All you need to know about returning to the classroom in 2021


Welcome to 2021! In the past year we were tossed into uncharted waters, yet we navigated our way through the rough seas with patience and grace. We should all take some time to celebrate our accomplishments and the creative thinking that got us through these unique, evolving challenges since the onset of the global pandemic.

We know that these unprecedented times are not over yet and will continue to test our innovation in the classroom no matter what modality we choose to deliver to our students. In keeping with this flexible mindset for the future, we want to you to know that Academic Technology Services (ATS) is here to guide and assist you with all your teaching and learning technology needs. In addition, you can always visit the Virtual Welcome Bar.

Now that you have the option to come back to campus and teach from the classroom, you should take the opportunity to explore new teaching methods. You might be wondering where to start in planning your semester to accommodate the dynamic lives of your students. For example, some students will begin the semester with you face-to-face and later need to transition their learning to online and vice versa. Our hope is to provide you with a guide to better accommodate changes that may occur throughout your semester. 

If you plan to continue teaching remotely via online tools, remember to use the resources available in the Faculty Commons Teaching Online web site. These resources are designed to help with online synchronous or asynchronous courses.

Use the following guide to aid in your transition back to campus.

Planning for face-to-face in winter/spring 2021

Careful advanced planning is the most important step that you can take for a successful return to the classroom. Be sure you are familiar with the University of Delaware guidelines for returning to campus. You may have spent a lot of time and effort developing a Canvas course for this past summer or fall, so look for opportunities to reuse this online material for your face-to-face course. A Canvas course that supplements your face-to-face teaching is an effective way to ensure that all your students have equitable access to content, regardless of their location.

As communicated by the Provost, teaching face-to-face during Covid means accommodating students who don’t make it to the classroom. Deciding how you accommodate these students is part of the planning process. Will you provide course materials asynchronously via Canvas and UD Capture? Or will you invite remote students into the class via Zoom, aka “Room & Zoom?” Once you decide, use the following list of suggestions and considerations to continue your planning.


  • Know your classroom.
  • Create lesson plans for each class session.
      • Be intentional about the time you spend in class to ensure that both face-to-face  and remote students have access to content. Consider a lesson plan template that outlines the different activities and how students will access them
      • Use Canvas to deliver materials/activities in advance so all students have equal access to preparation.
      • Narrow down the technology tools you plan to use and get to know them well. UD-supported tools include Canvas, Zoom, UD Capture, Poll Everywhere, Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor.
      • Place visual cues in your slide deck as reminders to check in with remote students.
      • Share in-class materials and UD Capture recordings in Canvas.
  • Develop an assessment plan.
    • Create formative assessment opportunities throughout the semester to ensure consistent student participation and comprehension. Consider using tools like Canvas assignments and quizzes, Poll Everywhere activities, and Canvas discussions. 
    • Be strategic about the planning and timing of your final exams based on the dynamics of your students. Many students’ access and reliability for connectivity may change during the semester. Contact the UD Online Testing Center if you need assistance working through proctoring options available to students. Ensure that your assessment plan is still viable based on what you were initially planning for your final exam.
    • Consider using alternative assessment methods that could accommodate both Room & Zoom students
First day of class

Make a great first impression with these practical suggestions.

  • To adhere to Covid-19 policies, consider using the Canvas Roll Call Attendance tool, which includes a customizable seating chart. You can also use Zoom meeting reports to track attendance. Another option is Poll Everywhere.
  • Use a “Getting Started” module in Canvas to deliver traditional first day materials (e.g., Syllabus, course overview, assignment expectations) ahead of time.
  • Communicate your classroom policies and logistics. Will students be allowed to use laptops, earbuds? Will you identify a “Zoom wrangler” to monitor the online chat and relay messages from remote students?
  • Let your students know when they can meet with you outside of class. Schedule online student hours.
  • Have all students post an introduction in Canvas Discussions, then highlight some of them in class to get a conversation started.
  • Use icebreaker activities in Poll Everywhere.
During the semester

With some innovation and creative use of technology, your learning activities can be accessible to all students, regardless of their physical location. Use the following list as a springboard for ideas:

  • Deliver lectures. Use UD Capture to record for delivery outside of class time. Use Zoom to include students during class time and make a recording for delivery later. Use a document camera or alternative white board. Upload slides to Canvas. 
  • Facilitate active learning.  Use breakout rooms in Zoom, combine students in small groups or pairs. Use PollEverywhere and Canvas Quizzes (including practice quizzes).
  • Hold class discussions. Prepare questions in advance and consider cold calling on students. Use a spreadsheet with a randomized list of student names to ensure that each student is called on at least once. Extend class discussions online through Canvas Discussions.
  • Show a video, film, movie. Contact UD Library Film and Video. Upload to Media Gallery in Canvas.
  • Manage group projects. Use the Groups feature in Canvas. Use breakout rooms in Zoom, combine students in small groups or pairs. Use Canvas Collaboration (Google Docs/Office 365). Use Google JamBoard shared whiteboards.
  • Assess students through presentations, critiques, video projects. Use Google Slides, Instagram, WordPress. Create a student video assignment in Canvas. Create a student video gallery.
  • Ask students to conduct peer reviews/evaluations. Use Canvas Groups, Canvas Peer Reviewed assignments. Participate in the Feedback Fruits pilot. 
  • Assess student learning.  (e.g., tests and quizzes, surveys, knowledge checks, problem sets). Use the Canvas quiz tool. Learn about assessment options and alternatives at UD. Use a Quiz in your videos in My Media. Use Poll Everywhere activities.
Wrap-up and finals

Getting to the end of the semester is rewarding because the semester is coming to a close and your relationships have developed over time with your students. This time in the semester can also be very time consuming with planning and finalizing summative assessments, interventions for underperforming students, submitting final grades and setting aside time to reflect on what worked well and your opportunities for improvement for the next semester. As you prepare to wrap up your semester, use the following list of suggestions and considerations.

