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Flexible Approaches to Teaching

This section is intended to support instructors in considering their options for incorporating flexible teaching and learning activities grounded in research-informed pedagogical practice and supported by available eLearning technologies. While the mode of teaching is decided at the program level, and not by individual instructors, those teaching in-person can enhance flexibility in their classrooms by leveraging technology to achieve their pedagogical goals.

As the Laurier community continues discussions on teaching modes and experiences that connect learners, this resource is intended to offer practical supports in this direction. 

Considering Flexible Approaches

I want to:


As you’re considering flexible approaches to teaching, this guide offers additional sections with considerations for defining the relationship of synchronous and asynchronous course elements, as well as balancing those elements. Many of the flexible classroom approaches on this page give students multiple modes of engaging with information, like live captions in the classroom.

Additionally, there are practical hands-on strategies for teaching with zoom and utilizing web conferencing classrooms and your own devices to deliver inclusive and dynamic presentations.

Create Community Among Students

One of the keys to success in creating flexible learning environments is ensuring that students feel connected to the content, to you, and to each other. Providing opportunities for student interactions with the instructor and each other throughout the term builds active engagement across all modalities, fosters inclusivity, creates an academic and socially supportive environment, and encourages collaborative learning. Building a vibrant classroom community ensures that students can access necessary course material or missed information through note sharing, feel supported in asking clarifying questions, and continue to participate in meaningful ways if temporary absence is required.

What are some flexible ways to implement this strategy?

  • Instructors can hold virtual office hours to allow student access regardless of location. Additionally or alternatively coordinate collaborative or group office hours that allow specific groups of students to connect with the instructor simultaneously.
  • MyLS discussion boards can be created to start threads for FAQs, to facilitate sharing course related events or media that encourage interaction and support among students, and to promote flexible ways to engage in course discussion. Discussion boards can assist in creating opportunities for flexible engagement with class content which can lessen negative impacts of missing class due to illness or other extenuating circumstances.
  • Instructors may also offer to connect pairs or small groups of students as “study buddies” via email to encourage a first line of communication among peers for questions, points of confusion, clarification, etc. These ‘buddies’ and peer groups can also be encouraged to share class notes, which can promote not just more informative note taking but also allow for support when students are unable to attend class.
  • Instructors can create a OneDrive file where students can participate in collaborative notetaking. Instructors can encourage students to commit to taking and sharing notes from Word documents in the OneDrive file to support more inclusive access for all. Instructors can also create opportunities for students to annotate and edit an existing set of notes for each class. For example, instructors can copy and paste the “Outline” view from a PowerPoint lecture into a shared Word document so that students can add to and edit notes in the outline, creating a single collaborative document for all students in the course. This strategy can also be developed in small groups, either to complement other group activities or to support and enhance accountability and accessibility.

Collaborating with Integrity: Instructors can prepare students to constructively collaborate on course activities and assessments by setting clear expectations on acceptable group and individual work. Explain why adhering to the principles of academic integrity are important in your field/discipline and introduce students to (or remind them of) the skills they need to cite appropriately from various sources. Make expectations clear to students on all assessments, assignments and projects and provide guidelines on how tests should be taken, and assignments completed. Be explicit where an individual rather than a collaborative approach should be taken to activities.

Laurier’s Library has created a module to improve students’ understanding of academic integrity and help them avoid plagiarism that can be embedded directly within your MyLS course site. It can be accessed through the dropdown "Self-Registration" menu on MyLS.

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Record or Stream my Lectures

Recording and/or streaming in-person lectures can provide all students with an opportunity to review the session and interact with the content at their own pace. Recorded materials may serve as a useful study aid for students in preparation for seminars, assignments, and exams. Guest speakers can be brought in easily and displayed to the whole room.

What are some flexible ways to implement this strategy?

  • When streaming or recording full lectures, faculty use their available technology in the in-person classroom to connect with students outside of the classroom or record the in-person lecture to share with students through Zoom on MyLS for asynchronous viewing. The instructions for using your own technology or technology in web conferencing classrooms to stream or record your lectures are below.
  • With chunking lectures down into smaller pieces, instructors can record or stream several segments of lectures to identify salient concepts, theories or questions. ​​​​​​​Alternatively, instructors can record a short summation of key learning from course materials.
  • In a flipped classroom, the learning experience for each lesson is commonly planned around 3 stages that combine in-person and outside of class virtual activities:
    • Preparation: students engage with online content, recorded lectures or narrated slides;
    • Active Learning: involving applying, researching, or problem-solving using concepts from the preparation. These can be developed to be virtual, in person, or both, through collaborative tools such as Office 365 and Zoom breakout rooms.
    • Check student learning: an ungraded self-evaluation through MyLS Quizzes gives both students and instructors information to assess and monitor learning.
  • Guest speakers can join your classes from wherever they are using Zoom in the classroom. In web conferencing classrooms, this capability is already built in, but you can achieve similar results in any classroom using a laptop.

