All lectures for large classes in the fall of 2020 will be given remotely or online. A simultaneous in-person component for a subset of students with rotating attendance may be possible, depending on the size of the room and class enrollment. It is possible that many faculty members will be in a position of teaching in a mode they have never considered adopting or which they have actively resisted. Designing classes online imposes unexpected constraints on many, though the available technologies for teaching online create new opportunities for developing pedagogically effective courses. This section identifies some key principles and practical suggestions to help faculty members adapt to our new reality.

Primary Recommendations

As we’ve learned from last semester’s experience, in most instances it is not possible simply to move material online and maintain strong student engagement. The mandate for all large lectures to be online will require some redesign of your course.

  • Especially important for asynchronous material, identify and reinforce course learning objectives prominently and frequently.
  • Be cognizant of the diverse circumstances of remote students. More than the usual flexibility in assignments, deadlines, may be appropriate.
  • Build into your lectures strong incentives for timely participation. Lecture participation credit should have a time limit (24 or 48 hours) to discourage student procrastination.
  • Lectures should be as interactive as possible with activities like clicker questions (iClicker Cloud), discussion prompts drawing on the lecture, or short tutorials to engage students. Such activities will break the main lecture into smaller, more digestible chunks.
  • Redundancy is important. Provide access to the same material in a number of different forms (lectures, documents, screencasts, discussions, etc.).
  • Be attentive to student physical and emotional health. Non-attendance may be related to challenges they are facing because of the global pandemic. Do not hesitate to draw on the resources of the Students Support and Case Management (SSCM) team or of Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS).
  • Provide multiple pathways in the course for students to succeed. Recognize that our students all learn differently. Toward that end, design exams, lectures, examples and assignments accordingly.


There is no one model for online education that will work for all disciplines and all faculty. In most general terms, there are two primary options for moving a large lecture course online, each of which can incorporate a variety of additional activities. Here are pros and cons for each mode:

Asynchronous (with lectures posted online ahead of time)


  • Students like the flexibility and convenience of viewing lectures as their schedule permits.
  • Much more robust technically, not as reliant on a high-quality internet connection.
  • Works for any size lecture.
  • Several production modes possible (smart classrooms, home webcams, voice-over narrated powerpoint, any production software).
  • Clicker questions easily embedded with PlayPosit software, which is integrated into Canvas grades, supported by OIT.
  • All students have the same experience, so there can be a single Canvas procedure for tracking participation credit.
  • Only single recording session needed for large multiple-lecture-section courses.


  • More time-consuming for faculty to produce.
  • Less engaging than remote lecture, no possibility of real-time question or answer, very unlikely that students will collaborate with each other during lecture.
  • Attempts by faculty during spring 2020 to provide parallel, optional Q&A zoom sessions were unsuccessful. Students largely ignore optional activities.

Synchronous (lectures in real time)


  • Intrinsically more engaging, compared to online. Real-time Q&A possible, though awkward compared to in-person classes.
  • Many students appreciate the strict, predictable schedule. Clicker question responses can be collected through iClicker REEF (free, integrated into Canvas grades).
  • Less time-consuming to produce, compared to online. Workflow is similar to in-person classes. Strict schedule simplifies the professor’s life.


  • More technically fragile. Reliant on internet of both professor and students. Does not scale well beyond about 100 students. Fewer options for production (Zoom or nothing).
  • Requires support staff such as TAs to monitor or answer questions, support discussion during live session.
  • Multiple recording sessions needed if class has multiple-lecture sections.
  • Session must be recorded for students who are unable or unwilling to watch live. Dual format (remote for some students, online for others) complicates collection and grade-keeping of clicker points.
  • Widespread student dissatisfaction with this mode during spring 2020.

Resources and Advice

  • Reach out to people in your department, in cognate departments, and across campus, who have experience teaching online and who can assist with the redesign process.
  • Draw on available expertise and resources:
  • OIT information about accessibility
  • Enroll in a MOOC or watch several online lectures to learn about what works and what doesn’t, about things you like and don’t like about the online environment. Becoming an online student will help you better understand the challenges of teaching online.
  • Start the planning process for Fall 2020 as soon as you possibly can.