November 6th, 2009

Tips for Managing Large Online Classes


Teaching large classes, whether face-to-face or in the online learning environment, is never easy. But there are things you can do to ensure a good experience for you and your students.

The following tips from Susan Ko, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Maryland University College, will help you maintain course quality and interaction in large online courses:

  • Use study groups for some of the asynchronous discussions. Have students in groups of up to 10 members conduct threaded discussions. Let them know that you will be observing these discussions, and have them post a summary of their discussions to a classwide discussion area.
  • Divide topics into manageable units. Keep the number of main topic threads to a minimum in a single discussion to avoid confusion. You can create a new topic or even a new discussion if needed. But be sure to explain how these discussions are organized, so students can follow them easily.
  • Explain the protocol for responding to a post. Make sure that students know to accurately title each posting to correctly reflect the subject they wish to discuss. Also, have students quote the section of a previous posting to which they are responding.
  • Reconsider posting requirements. In a small class, you may require students to respond to an initial prompt and then to the posts of two classmates. In a larger class, this amount of posts may not be appropriate.
  • Don’t feel obligated to respond to every student. You may be able to combine responses to more than one question or encourage students to respond to their classmates’ questions.
  • Use group assignments. Turn an individual assignment into a group assignment, and grade both the individual contribution and the whole project.
  • Use peer review. Create a rubric for students to assess one another’s work.
  • Use a detailed grading rubric to provide feedback. This will allow you to give students a clear explanation of what their grades mean, without having to add commentary.


Ko, Susan. “Tips for Managing Larger Online Classes.” DE Oracle @ UMUC. November/December 2007.

Accessed March 19, 2008 from here.

Reprinted from Tips From the Pros: Managing a Large Online Class, Online Classroom, April 2008.

If you teach large classes, either online or face-to-face, you’ll find more tips like these in our free report: Strategies for Teaching Large Classes. Go here to download it.

How do you manage your large classes? Share your tips in the “comment” box below.