The Zoom meeting size limit is 300 students, and webinar licenses are maxed out at 500 but in some cases MSU has courses that have more students enrolled than that. So, while each person has access to both a 300 student space and a 500 student space, that may not always be enough. This article provides alternatives to synchronous Zoom classes that may help not only solve the license challenges, but also help you navigate teaching a large course fully online.
Berry (2009) notes that teaching a large course online “requires a shift in focus from teaching to learning (p. 176).” While 2009 was a full 11 years ago and the technologies driving online course delivery have advanced greatly, this fundamental idea remains as true today as it was then. Lynch & Pappas (2017) highlight the challenge that faculty-student interaction presents in large-enrollment courses, whether they be fully online or completely face-to-face. How can a single faculty member effectively communicate with 600 students? In this case, technological affordances are our friend – and Zoom is not necessarily the answer.
Some Non-Zoom Solutions
MediaSpace or Camtasia videos and D2L Discussion Forums
I know this may not seem like the most exciting solution, but it can be an effective and efficient one. Picture this:
- Record a 20-minute video discussing your insights on the week’s content, focusing on what students won’t necessarily glean for themselves in their own review.
- Did you know you can request free captioning services from MSU IT on videos 20 minutes or less?
- Save the video to Mediaspace and share it with your students in D2L. Give them a few questions to think about while they watch it.
- Guide students to the D2L discussion forum where discussions will happen. Configure the discussion forum to require that they post their response before they can see the responses of others.
- Learn more about ways to configure your discussion forum here
- Grade the discussion forum using the D2L Quick Discussion Grader tool.
- Learn how to use the D2L Quick Discussion Grader tool here
Half on, half off
You can split your course in half. What if you had two smaller large courses? Consider inviting half of your students to Zoom, while the others engage in an asynchronous assignment such as a discussion forum or a low-stakes knowledge-testing quiz that’s automatically graded by D2L. Then, use your Zoom time together to discuss what students can only get from you – instructor-student interaction!
- Asynchronous activity idea: Try setting up a discussion forum and have your students work on an applied case together based on the content.
- Asynchronous activity idea: Ask students to collaboratively build a study guide for the exam based on the week’s content.
Peer Review using Eli Review
Eli Review is a peer review tool that is free for faculty and students at Michigan State University. Here, you can configure peer review writing exercises, automatically sort students into groups, and provide them with a clear series of writing, review, and revision tasks. You can see analytics for completion, helpfulness, and more.
As stated on the tech.msu.edu page for Eli Review, "many writing instructors have found using Eli for small assignments (i.e., a thesis statement, annotated bibliography) works better than for entire papers. Smaller assignments make it easier to focus on one specific set of criteria and goals. Students stay more engaged with a small task and can move forward in an assignment when the core elements are properly set up."
Since Eli Review is an online platform, students can use it any time, allowing instructors flexibility in assigning reviews. Eli has a feature to accept or decline late work, so students are responsible for the online homework just as in-class homework.
Need more help?
Hopefully some of the ideas shared here have helped you think about some alternatives to pursue should Zoom not be an option for your courses. The instructional technology and development team in MSU IT is happy to consult with you on how you can leverage academic technologies to make your large course experience feel smaller. We can help you think about how to live without Zoom and embrace the asynchronous teaching life if you choose.
MSU IT offers a number of valuable tools and services that can help you create an experience that facilitates student success regardless of bandwidth, time zones, or class size. To make an appointment with an instructional technologist, fill out the appointment form located at https://tech.msu.edu/service-catalog/teaching/instructional-design-development/ or e-mail the MSU IT Service Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org and request a consultation with Instructional Technology and Development. If you prefer the phone, you can also contact them at (517)432-6200.
Berry, R. W. (2009). Meeting the challenges of teaching large online classes: Shifting to a learner-focus. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(1), 176-182.
Boettcher, J. (2011). Ten best practices for teaching online. Quick Guide for New Online faculty.
Lynch, R. P., & Pappas, E. (2017). A Model for Teaching Large Classes: Facilitating a" Small Class Feel". International Journal of Higher Education, 6(2), 199-212.