White background with illustration of a classroom where students are sitting in desks listening to an instructor

FAQs: Back to In-Person Teaching

Returning to in-person teaching after a few terms of remote teaching can be both exciting and a little bit daunting. Even if you have many years of teaching experience, you may have some questions. We have curated a number of helpful resources for some of the most common questions about going back to in-person teaching.

The Provost’s Teaching & Learning Resource Guide includes a variety of practical resources and strategies to proactively address potential teaching and learning challenges.

You and your students have experienced high levels of stress and disruption for an extended time. Most of us have not had regular interaction with large groups of people for quite a while. Not surprisingly, people are finding it takes more energy to do things that seemed ‘normal’ just a couple of years ago. It will take some time to find new rhythms for in-person teaching and learning. 

  1. Some practical strategies

    Consider incorporating one or two approaches from these resources:

    Strategies for Promoting Positive Learning Environments

    Mental Health and Wellness Framework for course design

  2. Interested in how students feel about their recent learning experiences?

    How learning feels now (Inside Higher Ed – Nov 2021)

    Edmonton post-secondary students share their fears and hopes about returning to the classroom (CBC – August 2021)

Although you have already met your students through online activities, it is a good idea to take some time to acknowledge the change of being together in a physical classroom or lab. There are likely a range of feelings and opinions about transitioning to in-person learning.

  • See the recommendations on the Provost’s Teaching & Learning Resource Guide under ‘First day of returning to in-person classes’.
  • Start with a conversation on establishing a positive learning community. You may want to include questions about what students are looking forward to as well as what they are concerned about in this transition.
  • Invite students to indicate their personal comfort level with some sort of visible symbol such as a red (I’m not comfortable with close contact or face-to-face conversations right now), yellow (I’m somewhat comfortable with 1:1 or small group conversations), or green (I’m completely comfortable with close contact or face-to-face conversations).  As circumstances shift, you may want to repeat this activity several times throughout the term.
  • Discuss classroom norms by introducing your guidelines for positive classroom interactions and/or inviting students to collaborate on such guidelines.  For more information on strategies to do this, see our resource on Strategies for Promoting Positive Learning Environments. For examples of classroom guidelines, click here.
  • Remind students of campus resources such as the Taylor Family Digital Library, the Student Success Centre, Student Wellness Services, and any others that are relevant to your course.

While the Provost’s COVID-19 FAQ for Academic Staff clarifies that masks are not required when instructors can maintain physical distance from students, you may still need or choose to wear a mask in the classroom or lab.

  1. Tips for communicating while wearing a mask

    • It may seem obvious, but focus on speaking louder and more slowly than normal.
    • Stay hydrated. Sipping from a water bottle or cup with a reusable straw can help soothe a dry throat without having to remove your mask.
    • Use a microphone if available in your space.
    • Consider using a transparent mask such as those sold by Humask.
    • Ask students for regular feedback on whether they are able to hear you.
    • Use body language and gestures to enhance your communication.
    • Reinforce key information with visuals such as slides or demonstrations.
    • Ensure important dates and information are shared in multiple modalities such as D2L, slides, or email as well as verbally.
    • Use real-time technology such as Top Hat or mentimeter.com to check students’ understanding.
    • A shared google doc displayed on a screen can allow even quiet students to share their questions and responses.

    Adapted from: “Can you hear me in the back?”: Strategies for teaching (and learning) while wearing a mask 

  2. Additional resources

    Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

    Adaptable Course Design

    Teaching with a Mask: Best Practices

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of being able to respond quickly and intentionally to disruptions to teaching and learning. We have a number of resources that provide specific strategies to plan for and/or respond to disruptions, but the key considerations are the same: flexibility, accessibility, and transparency. 

  1. Key considerations

    • Flexibility includes adjusting assessment activities (for example, an oral presentation may need to be recorded or adapted into a written assignment – or vice versa) or having flexible deadlines or a ‘late bank’ policy for students who are unable to come to campus due to illness or challenging life events. 
    • Accessibility emphasizes the importance of all students being able to access learning materials through strategies such as recording lectures or posting slides and handouts in a D2L shell.
    • Transparency involves clearly communicating course expectations and available supports to all students; this includes letting students know how you would like them to communicate with you about absences.  In addition, you can invite students to share with you what they need in order to make the most of the learning opportunities in your course. 
  2. Need more ideas?

    For practical strategies co-created with the Student Success Centre, see:

    Increasing access during times of disruption: Instructor strategies

    Increasing Access During Times of Disruption: Supporting Students During Absences

    Increasing Access During Times of Disruption: Working With Graduate Assistants (Teaching)


    To learn more about recording course information, see these resources:

    Recordings in Learning Environments (Includes best practice information for instructors and for students)

    How to record meetings

    How to record videos with Yuja


    For more ideas on designing flexible learning activities and assessments to accommodate student absences, see:

    Adaptable Course Design

    Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

Even with the COVIDsafe protocols, students may have different responses to active learning strategies such as small group discussions. It is a good idea to focus on building a positive learning environment through strategies such as co-creating relational agreements or classroom norms with your students before introducing active learning activities. If you are unsure of how students will react to previously ‘normal’ activities – like you circulating among them while they work – it is always best to have a conversation ahead of time.

