Create on-line or remotely designed activities to enhance the experience students have in the large, remote on-campus classes.


  • Provide experiences that enhance campus life while doing so safely. Use online activities with smaller groups of students to build camaraderie and teamwork.
  • Large classes should be more than a large lecture and in-class exams, they should touch on themes that envelop the student’s experience during the semester. They should reach into activities that go beyond the 2 to 3 hours a week spent in lectures. Seize opportunities to incorporate developments outside the classroom into the class.
  • Large classes should serve as anchors that orient intellectual life during the semester. Look for ways for students to engage socially with each other based on their interest or experience in the class.
  • To the greatest extent possible, instructors should use online activities in ways that are consistent across campus. This means using technologies or software or platforms supported and vetted by OIT (specific examples and links to information are given below).


  • Develop an introduction to class or syllabus quiz and/or homework that students take within the first several days of the term.
    • This quiz can be an opportunity for students to tell you about themselves, their major, interests, reasons for taking this class, etc. Depending on the number of students and TAs, you might opt for a mix of multiple choice and written responses.
    • Ask students to describe or identify key course policies, such as penalties for late assignments, honor code violations, the basic logistics of the course itself, and the logistics of using the platforms/software that will be required.
    • Ask students to confirm who their TA is (if applicable) and whether they have access to the course textbook yet.
    • Ask students to describe their prior experience with the course subject matter and readings, and to explain their learning goals for the course.
    • This quiz is also a good place to ask what questions students have about the class.
    • Use this quiz or homework or a separate survey to identify, as early in the semester as possible, students who feel they don’t have sufficient resources to participate in online activities, such as a good WiFi connection, a proper device(s), a safe and private place to work, etc.
  • Find ways to get students using the technology early and often so that they’re comfortable with it; and instructor comfort too!
  • Leverage the benefits of the online format. For example, students can do independent research and gather certain kinds of data when online. They can collaborate on Google Docs or explore with Google Earth.
  • • Don’t try to make an online activity be just like a physical classroom. Explore possibilities that online offers that aren’t feasible for in-person class time, such as having students (individually or in small groups) work on different texts or assignments or problems (but see notes above and below about supported platforms).
  • • Set clear expectations, provide clear instructions in redundant information paths, and hold students accountable for work. Always provide information through same delivery methods so that students have the greatest chance of “knowing where to go” to get critical information. Communicate with students regularly and frequently, e.g., weekly updates on upcoming lessons, assignments and due dates.
  • • Design online assignments that help students develop specific skills and explain how each assignment helps them to achieve these learning objectives. Provide students with opportunities to assess their understanding of course material with low stakes assignments (formative assessments).
  • • Scaffold assignments to build skills needed to complete final projects or papers (summative assessments).
  • • Use Canvas, Zoom, and other technologies officially supported by OIT whenever possible to minimize students’ need to create new logins, learn new platforms, etc. This will give students a more coherent experience and minimize difficulties and time wasted for everyone. Examples:
    • Use Zoom for all online meetings and real-time discussions
    • Use Canvas for all listing of assignments, all announcements, all submissions of work and grading
  • Information about supported technologies and accessibility is available on several CU Websites, including:
  • For any required online activities, especially those that require students’ participation at a specific time, have a backup plan for those students who don’t have adequate access to necessary infrastructure (such as reliable WiFi, a private place to work).
  • Keep track of who doesn’t complete or “show up” for online activities; reach out to them individually within the first two weeks of the term.
  • Check student performance midway through semester and reach out to students who are likely to fail the course. Solicit student feedback at specific points during semester (after completing a unit of study and/or midterm). Ask what’s working well in the course and what alterations would help improve their learning experience. Follow up with message or discussion that signals to students that you’re listening to their ideas and concerns.

Lessons Learned from 2020

  • TAs and LAs were instrumental in developing discussion board prompts that engaged students interests and concerns. They helped to make the course material more relevant to current-day issues from the undergraduates’ perspectives. We worked together to design opportunities for students to express their thoughts about the pandemic while also discussing Shakespeare’s plays.
  • Serving students effectively required a delicate balance of clear, consistent procedures and flexibility on the instructor’s part.