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Activate your remote students

This page presents how you as a teacher can actively promote interactivity with pedagogical strategies and digital tools. The guide covers Canvas, Mentimeter and Zoom, including breakout rooms and Polls.

The loss of social context

The loss of a social context was one of the most common negative changes students felt after the transition to remote education with covid-19, according to a study by the Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet, UKÄ) (2021). When courses suddenly went from Campus to being remote, the students communicated less with their teacher and with other students than before.

Why do students need to be activated?

In order for students to learn in the best possible way, they should be active co-creators of the knowledge rather than passive recipients. This makes learning a social activity.

Remote learning lacks the social gatherings between students that usually occur naturally at physical meetings. In a physical room students can, for example, talk in small groups before and after the teaching session. They can also ask their classmates during the break if they can study together at a later time. All of these are difficult to do during remote learning.

Increased interactivity during the teaching session can lead to the students communicating more with each other, both in connection with the teaching session and beyond it. The increased communication can lead to increased social well-being among the students and promotes the students’ active learning.

Structure the activity for interaction

The responsibility for promoting the interactivity between your students lies with you as a teacher, to a greater extent during remote education than otherwise. You as a teacher have much more control over digital rooms than over physical ones. You must create space for interaction in order for students to have the possibility to interact with each other. For example by using breakout rooms in Zoom or allowing students to use their microphones.

We recommend that you structure your teaching sessions with student interaction in mind, and we have therefore collected suggestions for digital tools and activities on this page. Feel free to try different tools and activities, see which ones are right for you and your teaching session.

  • Keep the Zoom room open 15 minutes before and after.
  • Be clear about the purpose and structure.
  • Create a connection between synchronous and asynchronous teaching.

Keep the Zoom room open 15 minutes before and after

If you open the Zoom room 15 minutes before the class starts, students will have time to prepare for the class and talk to their classmates, similar to how they usually meet in the classroom. In the same way, an extra 15 minutes at the end can give students time to ask questions to you or to each other.

We recommend that you let the students control the use of this time themselves, meaning that you as a teacher avoid being active in the room unless you get direct questions. You can have the camera and microphone turned off or turn away from the camera and work with something else. You can also have breakout rooms that students can enter if they want to talk more undisturbed, but remember to shut them down before the teaching session begins.

Be clear about the purpose and structure

The most common approach for teaching sessions is lectures with students as passive listeners, especially in remote education. Therefore we recommend that you clearly explain the layout of the activity to your students and what will be expected of them during your teaching sessions.

When explaining the purpose and structure of the whole session, you should keep the explanation short but clear; the goal is for your students to prepare mentally and move to a place where the activity is possible. The should not be distracted by, for example, prematurely distributed discussion questions. You can give a more detailed explanation of the activities just before starting them.

Create a connection between synchronous and asynchronous teaching

When students study alone and have remote learning sessions, the time together is more important than ever. Feel free to integrate these synchronous sessions with the material and assignments that the students have to work with on their own time, called asynchronous teaching. The goal should be that both the synchronous and asynchronous teaching feels more rewarding when they collaborate rather than exist in parallel.

Examples of working methods:

  • Use the Zoom time for discussion about material that the students have read in their own time, the so-called “Flipped Classroom” method.
  • Use the same groups in Canvas as during discussions in Zoom.
  • Work in a shared document or online Whiteboard in both Zoom and Canvas.
  • Mention good examples from Canvas during your teaching sessions and vice versa.

Read more about Flipped Classroom .

Read more about online Whiteboards .

Ask and answer questions systematically

Questions are more difficult to handle spontaneously when the student contact takes place through a web meeting or via text, both taking and asking questions. Therefore, the handling of questions should be systematic and planned even before the teaching session begins.

  • Make room for several question breaks during the teaching session.
  • Give students food for thought with a quiz tool.
  • Have students discuss questions in breakout rooms.

Make room for several question breaks during the teaching session

We recommend you answer questions during planned question breaks spread throughout the teaching session. Then you will avoid having to keep track of raised hands or written questions in the chat while you are teaching.

Tell the students approximately when you plan to take the question breaks and how they can ask you questions. It is recommended that questions should be answered orally, but feel free to give the students the opportunity to ask the questions both orally and in text.

Anonymous collection of questions in text works well for encouraging students to ask questions they may think are “stupid”. It also gives you as a teacher more control over the flow of questions, so no individual student takes over. Anonymous collection can for example be done with:

  • Live chat to you in Zoom.
  • Open questions in Mentimeter or Polls.

Give students food for thought with a quiz tool

Giving students food for thought with a quiz tool provides a simple pedagogical gain because it increases student engagement and contributes to interactivity. They are also easy to include in most learning activities.

Read more on the pages Activate students with questions .

Have students discuss questions in breakout rooms

Student discussions naturally make students active and makes them interact with each other, and Zoom’s breakout rooms works very well for discussions. With breakout rooms, you as a teacher can also jump between rooms if you are interested in the students' discussions.

Examples of layouts using the TPS (Think-Pair-Share) method:

  1. As a teacher, you ask a discussion question in the Zoom chat or Mentimeter.
  2. The students think about the question on their own for a few minutes.
  3. You divide the students into breakout rooms and let them discuss the question for a few minutes.
  4. Everyone gathers in the main room again and present what they have come up with as a group.

Point 4 can also be exchanged for the students answering the question in Polls or Mentimeter. The result can then be reviewed by you or discussed with the students.

This is how you create breakout rooms in Zoom .


  • Have at least three people per breakout room to reduce the risk of the discussion not starting. Keep in mind that students may have problems with internet connection. There are also students who leave their computers during the teaching session, even though they have been informed that questions will be asked.
  • Encourage the students to turn on their camera in the breakout rooms. Discussions start easier when everyone seems present.

Read more

Interactivity is also needed outside your teacher-led activities. For more information on how to increase interactivity and communication throughout your course, read the page Communication and collaboration .