Rapid Remote Learning Activities

Moving learning online

Online Teaching Techniques for Quick Course Conversions 

As campuses worldwide take steps to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19, faculty are suddenly challenged to quickly pivot face-to-face classes into the online learning world.  This rapid switch to remote teaching offers a fantastic opportunity to explore new approaches to engaging students in our materials.  However, the urgency surrounding this switch also calls for teaching methods that let us navigate the transition with limited time, overburdened tech and support teams, and in many cases, minimal resources for new technology integrations, licenses, or off-the-shelf course plugins. 

To help address these challenges, here are eleven easy-to-implement online learning activities for remote teaching that leverage the features native to most LMS platforms, and don’t require additional costs, licenses, or extensive new technology integrations to employ. 

Journaling or Reflections

Create an assignment where students formulate 2-3 paragraph text-only submissions reflecting on assigned reading or media, or evaluating current events news. You might require students to consider how the course topics or readings fit into prior their understanding or explain key concepts in their own words. 

Student-Curated Resource Sharing

Add a discussion or wiki-page requiring students to seek out and share resources relevant to the topic at hand. Students might search out anything from relevant videos, blog articles, social media threads, or current news, to scholarly works for graduate courses. You may encourage further engagement by expanding the activity to have students comment, evaluate, or compare/contrast among each others’ resources. 

Remote Learning – Live Chat 

The rapid transition to online learning may leave students with questions on new expectations, changing assignment requirements, or interaction protocols. A live Q&A or chat session can alleviate a great deal of this uncertainty. A myriad of free tools (Zoom chat, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Skype) can be used for designated online office hours, open Q&A times, or live topic-focused discussions. 

Media Creation

If your course objectives are focused on communication, advocacy, or creation, have students experiment with blogging, vlogging, or podcasting. Depending on the course topics, students could also be tasked with using free apps or native tools for Infographic development, concept mapping, or photography submissions. For example, you might require students to use PowerPoint to create an infographic or use the Canvas media comment tool to record and submit a 1-minute vlog relevant to the course topic in a discussion area. 

Write Your Own Test  

Create an assignment requiring students to formulate and submit quiz questions and answers they believe should be on the next exam. Requiring learners to author quiz items aligns with objectives assessing their learning at analysis and evaluation levels and sets up many of the benefits of open-book testing

Virtual Debates

Though you may plan to use the video conference platform for lectures or student presentations during your remote learning interval, planning and conducting a virtual debate can help shift classroom-style discussions into the online world. Assign a topic, put students into groups representing various perspectives, give them time to plan, and plan a live debate to be conducted on your video conferencing platform.  

Peer Review Writing Lab

An easy way to create both interaction and better quality writing is to employ processes for peer review and editing leading up to the submissions of major essays or papers. Cycles of drafting, sharing, critiquing, and revising can be instituted simply with a discussion board where students post their papers for peer review and dialogue, or through a more intensive process of draft submission and assigned peer reviews. You might allow students to provide free-form comments on each others’ work, or require that they evaluate peers’ drafts using the same rubric you will use to grade the final product to structure the feedback. 

Two-Minute Test

A quiz with an open-ended question and a limited response time is a strong way to integrate low-stakes knowledge assessments, stream-of-consciousness writing, or brainstorming into the class activities. Open a quiz with a single question and a two-minute response time after the close of a live webinar session. The quiz might ask students to report on their “aha” moments from the session or remaining questions. This activity could also be used at the start of a learning unit to gather questions to be answered on a live call or in an announcement later in the week. 


Encourage visual thinking by asking students to sketch out concept maps or key ideas from the course. Sketching out ideas and processes can help learners make sense of abstract and complex ideas in meaningful ways. You might assign them to sketch a flow chart by hand, and then use their phones to take a picture and post for submission or to a discussion thread, or use a free app to do the same. 

Cases or Simulations

Pose a case that students must navigate in groups or individually. The case method puts learners in the position of having to assess and make decisions in real-world or simulated scenarios, drawing on their experience and new information from your course. Consider releasing case details at intervals, pushing students to consider, adapt, or revise their solutions or proposals as needed. Cases can be conducted in a blend of discussion boards, group work, student presentations, or live webinar discussion. 


Post a narrative, case example, timeline, formula, with a few intentional inaccuracies, requiring students to find and correct errors. Cultivating discussion around handling mistakes and underscoring the value of learning from mistakes is a key approach to building growth mindsets among learners. 

To keep up to date with the latest information on FIU’s remote learning endeavors, review the information on FIU’s Academic Continuity page.

Amber Webber, Ph.D. is an Instructional Design Manager at Florida International University (FIU) Online. Dr. Webber is an Air Force veteran, with experience as an adjunct professor, leadership development coach, corporate trainer, instructional designer, and organizational development consultant in civilian and government organizations. She is a “serial academic” and lifelong learner, coupling her practical experience with a Ph.D. in Business Management specializing in Strategy and Innovation, a Master’s in Adult Education, a Bachelor’s in Management and Human Resources, and a couple of Associates degrees from the Community College of the Air Force. She believes in building outstanding online learning experiences, leveraging students’ individual experiences and prior knowledge to create a nexus between learning opportunities and future application for each student.

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