    • Use your course evaluation as a tool for feedback. 
      • As faculty, you have the opportunity to customize and add your own questions to your course evaluation. There are opportunities to formulate specific questions to gather feedback from your students related to teaching modality. This can later build into your self-reflection for the semester.
    • Develop summative assessments.  
      • Summative assessments. Summative assessments are commonly used in courses. Depending upon the level of your course, these assessments might also be supplemented with research papers, final exams and final individual or group projects. The following are some examples of summative assessments:
      • Take-home exams. Develop take-home exams with open book in Canvas Quizzes with/without time limits other than due dates for submission. Questions in these exams could include multiple answer questions, multiple dropdown questions or essay questions, matching comparisons, and/or formula quiz questions. These question types might also help to prevent academically dishonest behaviors.
      • Use a Canvas file upload quiz question to have students upload a completed response to case studies for assessing learning mastery through their reflection of knowledge.
      • Individual and/or Group Projects. These final project assessments can be competency and/or problem-based and play an essential role in learning mastery as well as provide real-world experiences linked to the course content. These project assessments can be designed with Canvas assignments for individual or group projects. Canvas Groups or Canvas Collaborations with Google Docs can be designed for collaborative projects.
      • E-Portfolios are a multifaceted Canvas tool that can be used for individual and group projects as well as for self-reflective journaling for overall learning mastery. Reflective journaling could be assigned to learners for reflecting on their progress throughout the course.
      • Videos for final projects. Provide students with options for presentation tools such as Google Slides, Instagram, WordPress. Create a student video assignment in Canvas and develop your grading criteria and expectations with a grading rubric. Ensure to provide a few video examples as guidance for students.
  • Wrap-up any on-going interventions for students.
  • Make your intentional plan for submitting final grades.
      • Meeting the needs of our dynamic students during this time can be a lot of work. Ensure to give yourself intentional time for reviewing all final papers, projects, and assignments. Use speedgrader and the canvas gradebook to help you manage your final grades for your courses.
  • Revisit your assessment plan for your final exam. 
      • Be strategic about the planning and timing of your final exams based on the dynamics of your students. Many students’ access and reliability for connectivity may change during the semester. Consider if some students will need to use ProctorU while others will take exams in class. Ensure that your assessment plan is still viable based on what you were initially planning for your final exam.
  • Take time to self-reflect on what did and what didn’t work well.


    • We do not always remember to carve out time for self-reflection because our semesters are busy. It is great practice to be intentional about making time to sit quiet and reflect on the semester experience. Consider these questions: what strategies would you keep regardless of the pandemic? what would you continue to incorporate in your classroom teaching? How would you continue to teach it?

Follow up with an instructional designer

Want to continue this discussion with an instructional designer? Visit the Virtual Welcome Bar. Staff are generally available Mon-Fri, 830-430, in this open Zoom meeting.

Additional resources

Given the changes across the higher education landscape, the HyFlex model is emerging as a possible way to address the uncertainty faced on campuses.

There are a number of recent articles that explore HyFlex, and offer strategies for finding the right mix of synchronous and asynchronous classroom activities for concurrent classroom settings.

Instructors “should be asking themselves questions like, ‘Is it important for the class to meet all together at the same time? Why? Is it reasonable to expect all of my students to be together online at once given what they might be juggling at home now?’” Maybe synchronous delivery is the “best option for your particular circumstance, but it should be a thoughtful decision considering several factors — not simply that you think your students need to see your talking head,” Hodges said.

Zoom Boom

While I see the hybrid flexible approach – HyFlex for short – to be just one possibility among several, it really does offer a clear opportunity to begin working on fall courses now, without waiting for institutions to decide a) if campuses will be open to students in fall 2020, b) how many students might be allowed to return to campus, c) how they would respond to a mid-term resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and so on.

COVID-19 Planning for Fall 2020: A Closer Look at Hybrid-Flexible Course Design

“You want to be able to create a fully online version and a fully face-to-face version and find ways to bring them together into a single course experience that has multiple participation paths … And the student gets to control whether they’re doing it online or in the classroom.”

The HyFlex Option for Instruction if Campuses Open This Fall

“As students head back to campus, teachers face an unprecedented challenge: managing students in the room and online in the same class at the same time. Four teaching practices can elevate student experiences and outcomes in the concurrent classroom.”

Optimizing Concurrent Classrooms: Teaching Students In The Room And Online Simultaneously

Phil Hill, our 2013 Summer Institute keynote presenter and a market analyst who has analyzed the growth of technology-enabled change for educational institutions, offers a valuable infographic to help faculty think about how they might combine strategies from the different instructional models outlined above.


Illustration of classroom configurations

Click to enlarge. For more detail on this infographic, see Hill’s full blog post: The COVID-Fueled Hybridization of Higher Ed