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Using a web conferencing classroom

The additional ceiling microphones, speakers, and camera(s) in web conference-enabled classrooms run through the classroom computer. They are selectable as audio and video sources before or during a Zoom meeting. By default, the correct audio and camera sources should be selected, but they can be changed before or during a Zoom session.

If there are buttons on the teaching console control panel for the microphones or cameras, press these to wake the camera or unmute the mics (red means muted). The camera(s) in the room have selectable presets that you can cycle through by pressing the same "Camera" button you used to wake the camera.

Once you start the Zoom session, you can select the room's correct camera, speakers, and microphone if they're not already selected by default. Use the small arrow in the corner of the camera and microphone icons in Zoom to select the correct camera and microphones which will be labeled on the computer monitor’s bezel or labeled on the teaching console

Share your content using Zoom as you normally would (either sharing an individual app like PowerPoint, or your whole computer desktop), and the same presentation being shown on Zoom will be shown to the class.

You can manage the Zoom recording like you would any other to create and share transcripts or recordings.

Find more orientation materials for web-conferencing classrooms and check if your classroom supports web conferencing.

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Using your own devices

Set up your laptop in the classroom and connect it to the room’s projector and open any content you intend to share (e.g. PowerPoint slides). Decide whether you want to record both audio and video or if you want to keep your video off. If there’s a spot for your laptop that provides a complimentary camera angle (such as on the teaching lectern) place it to capture your face clearly, but if not, consider turning your video off so it’s not a distraction to you or the viewer, and the Zoom session or recording will still feature your voice and shared content.

Most laptop microphones will pick up an instructor’s voice if they’re within a few feet of the device. For added range or clarity, consider wearing wireless headphones and selecting them as the microphone audio source in Zoom. A single earbud acts as a handsfree microphone connected to Zoom while leaving the other ear free to clearly hear the in-class environment and is an effective way to provide live captioning in the classroom. If there are students who are synchronously participating on Zoom, this also allows the instructor to hear their questions in real time.

Share your content using Zoom as you normally would (either sharing an individual app like PowerPoint, or your whole computer desktop), and the same presentation being shown on Zoom will be shown to the class.

You can manage the Zoom recording like you would any other to create and share transcripts or recordings.

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Using your own wireless headphones as microphones

When an instructor's voice is the primary focus, wireless Bluetooth headphones are a convenient way for instructors to maintain their spoken content for transcripts and recordings as they move around the room. Most Bluetooth headphones have microphones built-in that can be wirelessly connected to a computer and selected as the audio source in Zoom to enable clear audio recording anywhere in the room. Instructors can leverage their favourite wireless headphones in any classroom using their personal devices or the classroom computer.

Personal devices like laptops and tablets have microphones built in that can be used for this purpose, or instructors can connect their wireless headphones using Bluetooth and select them as their audio source.

Most current classroom computers do not have microphones built in and will not connect to Bluetooth headsets on their own. Consider using professional expense funds to purchase a small, inexpensive USB bluetooth audio receiver to plug into any computer USB port and use your own wireless headphones to record your voice in any classroom. Make sure that the Bluetooth receiver you choose supports headphones and audio specifically.

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If you have a tablet available 

If your tablet (iPad, Surface, etc) can download and run the Zoom app, you can use it as a sharing device for natural drawing, writing, and annotation and be less tethered to the teaching console.

Log-in to Zoom on your tablet and join the same class Zoom meeting. You share the tablet’s screen using Zoom and it will be your shared content for the class. When joining the Zoom meeting, choose not to connect to Zoom audio on the tablet when joining or disconnect from audio using the small arrow beside the microphone button. You can now share, draw and interact with all of your tablet content in the Zoom meeting and it will be part of the recording as well.

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Inviting Guest Speakers

Guest speakers can be easily brought into any classroom using Zoom. In web conferencing classrooms, the microphones and cameras in the room will help your speaker interact with students in the room. You can mute or unmute the room’s microphones while the speaker is talking to avoid distractions and then unmute for questions. Find more orientation materials for web-conferencing classrooms and check if your classroom supports web conferencing.

