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Large Class Teaching


Large classes can pose a challenge for instructors in person. Managing hybrid classes can be seen as especially daunting, but can be managed with some planning and thought to the structure of the class. 


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In large classes, students can feel withdrawn from their instructors and classmates. An online setting can make it difficult for students and instructors to see and interpret any non-verbal communication. Instructors feel as if they have no way to determine if students are engaged, and students can feel as though they are not able to interact with their instructor and classmates. Additionally, balancing students in person and online in a hybrid classroom can be stressful and create challenges for all involved.

Classroom Management

The logistics of managing large hybrid classes can be as or more challenging than large in-person classes. Like with 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, either verbally or through an online chat helps build trust and community and can further engagement down the road. Engaging students in small talk, like you would in an in-person class, helps students and yourself feel connected to the present.

  • Use icebreaker questions

    It can be difficult to get to know each and every student in a large class. Using engagement tools, such as Mentimeter, to answer serious or not-so-serious icebreaker questions can bring an element of fun and engagement. Online tools also help you see how many students are engaging in the exercise and allows you to modify your instruction or encourage further participation.

  • Simplify Access

    Make accessing the online portion of the course as easy as possible. Google Meet and Kaltura Virtual Classroom both require students to be logged in with their accounts, keeping classes secure. Avoid adding unnecessary “layers” of security, such as changing links or using entry passwords.

  • 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 in a hybrid setting can be challenging, you may try these options:

    • Think, pair, share: Consider a question, discuss your response with a partner, then share with the class if called upon. Using a tool such as Mentimeter can help students share their paired responses. Students in-person can pair with the person seated next to them. For online students, set up randomized breakout rooms.
    • Check your understanding: Using an online polling option such as Mentimeter, pause the lecture for a time while you ask students to respond to a simple question about the content. 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 or Mentimeter, 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.

Class Management

  • Use a Dual Monitor

    Two monitors hooked up to the same laptop can make a big difference in being able to manage online and in-person students. With two screens visible to yourself, you can see the online students and chat, while still having your slides or other material visible on the opposite screen. A flexible hybrid room on campus can accommodate this, or simply hook up an additional monitor to your laptop in your virtual teaching space.

  • Encourage Netiquette

    Netiquette is a series of rules that encourage appropriate online behaviour. While many of us are familiar with the rules that govern in-person interactions, the lack of physical co-location or togetherness can make interacting online a little more difficult. It can be very helpful to refer students to netiquette information or provide it yourself to avoid any problems in the future.

  • 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.


  • 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.