Skip to content
silhouette of a flexible body

Teaching In-person and online simultaneously is not easy (but also not impossible)

Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

This semester, the questions about how to teach effectively in times of COVID continue and trying to find the best approach to fit our current situation is still on our minds. There are different ways to transfer knowledge to students that have different benefits, one is in-person lecturing. Another is remote learning and this one could integrate a combination of several methods and strategies, depending on what subject you are teaching and your students prior knowledge. 

If you have many students absent in your class due to illness or quarantine, you might want to give them the opportunity to join your class online during the days when they are sick so they don’t fall behind too much. However, managing two different learning environments such as in-person and online needs to be planned and ideally you want to think carefully about how to do it before the day you teach.

What pedagogy do you need to teach your subject online? What learning objectives are you teaching? What materials do you need to upload to Canvas for your students?  When do you need to upload them? What tools do you need? Can you simplify anything? Do all your students have access to a laptop and a reliable internet connection? 

Option 1- Delivering your lectures through Zoom at the same time you teach your students in the classroom. 

This option sounds simple to plan, but teaching simultaneously in-person and online could be more challenging than you think, especially to manage your time. It will help if you know how many students you are going to have online and how many students will be in your classroom, but you might not know this ahead of class and the number might change from day one to day two. If you choose this option you should be ready to adapt. Here are some suggestions:

  • Visit your classroom ahead of time to check what equipment you have there.
  • You need a webcam positioned in a way that can capture your lecture. Does your classroom have a webcam? Can the webcam capture your powerpoint presentation/ writing on the board?
  • You need a microphone so your students can hear your lecture. Is the laptop’s built-in microphone powerful enough for your students to hear you? Does this mean standing in one spot the whole time while you teach?
  • What activities are your students going to do in class? How can your online students participate in those activities? Can you use Breakout Rooms?
  • How are you going to handle students’ questions? You could ask a student to monitor the Zoom chat or the breakout rooms, just like you would ask someone to volunteer passing papers in the classroom. Nobody expects you to do everything. 

Option 2 – Recording you lectures and uploading course materials to Canvas

Consider recording your lectures and uploading them along with your course materials to Canvas before class. Many of us are now comfortable with using Zoom as a tool for synchronous video calls but you can also go into a Zoom room by yourself and use it as a recording tool. Here at University of Michigan we need to keep in mind that recordings made to the Zoom cloud are only archived for a 150 days but our Zoom Recordings Manager – MiVideo is a great new tool for those in our university community to help you automatically transfer Zoom cloud recordings to our long-term video platform MiVideo. 

And this option can be great for both the students who can’t make it and the students who are in class. By providing pre-recorded videos your in-person students could have access to your lecture videos and review them several times if they need it. In the classroom, you could still give a shorter explanation about the topics you are teaching, answer questions, and give students opportunities to practice what they learned. 

There are many activities your online students can do either synchronous or asynchronous.

  • You could give online students different tasks or similar tasks as your in-person students.
  • If you are assigning different activities for online students than in-person, this needs to be very clear to the students.
  • Are the students going to do group work during the class? What is the best way for in-person students to connect with online students to do group work? 
  • How and when are you going to interact with online students?

There is a flexible approach that gives students the choice during the entire semester to attend either online or in-person classes without committing to one option; those are Hyflex courses. Students can decide at the last minute if they are attending class online or in-person without notifying the instructor. They also have the choice to complete online assignments, participate in the classroom activities or both. You can read more here if you want to know more about this instructional model.

In any case, keep in mind that we are still teaching in pandemic mode. It’s acceptable if you don’t think your planning is perfect or your students cannot follow the same pacing as before Covid. Don’t get discouraged if you are teaching in a classroom that seems kind of empty. Eventually things will get back to normal.


6 Tips for Teaching Online and In Person Simultaneously – Inside Higher Ed

Strategies for Teaching Students Online and Face to Face at the Same Time – Education Week

How Do I Teach Online and In Person at the Same Time? – We are Teachers