Large remote classes (i.e., classes with more than 150 students) pose unique challenges when it comes to student engagement and assessment. This resource provides several strategies for engagement and assessment that address these unique challenges.  Select strategies that you think would work well given the context of your course. 


In remote courses, it is important for students to see their teaching team as real people who care about their students. This is especially true in high enrolment courses, where students can feel isolated. Students want and need to see and hear from their instructor frequently throughout the term. 

  1. Communicate Frequently and Consistently
    • Post your photo along with a few words about yourself and encourage your TAs to do the same.
    • Post a weekly announcement to share what’s next and lessons learned so far.
    • Post short videos or audio clips as part of your weekly announcements.
    • Create a discussion forum where students can pose questions about the course.
    • In your syllabus, let students know when they can expect to reach you and your TAs.

  2. Invite Students to Office Hours and Drop-Ins
    • Host drop-in sessions (sometimes called “Q & A Sessions”) to help create a more informal learning space and build community.  If attendance is high, consider using break-out rooms.
    • Inform students if you are recording a live drop-in session.
    • Offer office hours by request. “Office hours” should be considered more formal and private.

  3. Use Multimedia Elements*  to increase your presence in the course
    • Record videos to demonstrate how to work through difficult problems or concepts, case studies or scenarios. Aim to keep videos short (under 6 min).
    • Host a “podcast”. Record an interview with a guest speaker and share the clip as a course podcast. Alternatively, host an interview as a video conference and record the session.
    • With regard to new technologies, keep the workload manageable for you, your students, and your TAs: use LEARN + 1 extra tool outside of LEARN.
    • Use the Video Note feature in LEARN to add a short video on a content page.

*Be sure to comply with copyright law and also use proper citation. Check Copyright at Waterloo page.


Create a culture of well-being where everyone’s well-being is important. This means considering your TAs and your own well-being, as well as that of your students.

  1. Connect with your students
    • Talk openly about the challenges of teaching and learning remotely during a pandemic.  Let students know that teaching and learning remotely is new for all of you and that you will get through it together.
    • Let students know that you care about their well-being as well as their academic success.
    • Early in the course, ask students to identify their own goals and expectations for the course, as well as their own learning challenges.
    • Around the course midpoint, use an anonymous survey to collect some feedback about how they are doing in relation to their initial reflection, and feedback about how you can best support them. Possible questions:
      • What can we (the teaching team) keep, stop, and start doing in support of your learning?
      • What can you keep, stop, and start doing in support of your learning?  
    • Post frequent reminders of upcoming assessment dates and due dates.
    • When teaching a complex topic, talk about challenges you encountered, and the mistakes you made and share strategies you used to overcome those challenges.
    • Consider inviting 2-4 students to be “student liaisons” (aka “student consultants”) between you and the rest of the class.  Student liaisons are responsible for seeking students’ feedback on how the course is going. Instructors can seek the input of student liaisons when making decisions about engagement.

  2. Foster a sense of belonging and community
    • Create a voluntary forum where students can connect with each other and seek a “virtual study buddy” (“accountability buddy”) so they can help each other stay on track throughout the course.  
      • Explicitly state which assessments must be completed without collaboration or assistance.
      • Use an academic integrity agreement (see Academic Integrity Student Forms)
    • Invite your class to create a “class music playlist” which you can play in the 5 minutes before a synchronous session begins.
    • Record synchronous sessions and make them available for students who are unable to join at a specific time.

Assessment Design

Balancing the grading workload, while designing meaningful assessments is particularly important when designing assessments in high enrolment courses.

  1. General considerations:
    • At the beginning of term, survey your students to see what time zone they are in.
    • Consider time zone differences when setting up deadlines.
    • When the ratio instructor-TA to student is low, assessments need to be automated such as multiple choice quizzes. Consider a pool of questions and/or randomizing the questions.
    • Avoid grading attendance or participation in synchronous sessions because a number of factors could affect a student’s ability to participate in a synchronous activity (e.g., time zone, disrupted living arrangements, illness, disabilities, etc.).

  2. Assessments for multiple sections
    • Consider having an instructor coordinator that will ensure everyone is informed and the content is similar across the different sections.
    • In multi-section courses establish whether there will be one LEARN shell with all the sections or different LEARN shells for every section.
    • If using one LEARN shell with multiple sections:
      • Note that student access can be limited only to the section that they are registered in.
      • Give each file a unique title. Since there is only one LEARN shell, files with the same name can be easily overwritten by instructors (e.g., updating a course schedule and the file has the same name).
      • Be aware that WebEx meetings cannot be restricted only to one section but will be available to all students in the LEARN shell. You may be able to restrict access per section in Bongo but it is a manual process.
      • Note that group work can be done for multiple sections, but it is a complicated process to set up in LEARN.

  3. Peer review assignments
    • Creating groups for peer review is complicated in large classes. Although there may be ways in which you could use LEARN for peer review, assigning students to review each other’s work will involve the use of multiple LEARN features (e.g., Groups, Quizzes, Dropboxes, Bongo Video Assignments, Discussion Boards) and the setup is laborious for instructors and the process could be too complicated for students to follow.
    • Use a tool that is dedicated to peer review (e.g., PEAR or other UW supported peer review tool).
    • Automation is key in order to be able to keep up with high enrolment.
    • A thorough description of the peer review activities is very important.

  4. Midterm and Final
    • Communicate the exam format ahead of time.
    • Hold a mock/practice exam ahead of time so that students can self-assess and focus on specific areas when studying.
    • Design midterms around content, not necessarily the middle of the term.
    • If possible, consider the midterm schedule of other courses in your program, especially for first year courses.
    • Provide practice questions so students know what to expect and can self-assess.

  5. Provide Feedback on Assessments
    • Focus on giving general feedback to the whole class.
    • For multiple choice quizzes (graded and/or non-graded), provide some feedback so that students can identify and address gaps in understanding the content. Note that feedback can be built right into the quiz.
    • Create and use rubrics and encourage students to refer to them when composing their assignments.