FAQs about Implementation

Communication & Learning Community

Can I expect the students to have their own Zoom breakout rooms for study groups or group work outside of class? How can I advise my students to keep their Zoom meetings secure?

If you had previously expected students to complete group-work outside of class time then using zoom-rooms might be a great option for students! Unfortunately, students do not have the capabilities to have meetings that are unlimited in length using zoom; students are limited to 100 attendees and 40 minutes of meeting time. However, Google Meet is also supported by the University of Alberta and would allow students to meet in groups for up to 24 hours at a time.

More information on security for zoom rooms can be found on our Zoom: Set-up, Security and Solutions page.

How do I help my students manage their own disruptions at home? What do I say (if anything) about their interruptions and help them focus on what we are doing together online?

This is a time of great stress and upheaval for everyone and students are not exempt to that. Having to adjust their expectations and adapt to learning in, often, less than ideal circumstances are added challenges to the University experience. It's important to understand these challenges and acknowledge the extra burdens that they can put on your students.

Let your students know at the beginning of class that there may be times when their attention gets pulled elsewhere, and give them permission to turn off their camera to attend to their needs. If they are expected to focus solely on classwork and ignore what is going on in their physical environment, it can become a greater distraction for them in the long run. It is also helpful to provide an agenda or speaking notes prior to class so that students can follow along and are able to catch up if they do need to attend to other priorities during class.

If you'd like to ask more questions or discuss this topic further, we encourage you to contact the Social Work team at cswteam@ualberta.ca.

How do I encourage a positive connection with and between students?

Answers to this question and more canbe found on CTL's Creating Community Remotely video.

How do I manage all the repeat questions I am getting through my email from students? Is there a way to set up a Frequently Asked Questions in eClass and where is the best place for it?

One way to handle this would be to have students submit all questions about course content to a common Discussion Forum on eClass. Students could be encouraged to check the forum for their question and you might even have students responding to each other (with your supervision of course). If you subscribe to the forum on eClass, it will send you an email each time students post; if you prefer to limit your incoming email, we would suggest telling students how often you will check the forum (i.e., at least once every 2 business days).

It should be noted that students will also need to be told that email should be used for any questions pertaining to their individual grades. The forum is not a place to discuss individual marks.

What are the best ways of communicating with students?

An answer to this question and more about engaging students can be found on our Engaging and Managing Your Class page.


How do I engage students with content online?
An answer to this question and others about online engagement can be found on our "Engaging and Managing Your Class" page.
How often should I meet with students online? Do I have to meet with students online?
Online instruction often consists of asynchronous and synchronous instruction. How you decide to use these two ways of engaging students is up to you. For an answer to this question and more information about asynchronous and synchronous education, see our Synchronous and Asynchronous Teaching page.
How to promote and maintain student engagement in online classes?
An answer to this question and others about online engagement can be found on our "Engaging and Managing Your Class" page.

Experiential Learning

How do I teach labs online, especially when lab groups need feedback on their work?

A good place to start answering this question can be found in this article "How to Rethink Science Lab Classes" written by J. Loike and M. Stoltz-Loike.

If you would like to discuss transitioning your lab course to remote instruction, please contact CTL at ctl@ualberta.ca.

How do I do simulations online?
For those interested in simulations, the following resource "Simulations" from UNSW Sydney may be helpful.
I have field trips in my course. What do I do now?

The field trips can be replaced with case studies, pre-recorded videos with guests about or in a context where the field trips took place (if possible and if the guest is available), or a short podcast interview with someone who is in the context of the field trip and some accompanying images. In one leadership course, students had traveled to companies to talk with key leaders in those contexts. Instead, the instructor and I had each student read a leadership biography of influential business leaders and bring the key themes back to class. It depends on the subject area and field trip too.

To discuss your specific situation, please contact CTL to book a consultation by completing this request form.

Groups & Group Work

How can Google Doc sharing be used for group work?

Even though it is a little dated, this PDF from Oakland University titled Group Work with Google Docs explains why instructors might want to use Google Docs for group work.

How many students should go in a group online for breakout rooms? Discussion forums? Group work on a problem?

In our experience, groups of 3 - 5 work best for any type of group work since these are small enough that all people can contribute to the discussion but not so small that discussion is easily stifled. We generally recommend keeping groups smaller than 7 students since we have found that groups are not productive beyond this number. Finally, we often make groups with an odd number of students in each group in case they need to vote on a decision.

