Teaching and Learning Resource Center

Teaching Large Enrollment Courses

Kristin Smock, Senior Lecturer
Kristin Smock, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Center for Life Sciences Education

Senior Lecturer Kristin Smock reflects on an early experience teaching an in-person large enrollment course:

"My first semester teaching at Ohio State, I was assigned two lecture courses in Independence Hall. The total enrollment for my two classes was nearly equal to the enrollment of my undergraduate university. To say I was nervous is an understatement. 

“After my first lecture of 700+ people, a student waited patiently to introduce herself—she said she wanted to meet me because I ‘looked like an ant’ from her seat in the back. Very large lecture halls create a sense of disconnect—I try to be aware of that and navigate to the far reaches of the classroom during lecture, when possible.”  

Teaching in a large lecture hall can indeed be a stress-inducing experience. And from the student perspective, learning in a large enrollment course has its own challenges. You may be here because you are teaching a large lecture for the first time, or you may be looking for ideas to rethink one you have taught previously.  

The definition of a large enrollment class is subjective and dependent on who you ask (whether instructors, students, or researchers). But in general, classes of more than 100 students are considered to be large enrollment courses (Cash et al., 2017). This guide is framed around that definition and covers a range of approaches to teaching large enrollment courses effectively. We'll focus heavily on the in-person classroom environment, but considerations for teaching large online courses are also highlighted throughout.  

UX Tip

Reflect

Recall the first tine you stood at the podium at the front of a large lecture hall, staring out at a sea of student faces... How did you feel in that moment? How did your first class go, and what might you do differently today?

Image
A blurry instructor seen from the back of a full lecture hall.

Background

Both instructors and students can be apprehensive about the ability of large enrollment courses to support learning, but employing certain evidence-based instructional approaches can help.

  • Knight and Wood (2005) studied the effects of introducing more active learning in a large upper-division developmental biology course and found that students in the more interactive course had increased learning gains and improved conceptual understanding compared to those in the more traditional version of the course.
  • Students and instructors were surveyed about larger classes and results suggest students perceive larger classes as feeling smaller when various instructional approaches are used (Cash et al., 2017). For example, instructors who were engaging, often walking around the lecture hall, and using small group activities, helped make a large class feel smaller.
  • Wisenhunt et al. (2019) examined three pedagogical strategies in their 2012 redesign of a large introductory psychology class: "(a) encouraging active student engagement, (b) reducing students’ feelings of anonymity, and (c) providing individualized feedback" (Wisenhunt et al., 2019, p. 121). To better understand the influence of the course redesign, they surveyed students in multiple courses at the beginning and end of the term to examine their impressions of the classes in relation to the three strategies employed. Findings suggested that student impressions significantly improve over the term in large classes. While it appears that the instructional strategies may have improved student impressions, individual instructors may have also played a role in this positive change.

Below we dive into specific approaches to teaching large enrollment courses across the following key areas: classroom management, community building, logistics, assessment and feedback, diversity and inclusion, and instructor resiliency.

In Practice

Whether you are teaching in a face-to-face lecture hall or in an online classroom, the strategies outlined below will guide you to support student engagement and learning in large enrollment courses.

Classroom Management

Consider this quote from an anonymous student in an introductory Biology course:

"It was a class of 600 people so participation other than Top Hat was difficult. [The instructor] was encouraging of questions and would answer them, but the large class size was a bit discouraging because it was hard to hear the person speaking.”

You may find that teaching in a large course environment presents unique challenges. Like many instructors, you may feel nervous at first and struggle to cope with the added demands and stressors as compared to teaching a smaller class (Mulryan-Kyne, 2010). Fortunately, the strategies below can help you mitigate barriers and leverage opportunities to make your larger courses a success.

Plan and prepare.

Being prepared is one of the surest ways to lessen your feelings of anxiety before your first day teaching a large class.

  • Visit the classroom before the first day of class and familiarize yourself with the space. Learn more about the technology available in your particular room.
  • Log in to the computer to learn how to use the available software and wireless projection in order to avoid surprises on your first day.
  • Take inventory of any additional materials you may need to communicate with students, such as a microphone (see more below). If you use your own microphone, connect it to the system and test it.
UX Tip

Using CarmenCanvas

Whether you’re teaching in-person or online, setting up the essential components of your course in Carmen before the term starts will help you (and your students) get off on the right foot. Read more about Carmen essentials and applying Carmen Common Sense or view this workshop recording of Carmen Essentials for Student Success.

