Prepare for mixed-mode teaching in 2021

This page is intended to help you prepare your teaching for a mix of on-campus and remote students.

Drop-in sessions, 2021

Throughout February, we will hold Zoom drop-in sessions. Topics include: An introduction to Canvas, group and peer review assignments, digital assessment, and mixed-mode teaching. All staff are welcome.

About remote students

During 2021 the University of Auckland will enrol students from different geographical locations, with varying levels of local support, in the same Canvas courses. Students already in Auckland will continue to be taught on campus (unless there is another COVID-19 lockdown), while other students, predominantly those in China, will be ‘attending’ class online. Some remote students will be supported through the recently formed China Learning Centres, but some will be accessing their courses individually from homes all over mainland China or other parts of the world.

We will discuss how remote students are allocated into Canvas Sections, and how to identify them, later in this document.

NB, if a student has moved overseas or has returned to NZ, staff can notify the REF team (Enrollments and Fees team) to update their location. Contact: If a domestic student in NZ wishes to study online due to medical reasons, they should contact the Student Centre. Email or phone 0800 61 62 63.

Teaching students in different modes within a single course can be challenging, and to many teachers, quite new. While mixed-mode teaching has been necessitated as a result of University students being unable to return to Auckland during the pandemic, it has been a growing trend regardless, due to potential efficiencies, aims for greater global reach and teaching staff shortages. Designing a course specifically for dual or mixed-mode teaching will provide a degree of resilience against further potential lockdowns and future demands.

Summer School courses

Find out if you will be teaching mixed-mode for Summer School in 2021.

Semester One courses

View a list of courses NOT available to online students. Note: If your Semester One course is NOT LISTED on this page, then it may include remote students.

General advice for mixed-mode teaching

During the initial lockdown we highlighted the critical role of communication with students. We explained the most common tools that can be used to keep students informed and engaged. Other key advice initially centred on simplicity, flexibility, and empathy. For the future we add clarity and consistency.



Providing clear instruction is always important in online courses, where the opportunities for quick face-to-face clarification are rare or absent. This is even more so when there are remote students who may have language barriers or internet access issues. Making course requirements clearly understood early or prior to the course start date reduces cognitive overload. Lack of clarity can cause confusion, anxiety and affective barriers to learning.



See also


One way of increasing clarity is to make your course design and teaching processes consistent. For example,

  • Make it very clear at the start what you will do, where things are in the course, and what you expect of students. Having a kind of ‘treasure hunt’ to locate specific resources as an early activity can help to familiarise students with your course organisation. A discussion where you negotiate expectations and protocols for online behaviour is another potentially constructive activity.
    See also remote learning checklist – Welcome your students to the course.
  • Post an Announcement on the same day every week, to summarise what has been covered, what your students should be focusing on now and what is coming up.
  • On the Modules page, use headings to group and describe materials and tasks clearly and in the same order/format in each module.Screenshot of Canvas' Modules section with pre-course information and weekly information grouped under headings
  • Introduce one or two readings each week, followed by a discussion.
  • Keep the layout and visual design consistent – it can also help to have visual indicators showing progress through the material.

Put yourself in your students’ place. How do you access your course? How are you greeted? Is it obvious where everything is, what to do first? Do a cognitive walkthrough. What exactly are you asking them to do at each stage? Only by stepping through the explicit instructions will you realise gaps, overload, lack of clarity or logistical problems.

These are just suggestions, and how you organise and plan your mixed-mode course will depend on your teaching style and the best format for your course – however maintaining a consistent pattern throughout will help your students plan and manage their learning and help you to manage expectations.

If you are looking for ideas on how to organise and manage your mixed-mode course, check the appropriate section under ‘Course Context’ below.

Creating successful online learning experiences

“An educational community of inquiry is a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding.”

The Community of Inquiry

The Community of Inquiry model is an established framework for online learning and a useful way to think about mixed-mode teaching. This model identifies 3 essential ‘presences’ for successful online teaching: social presence (which must be established early, and first), cognitive presence and teaching presence.

The Community of Inquiry Model

Community of inquiry Venn diagram. Social presence = Engagement with participants. Cognitive presence = Engagement with content. Teaching presence = engagement with goals / direction. Overlaps support discourse, regulating learning, and setting the climate.

Image adapted from The Community of Inquiry (colours altered). Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Social presence and community development

‘Social presence’ is “the ability of participants to identify with the [learning] community, communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop interpersonal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities.” (Garrison, 2009). While face-to-face and blended modes are at least implicitly social in nature, the online learning context is entirely internet and device mediated.

