How Do I Maximize In-Class and Out-of-Class Learning in Any Teaching Context?

How Do I Maximize In-Class and Out-of-Class Learning in Any Teaching Context?

Faculty have found that integrating the right mix of in-class and out-of-class activities can support student learning and engagement, regardless of whether they are teaching face-to-face, fully online, or a combination of the two formats. How can you maximize the benefits of in-class and out-of-class learning? Below are the advantages of each option followed by some considerations we encourage you to reflect on to find a balance that makes sense for your course and your students.

Advantages of In-Class Learning

In-class learning experiences (i.e., those that happen in real-time, either in an in-person class or synchronously through a video and/or chat tool) offer direct social engagement and feedback and can more closely resemble face-to-face interactions.

Some advantages of in-class learning activities include:

  • create a space for social support among peers and the instructor;
  • allow students to provide context to their responses and to receive immediate feedback from their peers and instructor; and
  • offer the instructor a chance to clarify misconceptions on material in real-time (Giesbers et al., 2013).

Advantages of Out-of-Class Learning

Out-of-class learning experiences (i.e., those that happen asynchronously and don’t require concurrent participation) provide flexible opportunities for interaction and communication.

Some advantages of out-of-class learning activities include:

  • benefit students by accommodating when they can access the course;
  • offer more time and space for students to reflect on their learning, practice, and refine their contributions to class activities; and
  • generate an archive of information (e.g., discussion posts, instructor recaps, recorded videos) that students can return to throughout the semester (Johnson, 2006).

Finding Balance

Students may positively perceive in-class learning because they receive immediate feedback and feel like they are part of a community. However, students may also appreciate that they are able to engage with the content on a deeper level outside of class. Finding a balance between both formats, regardless of your teaching context, would help in supporting students’ cognitive and social needs.

The considerations below aim to guide you in your course design decisions on how to maximize in-class and out-of-class learning in any teaching context.


What are the essential components of your course?
Before deciding on the types of learning activities you want to include in your course, you should first examine your course content, learner needs, and your course goals. Certain in-class or out-of-class activities work better for particular purposes. For example, creating time to connect and develop a classroom culture, providing informal feedback and guidance, reviewing content to check for understanding, and celebrating learning may lend itself better to in-class activities, while teaching new skills or concepts and extended practice may be better suited for out-of-class activities where students have time to reflect and refine their thinking.

The image below is one example of a course structure that incorporates in-class and out-of-class learning activities.

Out-of-class and in-class learning activities

What technology do you and your students have?
Having a sense of what technology students have access to could also inform your decisions around in-class and out-of-class activities. For example, suppose you are thinking of having students work together in class on a collaborative document while also drawing from the readings or external research. If students are using a tablet, cell phone, or a small computer monitor, it may be difficult to access multiple documents and platforms at once.

It is also important to consider what classroom technology you will have access to for your course. Are you located in a classroom equipped to support online synchronous sessions, where some students may be attending class in-person while others are attending virtually? Is Echo360 lecture capture available to record your class sessions? Knowing what technology you have available to you will be important as you plan and select different activities.

How can you build in flexibility?
Keeping students engaged throughout the semester means they have multiple opportunities to interact with the instructor, the content, and with each other. Many faculty have found that having a mix of in-class and out-of-class activities supports student participation and overall engagement in their courses. For example, some faculty pre-record videos, embed questions into recorded video lectures, use discussion forums, and give low-stakes quizzes as outside-of-class activities to promote deeper understanding and reflection. In-class time is spent providing immediate feedback to students when they had questions about the content, small group check-ins, and building community through collaborative work.

What aspects of the course should contribute to a grade?
It’s always effective to connect your assessments back to your learning outcomes. Consider whether every activity should count towards a student’s final grade, or if some activities could be optional or ungraded. If you decide to provide students with a choice on how they would like to engage (e.g., attending an in-class review session or posting questions in a discussion forum), consider how (or if) you would like to track their participation in Moodle or Blackboard.

For More Ideas on In-Class and Out-of-Class Activities, please see our “How Do I…?” Pages

  • How Do I Make Videos that Students Want to Watch?
  • How Do I Keep My Students Engaged in Large Classes?
  • How Do I Design Successful Group Work and Collaborative Assignments?
  • How Can I Effectively Integrate Varied Discussion Formats into My Course?
  • How Do I Use Note Catchers to Support Active Learning?
  • How Do I Best Engage Students During Synchronous Class Sessions?

Please contact the CTL with any questions or for more details about the examples shared at



Giesbers, B., Rienties, B., Tempelaar, D., & Gijselaers, W. (2013). A dynamic analysis of the interplay between asynchronous and synchronous communication in online learning: The impact of motivation. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(1), 30-50. doi:10.1111/jcal.12020

Johnson, G. M. (2006). Synchronous and asynchronous text‐based CMC in educational contexts: A review of recent research. TechTrends, 50(4), 46-53. doi:10.1007/s11528‐006‐0046‐9