Using Your Own Devices

Since classrooms without web conferencing capabilities don’t have cameras or microphones, it’s easiest to connect a device that does to the classroom audio-visual system. Consider connecting a laptop to the classroom display input (HDMI or USB-C) and turning it to face your students so that a guest speaker can see and hear their audience, albeit in a limited way.

When you begin the Zoom meeting, use the small arrows beside the microphone icon on the host’s menu bar to select the room’s speakers as the output speaker (usually called Extron), and using the laptop device’s internal microphone as the selected microphone in Zoom. You can test your audio by selecting that option on the same menu.

For Q&A portions, this set-up is more limited but students can either approach the laptop to ask their questions, ask them loudly from their seats (depending on room size), or have them repeated by the instructor if they’re not clear for the speaker. ICT may be able to provide loaner laptops if needed. Please contact the ICT ServiceDesk for more information about borrowing laptops or web conferencing equipment.

In your Zoom meeting settings (editable on Zoom on the web), ensure that the Zoom security authentication is set from “Laurier Users Only” to “Sign in to Zoom” to allow non-Laurier participants to join the meeting. Alternatively, you can add your speaker’s email address as an “Authentication Exception” when creating or editing a Zoom meeting. Learn more about leveraging Zoom for brining in guest speakers.

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Provide Live Captioning or Lecture Transcriptions

Offering a variety of formats including captioned video and text transcripts of lectures allows students to choose what works best for them and may improve accessibility, information processing skills, understanding of content and new terminology, and retention. Ensuring a recorded lecture or video is captioned and accompanied by a text transcript supports Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices of providing multiple means of accessing information.

To caption live in the classroom:

  • Using PowerPoint: You can create live captions in the classroom using PowerPoint or Zoom. PowerPoint has auto-generated captions built in, and you can enable them in Slide Show Options under “Subtitles” for any PowerPoint presentation you’re giving in person. The computer will just need to be able to hear your voice to create the captions. If you’re using a personal device, consider wearing a wireless earbud or a headset to capture your voice as you move away from the computer. The captions won’t save at the end of the lecture/presentation unless you recorded your lecture/presentation in PowerPoint. To create captions and transcripts that can be saved, consider using Zoom.
  • Using Zoom: Begin a Zoom meeting on your computer, and enable live captions along the toolbar (Learn how to enable live captions). The captions will overlay on everything in Zoom and you can choose to save them before the meeting ends, or they will remain with the recording if you chose to record the meeting. If you want to access transcripts generated during class, it is recommended you use Zoom.
  • To save a transcript to share later with students (Zoom only): From the transcript button on the Zoom toolbar, you can choose to save the transcript (if the host’s settings have allowed this) which will download to wherever Zoom saves files on your computer. If the meeting was recorded, you can log into Zoom on the web, navigate to “Recordings” and click on the title of the recording you want to access. There you’ll see a list of files, one of which will be a text file of the meeting transcript. You can download that and share with students who need it, or with the class as a collaborative notetaking project (see below).

Personal devices like laptops and tablets have microphones built in that can be used for this purpose, or instructors can connect their wireless headphones using Bluetooth and select them as their audio source.

Most current classroom computers do not have microphones built in and will not connect to bluetooth headsets on their own. Consider purchasing a small, inexpensive USB Bluetooth audio receiver that you can plug into any classroom computer to pair your own wireless headphones to record your voice in any classroom.

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Leverage In-Person and Virtual Groupwork

Promoting groupwork and collaborative knowledge building in flexible learning spaces helps students feel more engaged and connected to their peers. In addition to encouraging active and reciprocal learning, groupwork with in-class and virtual students supports the development of important social and communication skills.

What are some flexible ways to implement this collaborative learning strategy?
  • Instructors can leverage cloud-based platforms to facilitate shared document creation and collaboration among students. The collaboration tools in the Microsoft Office 365 suite (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and MS Whiteboard) allow students to simultaneously collaborate using any device. Both instructors and students can share document collaboration links and simultaneously work in files together during and after class time. Students and instructors can save documents in their OneDrive folders and use the "Share" button in the top menu of any Office document to collaborate in real-time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Choose "Anyone with the link" to create a link that will be accessible by the whole class, and choose to allow or restrict editing when creating the link.
  • Microsoft Whiteboard is available as an Office365 web app which allows instructors and students to create together on an infinite canvass and share links to collaborative whiteboards that are editable and persist outside of individual Zoom classes or breakout rooms. Instructors and students log-in using Laurier Single-Sign-on (SSO) credentials on the web, through the desktop or mobile apps.