Additionally, in online breakout rooms, one person may get cut off or freeze which would have one person in the room on their own which isn’t helpful. Having at least 3 people in a breakout room means that the task can still continue until the 3rd person returns. (It should also be noted that if the 3rd person must re-enter the room, they will not automatically be placed back into their breakout room. They will appear in the main room and the host will need to determine which room they were in (by asking them) and then manually putting them back into the breakout room.

What's the best way to put students into groups online?

This depends if you need the groups to be repeated for a number of interactions or if they can be random groupings.

In Zoom, since U of A students don't have official Zoom accounts, it can be quite difficult to make pre-determined breakout rooms (especially if you have a large class) but random groups can be made with a few clicks.

In eClass, groups can be used for discussion forums (as well as a number of other activities) and these can be randomized (to engage students with multiple perspectives) or remain consistent throughout the term (so that students are always talking to familiar peers).

How Do I Teach a Large Online Class?

How do I call on students in a synchronous class?

Even in face-to-face classes instructors have this problem. After asking a question, instructors can have students raise their hand on Zoom using the participants block, but what if no one wants to answer (or it's time we heard from someone new). One suggestion could be to use a "random name picker" such as the Wheel of Names; this is essentially the same as randomly calling on a student to respond.

You may also find that students are more willing to answer if you ask them to type their response into the chat. The chat on Zoom can be turned on and off, so an instructor could turn it on when they ask a question and then off again while they (or a student) is speaking (since the chat can be quite distracting with large groups).

Finally, consider using polls to solicit responses from students. Zoom has a built-in polling feature but some other options include ePoll (through eClass) or third-party software such as Mentimeter.

I’m teaching over 300 students and Zoom’s limit is 300. What should I do?

While it is true that the limit for your account with Zoom is 300, this can be increased up to 1000. However, there will be a cost involved and you would need to create a new Zoom account that is not linked to U of A (as you need Administrative access to the account). Current pricing is available by going to https://zoom.us/pricing and clicking “Need more participants?” in the Pro or Business column.

While Google Meet may seem to be a viable alternative, current documentation (June 8, 2020) would indicate that the limit is 250 (https://nerdschalk.com/google-meet-limit/).

One alternative would be to divide your synchronous inputs into sections that will not hit the 300 limit. For example, if you have 4 hours of synchronous time, you could see half of the cohort for the first 2 hours and then repeat the input with the other half. See our video on Small Group Contacts for more information about this. If the synchronous inputs are not transferring knowledge but, instead, they focus on building relationships with students, digging deeper into the subject, group work, etc., you may find there is an appeal to dividing your synchronous time between smaller groups.

Managing Participation & Discussions

How can I effectively support students with English as an additional language in my online course?

English Language Learning students come from diverse cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds. As such, they may hold different cultures of learning, i.e. different conceptions of what learning means, how they should learn, and how their learning would be assessed. So, it is important that instructors have a discussion in class asking students to answer the question: what does learning look like in your first educational context? Then talk about what learning looks like in your classroom, ask students to make comparisons/contrasts, talk about their concerns and needs regarding learning in a Canadian university. This is especially important for first-year students who are in the process of socializing into the academic culture and might lack a clear vision of learning in the disciplines and in the Canadian postsecondary institutions.

It would be nice to use ideas from student discussions on their needs to anticipate their learning challenges, to plan for them and to provide the necessary support so that they can succeed in the course. For example, if the course includes a major writing assignment and students have mentioned that they are concerned about any kind of writing, the instructor might want to plan ahead, provide clear synchronous and asynchronous instruction, scaffold the assignments into connected pieces, provide samples of excellent student assignments, etc.

There are many other suggestions that can be added to the online course to support ELL students. A very effective approach is employing multiple means of expression, for example having videos with transcription from the synchronous lectures, so that ELL students can catch up, using visual syllabus, and unpacking assignment processes as infographics or visuals. It would also help if instructors talk about their own experiences, challenges, and concerns starting to learn how to teach online and ask students to share their concerns. This kind of conversation would help to alleviate student anxiety concerning using technology in class.

How do I ensure appropriate conversation on discussion boards?

We recommend that you include clear and explicit "rules of engagement" when using discussion boards. You may find this document, "Forum Decorum" from the Arts Pedagogy Working Group helpful.

How do I ensure all students have opportunities to contribute to in-class discussions?