Communicate clearly.

No matter how or where you’re teaching, it’s important to be explicit and transparent in the information and instructions you communicate to students. In a large lecture hall though, students may simply have problems hearing you and their peers.

  • Always use a microphone. A wireless microphone will allow you to move throughout the space. If a wireless microphone is not already available in your classroom, you can rent equipment from Classroom Services.
  • Remember that students can’t hear each other. If a student asks a question aloud, repeat the question for the entire class before answering it so that all students can engage and follow along.
  • Be explicit with students about the preferred ways they can reach you outside of class as well, whether via Carmen, by email, or by visiting your office hours.
Limit distractions.

Large rooms present learners with more opportunities to become disengaged. Be proactive with measures to keep your students’ attention on class activities.

  • Reduce noise levels as much as possible. If students are often talking, you might have teaching assistants seated throughout the room to help control off-topic conversations.
  • Intersperse lecture with time for individual reflection or activities that foster on-topic conversations among students. Read more about minimizing traditional lecture below.
  • Create engaging presentations—limit text-heavy slides and incorporate visuals and multimedia to convey your content.
Minimize traditional lecture.

Lecture can be an effective instructional tool, particularly when it leverages your expertise in your field. However, traditional “sage on a stage” lecturing for the majority of class time has fallen out of favor due to copious research showing improved learning and retention rates when instructors use active learning techniques (Freeman et al., 2014). Implementing active learning in large lectures—particularly in online courses—can be challenging, but there are established techniques you can employ.

Break up your lectures by interspersing individual, pair, or small-group activities during class time.

More considerations for online courses

Establishing your presence in a large-enrollment online course environment is typically accomplished through an interplay of lecture videos, written instructions and overviews, regular communication with your students, and sometimes synchronous meetings via CarmenZoom.

Here are some tips for building instructor presence and managing an online learning environment.

  • Be upfront about the unique challenges of teaching an online course with higher-than-average enrollment, both for students and the instructor (Lake, 2019).
  • Create a clear communication plan that establishes specific guidelines and parameters about instructor availability, response frequency, professional boundaries, and feedback expectations (Chen, Anderson, et al., 2015; Lake, 2019).
  • Minimize the length of lecture videos and consider employing alternate methods of instruction, including more authentic and active methods of learning (Miller, 2016).
  • Forge deeper connections with students through introduction, overview, and lecture videos that showcase the instructor’s face, voice, and personality (Trammel and LaForge, 2017; Zhong, 2018).

Read more about establishing your presence and connecting with students in Online Instructor Presence.


Community Building

An instructor speaks to a student at the front of a lecture hall.

As class sizes increase, it becomes increasingly impractical to know every student by name and face. For students in large enrollment courses, particularly online ones (Chen et al., 2014), anonymity is easily achieved. Fear of speaking up increases as well, making call-and-response questions challenging. Research suggests students are more engaged in their courses when they feel a sense of belonging.

"Even though it was a large lecture, I still felt like I was in a small class because [the instructor] still answered questions and had us engage in the material with the people around us."

- Anonymous student

Below are some tips for establishing and maintaining community and a sense of belonging in your large enrollment courses.

Use students' names.

Research shows that using students’ names is an important way to build connection and create community (Cash et al. 2017).

  • At the start of the term, encourage your students to use Namecoach in Carmen to record the pronunciation of their names and identify their pronouns. 
  • For in-person classes, have students write their names on a piece of folded cardstock to create a “name tent” so you can easily use their names during discussion (Cooper et al., 2017). Students can list their pronouns if they would like as well.
  • Along with their preferred names, have students upload a profile picture in CarmenCanvas. Ask them to use a profile picture (if their cameras are not turned on) for any synchronous meetings in CarmenZoom. Note: Students must log in to CarmenZoom before joining a meeting for their profile picture to appear. 

See more tips for learning student names.

Set a positive tone.

Set a positive tone to make students feel welcome, even before the first day of class.

