Learning Strategies

Regardless of the instruction mode, all SILC faculty and instructors should consider the following:

  1. Thoughtfully set expectations. Students must still be held accountable for full participation in your course.
  2. Get to know your classroom and technology. Students should never be released from classes early whether those be in-person, in Zoom, or online classes. Have a backup plan in case technology doesn’t work or in case you become sick yourself.
  3. Be consistent, but flexible. Students may be experiencing situations that we are unaware of, so be prepared to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
  4. Provide your instructor presence, expertise, and feedback. In-person and hybrid courses should not be turned into fully online courses without special approval.
  5. No matter how much we plan, something unexpected will happen.  Be upfront with your students about this and let them know you are in it together.

Contact the SILC Instructional Support team (silcis@asu.edu) whenever you have a question or concern. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll find someone who does.

The learning strategies we will focus on for our SILC courses are as follows

Direct instruction is a method in which an instructor speaks directly to a group of students to describe certain learning concepts.

ASU Sync/In-Person (and Hybrid)

Because of the dual location of the students in this mode of instruction, the instructor will need to make sure that they are standing somewhere in the room where both in-person and remote students can effectively view the instructor. The instructor will also need to remember that remote students may be unable to see what is written on a physical blackboard or whiteboard.  So instructions should be developed beforehand in slides and projected to students (and screen sharing with remote students). Instructors might consider making it part of their process to leave at least one slide blank to add any in-the-moment information.  Also, consider looking into using the Zoom annotation features (see the UTO Use Annotations video)

ASU Sync Only

In general, it is best to use synchronous class time for engaging students in applying their learning, but there are still times in which direct instruction is necessary.  Consider the following elements when using Zoom:

  • Video Layout.  You will want to share with your students some basic Zoom information, such as toggling between video layouts (see also the Adjusting View Options video).  This will make their viewing experience easier to manage.

  • Computer Audio. If you want to play a video clip for all of the participants in your Zoom meeting, you will want to ensure that they will be able to hear it.

  • Manage Participants. Create a procedure for how your meetings will run. Consider muting all of your participants until you open the floor for questions. Set up a specific time during each meeting for asking questions. Use a Q&A slide as a visual cue that it is time to ask questions. Remind students where to find the Raise Hand feature in Zoom.

In a traditional classroom model, the instructor provides some foundational information about a concept and then asks students to interact with those concepts independently through homework or online activities, and feedback is often more summative. In the flipped classroom model, the instructor first asks students to do homework by reading or viewing textbook chapters, journal articles, or even viewing recorded lectures or PowerPoint presentations. Then students come to class and are asked to participate in small group discussions or activities in which they apply their understanding of the material.  The instructor is then able to observe, ask questions, and redirect student learning in a more formative way.

ASU Sync/In-Person (and Hybrid)

For this instruction mode, instructors could require students to engage with the learning materials (homework) by Sunday. Then, one possible schedule would be to have small group interactions on Mondays and Wednesdays with the in-person and remote students engaging with each other through Zoom breakout rooms. Fridays could involve a whole class discussion via Zoom to identify gaps in learning. The key idea is to have students working with the learning materials before they would apply that knowledge during class.

ASU Sync Only

Because instructors will have a limited amount of time with their students via synchronous Zoom meetings, this time might best be used to observe where student learning gaps or misconceptions might exist. Consider doing the following to build a flipped classroom:

  • Require that all learning materials are read/viewed before class sessions.
  • If there are certain concepts you typically deliver through a lecture style, consider pre-recording this as a video and assigning it for students to watch as part of their learning materials.
  • Ask students to come to class with a summary of their readings/viewings, how they learned a particular concept, or with a question they have to share with the class (which may or may not be shared).
  • Randomly select 2-3 students to share their summaries.
  • Build your in-class learning activities around concepts they would have just worked on through those readings/homework.
  • As you observe students, choose 2-3 weak points for further discussion/clarification with the class. Develop the next learning activity around those weak points or add some additional homework or learning materials to better scaffold understanding in those areas.

Review the Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning for Flipping Your Remote Classroom.

Active learning is a method of teaching in which the instructor designs and facilitates learning to allow students to take the lead.  It moves the focus away from the instructor and more fully onto the student. Review the ASU Teach Online “How Does Active Learning Support Student Success?” article.

