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The TEACH Symposium will pop up again November 30 to December 4, 2020. 

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Engaging Activities

Finding online lectures and discussions challenging, or just looking for ways to break up the time and build engagement? Try our favorite techniques to build interactivity into lectures, invigorate discussion sections, and create dynamic asynchronous learning experiences.

Even the most engaging topic in the world can benefit from some variation in what students are doing. Varying classroom activities is the main way to mitigate Zoom fatigue and make class more engaging for students joining in remotely. 

Here's a curated list of a few examples of especially interactive and engaging class activities to consider incorporating into your class.


Breakout sessions. Live Zoom sessions do not always have to be "one-to-many" interactions with one speaker talking while the class listens. With breakout rooms, students can be placed into small groups so that interactions among students can happen more easily and comfortably. Specific prompts for what students should accomplish during their time in breakout sessions can help make the dialogue even more lively and engaged.

Collaborative Writing. Want to get your students working together? A task where you ask students to write something together, whether that's a study list on a particular topic or a response to a case study, can be a dynamic way to encourage students to create something together. Writing can be a way for students to work through a concept actively, regardless of which discipline you're teaching in, and asking students to write one document or one assignment together can spark creativity.

Guest Speakers. Bringing in outside perspectives and voices can be a great way to get students thinking about how other voices beyond the instructors are part of critical disciplinary conversations. Speakers could join for a live Zoom class session or they could pre-record a video that could be included in your course Canvas site.

Live Polling. It's valuable to "take the temperature" on how your students are understanding course content. A live poll launched during a real time (synchronous) Zoom call, or even a poll administered through Poll Everywhere outside of real time (i.e. in asynchronous time) can help you see how students are understanding core concepts. If you make the poll results accessible to students too, they also get a sense of how their peers are understanding core concepts. Polls can also be a great way for student to share anonymous short answer responses so that students can see their peers' perspectives in response to a particular question.

Peer Review. A peer review task is a concrete activity where students can get feedback on work from their peers. Creating a heuristic or rubric for students to use to review and give comments on each other's projects, writing assignments, or even problem sets can be a good way to get students talking to each other about core course concepts. Peer review activities can be facilitated in real-time through Zoom breakout rooms or could be facilitated outside of real time in a Canvas Discussion or through a Canvas Assignment. Either way, students have the opportunity to get input from another person beyond the instructor.

Small Group Activities. These small group activities are suitable for a breakout session in Zoom. These activities can be adapted for use with any learning objective or course format.

Sticky Notes. In a face-to-face classroom, using paper sticky notes can be a great way to get students brainstorming quickly. Online sticky notes can similarly encourage students to engage in valuable brainstorming or a process of organizing disparate ideas. Think of each "sticky note" as a place where students can write down words or phrases and then quickly organize those words or phrases into an organized grid. Activities involving sticky notes could be done in small groups or with individuals in either real time or outside of real time.

Text Chat. Real-time conversations don't just have to happen with audio and video over Zoom. There are various versions of text chat tools available in Zoom, Canvas, and Slack that can help facilitate dialogue among students. Text chat could be used for real-time dialogue, but could also be used to have quick Q&A sessions outside of real time.