By Azra Samji, Schulich Student Online Course Design Consultant.

Azra Samji is an MBA student at the Schulich School of Business. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta. Azra currently serves as the President of the Graduate Business Council at the Schulich School of Business.

Understanding Students’ Circumstances

In the virtual world, it may be challenging for instructors to readily understand and assess student understanding of the lecture content as they can no longer rely on physical cues such as body language and facial expression. There are a variety of tools that instructors can utilize to assess student understanding and gain a deeper sense of areas of support needed.

Not all students are facing the same pressures in a virtual world. Unlike the physical classroom space, instructors are not able to see the other distractions that might be impacting student engagement during class. Not all students have an optimal space or online connectivity for online learning, and as a result it may be harder for them to share their screen or speak using the microphone during class. To alleviate these challenges, instructors can provide multiple opportunities for students to share feedback on both the lecture content and style. Instructors are also encouraged to record and post lectures to support students who may have internet connectivity issues that impact the delivery of the online lecture.

Finding a Tool that Works

A variety of tools are currently available for instructors to quickly and easily integrate regular collection of feedback into their lectures.

  • Zoom Polls: Zoom polls can be used at various points throughout the lecture to assess student understanding and gain valuable insight into what is and isn’t working during the lecture. These polls can be made in advance and launched periodically throughout the lecture to ensure students are still engaged. Instructors are able to see the percentage of class participation in the poll and have the option of sharing the poll results with the class. Zoom polls are also a great way to assess student understanding at the end of each lecture. For example, instructors can use Zoom Polls at the end of each class with 3 short multiple choice or short answer questions about the major topics or themes discussed in class that day. Alternatively, the same style of evaluation can be used to get student feedback on the tools and techniques employed during the lecture.
  • Zoom Chat Box: Being mindful of the various pressures on students participating in the lecture, the chat box feature is a great way to encourage students to participate. Instructors can monitor the chat box during the lecture to ensure that all student feedback is collected. In addition, instructors are able to review transcripts of the chat box at the end of the lecture. As it may be more challenging to regularly monitor the questions, instructors can task students with helping to monitor the questions being raised in the chat.
  • Canvas Discussion Forums: Instructors are also encouraged to use areas such as discussion forums on Canvas to encourage student feedback about the lecture and identify areas of concern. With this option, students will be able to help the instructor address the concerns posted by their peers.
  • Qualtrics: Qualtrics is a surveying tool that instructors can use to obtain feedback on a course. These surveys can be tied to a student name or remain anonymous. Instructors are able to choose from a variety of templates to obtain feedback from students on course structure, lecture delivery, or concept understanding. Qualtrics can be integrated directly into Canvas for easy student access.


Increasing regular touchpoints for students to share feedback outside of formal evaluation allow instructors to gauge the levels of student understanding in the room. Instructors are able to use the tools mentioned above to understand major topics of concern, get feedback about the lecture style and content, and understand where students need additional supports. These end-of-class evaluations are not meant to be fulsome evaluations; rather, a quick snapshot for the instructor to understand the needs and wants of the class to make the online experience the best possible for everyone. By providing students with multiple opportunities to share feedback on the lecture and the content, instructors will be able to ensure that the online course format is working for as many students as possible.

To work directly with one of Schulich’s Student Online Course Design Consultants or Developers, contact