Computer with lightbulb, book, pencil, magnifying glass

Connecting Remote and Face-to-Face Students

 Instructional Strategies and Learning Technology Tools

Authors: Dr. Anna Pletnyova, PhD, Lorelei Anselmo

During times when students might be connecting to the classroom from face-to-face and/or remote locations, instructors can plan learning activities that leverage multiple learning spaces for a seamless student experience.  

To engage remote and face-to-face students, this document provides faculty and instructors with interactive teaching strategies and shows how a learning activity can be instructed in different modalities with a view to connecting remote and in-person students in one course.

In times of unexpected disruption, instructors can choose to adapt to changing needs by using the activities in different modalities both in conjunction with one another or as standalone tasks. 

Given the course learning goals and context, instructors can use this resource to: 

  • Plan and facilitate a learning activity that can engage students in their learning regardless of where the students are connecting from

  • Maintain the student learning experience through collaborative learning activities that connect students to each other from multiple points of entry

Concept map/diagram

A visual representation of a topic or concept that students can use to help organize their ideas and demonstrate an understanding of the concept.


To provide students with an opportunity to express and demonstrate their understanding of concepts in a visual manner.

Face-to-face students

Students meet in pairs or groups to brainstorm ideas.

Synchronous online students

Students work in breakout rooms to collaborate on their map/diagram.

Asynchronous online students

  • Students create their concept map using the ideas from the face-to-face and Zoom sessions.  
  • Concept maps are uploaded to D2L. 
  • Students provide peer/group feedback on Discussion Board. 

Flexibility: Use as a supplemental activity after introducing a concept or as a scaffolding exercise to a larger assessment. 

Consider a follow-up activity by asking students: “How has this activity helped to deepen your understanding of the topic”? 

This could be completed in either face-to-face, asynchronous online via D2L or synchronous online via Zoom. 

Engagement: To engage both remote and in-person students, use the D2L Discussion Board as a space to brainstorm ideas and provide peer feedback after the concept maps have been presented to the class.  


Conversations on a certain topic in a virtual or real-life environment occurring in real time or asynchronously. Can be held orally or in writing or combine both.


  • To gain a better understanding of concepts from the assigned readings.
  • To analyze complex concepts. 

Face-to-face students

  • In a large class, use Top Hat to create a real-time discussion that will appear on the screen and to which everyone can contribute. If you have students taking the class remotely (e.g., due to self-isolation), they can also contribute to the real-time Top Hat discussion if you Zoom them into the class and share your screen with a Top Hat discussion.
  • In a small class, divide students into groups, have them discuss the topic in small groups or pairs. Next, groups share their ideas with the class and come up with common conclusions. 

Synchronous online students

  • Write the key concept or topic on the Zoom Whiteboard and ask students to add ideas using annotation tools. 
  • Use the Zoom chat for general class discussion or ask students to unmute their mics. You can set off your discussion with a Zoom poll. 
  • Use Zoom breakout rooms to create smaller groups. You can create rooms with discussion topics so that students can choose for themselves which room to join. 
  • Write a question in Top Hat discussions and ask students to provide answers. You will share your Zoom screen for everyone to see the discussion threads. 

Asynchronous online students

  • Set up a discussion forum  and topic(s) in D2L. To tap into students’ diverse interests, create several topics in one forum and ask students to choose one or two to contribute to.
  • The instructor or TA can create the first thread in a topic to show an example to students. 
  • Grade students using rubrics. 
  • You can finish the discussion with a post summarizing student ideas and findings. 

Choice and flexibility: In asynchronous discussions, consider creating several topics for students to choose from so that they answer several questions.  

For example, create a forum on the same issue with 10 topics and ask students to create threads in 2 of them and respond to other students in 2 other topics. This way, students will participate in discussions of different facets of the same issue. 

To engage in-person and remote students in one discussion, use the Top Hat Assign feature to continue synchronous in-class discussions remotely.

Grading: To grade student discussions, use a rubric. Contributions to discussions can also be part of student participation grades. 

In-class collaborative activity

Question prompt: An introductory question is posed to activate students’ prior knowledge of the topic. 

Jigsaw: The instructor divides students into groups (A,B,C, etc.). Each group explores an assigned topic or section of a reading. Once groups have formed a common understanding of their topic, they form new groups that contact one “expert” from each group.  


To provide students with meaningful opportunities to connect and engage with each other while interacting with course content.

Face-to-face students

Question prompt: Ask students to respond to the question prompt using TopHat.