Opportunities for students to learn about each other and to build safe, supportive and trusting relationships must be designed for in the online learning environment. In the early stages of an online course the development of the online learning community needs to be a focus before students can be expected to engage deeply in the cognitive aspects of the course (cognitive presence). The need to quickly establish social presence is crucial for the online students to feel included in a mixed-mode learning community.

How to foster online communities
During the COVID-19 lockdown we provided tips for developing community and engagement. The guide: Adding some tec-variety: 100+ activities for motivating & retaining learners online (Bonk & Khoo, 2014) may also provide some ideas. The first section covers tone/climate (psychological safety, comfort and sense of belonging). In addition, see: Creating Community: University of Notre Dame.


Cognitive presence

“The extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse.” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001). Regular and engaging activities are required to maintain the development of higher-order thinking.


Teaching presence

Teaching presence is the “design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes” (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001). This includes pre-course design and development of resources and tasks, and during the course, adapting content to learners’ needs and interests, providing academic guidance and learning support. See also: Some indicators of teaching presence.

This role has much in common with that of the process facilitator (Goodyear et al., 2001, p. 69).

The Community of Inquiry Model

Community of inquiry Venn diagram. Social presence = Engagement with participants. Cognitive presence = Engagement with content. Teaching presence = engagement with goals / direction. Overlaps support discourse, regulating learning, and setting the climate.

Image adapted from The Community of Inquiry (colours altered). Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Course context

Your course format will influence what choices make the most sense for your teaching context.

Decide how your course will work online – will it be based on lecture recordings, discussions, readings and tutorials, group work? Which of these can be asynchronous (discussion posts, readings, watching videos, preparing a summary etc.) and which are best done in real time? Asynchronous activities do not require students to be in the same place at the same time, therefore easier to manage when teaching mixed-mode classes (Bonk & Khoo, 2014), or consider whether you can adapt ideas for Interactive Techniques (Yee, 2019).

Given the presence of remote students, and the potential for a COVID lockdown, think about designing your course online first so it can function remotely. Then think about adding in your face-to-face (F2F) elements.

Content delivery: Consider flipping your course, i.e. provide most of the content asynchronously, online. This enables valuable synchronous time to focus on teacher-student and student-student interaction, for both F2F and remote students.

Students working individually: Again, consider moving these activities to online, asynchronous tasks.

Pair-work, small group work, whole class interaction: In synchronous classes, one option is to have both F2F and remote students interact via technology, rather than creating physical materials for in-person students and separate digital spaces for remote students. Teaching@Sydney points out potential benefits:

  1. “neither group misses out
  2. the two groups are not segregated and unable to perceive work done by the other
  3. the teacher can focus on just one approach
  4. in-person students could potentially collaborate with online students so that the class feels ‘together’.”


Note that a whole-class verbal discussion is likely to be challenging or impossible for remote students, due to the inability of microphones to pick up all conversations. Polling (e.g. on Zoom) and backchannels (e.g. Zoom chat) can be useful alternatives.

For groupwork (including in Zoom breakout rooms), consider having students record their discussions in a shared, editable document (e.g. Collaborations in Canvas). This enables both teachers and groups to see what the others are discussing. It also saves repetition of each small group reporting back to the whole class afterwards.

Consider different time zones. It may not be feasible to meet your whole class in a Zoom session at one time – will you hold open digital ‘office hours’ to suit offshore students? What is the balance of face-to-face and remote students? If not too dissimilar, can you make use of the time differences? For example, ask students in one section to summarise a reading for the other groups to critique later, or make use of the difference to schedule peer reviews? Obviously, if there are only one or two remote students in a mostly F2F class this would be neither fair nor practicable.

Managing a very imbalanced ratio of F2F and remote students can bring particular challenges. A remote student joining a large F2F class by Zoom needs careful management so as not to feel isolated. Ideally, GTAs (for example) will facilitate the remote student experience – if not, use group tasks where the students can take on specific roles, including one working with remote students. In some cases, assigning a different student to take the role of Zoom facilitator might be acceptable. You may like to rotate this role.


Additional resources

Managing remote students Zooming in to a F2F class

Students using Zoom to join a session works better in a tutorial or small class situation. For connectivity and accessibility reasons, we do not recommend live streaming lectures (especially large lectures).

If you can teach in a room with a large display screen or a dedicated multi-mode teaching room, that is ideal. In most cases you will probably be receiving the Zoom student on a laptop or other portable device. If possible, someone in the classroom other than you should set up the Zoom session, ensure the students are connected, can hear and be heard, and have visibility of whatever is appropriate at different times during the class. This might entail regularly moving the laptop to provide the remote student a view of you teaching your class, or giving groupwork instructions, or it might entail the facilitator sharing your presentation on screen. The facilitator needs to check with the student regularly to see if they are trying to contribute to a discussion, or ensure they can hear, and if there are questions or comments from outside the student’s hearing range the facilitator needs to repeat the question or post it in the Zoom chat. A remote student may decide to keep their microphone muted and their video off; you will need to decide if this is appropriate.

