Student wearing headphones and looking at a laptop

Class preparedness

These strategies help ensure students come prepared for class by encouraging them to examine the course outline and complete readings.


First day course outline/myCourses scavenger hunt


  1. Display a short list of questions on the screen (or distribute on paper) that will draw students’ attention to important information in the course outline and/or to main features of the course website.
  2. Using a mobile device (e.g., laptop or tablet), have students work in pairs or small groups to search for the answers.
  3. Ask students to post the answers to a designated myCourses discussion forum.

Read a more detailed description of this strategy.


  • Where are the assignments and assessments described?
  • On which days will there be in-class quizzes?
  • What’s the policy in this course for the use of electronic devices in the classroom?
  • What does the policy on Academic Integrity say? Summarize it in 140 characters.

Questions from readings

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions


  1. Ask students to create questions on assigned readings focusing on main ideas.
  2. Instruct students to post questions before class to a myCourses discussion forum. These questions can inform your lesson planning and be used as the basis for in-class discussions.


  • Students address questions in the myCourses discussion forum prior to class.
  • Questions are assigned to small groups for in-class discussions.

3-2-1: Purposeful reading

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom


  1. Inform students which reading they need to address for this activity. Then, give students the following instructions:
    1. Describe the three most important aspects of the reading (e.g., concepts, issues, factual information), justifying your choices.
    2. Identify two aspects you don’t understand, and briefly discuss why these confusing aspects interfered with your general understanding.
    3. Compose a question that you would want to pose to the author of the text, the answer to which should go beyond the reading content and your two areas of confusion.
  2. Have students submit their 3-2-1s online through myCourses before the class where the reading will discussed.
  3. Review students’ submission before class to see what they’ve understood and what their areas of difficulty are.


  • In addition to students submitting their 3-2-1s to you, they can discuss their 3-2-1s in small groups in class and arrive at consensus for a set of group 3-2-1 responses.
  • 3-2-1 can be graded or ungraded.

Van Gyn, G. (2013, May 6). The little assignment with the big impact: Reading, writing, critical reflection, and meaningful discussion. Faculty Focus [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Test-taking teams: Readiness assurance

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions, Zoom, and Microsoft Forms


  1. Prior to class, assign a reading that addresses key concepts related to the material students will encounter in that class.
  2. Create an assessment with multiple-choice questions that address key concepts from the reading. Create the questions carefully so that the answers are not all immediately obvious and therefore require discussion.
  3. At the beginning of class, have students complete the assessment individually.
  4. Form small groups of students.
  5. In their groups, have students agree on the best answer to each question and justify their response. Groups should agree on answers via consensus rather than majority vote.
  6. Reconvene as a whole class, and ask a representative from each group to indicate the agreed-upon response.
  7. Discuss any variability in responses, addressing questions that arise. Explain that these concepts will provide the framework for the day’s class.


In an education class that addresses curriculum instruction, a question that encourages discussion and draws students’ attention to key points of the reading is posed:

Which of the following best describes the meaning of the author’s phrase “novice culture” in characterizing aspects of many universities’ approaches to improving learning?

  1. The university promotes mentoring between “novices” (students) and “experts” (instructors).
  2. Students establish their own communities of practice, assimilating knowledge from peers.
  3. Reform and improvement efforts are more often mechanical and particularistic, rather than based in systematic research and the wisdom of practice.
  4. A culture that emphasizes the role of the student as a beginner, who requires the guidance of more qualified leaders to learn.


  • Have students vote for the most suitable responses using online polling.
  • Randomly assign students to breakout rooms to complete the test in pairs, submitting one response using Microsoft Forms. Students can have the option to leave the breakout room and complete the test on their own if they prefer.

(The last variation is drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey)

Mini interviews (audio “podcasts” or videos)

Online implementation: Possible with Microsoft Forms and OneDrive


  1. Early in the term, assign pairs of students a reading, along with specific questions or prompts.
  2. Have students work in pairs to prepare a short audio- or video-recording where they describe the content and respond to the questions/prompts. The recording should take an interview format.
  3. Make recordings available to the class on myCourses. Students are expected to view/listen to classmates’ recordings prior to class and come to class with questions or ideas raised by the recordings that they wish to discuss further.


In smaller classes, students choose a course reading that interests them and indicate their choice in Microsoft Forms or collaborative document in OneDrive to avoid too many students creating recordings based on the same reading.

(Strategy drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey)

Pre-course survey

Online implementation: Possible with Microsoft Forms or myCourses Surveys*


  1. Before the start of term, survey students to gather information that can help you support their learning. For instance, ask about preferred name and pronouns, barriers they anticipate to learning, and suggestions for promoting a positive learning experience. You might also ask them to read the course outline and share questions that arise.

  2. Explain to students why you are inviting them to share this information and how you will use it.  

  3. Incorporate this information into your course planning and implementation. 


  • Circulate the survey early in the term.  

  • Explain to students specifically how you have taken their responses into consideration in your teaching so that students can see the impact of their responses. 

(Strategy drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey)

*Conduct the survey either (1) using Microsoft Forms and sending it to students via email using the Classlist, or (2) using the myCourses Survey tool (be sure to adjust the myCourses start date so students can access the survey before the start of term).

Small group reading discussions

Online implementation: Possible in Zoom


  1. At the beginning of a class, pose questions or prompts related to the assigned readings for that class.  

  2. Students address these questions or prompts in small groups.  

  3. Students take note of the ideas arising from their small group discussion. 

  4. Students share main ideas with the whole class to galvanize a larger class discussion.


  • Students take note of the main ideas arising from their small group discussion using a collaborative OneDrive document that can be uploaded to myCourses after the class.  

  • Students videorecord their small group discussion and share it with the instructor for feedback. 

(Strategy drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey)

Class preview

Online implementation: Possible in Zoom and myCourses


  1. Assign small groups of students to be responsible for providing a short oral preview of key ideas from the course materials for a given class.  

  2. Provide instructions for doing the preview, e.g., how long it should be, how group members should contribute, whether visuals should be included. The instructor can model a preview in the first class so that students see what they need to do. 


  • Students upload the short preview as a discussion post to myCourses before the class rather than presenting orally. 

  • The instructor meets with each group of students in advance of the class to provide feedback on their preview. 

(Strategy drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey)

Pre-lab workflows


  1. Create or use existing workflow videos outlining experimental techniques and equipment that students will encounter in a laboratory course (e.g., how to use a centrifuge). Such videos can help enhance student preparedness. Tools for videos include Labster simulations, and Camtasia for video editing (short tutorials available). Consult Tools to support teaching and learning for further information.
  2. Ensure that videos highlight key experimental/technical steps, emphasize discipline-specific safety precautions, include common mistakes that students should avoid making, and are short.
  3. Pair these videos with a short quiz to assess student preparedness before they undertake laboratory experiments.


(Strategy shared by instructor Jasmin Chahal, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, at McGill’s Large Class Teaching Exchange)



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