Jigsaw: In-class students would form groups with the same topic or section of a reading and discuss in class. 

Synchronous online students

Question prompt: Remote students are also able to respond to TopHat similar to the face-to-face students. 

Jigsaw: Remote students would discuss their topic or section of a reading in breakout rooms in Zoom. 

Asynchronous online students

Question prompt: A discussion board thread can be created for students to provide feedback on the group discussion after class. 

Jigsaw: A discussion board thread can be used to engage students using D2L asynchronously.

Accessibility: Ensure all students have access to the question prompt. The prompt should be displayed on the in-class screen for all students to view as well as posted in the Discussion Thread. 

Engagement: To engage both in-person and remote students, once students have discussed their same topics or section of the reading, they can come together as “experts” in that topic using breakout rooms where each room has an expert from each topic.  

 A whole class discussion can be followed up with polls using Top Hat or Zoom to confirm understanding and identify areas requiring further explanation. 

Group projects

A long-term (may be semester-long) collaborative assignment comprising several stages and designed to simulate collaborations in a real-world work environment.


  • To critically analyze a complex multi-faceted concept 
  • To produce a collaborative document on a specific topic 
  • To learn to apply knowledge and skills in a lifelike environment   
  • To learn to work collaboratively with peers 

Face-to-face students

  • Give students a choice of topics and divide them into groups based on their interest.  
  • In class, talk to other group members and assign roles.  
  • At home, research and write up their portions and share them with peers.  
  • Make an in-person group presentation of the initial findings. Other students provide feedback in class. 
  • Create the final version of the group project and submit it to the instructor through D2L Dropbox. 

Synchronous online students

  • Self-enroll into groups named after a specific topic in D2L Groups. In a Zoom class, they discuss the project and assign roles in breakout rooms. 
  • Each group member researches and creates a draft of their portion of the project and shares it  with the group  in D2LGroups locker or in Google docs. 
  • Make a real-time group presentation (or a video) of their initial findings in a Zoom class. Other students provide feedback in class or in-video comments for YuJa videos. OR The group presents findings in a D2L discussion post and get peer feedback in response posts. 
  • Create the final version of the group project and submit it to the instructor through D2L Dropbox. 

Asynchronous online students

  • Self-enroll into a group named after a specific topic in D2L Groups and email their group members to assign roles in the project.  
  • Each group member researches and creates a draft of their portion of the project and shares it with the group in D2L Groups locker or in Google docs. 
  • The group creates a discussion post of their initial findings in D2L Discussions. Other students provide feedback in response posts.  
  • Create the final version of the group project and submit it to the instructor through D2L Dropbox. 

Choice and accessibility: Provide students with a list of topics to select from so that they have the freedom to do what they are interested in. 

Encourage students to use various media (video, audio, images) in their discussion posts and presentations. 

Information on the project and reminders: Create a D2L checklist for students to see what they need to do. 

Create an infographic showing different stages of the project. 

Send students email reminders of each stage of the project. You can use D2L Intelligent Agents to send emails to students automatically. Use the D2L News tool to inform students of upcoming deadlines. 

Protocol of behaviour and group issues: To forestall free-loading and other group issues, create a protocol of behaviour or make students read and sign a group contract. They can submit it to D2L Dropbox. 

Oral presentations

Thoughtful presentations addressing an audience on a specific topic.


To enhance awareness of oral presentation skills through peer discussion and self-regulated learning.

Face-to-face students

Students present in the physical classroom.

Synchronous online students

  • Students present their oral presentation by sharing their screen on Zoom and presenting to the class.
  • Option for students to connect for a post presentation panel discussion with their peers if they have already shared their oral presentation in advance. 

Asynchronous online students

  • Students post a video of their oral presentation into a specified discussion forum for advance viewing.  
  • Students view other videos online  from peers who could not attend F2F.  
  • Students post comments, questions, reflections, or feedback in a class follow-up discussion forum in D2L.  

Clarifying expectations: Use an oral presentation rubric to help students understand your expectations, inspire quality performance, and self-assess themselves. Present rubric in advance. 

Student choice and flexibility: Consider offering students the choice to present in front of a live audience or record a video to post for advance viewing.

Self-regulated learning: Encourage post discussions regarding the presentations in asynchronous and synchronous formats for self-reflection. 

Accessibility: Encourage Face-to-Face presenters to log into Zoom to present any slides that accompany their oral presentation so that synchronous students can see their content. 

Related content

Learning Module: Adaptable Course Design

Learn more »

Strategies for Promoting Positive Learning Environments

Learn more »