If you can’t have someone else monitor the online students and you really must have remote students in your live Zoom sessions, you will need to intentionally build in time to maintain their engagement in your class. Practise how you will do this. Otherwise it is better to pre-record Zoom sessions so that all students can view them when it suits them.

See also: recording Zoom presentations/lectures.

To support remote students, lecture recordings should be published within 24 hours. You can check the steps to view and update publishing delay for your course in Lecture Recordings – Settings.

The following tip is adapted from Teaching dual audiences: University of South Florida:

If you’re not using PowerPoint slides, you may like to display the Zoom window (gallery and chat) on the main projector/screen. This can make it easier for you to monitor chat and hands – plus the F2F students may assist in helping you notice faster as well.

If you are using PowerPoint, you can display both the slides and the Zoom window on the same screen by using the “windowed” mode in PowerPoint; normally, PowerPoint presentations run in full-screen mode, which hides the Zoom window. Windowed mode allows you to run the presentation in a window that you can resize and move around, creating room for the Zoom window on the same screen. To enable windowed mode, click the Slideshow tab, then “Set up Slide Show,” then select “browsed by an individual (window).” Be aware: any notes you have written in the presentation will not be visible.

Sections and Groups in Canvas

‘Sections’ and ‘Groups’ are two different ways of managing groups of students within Canvas. Sections represent enrolled classes and are automatically created in your Canvas courses.

To view the sections for your Canvas course, go to ‘Settings’ in the course menu, then select the ‘Sections’ tab. Remote students will be enrolled into sections containing these campus codes:

  • China Learning Centre – North Forestry University or (NF)
  • China Learning Centre – Southwest University (SW)
  • China Learning Centre – Nanjing University of Science and Technology (NJ)
  • International Students who are overseas and enrolled online (Offshore Online – OO)
  • Domestic students who are overseas and enrolled online (NZ Online – NO)
  • Domestic students who are medically approved to study remotely (NZ)

On-campus students will continue to be allocated to the regular sections, e.g. L01C (for Lecture01 City). For example:

Screenshot of Canvas settings page showing the number of students enrolled within various sections.

Canvas Announcements are convenient for broadcasting communications to all students. If you have remote students in your course, you can also make announcements to them separately by posting to a course Section.

Assignments (including quizzes and graded discussions) can also be allocated and differentiated by sections.

Canvas Groups are quite different from other Canvas tools, and have three key functions:


Unlike Sections, Groups can be created by the course coordinator or teachers, and so are not limited to the ‘class’ enrolment groupings. Students can also create their own Groups, if permitted, in the course settings.

Creating and adding students to Canvas Groups creates a course area in which group members can communicate and collaborate privately from the larger course. Students in Groups have ‘teacher-like’ permissions in this space. They can add resources (and delete them!) create their own Discussions, Group Announcements, Collaborations (Google documents) and Conferences. Grade functions are not included in Group spaces. Canvas Group areas can be used to restrict course content to Group members, but remember students can also add, delete and edit all files and pages in this space.

Note: Unlike course discussions, lecturers do not receive notifications from Group discussions, so you may want to regularly check each Group to monitor progress and respond to queries.

This table illustrates which Canvas components can be assigned specifically to Canvas Groups, Sections, and to individual students.
  Assign to all students Assign to Sections Assign to Groups Assign to Individual students
Homepage Yes No Yes (Group area) No
Syllabus page Yes No No No
Announcements Yes Yes Yes (Group area) No
Modules Yes No No No
Pages Yes No Yes (Group area) No
Files Yes No Yes (Group area) No
Recordings Yes Yes No No
Outcomes Yes No No No
Assignments Yes Yes Yes (Group assignment) Yes
Quizzes Yes Yes No Yes
Discussions Yes Yes Yes (Group Discussion, Group area) Yes (Graded Discussion)
Collaboration (Google Doc) Yes No Yes Yes
Conference (BigBlueButton) Yes No Yes (Group area) Yes
Appointment groups in Calendar Yes Yes No No


  • Use Canvas Groups for project work where you want students to work independently from other students/groups and for collaborative tasks using Google Docs.
  • Use Canvas Sections for communicating with specific categories of students (through Announcements or Discussions), or for assigning Quizzes.

Canvas support

Summer School exams

Exams for students in Auckland will be sat on campus if we remain at COVID-19 alert level 1 or level 2. If we change alert levels or need to close the University, we will revert to online remote exams for all students.

Exams for remote students will continue as online, remote, non-invigilated exams. As such, we need to be prepared again to cater to each of these scenarios.

