Techniques for Large Enrollment

Large enrollment courses and lectures can be challenging when it comes to creating a welcoming learning environment that promotes student engagement. With so many people, it's easy for both the students and the instructor to feel isolated and detached from one another (Cooper 2000).

  • Engagement. A large enrollment course often benefits from introducing appropriate active learning techniques so everyone can express their thoughts and ideas about the material. There are also fun online games or polling that allows students to interact, such as iClicker or Kahoot. For more ideas on how to keep students engaged, consider looking at the Knute Broady Collection's Student Engagement page and Knute Broady Collection's Active Learning page.

  • Rapport. A wonderful first step for good rapport is using students' names. If you are teaching a large lecture, consider having a stack of cards with student names, and pictures preferably, to call upon people. Another trick to learning about your students is to have them turn in an assignment or discussion board post on Canvas detailing some of their interests. Building rapport also benefits significantly from patience, a welcoming environment, and being available. Additionally, if you begin to teach something that you once struggled with as a student, share those experiences. Moments like this help students feel more comfortable and more willing to ask questions without fear of judgment.

  • Grading challenges. A common issue for instructors with large enrollment courses is the amount of work to grade. Consider an automatic grading tool when possible such as Canvas quizzes or Scantron for exams. Practicing how not to get bogged down in the details for written assignments can also be helpful, for example, only pointing out recurring errors instead of all grammatical errors you encounter (Heppner 2007). For details about different grading techniques, check out the Knute Broady Collection's Assessment page.

  • Academic integrity. As with any rule, it is important to be upfront about expectations. Consider looking at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's academic integrity policy. This information can also be useful in your syllabus if you desire; If administering an exam, proctoring can be made more effective by not allowing students to wear hats, hoods, or anything else that covers their eyes. Combining this with randomizing exams, such as delivering multiple versions with minor changes to prevent cheating, not reusing exams in each semester, and randomizing seating can also be helpful. If you are administering an exam online, Mettl's blog on student cheating techniques can be useful to discover programs and methods to prevent cheating online. When it comes to papers, combining clear rules with a plagiarism checker (consider eLearning's blog post on the top free plagiarism detection tools to get started). If cheating is detected, meet with the student to discuss the incident. If you decide to do so, offer a retake of the exam, paper, or assignment. If you don't believe this is the correct course of action, you can report plagiarism to the university.

  • Role of technology. Canvas is a great resource to keep your syllabus accessible to students, to offer automatic grading options, keep assignments and discussions organized, among many other features that can be useful in a large enrollment class. Using other automatic grading and polling options can be helpful to get an understanding of what students understand throughout the duration of the class (iClickers, Google Forms, and Kahoot are some examples). Yellowdig, a discussion tool in Canvas, awards students with participation points and has been used by UNL faculty to improve student engagement. It is ultimately up to you how you would like to integrate technology into your classroom, however, it can help with student engagement in your course.

NOTE: Technologies mentioned in this collection may not all necessarily be UNL-supported. While the university highly encourages exclusively using university-supported technology, instructors may go outside what’s mentioned here.  However, be aware that doing so will mean university ITS (Information Technology Services) will be unable to assist you with any troubleshooting.

  • Framing the classroom. A classroom doesn't have to be a stagnant space. Consider having students chunk together if you have fixed seating and want to perform group work or moving around yourself to keep student attention. Moving around a bit can help you emphasize main points, draw student attention to a specific topic, or simply make a lecture more lively. The University of Iowa's stage blocking video can be an additional resource.

  • Creating effective lesson plans. Finally, creating effective lesson plans can help with managing the challenges of a large-enrollment course. Narrowing down learning goals, material, and focusing on the analysis of issues and problems before class even begins will give the course much needed structure. For more detailed information, check out the Knute Broady Collection's Course Design page.

If you have a TA, here are a couple of quick tips on how to work with them effectively.

  • Section responsibilities. Be clear with your TA with what you expect of them, their duties, and if they will be helping you grade material, the rubric that you'd like you to follow. It's always easier to know what to expect from your TA if you know who they are. Build rapport with your TA to figure out how they can best assist both you and your students.

  • Regular meetings. Whether it's for grading, lesson plans for sections, handling complaints, or just touching base, communication is key. The best way for both you and your TA to thrive is by keeping an open line of communication with each other and feeling comfortable enough to address when any issues arise. It can help if before the semester you have a system in the back of your mind of how frequently you'd like to meet with your TA and how you would require their services, this way, you can be transparent with them from the beginning.


Cooper, James L. and Robinson, Pamela. (2000). "The Argument for Making Large Classes Seem Small.New Directions for Teaching and Learning.


Heppner, Frank. (2007). "Teaching the Large College Class: A Guidebook for Instructors with Multitudes.Jossey-Bass.