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Ontario Tech acknowledges the lands and people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

Learn more about Indigenous Education and Cultural Services

Large Class Teaching


While there is some debate on the exact size of a “large class”, both instructors and students agree that large class sizes can pose challenges for teaching and learning. At Ontario Tech, large classes generally are considered to be 100 or more students in a single section. If you teach merged or cross-listed flexible hybrid classes, you may have many times more students to oversee.


Some of the challenges encountered in teaching large classes include student engagement, classroom management, and grading logistics. 

Student Engagement

In large classes, students can feel withdrawn from their instructors and classmates. The sheer size of such a class can make it difficult for the instructor to form a meaningful relationship with students. This can cause students to feel disconnected from the course and can cause engagement and effort to slide.

Additionally, studies have shown that as class size increases, so too does the amount of time spent lecturing. This uses up time that could be spent on interactive learning, where students are able to meet and collaborate with their peers. 

Classroom Management

The logistics of managing large classes can be challenging, whether they are in-person, flexible hybrid, or online.  In in-person classes, students may encounter challenges in viewing or hearing the presentation, maintaining focus, or being able to have questions answered by instructors or teaching assistants. Technological challenges, such enabling presentation software and microphones, monitoring online chat, and managing class attendance can present themselves in all classes, but are especially problematic when there are large numbers of students encountering such issues. Other issues, such as professional communication or “netiquette” may present themselves in online or flexible hybrid courses especially.


All formats of large classes can face challenges ensuring grading is kept up-to-date and that students receive an appropriate amount of feedback on their work. 


  • Student Engagement
    Welcome students

    Something as simple as welcoming students at the door or at the beginning of an online class helps build trust and community and can further engagement down the road. You may want to play music before the lecture begins to further enhance the feeling.

    Use icebreaker questions

    It can be difficult to get to know each and every student in a large class. Consider using an online polling tool to ask icebreaker questions that can help you get to know the students. Questions might include academic questions, like  “what is your program or major?” or fun questions like “who is the best superhero?”

    Use a visual course outline

    A visual course outline, or syllabus, can help students better understand expectations and allow them to process the information quickly and easily.

    Simplify Canvas courses

    Making your Canvas course simple and easy-to-navigate saves time for instructors and students when they are looking for information. It can also prevent questions from students who are confused about where to go or what to look for.

    Change the name of “office hours”

    Using common language to rename office hours can increase student uptake and participation. A simple change, such as “student help hours” or “student drop-in hours” encourages students to make use of the time, especially when it can be challenging to chat one-on-one during a large class session.

    Use lecture alternatives

    Studies have shown that as class size increases, so too does the amount of time spent lecturing. Although the logistics of certain active learning activities can be challenging, you may try these options:

    • Think, pair, share: Consider a question, discuss your response with the person seated next to you, then share with the class if called upon.
    • Check your understanding: Using an online polling option, pause the lecture for a time while you ask students to respond to a simple question about the content. You can have them respond to a series of multiple choice answers. For a low-tech option, distribute coloured pieces of paper to each student. Then, have each colour correspond to an answer. This makes it easy to check for large-scale understanding of the question.
    • Thumbs up/thumbs down: Students can give a real or virtual thumbs up if they understand a concept and are ready to move on, or a thumbs down if they are not ready.
    • Exit ticket: Deliver a short multiple choice quiz (one or two questions) either within the LMS, using a hands up/system, or polling, to ensure students have no major misconceptions before class ends. A more extensive end-of-class exit ticket might ask students to briefly write about the most confusing idea from the class, so it can be explained further at the start of next class.
    • Breakout rooms: Google Meet and Kaltura Virtual Classroom both offer the ability to place students into smaller online groups. This can be used for everything from case study discussions to worked math problems to group assignments.
    Give students structured opportunities for feedback

    Circulate informal monthly surveys to the class often to see their opinion of the pace of class, if they can see/hear adequately, etc. This can be especially useful for very large classes where students are unable to speak up or do not feel comfortable doing so. New instructors can find this feedback valuable.

  • Class Management
    Arrive organized

    Arriving on time, with tools and systems ready and tested, can go a long way to encouraging positive student behaviour in a class. Students will be more likely to put in the effort during a class if you have made a clear effort into making sure you can deliver your material seamlessly and effectively.

    Pause for questions

    Remember to leave a clear space for students to ask questions. In a large class, students may not feel comfortable putting up their hand in the middle of a lecture. Instead, invite them to participate with questions at regular intervals, such as at the end of a slide or example. You may also want to use some of the feedback and question alternatives above.

    Leverage a calendar for drop-in or office hours

    Using an electronic tool, such as Google Calendar, to indicate when and where drop-in or office hours take place can be useful to coordinate multiple instructors and teaching assistants. A Google Calendar can be shared and posted within Canvas allowing students to see available times and any possible cancellations. Google Calendar also offers an appointment-setting option.

    Monitor chat

    It can be challenging to present material online while simultaneously monitoring the chat for questions from students. Assign a teaching assistant or trustworthy student to monitor the chat and have them notify you when an important question comes up.

  • Grading
    Use question banks

    Question banks in Canvas allow you to store questions used for assessments. You can quickly build assessments and use randomization options to ensure a variety of questions for large classes.

    Stagger testing/exam times

    In a large class, staggering testing times gives you more time to address student questions and logistical concerns. In an online or flexible hybrid environment, staggered testing times means less strain on the system and allows for a smoother experience. As little as 10 minutes can make a difference here.


Faculty of Science - Large Mathematics Classes

When final exams were conducted online, the faculty members teaching large, first- and second-year mathematics courses encouraged students to “stagger” their online attendance for the exam. While no official groupings were made within Canvas itself, professors distributed a list of login times, by last name, staggering the groups by 10 minutes. Adjustments were made to keep the exam available until the last group was finished to accommodate the staggering. This helped with login times, avoided overwhelming the system, and made sure professors and teaching assistants had time to answer login-related questions at the start. 


Thank you to the Large Classes Teaching Group in the Faculty of Science for their input in the development of this page.