In the event of alert level 2, teaching will be moved online (with possible exceptions) but all exams will be held on campus. All teachers, however, need to prepare an online version of the exam, either as a precaution or as a necessity for remote students.

Read about exam processes for teachers – exams are to be submitted to the Examination Office by Thursday 4 February 2021.

All exams, regardless of alert level or mode, will be classified as Restricted Book Lite (as defined in the Summer School policy statement). This allows for all students to prepare and utilise some resources during the exam.

All teaching staff are encouraged to opt-in to use Inspera to prepare their on-campus and online exams. Inspera has many benefits for examiners, provides a better student experience in the event of alert level changes, and provides consistency for both on-campus and remote students.

Please ensure that any staff who may be advising students are aware of the policy with respect to illness, ‘higher risk’ students and aegrotats.

See ‘Summer School at different alert levels‘.



Inspera computer-based exams

In Semester Two 2020, we piloted software called Inspera Online Assessments, which can be used to run exams on campus or remotely. Exams are designed in an online format and, when run on campus, use a combination of computer lab spaces and students’ own devices.

On-campus exams are invigilated, with the additional security layer of a ‘safe exam browser,’ preventing students from accessing any other content on their computer. When run remotely, exams are run without the safe exam browser setting.

There are several advantages to running an exam in Summer School as an Inspera computer-based exam, including:

  • Available functionality and time saved with automatically marked questions and online marking and grading.
  • A significant reduction in printing and associated costs.
  • A better student experience and ease of pivoting from an on-campus exam to a remote exam in the case of campus closure or an alert level change.
  • Providing a more consistent experience between our on-campus and remote students.
  • Very low risk of examination details being inappropriately shared or exposed inadvertently.
  • Centralised scheduling so examiners don’t need to start the exams.
  • Inspera is the University’s long-term solution for computer-based exams so this is an opportunity for examiners to get up to speed early and for some students to gain early experience.



Opting in to an Inspera computer-based exam on campus, offshore or as a pre-prepared online backup

If examiners are interested in running an exam as an Inspera computer-based exam in Summer School 2021:

Consider suitability

To help you to understand how your exam might successfully utilise the Inspera software, the Secure Assessments Project team will:

  1. Give a short demonstration of Inspera.
  2. Answer questions and address concerns.
  3. Help you work through how your exam questions might be constructed in Inspera.
  4. Set up an test account so you can ‘have a go’ with the software.


You can compare the functionality between Inspera and Canvas, to help inform your decision, even if it is just to opt in to Inspera for the pre-prepared online backup.

Please note that an on-campus computer-based Inspera exam might not be suitable for some examinations, for example, language courses that require foreign keyboards, or disciplines where students would usually handwrite or draw complex formulas and diagrams. However, Inspera may still be an option for online exams for remote students.

If you need additional information or would like to speak to someone to help you with your decision, please email as soon as possible.

If you choose to use Inspera for on-campus, offshore or as a pre-prepared online backup, ‘opt in’ by 14 January 2021.


Opt in

To opt in to Inspera for running a computer-based on-campus exam, email AND submit a request to change your exam requirements to a ‘Computer Based Exam’ on Course View by 14 January 2021. See instructions for using Course View (PDF).

To opt in to Inspera Online Assessments for only offshore exams and/or as a pre-prepared online back up in case of an alert level change or University closure, email Do not amend your exam requirements selection in Course View.


Get ready

Summer School examiners will be supported through the transition via a number of mechanisms:

Training invitations will be sent out on or around 15 January for training sessions as follows:

  • Exam Authors: Session/s expected to be held w/c 18 January
  • Exam Markers: Sessions/s expected to be held w/c 9 February


Support from the project team (including the Exams Office) will be available throughout the Summer School period to help you with the transition to an Inspera computer-based exam.

Communications will be provided which you can share with the students in their course to help them prepare.



Help and more information

If you would like to see a short demonstration, if you have any questions or concerns, or if you would like to opt in to the use of Inspera for Summer School please contact the project team directly at And more information can be found on the central website and Inspera SharePoint site.

Frequently asked questions


Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D. R., & Archer W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 5(2).

Bonk, C. J. & Khoo, E. (2014). Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online. and Amazon CreateSpace. Retrieved December 16, 2020 from

Garrison, D. R. (2009). Communities of inquiry in online learning. In Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition (pp. 352-355). IGI Global.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2001). Critical thinking, cognitive presence, and computer conferencing in distance education. American Journal of distance education, 15(1), 7-23.

Goodyear, P., Salmon, G., Spector, J. M., Steeples, C., Tickner, S. (2001). Competencies for Online Teaching. Educational Technology Research & Development 49(1), 65–72.

Yee, K. (2019). Interactive techniques. Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence.

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