Tips from Spring Term Faculty

At the end of April, DCAL hosted two events for faculty teaching remotely this spring, one for large classes and another for small seminars. Faculty broke out into discussion groups to share their successes and their questions for each other. We collected some of the tips and anonymized the information. These are some of the notes generated from those discussions:

Tips for Large and Small Classes

  • Survey students at the start of the term to learn about their needs and check in with them throughout the term to find out what is working and what's not.
  • It's helpful to acknowledge that we're all sharing this experience and its difficulties.
  • Ask students to add a headshot to their Zoom profile so that if they join without video, the class can still put a face to a voice.

Tips for Large Classes

  • Use Google forms to solicit questions from students and use those questions in live discussion sessions. 
  • Keep the students in Gallery view (when not sharing slides) and ask them to give a heads-up or nod as a sign of feedback.


  • Recorded lectures are not going to be perfect and it's not necessary to start over or edit if you mess up.
  • Keep video content short and broken up into segments.
  • This is helpful for attention, but also so that if your computer crashes, you won't lose a long lecture mid-recording.
  • If writing out what to say, put the paper near the camera so the eyeline is more natural.
  • Post the script for the lecture and slides to Canvas to accommodate multiple learning styles.
  • Label the videos on Canvas with the lecture title and a brief description of its content.

Tips for Large classes

  • It's important to consider the time zones of students when doing a live lecture and that the lecture should still be recorded on Zoom so students can watch on their own time if they are unable to join. 
  • Take attendance and reach out to students who aren't there.
  • Pose a question that can be answered in a few words, have students answer in chat, call on students and acknowledge their responses to seed discussion; you've got people to call on! 


  • Instructors used a variety of tools for asynchronous discussion:
    • Hypothesis: a social annotation tool 
      • Instructors can upload a PDF and have students open it, highlight parts of the reading and comment on the document. They can do this synchronously while on Zoom as a class or students can work on it on their own time.
    • Voicethread: a learning tool for enhancing asynchronous student engagement and online presence
      • One class invited an educator from the Hood Museum to do a "Learning to Look" activity on Voicethread. Students had an asynchronous discussion about a work of art using voice, video, and text
    • Canvas Discussions: a tool for primary text-based conversations
      • One instructor said when a student asks a question, they will post it on Canvas Discussions to see if their classmates can answer it.
    • Slack: a chat tool used to create a digital community
      • An instructor integrated the Anonymous Bot to allow students to ask questions anonymously.
    • Piazza: a class Q&A platform
      • One course brought in experts from the field and conducted Ask Me Anything sessions about their expertise.

Tips for Large and Small Classes

  • Let students know when the instructor or TA will be visiting the breakout rooms so that they can prepare to have questions and look forward to the visit. 
  • Tell students to use the "Ask for Help" feature to request the instructor or TA visit their room.

Tips for Small Classes

  • Place students in groups randomly so that they can meet all the students in their class.
  • To grade students on participation, ask students to record their breakout sessions and share it later. This works especially well in language courses.

Tips for Large Classes

  • Have students in assigned groups throughout the term so they can develop community in a large class. You can learn to do so on this Zoom guide. (Hint: You'll have to assign students using their email style rather than their email style)


  • Use the waiting room feature in Zoom to manage office hours. 
  • OR hold office hours immediately after class on the same Zoom link. Offer students who need to speak with you privately the option to use breakout rooms to do so.

For more, visit Reflections from the Dartmouth commuity on Teach Remotely (and share your own tips and reflections!)