Below are some strategies you may want to try to make classroom learning more active and engaging.

  1. Whole class activities

    • Use online polls during in-person teaching. Polling tools such as Top Hat, Mentimeter.com and google forms can be used for gathering student responses in the physical classroom as well as in online teaching. 
    • Use coloured cards for physical polling. Students have 3 or 4 coloured cards that are then held up to display their responses to a question. For example, “How confident are you feeling about your knowledge of this concept?  Raise a blue card for very confident, green for mostly confident, or yellow for not very confident.”
    • Use online shared documents. Students can still be paired or put in small groups but carry out their conversations using digital tools.


    For more strategies and examples, see:

    Learning Module: Managing Student Team Projects  

    Teaching in the Classroom:  Activities without Technology

    Active learning while physically distanced 

  2. Group work

    • Spread out. If the classroom does not provide ample space for physically distanced group conversations, consider having students go to larger spaces or outside for a set amount of time then return to the classroom to debrief.
    • Circulate with stations. Post chart paper or whiteboards around the classroom as ‘stations’ and distribute sticky notes to students. Invite students to respond to questions, case studies, etc. by writing their ideas on sticky notes. Then, while maintaining physical distance, have students post their sticky notes at the various stations. Once all students have posted responses, you can have a second round of visits to stations for them to see each others’ responses. If you don’t have room for such an activity, you can do something similar using Padlet.


    For more ideas about designing flexible learning activities and assessments, see:

    Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

    Adaptable Course Design

Due to the pandemic, many students have experienced learning interruptions due to illness, abrupt changes in circumstances, and other challenges. Even in normal times, it is helpful to begin the term by finding out what your students already know and are ready to learn. To do that, you may want to try some pre-assessment activities.

  1. Help students make the most of their learning experiences

    Highlight the many available resources at the Student Success Centre.


  2. For more pre-assessment strategies, see

    How to assess students’ prior knowledge (Carnegie Mellon University).

Remote teaching may have taught you new teaching strategies. Many of these online teaching strategies can be adapted for blended or in-person teaching. For example, you may want to continue holding virtual office hours as well as posting resources and having discussion boards on a D2L shell.

  1. Need more ideas?


  2. For more ideas about designing flexible learning activities and assessments, see

    Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

    Adaptable Course Design

    Instructional Strategies Adapted for Virtual and Online Classes

A lot of time and energy has gone into developing creative and effective online assessment strategies. Why not keep the best of those strategies moving forward?  If you have incorporated group projects, capstones, case studies, etc. in the remote version of your course, you can use those same assignments in your in-person course.

Remember that flexibility, accessibility and transparency are important in all teaching modalities. Try using this Transparent Assignment Instructions Template to help communicate assessment instructions.

  1. Discuss academic integrity with students

    Academic integrity continues to be an important consideration for assessment design. The Student Success Centre has created these clear, student-friendly resources you can share with your class.

  2. For more ideas about designing flexible learning activities and assessments, see

    Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education

    Adaptable Course Design

Whether we teach remotely or in-person, there are many ways to make our classes more equitable, diverse and inclusive. Here are some starting points:

  • Reflect on your commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable learning environment.  Is that commitment evident in your course outline and classroom practices?
  • Revisit course content and identify opportunities to update readings and resources to include multiple perspectives and diverse voices.
  • Create opportunities – open discussions or even anonymous surveys – that allow students to share their experiences.
  • Practice meaningful territorial acknowledgements.
  1. Need more ideas?

    Strategies for Promoting Positive Learning Environments

    Moving beyond Celebrating Diversity and Towards Anti-Racist Teaching (recorded webinar)

    Decolonizing pedagogies: Teacher reference booklet


  2. Additional resources

    Creating a culture of equity in Academic Integrity (video presentation)

    Indigenous paradigms in practice: Relationships, story and academic integrity (webinar)

    Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education (guide)

This is a great question to ask! Rather than waiting for formal student feedback at the end of the term, you can gather informal feedback at multiple points in the term to help gauge how things are going and to inform any adjustments along the way. Remember to keep the focus on student learning rather than teaching performance or personal preferences. You are more likely to get helpful feedback from questions such as What aspects of the course best support your learning? than from questions such as What do you like best about the course?

  1. Ways to gather feedback

  2. Need more ideas?

    You can also gather feedback from your peers:

    • Ask a colleague to have a look at your course outline and some of your course materials, or invite them to visit your class
    • Even better, consider forming a pair or small group of colleagues who can provide mutual peer feedback

If you have more questions or would like to talk with someone about your teaching, book a consultation with us!

Related content

Alternative Assessment Strategies for Large Enrolment Classes


COVIDSafe Campus: Teaching and Learning Resources