Center for Teaching and Learning

Engaging Students Equitably in Online or Hybrid Courses

Simple Strategies

Brandeis faculty engage students in the classroom in many ways that can be adapted for use in an online or hybrid course. Brandeis faculty already excel at conveying support and care for students by ensuring that students have what they need to succeed in the course and to engage with the content in a class community.

Here are some of the most popular strategies for engaging students in an online or hybrid course emerging from the Hybrid Teaching Institute.

Share materials/exercises/resources where and when all students can access them:
  • Because not all students have access to stable internet service, share all course materials in your LATTE course shell, and identify for students before each class meeting which materials, worksheets, problem sets and instructions they will be using during the class meeting. This gives students an opportunity to download materials they need in advance, in a location where good internet service is available.

  • Avoid activities during the class meeting that require a lot of internet bandwidth, like playing video clips or opening a lot of windows. 

  • Spend most of the online class meeting time engaging and supporting students in active learning exercises. Brandeis Zoom online class meetings will be among the few spaces where students can congregate in groups, work together in groups, get to know each other and feel included. At the beginning of term, it is especially important to create opportunities for students in the class to get to know each other in small groups and to practice using Zoom engagement tools like polling and non-verbal communication until they feel comfortable addressing course content together.

  • Share short segments of recorded lectures along with other content materials on the LATTE page where students can review them on their own time, between class meetings and at locations where high quality internet access is available. (See: Recording Short Lecture Videos: Advice and Tips)

  • Ask students what time zone they are in and how well their internet service and equipment are working. This helps you know how to adjust the times of your office hours, and whether to direct students for technology help.

Clarify how to engage in discussions and activities during class, and include everyone in class activities:
  • Invite students to develop a social contract with you to define accepted/encouraged behaviors in this unfamiliar environment. 

  • Use the simplest tools possible for online communication to reduce barriers to participation and to reduce demand on internet bandwidth. Allow students to participate synchronously during class meetings by writing in a Zoom chat or on a Google document or speaking in class or using actual hand gestures or electronic nonverbal feedback. Invite students to post asynchronously on a LATTE Forum for Class Discussion, too. Zoom polling allows you to get a quick understanding of what students are thinking during a Zoom class meeting. These simple tools offer students multiple opportunities to contribute.

  • Use as few open windows as possible during class meetings because multiple open windows are confusing, especially for students using a small screen or tablet or phone to connect.

  • Allow students to participate by phone in a class meeting if their internet connection isn't adequate for a video connection. Or allow students to occasionally turn off their video if slow internet speed is garbling their voices when they speak.

  • Invite students to take turns monitoring the Zoom chat to raise questions from students that an instructor might inadvertently miss when multitasking.

  • Small group discussions or projects that students can undertake in Zoom breakout rooms during or outside of class can support student engagement when you assign a role to each student (note-taker, time-keeper, citation tracker, reporter, questioner, etc.), and ask the group to contribute something specific for the benefit of the whole class after the breakout discussion period.

  • During a class meeting, you can watch how all the groups are doing by inviting each group’s note-taker to type their group's main ideas into a shared Google document or Google slide.

Enhance Breakout Room Use
  • Assign tasks and roles for breakout into groups. Have each group focus on a specific topic or question that they will report back on. Also assign roles to each person on the team (e.g., facilitator, time keeper, note taker, fact checker, opposer, debater) — then rotate roles in future classes.
  • Use breakout rooms for 1:1 discussions. In other words, assign each student to a single breakout.
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Leverage Discussion in LATTE
  • Fold in asynchronous discussion posts to allow for non-talkative students to participate more.

  • Have students engage with Perusall.

Shift Class Time Usage
  • Students watch lecture or review lecture slides/notes before class, submit responses before class (1. What did you learn? 2. What’s confusing? 3. What do you want to learn more about?). Teacher addresses those responses during class.
  • Create hangout time last 15 minutes of class to chat (stick around in Zoom).
  • Treat some class time as homework/working time where you are on hand to respond to questions before students leave class to work on their own with you.
  • Guidelines for 90-180-min class meetings

Additional Advice