  • Breakout rooms can be leveraged to encourage both in-person and virtual engagement so long as students are in the Zoom meeting together using their own devices. Sound separation becomes important when groups are working together, and it’s recommended that students use headphones with microphones on them, as well as being distanced from other groups to ensure greater audio clarity. Students can be in the same Zoom meeting while they’re in class, but it’s important that they disconnect from Zoom audio (using the small arrow beside the microphone button in Zoom) and mute their speakers to avoid audio feedback. Students can choose to disconnect and reconnect to audio while staying in the same meeting, so they easily can easily switch modes and use the chat function to communicate during class. Learn more about creating and pre-assigning breakout rooms in Zoom.

  • Instructors can create a shared OneDrive folder for the class where students can engage in a process of collaborative notetaking and sharing as a part of their groupwork activities. Note-taking files can be uploaded to a specific group folder by each of the members, who can also then access, review, and edit shared notes from class lectures, group activities, and other meetings to support the ongoing involvement of all group members across the term and the success of the group. 


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Facilitate Class Discussions

Class discussions and dialogic approaches promote interactive and participatory learning environments. Through discussion, students gain deeper understandings of course material and make connections, develop communication and critical thinking skills, and engage with diverse perspectives. Discussion activities may be incorporated when introducing a new topic, to break up a lecture, to debate complex issues, to reflect on specific questions or texts, and to synthesize or summarize key concepts.

What are some flexible ways to implement this collaborative learning strategy?

  • In-person (web conferencing classroom): Microphones throughout the ceiling in classrooms allow all students in the room to be heard, and students who are in the Zoom meeting can unmute and be heard throughout the classroom’s audio system to synchronously discuss as a class. It is important for the instructor to communicate clearly how students should indicate they want to speak and continue to monitor students on Zoom for those indicators, like as raised hands or respond to questions in the chat. 

  • Zoom chat: Students participating in class and virtually can log into the same Zoom meeting, disconnect from audio, and use the chat function together. Instructors can build Zoom chat ‘checkpoints’ into class time to engage students synchronously and build community in the classroom.

  • To facilitate asynchronous engagement, instructors can start discussions between students by posting questions or opening threads on MyLS discussion boards. Expectations regarding the purpose, required number, and expecting timing of contributions should be made clear by the instructor.

  • Note that it is often difficult to facilitate full-class discussions using personal devices because the audio range and capabilities of these devices is generally insufficient to capture all student voices clearly.

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Developing Strategies for Diagnostic and Formative Feedback

Instructors may include diagnostic assessments, such as polls or quizzes, at the beginning of the term or before introducing a new topic to gauge students’ prior learning, knowledge, and skill level. Low-risk or informal formative assessments, such as Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs), can be employed throughout the term to support student learning.

Formative feedback processes offer benefits to both instructors and students. Incorporating opportunities for students to receive formative feedback supports learning, increases student confidence, enhances their evaluation and monitoring skills, allows students to reflect on their learning, understand their progression in the course, and make action plans to improve. Regular formative feedback provides instructors with valuable information to better understand student engagement, development, as well as strengths and weaknesses permitting instructors to address any gaps in student learning as the course progresses and to make adjustments to course (re)design and/or delivery in the future if desired.

What are some flexible ways to implement this strategy?

  • Clickers and poll questions: Classroom Response System (CRS) is technology that promotes and implements active learning by allowing both in-person and virtual engagement in quick polling and low-stakes assessment during streamed synchronous sessions. As polling is conducted synchronously, results can be viewed in real time and can follow a question period for review. iClicker is Laurier’s chosen CRS. With software, such as iClicker Cloud, instructors can access study guides that are generated from class polls, and students can use the devices to which they already have access. If choosing to engage with iClicker at Laurier, email
  • Zoom’s polling option can be used for check-ins and quick, informal responses. Zoom polling reports aren’t linked to the MyLS gradebook, but instructors can still use them to receive immediate, ungraded formative feedback. Instructors can set up Zoom polls prior to the class through their Laurier web-based accounts (not desktop apps).
  • Other strategies for feedback using the learning management system include ungraded MyLS check-in quizzes for students to self-assess their knowledge, or a MyLS survey that uses C.A.T.s in an asynchronous way for use as formative feedback by the instructor. For example, students could be asked to share their muddiest point or write their thoughts in a one-minute paper to identify the most important learning or persisting questions from a particular lesson, course materials, or module.




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