Varying activities can be an effective way to mitigate fatigue and make learning more engaging for students online. Consider these activity ideas to build interactivity into lectures, invigorate discussion sections, and create dynamic learning experiences.
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.
A task where students write together, whether it is 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. Asking students to write on a document or assignment together can spark creativity and can be implemented synchronously or asynchronously.
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.
Quick feedback on how your students are understanding course content is useful for informing your teaching and for prompting students to reflect on their own learning.
A synchronous poll using a Zoom poll or a Poll Everywhere activity 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 students to share anonymous short answer responses so that students can see their peers' perspectives in response to a particular question. Poll Everywhere can also support asynchronous polls or surveys.
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 synchronusy through Zoom breakout rooms or could be facilitated asynchronously 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.
In a face-to-face classroom, using paper sticky notes can be a great way to get students to brainstorm 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 synchronously or asynchronously.
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 synchronous dialogue, but could also be used to have quick Q&A sessions asynchronously.
- Successful breakout rooms in Zoom, Teaching Commons (2020).
- Text Chat, Teaching Commons (2020).
- Digital Sticky Notes, Teaching Commons (2020).
- Small Group Activities, Teaching Commons (2020).
- Peer Review, Teaching Commons (2020).
- Live Audience Polling, Teaching Commons (2020).
- Guest Speakers, Teaching Commons (2020).
- Collaborative Writing, Teaching Commons (2020).