Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Strategies for Teaching Students in Different Time Zones

One challenge faculty may currently be facing is teaching and reaching all students across multiple time zones. Below are some strategies for managing and supporting student participation and engagement when students are unable to attend live lectures during regularly-scheduled class time. NOTE: Instructors must continue to hold live classes at the official time to avoid a domino effect with scheduling conflicts. 

May I – and should I – record my live class sessions?
Instructors are encouraged to record their live class sessions for all students to refer to as a resource later. Recording class sessions (especially, but not only, at the beginning of this transition) is
strongly recommended so that students unable to participate in real time can have access to the recordings later. Because course recordings are covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and must not be shared with any third-party audience (those not registered or associated with the course-section), follow these strict guidelines... 

Communicate early and often. Communicating clear expectations to your students on how you expect them to participate will ensure that your students are set for success in your course. Clarify to your students that class sessions will continue to take place during regularly-scheduled times to avoid scheduling conflicts with other courses that they are currently enrolled in. Explain what steps students should take if they cannot attend live class sessions. Check in with your students regularly to remind them of upcoming deadlines and to clarify assignment expectations, including where/how students are expected to submit assignments.

Check in on your students’ learningLeverage low-stakes, formative assessments (e.g., quizzes, brief written assignments) to help you and your students assess gaps in students’ learning. You and your students can both use this information to adjust teaching and learning, respectively. Low stakes assessments also tend to reduce issues with academic integrity. Regularly scheduled, quick assessments are easily adapted to asynchronous learning opportunities (e.g., Canvas assignments, quizzes, or ungraded responses) to help you engage all students in the course, including those who may not be able to attend live class sessions.

Provide options to minimize bias. Students may face particular challenges when remotely participating in your course, including (but not limited to) difficulties focusing on their learning in their physical environment, limited technological resources to effectively participate and complete assignments, and managing their course load in an online environment. To help minimize participation bias, consider providing multiple modes of participation and engagement in your course. Strategies like recording and posting your lectures, making course resources (e.g., lecture slides, videos, online readings) accessible to all students, and holding additional office hours can provide multiple opportunities for all students to engage with course learning.


There are many ways to provide asynchronous learning opportunities for students that go beyond sharing a recording of your live class session. Furthermore, going beyond sharing class recordings tends to be better for learning to the degree that these activities involve active learning. Here we provide some strategies to consider:

Provide students asynchronous learning activities online. Translating class activities and assessments to an asynchronous format helps to accommodate students’ diverse set of needs as they adjust to their online learning environment. Asynchronous work allows students to complete course assignments when it’s a reasonable hour for them, even if it’s outside of the scheduled class time. For example, instead of a live discussion over Zoom, you could ask students to add one post to a Canvas discussion board, and respond to their peers’ contributions.

Leverage low-stakes assessments to help you and your students assess gaps in their learning. You and your students can both use this information to adjust teaching and learning, respectively. Low stakes assessments also tend to reduce issues with academic integrity.  Frequent low stakes assessments (e.g., quizzes, brief written assignments) are easily adapted to an asynchronous mode to engage all students in the course, including those who may not be able to attend live class sessions.

Assign students to work individually on class projects or assignments during class time. Use the time you and your students have together to practice applying the concepts or working on projects and assignments and providing just-in-time feedback in person. Note: variations on this strategy could involve students doing group work and/or peer learning. (See peer learning strategies below.)

Pre-record instructional videos and use the class time for discussions (and record those too). Creating instructional videos with interspersed pauses and “prompt questions” provide students an active learning experience that goes beyond listening passively to a recorded lecture. For example, 1-3 times during the video, you could ... send students off to post their reflections in a Canvas discussion board or to answer comprehension-check questions in a Canvas quiz. For students who are not able to attend your synchronous class, this format can help students to meaningfully and actively engage with the material.

Provide feedback on students’ learning in asynchronous (i.e., not just synchronous) forms. Set low stakes Canvas quizzes to provide automatic feedback. Assign students to post to Canvas discussion board (without seeing other posts) and then reveal your post (and possibly all student responses) after the assignment deadline. In addition to these asynchronous feedback strategies, you may also want to use the scheduled class time for students to ask questions.

NOTE: Leveraging asynchronous work can help carry the momentum of meaningful learning experiences in between live class sessions. As you consider incorporating various asynchronous activities, remember that students’ total hours working on your course should not increase; balancing additional asynchronous activities with reduced synchronous time could help.


  • Leverage collaborative learning. Consider grouping students by time zone when assigning groupwork. To support this out-of-class time groupwork, create dedicated virtual working spaces for student groups to develop and discuss their ideas by assigning student groups to online discussion boards and assignment prompts in Canvas. You can also set up shared working folders in Google Drive.
  • Assign peer feedback. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge and learning in your classroom by leveraging asynchronous peer feedback. Peer feedback is an effective strategy for providing students with timely, thoughtful feedback without overextending your time. Students have the opportunity to engage with and learn from peers in different time zones, and implement their peers’ feedback toward their final deliverable. Peer feedback can also be extended to include a self-reflection, where students identify and explain feedback that they did (and did not) incorporate.

If you would like to meet with an Eberly consultant to discuss any of the above strategies for managing students in different time zones and/or taking a small move to provide students with asynchronous active learning activities, we are here to help. Contact