Simple Solutions for Overcoming Pain Points

AOI | Learning Innovations
Faculty Insider

Weekly Tip: Simple Solutions for Overcoming Pain Points

Creating a clear path to learning for our students can present challenges. Navigating these challenges can be difficult, which is why having a plan and anticipating any hinderances that may occur can be an advantage. In this week’s Faculty Insider, we are presenting three common pain points experienced in the classroom, and some simple solutions you can implement to overcome them.

Keeping Students on Task

Ensuring your students are focused and engaged with your content is a common concern for most instructors. Here are three strategies to help accomplish this goal:

  • Consider assigning roles when implementing group work. When each student has an active role, they will be better engaged with the work. Consider using the POGIL method to form group roles.
  • Use a shared document to keep students on track. The benefits of using a shared document are two-fold:
    1. Students have a way to record roles for accountability
    2. Students stay on track with question prompts they can work on in real-time. This makes it ideal for virtual breakout rooms.
  • Set clear expectations. Make sure your students know what they are expected to accomplish, and model with examples where applicable.

Using Technology with Intention

Adding technology to your course is one way to make content more engaging for students. It can also be overwhelming if not implemented properly. Two common issues instructors face when it comes to technology in the classroom are not feeling experienced enough to implement the chosen technology, or not knowing how much of the technology to incorporate into the class. Two tips for conquering this challenge are:

  • Focus on one or two relevant technologies. If you feel overwhelmed by using multiple technologies, your students probably will too. Read How to Choose a Quality Third-Party Resource to learn more.
  • As with most things, you may need to spend some time familiarizing yourself with your chosen educational technologies. Consider taking a workshop to sharpen your skills.

Engaging Discussion

Another pain point faculty encounter is keeping the conversation going. The reasons behind silence can be varied, but any faculty who has experienced it, especially after asking a question, knows the feeling when they are met with blank faces, eye-contact avoidance, or an annoyed sigh. This section provides a few solutions for getting students engaged in discussions.

Pro-tip: Increase buy-in from students by involving them in the development of expectations.

  • Use authentic application-based questions and prompts. That is, when wanting students to engage in a sustained critical conversation, provide prompts where there isn’t necessarily a right answer.
  • Case studies (pdf) are a great option when wanting to provide students with a context and situation to work on.

Instead of cold-calling on students and putting them on the spot before they have processed the information, which might cause anxiety and inhibit meaningful engagement, try one of the following:

  • Provide students with time to free-write or simply sit with their thoughts on the topic before opening up for discussion.
    • Use a Think-Pair-Share (TPS) (pdf) The TPS model is a great, structured method of working towards a discussion, as it allows students time to think before they share their ideas.
  • For online synchronous components, use the chat feature in Zoom.

Pro-tip: Enlist the assistance of a student to act as chat moderator.

A flipped classroom model may be of interest to those who would like to use most of class time for discussion or active learning.  The concept of a flipped classroom is that what is traditionally homework becomes classwork and vice versa.  So, students might watch a short lesson, complete a reading, review a case study, etc. at home, and class time is then used for discussion, application, and inquiry.

Access to reliable technology may not be available to all students. Below are alternatives to providing recorded content:

  • Provide lecture notes for students to review in advance.
  • Have students complete a safe-to-do experiment at home and take notes of the outcome. Students would then come prepared to discuss those outcomes and any questions they have.
  • Do an in-class flip. Most of class time is still spent on discussion and completing activities, but students are also given time to view recorded content.

Experiencing pain points can be frustrating, but it is possible to overcome them. Consider if there are strategies that may be better suited for the given course delivery method; or perhaps the class personality warrants a different approach. Whatever the case, whether engaging students in conversation, or figuring out which educational tech tools are best, there are solutions.


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.