ASU Sync/In-Person

To engage your students in active learning activities, we recommend that you require your in-person and remote students to engage in the learning together. To make this more effective, consider the following elements.

  • In-person students will need to bring a laptop, mobile device, or smartphone with them to class.
  • Students in the in-person classroom will partner up with students in the Zoom space.
  • Everyone will log into Zoom and enter the Breakout rooms (see the UTO Use Breakout Rooms video).
  • If the classroom is close to the ground floor, consider allowing small groups to work outside and return after a set amount of time. This will allow for more social distancing.
  • Ask each group to choose someone to share with the whole group. Make clear to the class that remote learners are expected to take part in this aspect as well.
  • Provide time at the beginning or end of class for students to discuss “a muddiest point.” This could be something they are still confused about, or it could be concerns they might have with the course structure. Give them time to share their concerns and be heard.

ASU Sync Only

Review the Active Learning Strategies for Remote Teaching guide for a list of suggested activities.

  • Many of the activities will involve the use of Zoom Breakout rooms (see the UTO Use Breakout Rooms video).
  • Practice managing breakout rooms (see Zoom tutorial video).
  • Most of the time, breakout rooms can be assigned while you are teaching, but for some activities, you might want to have them created beforehand.
    • Creating and deploying pre-assigned breakout rooms (see UTO tutorial video).
    • Using a .csv file to create pre-assigned breakout rooms (see UTO tutorial video).
  • Review the Zoom Breakout Room Activities document for some creative ways of using breakout rooms.

If you want students to be able to record the work they do in small groups, consider having them use their own Zoom accounts for small group work (see the Recorded Role-Play Activity instruction guide) or Screencast-O-Matic.

Because your remote learning students may not understand the procedure for asking questions or voicing their concerns, it will be paramount that instructors build into each class session a way to explicitly check all students’ understanding. These checks should be used throughout a class session, regardless of the mode of instruction.

Zoom Non-Verbal Feedback

A quick way to get some simple feedback from students is using the Zoom non-verbal feedback options. When students click on manage participants, a list of course participants will pop up along with a simple menu bar at the bottom of the window.  The options include raise hand, yes/no, go slower/faster, need a break, and thumbs up/down. (See the following YouTube video on Zoom Advanced Features. Fast forward to minute 3:50.)


Plan to embed a poll/survey of some kind into every class session.  You can use the Zoom Polls feature, create a Google Form that you link to through Zoom chat or through Canvas, create a Canvas quiz as an open survey, or use a free external application like Poll Everywhere.

Q&A Sessions

Create a slide that just says Q&A or Questions? Remind students to use the Raise Hand feature and that you will call on them by name during this time. Ask your Zoom Ambassador to search the chat for any other questions that might have been overlooked. Zoom does have a Q&A feature that can be used if your Zoom meeting is developed as a webinar.  This may not be something you are interested in doing, but see the Zoom Getting Started with Question & Answer tutorial if you are interested.

Ticket Out the Door

Consider having a procedure that requires students to reflect on their learning before leaving class for the day. Many instructors call this a “ticket out the door.”  This activity can come in many shapes and sizes. You could create a Google Form similar to an attendance form that only has 1-2 questions on it.  This link could be added to the Zoom chat or linked through Canvas.  It might ask students to: 

  • Summarize what you learned today in 12 words or less
  • Describe the muddiest point (where are you still confused)
  • What do you plan to do to help yourself understand this concept better

Developing online assessments can be an advantage for instructors because assignments and tests would then be submitted through Canvas. On the one hand, this means certain aspects of the assessments can be graded by Canvas and the instructor will not have to be responsible for carrying around a stack of essay papers--making life a little easier for instructors. On the other hand, online assessments also heighten the likelihood that students will plagiarize or cheat on some aspects of their work. However, if instructors use a variety of low and high-stakes assessments, use proctoring applications, and embed benchmark deadlines throughout the course for larger projects, it will be more difficult for students to plagiarize.

Proctoring Applications

Writing assignments can be submitted via Turnitin. (see UTO Enabling Turnitin video). Canvas quizzes can be proctored using the Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor (see the UTO Getting Started with Respondus Lockdown Browser guide or the Enabling Respondus for Quizzes video). Note that these proctoring applications will only work if the instructor reviews the reports and penalizes suspicious behavior accordingly (see UTO Review Turnitin Report and the Review Respondus Monitor Results videos).

