group should appoint a “reporter” to summarize the main points of their discussion. (If this activity occurs frequently throughout the semester, students should be encouraged to rotate the role of “reporter.”)

10

Debrief

Report in chat or raise hand to speak*

With students back in the main Zoom room, comment as appropriate on what students report.

2

Muddiest point

Type in chat*

 

Ask students to write what seemed most confusing to them – the “muddiest point” of the class session. Encourage students to be specific when identifying the source of confusion.

Alternatively, have students submit their “muddiest points” to you through myCourses. Begin the next class by reviewing selected “muddiest points” and using students’ feedback as entry points for discussion of areas that multiple students found to be unclear. With this option, the following debrief can be eliminated.

10

Debrief

 

Address the areas of confusion.

5

Wrap up and next steps

 

Summarize the session activities. Let students know what to prepare for the next class meeting. Direct students to homework instructions in myCourses.


After the session
  • If you would like to keep a record of student interaction during the Zoom session, save the chat transcript in a folder related to your course.
  • Review students’ “muddiest points.”

3: Student interaction and discussion

This example illustrates a strategy that encourages students to prepare for a high level of student interaction through small group discussion. This session may be especially well suited for seminars and conferences.


Before the session
  • Assign students a text to read or a video to watch, along with the task of identifying the three most important aspects for them and the two most confusing aspects for them (this is a variation of the 3-2-1 strategy).
  • In myCourses, create group-restricted discussion topicsTA, where students will post the important aspects and aspects of confusion.
  • Let students know you will ask them to access myCourses during the fixed session.

During the session (~60 min)

Minutes

What

How

Details

5

Welcome and check-in

Type in chat or raise hand to speak*

Share with students how you’re doing and allow students to do the same.

3

Situating

 

Show an illustration on screen that situates today’s content in the course so far.

5

Reading

myCourses Discussion forum

Ask students to read their group members’ important aspects and aspects of confusion in myCourses.

20

Small-group discussion

Break students into pre-assigned breakout roomsTA (same groups as in the myCourses group-restricted discussion)

Ask students to:

  1. reach consensus on the three most important aspects and post their agreed-upon list to myCourses;
  2. help each other understand the confusing aspects;
  3. make a list of confusing aspects that could not be resolved and post the list to myCourses.

15

Debrief/mini-lecture

Students can post questions by typing in chat TA or raising hand to speak*

With students back in the main Zoom room, recap important aspects; address remaining areas of confusion; emphasize connections between key course concepts and the assigned reading/video; provide examples to enhance student understanding.

5

One-sentence summary

Type in chat or raise hand to speak*

Ask students to summarize the day’s topic in one sentence.

5

Wrap up and next steps

Poll*

Pose a question that will pique students’ curiosity about upcoming course content. Let students know what to prepare for the next class meeting. Direct students to homework instructions in myCourses.


After the session
  • If you would like to keep a record of student interaction during the Zoom session, save the chat transcript in a folder related to your course.
  • Review students’ one-sentence summaries.
  • Review students’ responses to the polling question.

4: Problem-solving practice in groups

This example illustrates how class time can be structured for students to practice problem solving. Timing will depend heavily on the nature of the problems. This session may be especially well suited for conferences and tutorials.


Before the session
  • Assign students problems to solve. The type of problem you assign (e.g., case study, scenario, equation, experimental design question) will depend on your discipline. The number of problems you assign in this session may depend on the type of problem.
  • Ask students to submit their solutions to you through the Assignments tool in myCourses. Ensure students are aware of the submission deadline by putting a link in the myCourses Calendar and/or creating a myCourses Announcement. Explain to students that this submission should be their best attempt and it will not be assessed. In class, students will work with peers to solve the problems. After class, they will have the opportunity to revise their solutions and resubmit them for assessment. Let students know that only submissions from students who submitted an initial ‘best attempt’ will be assessed. This condition should motivate students to submit their best attempt even though it will not be assessed.

During the session (~60 min)

Minutes

What

How

Details

5

Welcome and check-in

Type in chat or raise hand to speak*

Share with students how you’re doing and allow students to do the same.

10

Problem 1: Peer feedback and brainstorming

Randomly assign students to breakout roomsTA in pairs or groups of three for peer feedback on their solutions. Students can orally describe their solutions or share text on their screens.

Ask students to get feedback from each other on their respective solutions and brainstorm alternative solutions. Depending on the problem type, it may be appropriate to provide students with questions to guide the peer feedback.

(See guidelines for engaging students in peer feedback on pp. 7-10 of this resource document.)

15

Debrief

Report in chat or raise hand to speak*

With students back in the main Zoom room, ask for solutions and questions.

10

Problem 2: Peer feedback and brainstorming

Randomly assign students to breakout roomsTA in pairs or groups of three for peer feedback on their solutions. Students can orally describe their solutions or share text on their screens.

Ask students to get feedback from each other on their respective solutions and brainstorm alternative solutions.

 

15

Debrief

Report in chat or raise hand to speak*

With students back in the main Zoom room, ask for solutions and questions.

5

Wrap up and next steps

 

Let students know what to prepare for the next class meeting. Direct students to homework instructions in myCourses: They should revise their solutions and submit them through the Assignments tool in myCourses.


After the session
  • Students revise their solutions and resubmit them for assessment.
  • If you would like to keep a record of student interaction during the Zoom session, save the chat transcript in a folder related to your course.

 

Looking for tips to enhance student wellness?

Click on the graphic below to download a PDF version. 📄

Image by Teaching and Learning Services.

 

Have an instructional purpose in mind and not sure how to implement it online?

Go to the General Teaching Tools table to find out.

 

Thinking about assigning your students remote experiential learning activities?

  • For commercial kits, make arrangements directly with the McGill Bookstore by contacting patrick.mcgovern [at] mcgill.ca (Patrick McGovern).
  • For do-it-yourself kits, submit this form to obtain approval from your Chair for low-risk activities or from your Chair and the Associate Provost, Teaching and Programs, for medium-risk activities.

 


McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous people whose footsteps have marked this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.


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