We can't be in all the breakout rooms at once, so it is more difficult to monitor student groups - some people may dominate the conversation. This is also the case in asynchronous discussion forums where you might see the same people contributing to the larger group discussion online. To encourage equitable discussion contributions, we recommend being clear and explicit with what you are expecting for conversation. Tell students what discussion behaviours you value; these behaviours might including listening, encouraging other students to contribute, and furthering the discussion with questions.

Carnegie Mellon University CTL offers some good advice in handling students who monopolize class. Additionally, the Arts Pedagogy Working Group has developed a useful handout to guide your expectations for class forum discussions.

How do I get students to come on time to my Zoom class?

We suggest being clear about your expectations of students. In the first few days of class, have a discussion with students about being on time and ready to go 5 minutes before class. In return, students will expect that you are ready when class begins and that your course finishes on time.

It can also be helpful to have students engaged when the class begins. Consider being available to answer questions 10 minutes before class or having a valuable activity at the start of class (e.g., practice exam questions) that provides an incentive for students to be on time and prepared.

How do I manage students who lurk but don't participate?

For an answer to this question, watch our video on Engaging Students with Asynchronous Material.

How often do I check the discussion boards?

As Lieberman (2019) says, instructors that choose to assign discussion forums need to be actively involved. In this video about Moderating Discussion Forums, we discuss being involved in discussion forums without quashing the conversation. From our experience, we recommend checking the discussion boards daily (or every 2 days) during the start of class or with sensitive topics and every 3 - 4 days once you have developed and maintained consistent forum decorum from your students.

My experience has been that students don't like participating in online discussion forums. Are there ways to engage students in forums?

Lieberman (2019) highlights some of the problems with the traditional ways discussion forums have been used in online education. They also offer some new variations on discussion forums later in the article.

It is important that discussion forums are used purposefully. We suggest no more than one discussion forum a week and, depending on the size of your class, this might even be a bit much for an instructor. To make the workload manageable for yourself and for your students, you might consider having students respond to forums in groups.

Students should be provided with specific questions to which they are to respond. For example, it is easier to respond to "Offer a supported response to this question: Which aspects of the author's arguments do you feel are most applicable to our current world situation?" as opposed to "Post your thoughts on the article below." Specific questions give students a platform from which to launch a conversation.

Finally, seek feedback from your students. If you are noticing students' commitment to posting and writing well-written posts waning, ask if they are finding the discussion forums useful. These forums should be connected to the learning outcomes and further students' understanding of the course content.

Should I be monitoring attendance in my online class?

The messaging from the University of Alberta is that synchronous sessions can be used but instructors have a duty to accommodate students who are unable to participate or attend due to accessibility requirements and with our current circumstances this should be extended to other areas such as time zone displacement and other uncontrollable commitments (e.g., students are at home instead of school and no childcare is available, multiple people require the use of limited technology, etc.). Given this, we would discourage instructors from taking attendance for grading purposes. That being said, if you would like a record of who was in class (perhaps you email those who were unable to attend with a summary of the day), then taking attendance would be acceptable.

What if a student makes a racialized comment? How do I manage this?

Answers to this question and more can be found in our "Addressing Racism in the Classroom" podcast.

Recording & Privacy

Should students be required to have their cameras on during a synchronous class?

There is evidence that video-enabled discussions are more effective at helping create social and teaching presence when compared with text-based discussion platforms (Clark et al., 2015). Synchronous video web-conference in online discussions may create higher levels of cognitive presence than asynchronous discussions (Molnar & Kearney, 2017). You can learn more on how you and your students can establish a better remote presence on our Engaging and Managing Your Class page, under the section titled "How to Create a Remote Teaching and Learning Community."

Students report feelings of “connectedness” with their classmates when they can “see their faces” and indicate lower feelings of isolation (Clarke et al., 2015) and video provides the ability to see both verbal and non-verbal social cues essential to develop trust; social presence created through video discussions aids group identity formation and the social-cohesion necessary for collaborative learning (Clark et al., 2015).

However, you might also want to be sensitive and proactive about student needs. For instance, synchronous discussions pose higher demands on executive function skills such as goal-directed behaviour, response inhibition, and problem solving (Dahlstrom-Hakki et al., 2020).You should also be aware that some students’ experience might be too uncomfortable (Clark et al., 2015), or that some students might experience issues with technology (video conferences require higher bandwidth). You can read more about this on our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity (EDI) page.