Learning Materials

If you organize your Canvas course by modules and include all of the learning materials, assignments, discussions, and quizzes as various sections within that module, it will be very clear to students what is expected of them each week.  If your course has a textbook with a companion website, create a homework page as a module section that includes links to the companion site with short instructions on which activities should be completed. If you have several textbook chapters, journal articles, or PDFs for students to read each week, consider adding those to Perusall, a technology application for collaborative annotations in which students highlight, comment, or annotate readings before they can move on to the next assignment. If you are interested in this tool, please contact the SILC Instructional Support team (silcis@asu.edu) to support you in its use (go to Perusall.com for more information about the product or see the YouTube video Social Annotations using Perusall for a short overview).


Though there are other free external applications for quizzes, developing them in Canvas will allow those quizzes to be copied along with the course for future usage and will allow them to be partnered with a proctoring application. Also, Canvas quizzes can be set up to make cheating a bit more difficult, even if proctoring isn’t used. Understand the various Canvas Quiz settings in order to maximize security (see Canvas Quiz Settings guide).

Writing Assignments

Whether you plan to require short reflection pieces, journals, blogs, essay papers, or research papers there are several strategies that will help ensure that the students’ work is their own.  This includes peer review, annotation of sources, etc.  More information will be added to this section at a later date.  Reach out to SILC Instructional Support at silcis@asu.edu for more information.

Discussion Forums 

Discussion forums can be really rich or really horrible all depending upon how the instructor designs them. Effective discussions usually include the following elements:

  • Prompts that are open-ended, do not have an obvious correct answer, or can be controversial in nature.

  • Clear and concise instructions with two deadlines, one for the initial post and one for responses to peers.

    • Note: Canvas only allows one deadline for a discussion, but if you put the main deadline on the initial post, and leave the assignment open until the second deadline for the peer responses you will have more students fully completing the assignment.

  • Smaller groups to build community.

  • Equitable procedures for receiving peer responses.

    • Consider requiring that students respond to the two students who posted directly after them (to ensure that all students receive feedback).

    • Alternatively, consider using the Canvas peer review feature to ensure that each student receives a specific number of peer responses. If you use this feature, you will only need one deadline for the initial post and then students will receive an email directing them how to do the peer review.

  • An example of a high-quality initial post and rigorous response.

  • A requirement for students to quote or paraphrase from the readings to include citations.

  • A requirement for students to positively and politely challenge the critical thinking of their peers by posing open-ended questions.

  • A rubric that demonstrates what is required to earn full credit.

Collaborative Projects

Just because students are in an online space does not mean that there shouldn’t be interaction.  One of the best ways to foster interaction is through collaborative projects. These projects can mimic the same types of projects that might be expected in an in-person learning environment.  The only difference is that instead of meeting in person to brainstorm, plan, and produce, students will need a virtual meeting space.  The following technologies provide that space at various levels.

  • Canvas Collaborations. One of the Canvas links in the left-hand side navigation menu is “Collaborations.” If you leave this enabled for your students, you can set up group collaborations that link to Google documents directly from within Canvas.

  • Canvas Group Workspace. When Group Sets are created in Canvas, a Canvas Workspace is automatically created for that group. This can be a little complicated because the group workspace will actually look very similar to the main course space. So it’s important to clarify this point with students. Students can access their Canvas group workspace by clicking on the Groups icon in the far left-hand Canvas menu bar and clicking on the group for this course.

  • Zoom/Google Docs. If you find the Canvas Collaborations feature to be too complicated, you can simply choose to create a Canvas page with instructions. Suggest that students use their own Zoom accounts to meet and share a Google doc to track their progress. Students can submit a link to the Google doc or download the document and submit that through a Canvas assignment.

  • Slack. Slack is a highly engaging social communication platform that can be integrated into Canvas or simply linked to.  Instructors can create a workspace for their course and then allow student groups to create “channels” for their group collaborations. In these channels, students can leave short posts, attach links to websites, videos, or Google Docs, and even record and upload their own video.  Students usually seem to figure out how to use it all on their own, so it is very user-friendly. Bonus is that there is a direct chat feature that allows students to contact each other whenever they want to without having to share cell phone numbers or contact information. If you are interested in using Slack in your course, please contact the SILC Instructional Support team (silcis@asu.edu) so that we can help support you (see the UTO Adding Slack to Canvas video).