  • Welcome announcements on Carmen, "get-to-know-you" assignments and icebreakers, and online discussions via Carmen or other approved platforms can encourage students to engage personally.
  • Introductory discussions need not be related to the course content. You might consider questions such as: What is challenging or exciting about this semester. Post a picture of your pet!
  • Help students get to know you—share about your experience, what excites you about the course, or a bit about your personal life or interests. Consider using an introductory video for this purpose.
Leverage the first class session.

Devote time to community building during your first class.

  • Explain your philosophy on student-instructor and student-student relationships. Let students know their success is your priority, that it's okay to be wrong, and that you will always support them.
  • Plan an activity that involves interaction, such as low-stakes polling, icebreakers, and/or small-group discussions. A large class setting can prevent you from communicating with all groups, but it is possible to engage meaningfully with a few groups during the course of an activity. Try to move away from the front of the lecture hall and interact with distant groups.
  • Wrap up activities by encouraging a few students or groups to share out to the entire class. Thank them for sharing, using student names at every opportunity. Students will feel more comfortable speaking up when you show that it is welcomed and encouraged.
Empower your TAs.

If you have teaching assistants (TAs), empower them to help you build and reinforce community throughout the term.

  • Involve TAs as a part of your team by referencing them, their work, and how they are involved and assisting in the course often throughout the term.
  • If TAs attend lecture, have them facilitate small-group discussions and activities and report back to you. Some students may feel more comfortable sharing with a TA than the lecturer, so take advantage!
  • If your TAs lead a small section, such as a lab or recitation, encourage them to build community in those sections, too. You might provide them with suggested activities.
  • When teaching online, your TAs may seem even more anonymous or invisible. Encourage them to share their own introductions, facilitate and respond to online discussions, and share feedback. You might include your TAs’ photos, names, contact information and brief bios along with yours on the course homepage in Carmen.

"I am very shy and have major stage fright so I would never yell out a question. Having the TAs walking around helped make it seem more personal."

- Anonymous student

More considerations for online courses

Building a community of trust, openness, and learning is one of the greatest challenges faced by instructors of large-enrollment online courses. In general, peer interactions need additional guidelines and parameters to make sure that discussion remains civil, generative, and easy-to-follow. It is also helpful to break your students up into smaller learning cohorts to make graded discussions more manageable.

Here are some tips for managing student interactions in a large-enrollment online learning environment.

  • Explicitly define the roles, duties, and responsibilities of yourself and your TAs (Chen, Lowenthal, et al., 2015; Kelly, 2013). 
  • Draft clear instructions, response expectations, and social norms for all online communications (Loder, 2019).
  • Create larger-than-average discussion groups for collaborative work to ensure a more equitable division of labor, using peer review and anonymous surveys to gauge student engagement (Trammel and LaForge, 2017).
  • Create ungraded social spaces such as class “cafes,” and Q&A forums, where students can ask questions, offer feedback, request assistance, and form independent study groups (Riffel & Sibley, 2005; Lake, 2018).
  • Develop substantive, open-ended prompts for collaborative work, with clear response expectations and ground rules for interpersonal conduct (Trammel and LaForge, 2017; Lake, 2018; Loder, 2019).

Read more in Student Interaction Online.

For additional ideas for building community in your course, see Shaping a Positive Learning Environment.
 

Logistics

Every instructor encounters a set of logistical constraints when they teach:  What resources and technology are available in your assigned classroom? What will the seating arrangement be in the classroom? How much time should you spend answering emails? These constraints become even more challenging when teaching a course where everything is scaled up. Consider the following:

  • Instructor-student interaction: As compared to a small classroom, an instructor of a large enrollment course can expect more emails from students, more students to talk to before and after class, and more students in office hours or asking for appointments (Chen et al., 2015; Oranella, 2006). 
  • Activities and assessments: Doing a hands-on activity that requires materials may be much more manageable in a smaller classroom than in a lecture hall (Trammel & Forge, 2017). A large enrollment instructor needs to consider the number of materials needed as well as the additional time to prepare them, provide instructions, pass out and collect work, and grade or give feedback on assignments.
  • Classroom spaces: When teaching in large rooms or lecture halls with fixed seating, students may have limited desk or writing space. Group activities may be difficult if there isn't ample room to move around. Students in the back of the classroom may have difficulty hearing or seeing you and become disengaged. Classroom space can even become an issue during exams—students often sit very close to one another in lecture halls, which can make it harder to prevent or monitor academic misconduct (Chen et al., 2015)
  • Online learning spaces: In large online courses, additional measures and parameters to guide online discussions and student interaction may be needed. Smaller peer groups or cohorts can be helpful, so additional time may be needed to plan activities and set up groups in Carmen

How can you tackle these logistical challenges?