Clark, C., Strudler, N., & Grove, K. (2015). Comparing asynchronous and synchronous video vs. text based discussions in an online teacher education course. Online Learning, 19(3), 48-69.

Dahlstrom-Hakki, I., Alstad, Z., & Banerjee, M. (2020). Comparing synchronous and asynchronous online discussions for students with disabilities: the impact of social presence. Computers & Education, 150, 103842.

Molnar, A. L., & Kearney, R. C. (2017). A comparison of cognitive presence in asynchronous and synchronous discussions in an online dental hygiene course. American Dental Hygienists' Association, 91(3), 14-21.

Can I record videos with students in them and share these videos on eClass?

Information about recording through Zoom and more can be found on our Zoom: Set-up, Security and Solutions page.

Is Zoom secure? How can I make sure my Zoom is secure?
Answers to this question and more about Zoom can be found on our Zoom: Set-up, Security and Solutions page.


How can I use my TA effectively in an online course?

The TA can be used for synchronous teaching by monitoring the chat for questions (answering or recording the questions), ensuring the eClass links remain live, setting up quizzes in eClass, and grading or marking as per traditional TA conditions. It depends on the kind of course you are teaching and the capabilities of your TA; we would suggest having a conversation with your TA before the semester starts and discuss how they may feel they can best contribute.

Technology for Teaching

Does it matter if I use an ipad or tablet when teaching? What about what my students use for learning?

eClass, Zoom, and Google Suite features are all accessible on both mobile devices and computers. Be aware that they may look different. For example, on your computer, Zoom has easy access to gallery view, chat and a participants list; on a mobile device, Zoom users can only see either the presentation or the chat and they are not able to access gallery view.

We would recommend using a computer/laptop/netbook if possible but learning and teaching can be done using mobile devices if needed.

Can I use software that is not supported by Information Services and Technology (a.k.a. 3rd party software)?

Instructors can use third party software (e.g., Biteable, PollEverywhere) to facilitate their instruction. However, it is recommended that instructors use the University of Alberta supported tools wherever possible. To see what has been made available by IST please contact IST ist@ualberta.ca for a list of supported software.


  • instructors cannot ask students to pay for any third party applications;
  • instructors cannot force students to create accounts for any third party applications;
  • if the use of a third party application is required for grading purposes in a course, students must be provided a free, openly-accessible alternative;
  • instructors recommending or mandating the use of a third party student response/engagement system MUST caution students about privacy and security issues related to their personal information.

Should you decide to use a third-party application that requires the creation of an account, it is strongly recommended you (and students) create a new email address (Google, iCloud, etc.) which is not connected to your U of A email. This should only be used with 3rd party software which is not be supported by IST. Limit your use of your CCID email to Google, Zoom, etc.

How is student learning impacted if I use voiceover PowerPoints instead of a video of me lecturing?

An aswer to this question and more can be found on our Teaching Students to Learn Online page.

What if my students cannot access a computer?

An answer to this question can be found on our Supporting Students Through Access video.

Who is available to help me with my online synchronous class to deal with frozen screens and things crashing?

For technical assistance, please contact the eClass Support team at eClass@ualberta.ca or 780-492-9372. Please note, they are only able to assist with University of Alberta supported applications.

How do I use a whiteboard online and how do I get students involved on the whiteboard?

Using University of Alberta supported tools, there are two ways this can be achieved.

First, instructors can use the annotation tool on Zoom. This tool allows students to contribute to the screen that is being shared.

Second, instructors could use a shared Google Jamboard. Like Google Docs, Google Jamboards can be shared and accessed by multiple participants. Students can contribute to the Jamboard in realtime using sticky notes and writing.

How can I use polling in an online course?

Polling is an excellent way to engage students and formatively assess their learning during any session. Instructors have a few options when polling students.

The University of Alberta supported options include:

ePoll is the University of Alberta's web-based student response system (SRS), which allows instructors to conduct live student polls within the classroom. Instructors can use True/False, Multiple Choice, or Short Text type questions.

The polling feature for Zoom meetings allows you to create single choice or multiple choice polling questions for your meetings.

Other third-party applications that we like include:

To discuss how you might effectively integrate polls as a pedagogical strategy, please contact CTL for a consultation.

If you would like assistance in discussing how polling tools work, you are encouraged to contact the eClass team at eClass@ualberta.ca. Please note, this support is only available for U of A supported technologies.

Zoom Questions

Answers to Zoom questions can be found on our FAQs about Preparing to Teach page under the section titled "Zoom."

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