Aerial view of Washington Square Park at sunset


Engaging with your students—whether in a face-to-face classroom or online—is about three things: connecting, communicating, and collaborating.

What do I want learners to know or be able to do after they have finished this lesson?
What kinds of tasks or deliver­ables will reveal that students have achieved the objectives?
What kinds of activities will prepare students to demonstrate understanding?
What teaching approaches and materials will help students achieve the objectives?

Often, we discuss engagement in the brick and mortar classroom as if it is natural and effortless: conversations before and after class just happen, students come to each other with questions, they offer answers. These are all examples of engagement, but planning engagement both online and in-person can offer different (and more thoughtful) opportunities for your students and your classes.

Remote learning enables us to connect and learn in new ways. For example, videoconferences can become highly interactive through chat, polling, and breakout rooms; and group projects— using shared digital documents—can bring students together to talk as well as work. These and other tools provide an opportunity for students to build a positive online learning community, as well as develop their own online voices and digital skills.

Street scene of NYU students
Visit NYU’s Global Inclusion and Diversity page for student support resources.
Screenshot of Zoom classroom
For student perspectives on transitioning to remote instruction, watch this panel facilitated by EdSurge and Bryan Alexander.

Clarity and consistency are essential to this process. Be clear about what you expect from your students and what they can expect from you. Be consistent in the way you organize and present lessons, week by week and session by session (while also being flexible enough to address student needs as they arise). And keep the lines of communication open. Establishing an inclusive learning environment will benefit both synchronous and asynchronous learning, and will foster better communication—and community—across learning tools and platforms.

This section will discuss how to plan activities and engagement that align with learning objectives and foster collaboration, community, and connection in the classroom, both online and off.