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Technology for the Classroom

Technology is an important tool for faculty use in the classroom.  Some technologies make large classes seem smaller, promote interaction, and assist faculty with class management, especially in large classes.  Students should expect faculty to use technology when teaching classes.  All students at VCU are required to purchase a computer.  Most prospective employers expect students to know how to use computers and software.

The following list includes a number of ways that technology can be used in large classes.  The list cannot be inconclusive because the list is always changing.  Each discipline, subject, and course may have different technologies available.


  • Use Announcements for reminders and changes; if used regularly, students become conditioned to look here daily.
  • Post course documents such as the course syllabus, office hours, homework assignments, notes, and sample exams.
  • Communicate with students (entire class or selected individuals) by email
  • Post grades; set up the gradebook so that the total points are not displayed
  • Hold virtual office hours, either synchronously (live) via the Collaboration/Live Chat option or asynchronously via the Discussion Board.
  • List important web links.
  • Hold class discussions using the Discussion Board.
  • Divide the class into groups.
  • Written assignments can be posted (on the Control Panel, go to Documents or to Assignment, then select Assignment from the pull-down menu under Learning Unit).  These are submitted electronically by students; faculty can give feedback in a comments area, and grades are entered in the gradebook automatically.
  • Online pre- and post-tests.

Personal Responder System (clickers):

A number of ways to use clicker in large (or small) classes are given below.


  • Use the clickers to take attendance: this is not recommended.  Students resent paying for clickers to be used for this purpose only.

Questions with a single correct answer:

  • Give a quick review quiz of concepts covered in a previous lecture or an assigned reading.
  • Provide a quick test of a new concept covered in class.
  • Give students a sense of the length of time required to answer a question on an exam.
  • Elicit strongly-held but incorrect conceptual understanding (i.e., a substantial minority to a majority answers the question incorrectly), which can be addressed by subsequent lecture or discussion.  Following discussion, the question can be asked again to see if students now have the correct idea.
  • Use challenging questions to provoke classroom discussion by asking individual student to explain their reasoning for an answer; delay collecting answers to the question until after the discussion in complete.
  • Tie together a series of questions to frame a lecture and promote class discussion.

Open-ended questions

  • Promote debate. 
  • Survey class opinions; collect polling data.


Use available animations, recordings, photographs, and/or video to stimulate discussion, add interest to lecture, provide audio-visual context, and aid with visualization of difficult concepts.  This supplemental material is available in several formats: VHS (being phased out), DVD, or internet.

Technology-based assignments

  • Use some of the many databases available on the internet for all subjects.
  • Require students to evaluate validity of websites.
  • Teach students how to use online searching tools (from Library web pages).
  • Assign supplemental online or DVD-based tutorials.
  • Use student recordings (audio or video).

Microsoft Office Products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)

  • Lecture with PowerPoint (or Word), leaving part of the notes blank to be filled in during class.

Displaying Notes: (see Know Your Classroom)

  • Whiteboards/chalkboards.
  • "Elmo's" and overheads.  These work like a whiteboard or chalkboard, but a hard copy of the notes is created as the notes are written.  It is also possible to face the class while writing.
  • Computer projection systems (projection is available in most classrooms; in some rooms, you must provide your own computer).  If you use a laptop or desktop, the notes must be written in PowerPoint (or Word) prior to class.
  • Tablet pc's and projection systems.  With a table pc, it is possible to hand annotate pre-written notes or to write notes as is usually done on a board.  The annotations are electronic and can be saved and posted.
Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 06/20/2013
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