AOI | Learning Innovations

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Weekly Tip: Simple Methods to Refine Your Course for Spring

This week, we want to encourage taking a step back and reflecting on the teaching and learning experience of Fall 2020. In anticipation of the winter break, the following tip provides simple strategies for improving and updating a course. These strategies are easy to prepare and deploy, and they can make a drastic impact on the student learning experience.

Below are a few methods that could be implemented in any course. As an initial step, our Instructional Designers always recommend starting with the goals of the course before implementing any changes.

Student Engagement

  • Use shared documents to ensure students stay on-task while working in small groups. Shared documents also serve as a record and can be referenced by students after a class session.
    Pro Tip: Assigning student roles within groups is a great way to increase accountability.
  • Tech tools, like the polling feature in Zoom, Poll Everywhere, or Padlet (pdf) can be helpful in identifying misconceptions and areas of confusion. Try using one of these tech tools in conjunction with a peer-instruction activity.


  • There are a variety of activities that students can participate in from a distance depending on the goals of the lesson. Think-Pair-Share (pdf) and Jigsaw (pdf) are two collaborative exercises that can be completed at a distance.

Learn about different collaborative activities by visiting our Teaching Tool Boxes page.


  • A Q&A Discussion Forum can be helpful in managing student questions. Creating a forum for questions can help reduce the number of emails received and allows all students an opportunity to benefit from the answer. Students can also help each other in this space!
  • Use the Announcements tool in the LMS to communicate reminders, updates, and changes. Using this feature makes information easy to access so that students do not have to dig through emails.

Announcements are also a great way to highlight and summarize overarching issues, ideas, and misconceptions, or to emphasize key concepts at the end of an assignment or unit.

Making changes to your course doesn’t have to consume your entire break. Instead, identify one aspect of the course you would like to change or improve, and then save a larger-scale revision for when you have more time.

Don’t forget—if you’d like to brainstorm with one of our Instructional Designers, we are available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. in our On-Demand space!


This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.