Use your resources at Ohio State.

Know what tools are at your disposal, where to find helpful resources, and who to contact for guidance when you have questions or need support to solve a problem.

  • Take advantage of Carmen features that allow for management of large courses. For example, if you are getting similar questions from students, use the announcement feature to communicate to the whole class and minimize the time spent responding to individual students.
  • Look into lecture capture, which is available in many large halls and will be a valuable resource for students who miss a class session or need a review.
  • When administering multiple choice assessments, use scantrons for efficient exam delivery and grading. Your department may have equipment to read scantrons, but if not the Exam Scoring Services office can quickly grade and analyze the scantrons.
  • Delegate responsibilities beyond grading to your TAs, such as helping you field questions from students after class or taking scantrons to the testing center.
  • Investigate your department’s resources and contacts for teaching support, or browse our Teaching Support Forms to request a consultation.

See the Managing the Classroom section for more tools and approaches to facilitating class in a large space.

Seated students working together in class.
Work with a large space.

Teaching in a very large space or fixed-seating lecture hall can feel limiting. It may seem less flexible or harder to promote interaction, but with thought and preparation, you can become accustomed to the space and how to work with its constraints.

  • Check out your classroom before you start teaching. You can visit it in person or virtually through classroom services to see the classroom design and provided technology ahead of time.
  • Plan appropriate learning activities for the space. If in a lecture hall, you can use Think-Pair-Share activities or have students share in small groups with those seated nearby. Consider polling and other activities that leverage technology or students’ mobile devices to help you meet outcomes. Read more in Assessment and Feedback.
  • Make two copies of exams. Students in large classrooms will be sitting close to each other, resulting in more opportunities for misconduct. Two versions of an exam with the questions in different orders can prevent students from being tempted to look at a neighbor’s responses.
  • If your classroom has a whiteboard or chalkboard (and you think students will be able to see your writing from all seats) bring a backup supply of your own markers or chalk.
Engage with students outside of class.

When there are many students enrolled in a course, it can be more challenging to foster instructor-student interaction, especially with every individual. 

  • Set times in your schedule for answering emails and meeting with students, and clearly communicate these times to your class. Tell students to expect one business day for you to reply to emails.
  • Encourage students to visit your office hours as much as possible. When teaching online, you can conduct open office hours or have 1:1 meetings with students via Zoom.
  • Plan to arrive to your classroom early and stay late—about 10 minutes before and after lecture—in case students have quick questions that don’t warrant email or office visits.
  • Create ungraded social spaces or Q&A discussion in your Carmen course for instructor-student communication, in addition to using the announcements and other Carmen features.

If you are teaching online, learn more about logistical considerations for online courses in Policies for Online Teaching.
 

Assessment and Feedback

Students working together on an activity in a lecture hall.

Assessing student knowledge of your learning outcomes and providing feedback are cornerstones of effective instruction. Large enrollment courses are a special context in which some methods of assessment shine and others are more challenging.

Some common challenges you might face with assessment and feedback in large courses include:

  • Grading and providing in-depth feedback can be prohibitively time-consuming
  • Assessing student understanding during class time can prove difficult
  • Consistency in grading and feedback may be tough, particularly when multiple instructors or TAs are involved
  • Activities that work in smaller class sizes might need to be adapted for a larger class.

Use the strategies below to be intentional about assessment and feedback in large-enrollment learning environments.

Choose assessments thoughtfully for the large enrollment context.

Know that you may need to adapt assignments to be feasible and productive in a large enrollment course. As we noted before, any learning activities you plan should make sense for the capacity of your course and the room itself if teaching in person. Consider physical space factors such as space between isles, desk size, and the ability for students to see and hear you before simply reusing assessments you developed for smaller classes.

To adapt activities in the large enrollment context, it is ideal to:

  • Allow students to work from their seats. For group activities, they can turn and work with the other students seated around them.
  • Provide support and feedback from TAs or yourself during the activity. This might mean engaging with individual groups as students work, or pausing the activity to discuss, answer questions, or elaborate on concepts with the whole class.
  • Avoid passing out or collecting materials. Conduct activities using tools like Top Hat or easily accessible mobile apps. Leverage digital materials and submissions rather than printing any materials.
  • Eliminate any confusing logistical components. The simpler and more efficient the better. If you are providing digital materials, post them in Carmen beforehand so students can preview and prepare in advance.
Plan how to assess the learning of all students.

In smaller classrooms, it is easy to use call-and-response style questions to get a sense of whether students understand the material. In larger spaces, you can’t talk to many students one-on-one or even see many facial expressions. It can often be difficult to decide when to provide more guidance or move on to the next concept. Students who are struggling with material can easily get lost in the shuffle.

Consider how the approaches below may help you better assess student learning during instruction.

  • Pause your instruction to provide time for questions and clarification of concepts, especially during lecture. For example, you might build “Q&A” slides or quick knowledge checks into your PowerPoint presentation at intervals after you’ve covered key content. If you’re teaching online and recording your lectures, Mediasite quizzes enables you to insert knowledge checks into your lecture video.
  • Give students time to reflect on a question before sharing their responses, especially for higher-order questions. You might use quick writes to have students gather and organize their thoughts and then invite volunteers to share out their ideas.
  • Incorporate Think-Pair-Share, peer instruction, or other activity formats that encourage students to discuss their ideas with peers before speaking up to the whole group. Some students may be more confident speaking up in larger classrooms if they have a chance to get feedback from peers first. See more about peer instruction.
  • Use classroom polling tools like Top Hat to gather answers to posed questions from the entire class. This will allow you to quickly assess whether students are on target with a concept or need more support.  
  • Make use of anonymous responses and commenting, when available with a given tool like Top Hat, to increase students’ comfort answering questions. Whether you’re teaching online or in person, the ability to comment or ask and answer questions anonymously can encourage shy students to participate.
    • Note that allowing anonymous responses increases the likelihood of inappropriate comments—be upfront about this and warn students that inappropriate or offensive comments will result in the loss of this option.
  • Collecting regular feedback from students, including and beyond a mid-semester survey, may be especially valuable in a large enrollment course so that all students have a chance to provide input and be heard.
Streamline grading and feedback.

When teaching a large enrollment course, it is especially important to keep major assessments minimal and grading manageable. Only include graded assessments that are needed to support student learning and assess your outcomes. Be explicit and transparent with students about all assignment instructions and expectations.

The following strategies can lessen the time and effort needed to grade fairly and effectively.

  • Develop clear rubrics for major assignments and discuss the criteria with your students. A well-designed rubric aligned to outcomes can speed up the grading process, especially for open-ended assignments.  
  • Leverage technology that simplifies your assessment and grading processes, such as the assignments, rubrics, and SpeedGrader tools in CarmenCanvas. You might use auto-graded options when possible; for example, many textbooks offer companion products for students to do practice problems.
  • Utilize peer review. This is best for drafts or formative assessments because it gives students the chance to build on their own skills by seeing an example of another student’s work and providing feedback based on assignment expectations. Read more about Implementing Peer Review in Your Course and using the peer review tool in Carmen.
  • For formative in-class assignments like worksheets, only grade a selection of the questions that help you assess the assignment goals. Alternately, you can grade formative assignments based on participation only.
  • For summative assessments, like exams and papers, leverage your TAs and provide them with clear and easy-to-use rubrics when applicable. For exams, you may decide to use only multiple-choice questions for easier grading. Alternately, you might have TAs grade any short answer questions; even so, keeping these questions relatively brief and easy to grade (e.g., lists or labeling versus essay questions), will keep the grading process manageable.
UX Tip

Assessment variety 

It may be tempting to default to insubstantial, choice-based assignments that do not accurately assess student learning and growth. Try to strike a balance between making grading manageable and promoting student engagement and success by including a variety of assessment and assignment types. 

Maintain consistency in grading and feedback.

When assessing the work of so many students, it’s crucial to pay attention to consistency in your grading practices, particularly when you have multiple individuals grading (instructors and TAs).

Consider the following to ensure multiple graders are aligned in their approach.

  • Walk through all rubric criteria with your TAs, as well as any instructions for grading and the tools used in the process.
  • If you are using short-answer questions on exams, consider having one TA grade the same question for the whole class (rather than an individual TA grading all questions for a subset of the class). This keeps grading consistent because the individual only needs to focus on one question.
  • Do a grade norming exercise before your TAs begin to grade. This is best done early in the semester before any assignments have been graded.
    1. Select student responses to use as examples, ideally representing a range of understanding or quality.
    2. Have your TAs grade and provide feedback on those assignments using the rubric.
    3. Afterwards, have the graders compare the grades and feedback they provided based on the rubric and come to consensus. ​​​​​If necessary, you may grade one more assignment to see if grading consistency has improved.
  • Conduct a grade analysis at a few points during the term. Calculate the mean, median, and standard deviation of the grades on each assignment for each grader. This will give you an idea of individual differences in graders so that you can coach your TAs accordingly.
    • Note: Sometimes a grader could be assigned a particularly high-achieving or low-achieving group of students. To account for this, compare the grader’s subjective grading of their students’ assignments to more objective measures, such as that group’s multiple-choice exam grades. For example, imagine one TA has given significantly lower scores on a research paper as compared to other graders. If their students’ exam grades are also low compared to the rest of the class, the grader may actually be grading consistently.
More considerations for online courses

CarmenCanvas provides several tools that can assist you in streamlining, maintaining consistency, and lessening the time and effort of grading. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

Design online assignments that allow for depth, variety, and substance while also making your week-to-week grading tasks manageable. 

  • Establish deadlines that recur at weekly intervals throughout the term and communicate them clearly to students (Trammel and LaForge, 2017).
  • Use worksheets, templates, and open-ended Carmen quizzes as a replacement for essay-based writing assignments (Lake, 2018).
  • Mix multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions with automated responses (Lake, 2018).  
  • Develop ePortfolio, collaborative problem-solving, and peer review assignments (Trammel and LaForge, 2017; Fukuzawa and Boyd, 2016).
UX Tip

Rubrics in Carmen workshop recording

The effectiveness and efficiency of your grading process for any given assessment hinges on the rubric you create. Whether you’re teaching online or in person, this recording of the Rubrics in CarmenCanvas workshop will walk you through types of rubrics, best practices for designing effective rubrics, and how to set up a rubric in Carmen.

 Learn more in Designing Assessments of Student Learning and Creating and Adapting Assignments for Online Coursesif you’re teaching online.
 

Diversity and Inclusion

Students in your course have diverse identities and experiences when it comes to race, ethnicity, religion, language, age, abilities, socioeconomic background, educational background, disciplinary knowledge, learning preferences, and more.

Stereotype threat occurs when a student thinks they may confirm a negative stereotype about an identity group they belong to, and these thoughts can have negative impacts for student performance in your course (Spencer et al., 2016). When teaching a large enrollment course, you will have less time to dedicate to supporting each learner. Students can more easily be “lost in the crowd” as large classes inadvertently foster a sense of anonymity (Mulryan-Kyne, 2010).

Consider the following approaches to creating a classroom environment that is welcoming and supportive of all students.

Develop inclusive course content.

Effective instructors meaningfully consider the role that content plays in creating a learning environment where students see themselves reflected and valued.”
Kachani et al., 2020

Students report that seeing themselves reflected in the curriculum creates a sense of belonging (Kachani et al., 2020). This is particularly important in large courses that may have greater diversity than a smaller class.

Consider the following practices when selecting course readings and resources, building your syllabus, and designing course material.

  • Highlight contributions of a range of individuals or groups, especially those that may be systematically underrepresented in your discipline. This allows students of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and abilities to better picture themselves in your field.
  • Feature a diverse range of perspectives and ideas from different cultures within your course.
  • Apply Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy by encouraging students to integrate their own interests, cultures, and backgrounds into the course (Paris, 2012). For example, provide time at the end of a lesson for students to reflect on how the content covered relates to them personally. Allow students to document their reflections in whatever format is most comfortable for them.
  • Take time to promote any special events celebrating diversity on campus, especially in your field or specialty.
Consider students’ diverse educational backgrounds.

In your large lecture course, students will have a range of abilities, experiences, and culturally-specific approaches to learning.

  • Use Universal Design for Learning in the design and delivery of your course to remove barriers to learning and support the engagement and success of all students.
  • Assess students’ initial content knowledge at the beginning of the course. Apply what you learn to scaffold learning activities or provide supplemental interventions and resources as needed.
  • Promote student metacognition through frequent reflection. This will help students understand what and how they are learning and give them a sense of control over their course journey. Read more in Supporting Student Learning in Your Course.
Make your course material and learning environment accessible.

Making your course accessible is a proactive and intentional process to ensure all students can access and benefit from your materials and learning environment.

While accessible design is imperative for students with disabilities, all learners will benefit from the UDL and accessibility measures you take in your course (Chisholm & May, 2009). For example, a student studying in a noisy coffee shop might take advantage of captions when viewing video content in Carmen. The guided lecture notes or study guides you create to support some learners can be utilized and appreciated by all students.

Employ the approaches below to support all learners in your course.

  • Familiarize yourself with the legal and institutional requirements around accessibility. Explore more in Ohio State’s Digital Accessibility Center.
  • Deliver content through multiple modes (e.g., visual, auditory, textual) so students can access the same information regardless of ability or preference.
  • Use accessibility best practices to create your course material, including providing captions for videos, transcripts for audio recordings, and alternative text or captions for non-decorative images. Ensure all text and documents in your course are accessible for screen readers. 
  • Make sure your Carmen course content is accessible. Read more in Five ways to improve accessibility in your Carmen course.
  • If you’re teaching in a physical classroom or lecture hall, consider students’ ability to see and hear you and their peers, the usability of the technology, and the functionality and flexibility of the seating. Reserve the first couple rows of seats for students who prefer to sit closer to you or the projector.
Plan how to address accommodation requests.

You will likely have many students with disability accommodations and hidden disabilities in your course.

Familiarize yourself with the services provided through Student Life Disability Services (SLDS) and know options for supporting learners with accommodations in your course.

More considerations for online courses

There has been little scholarship on the subject of incorporating inclusive teaching practices in high-enrollment online courses specifically. That said, apply the following commonsense solutions for building inclusivity and equity into your online course.

  • Remain stringent about digital accessibility standards, particularly when sharing or authoring multimedia content.
  • Select diverse and representative course materials that offer a richer, more inclusive selection of perspectives on course topics.
  • Author assessments and activities that empower students and allow them to share their perspectives in a safe, generative fashion.
  • Be transparent with students about the sort of inclusive learning culture you are striving to foster and create, sharing a specific outline of course expectations if needed.
  • Strike a balance between synchronous and asynchronous course components. Use your regularly scheduled meetings for a variety of tasks and activities, such as lecture, discussion, student-led presentations, problem-solving activities, roleplaying activities, and unstructured instructor-student interactions.

Find more ideas for creating an inclusive environment in this video recording of the Fostering Inclusive Learning Online workshop.

 

An instructor lectures to a class.

Instructor Resiliency

Part of being an effective instructor is being present, connected, and supportive with your class (Cavanagh, 2016). But stress, whether at work or at home, can lead us to feel unprepared, nervous, scattered, and even burned outunable to fully connect with our students and their learning.

Large enrollment courses in particular can compound stress. You may have anxiety about teaching in front of so many people or being accountable for so many students’ learning. The additional logistical components, including more communication with students and more grading, can also add to feelings of being overwhelmed. 

The tips and reflection questions below will help you decrease stress and maintain a healthy mindset when teaching a large enrollment course.

Cultivate and sustain a growth mindset.

Having a growth mindset can improve your resiliency as an instructor and positively affect your students' performance (Canning et al., 2019; Spurgeon & Thompson, 2018)

According to Dweck (2008):

  • A growth mindset is the belief that a person’s attributes can change through practice. For example: “While that class activity didn’t go as planned, I know how to make it better next time.”
  • A fixed mindset is the belief that a person’s attributes are not able to change. For example: “I am terrible at developing class activities. Why bother?”

Reflection questions:

  • What do I say to myself about my own teaching? Do those thoughts reflect a fixed- or growth-oriented view of my instruction?
  • How can I foster a growth mindset when receiving feedback on my instruction?
  • In what ways do I present a fixed mindset to my students? Consider the language you use, your course or assignment design, and how you respond to incorrect and correct responses from students.
  • In what ways can I support my students to have a growth mindset?
Find or rekindle purpose.

Finding personal meaning and purpose in their instruction can help educators persist and flourish, especially during difficult times (Spurgeon & Thompson, 2018). If you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with aspects of your course, remember the motivations that led you to teaching in the first place. How does teaching bring you a sense of purpose, joy, or accomplishment?

Reflection questions:

  • How does teaching align with my personal values, strengths, and goals?
  • What impact do I want to make as an instructor?
  • How do I want my students to be changed by this course?
  • What have I received from students or peers that makes me feel excited about teaching?
Maintain self-care.

Consider your sleep, nutrition, exercise, and mental health needs. Did you know that you can access five complementary counseling sessions through the Ohio State Employee Assistance Program if you are seeking support?

Mindfulness practices have been shown to increase resilience in a number of different high-stress occupations, including teaching (Cavanagh, 2016; Brammer, 2020; Rosner et al., 2012). Your Plan for Health and the Wexner Medical Center offer a number of free mindfulness recordings and resources you can explore.

Reflection questions:

  • What baseline needs must I satisfy to feel healthy?
  • Will adopting a mindfulness practice benefit me? When and how will I practice?
  • How will I stick to my self-care plan during busy periods in the semester?
  • If I can't stick to my plan, can I adjust it to be more realistic?
Use peer support.

Talking with fellow educators can normalize your experiences and bring new perspective. Connecting with your peers, in both formal and informal settings, can provide a range of insights, resources, and strategies to employ in your courses.

Acquaint yourself with the professional learning opportunities available to you across Ohio State campuses, such as the workshops and learning communities offered by the Drake Institute and other Teaching and Learning Resource Center partners. Keep an eye on our Learning Opportunities feed for offerings that interest you, and browse our Teaching Support Forms if you need assistance to solve a specific teaching problem.

Reflection questions:

  • How do I currently engage with peers and contacts in my department? Beyond my department?
  • What colleagues, learning communities, workshops, conferences, or other networking opportunities would support me to reach my teaching goals?
  • Can I engage in mentoring to support my development as an instructor (or support others to develop)?
  • What supports are available in my department or at the university if I need guidance to solve a problem in my course?

If you need individualized support to solve a problem you encounter when teaching a large enrollment course, browse our Teaching Support Forms to request a consultation.

Summary

While there are unique challenges to teaching and learning in a large enrollment course, it can also be very rewarding. Whether you are teaching in person or online, knowing the constraints and opportunities you will encounter—and planning accordingly—will enrich the course experience for you and your students.

  • Classroom Management: Large enrollment courses can be intimidating, and it is easy for learners to feel anonymous. Make sure students can hear you clearly, have a plan in place to mitigate classroom distractions, and avoid traditional lecture in favor of active learning techniques as much as possible.
  • Community Building: Prioritize community by finding ways to develop personal connections with students throughout the semester. Set a supportive tone, reinforce instructor-student and student-student connections as you go, and utilize the individualized support your TAs can provide to the class.
  • Logistics: Think about how you will use class time and physical classroom space differently, leverage available support resources, and be available to students outside of scheduled class time.
  • Assessment and Feedback: Adapt your assessments and activities to run smoothly in a large enrollment context. Find ways to monitor and assess the learning of all students. Simplify and maintain consistency in grading and feedback processes.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Develop inclusive course materials so students can see themselves represented, consider how to meet the needs of students from varied educational backgrounds, and proactively design your course with UDL and accessibility in mind.
  • Instructor Resiliency: Cultivate resiliency by developing a growth mindset, reflecting on your purpose, attending to self-care, and leaning on the support and advice of your peers.

References

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