Successful LOIL with Large Groups 

Posted in: Bath Blend, Blended learning, learning technology, Student engagement, teaching, TEL

“The LOILs are great.”

“The vibe is perfect, never have I had such a relaxed yet focused learning environment.”

“I love the interactivity.”

“Very structured easy to follow and right amount work load [sic].”

“[Y]ou make the best use of lecture time.”


From this positive student feedback, we look at Dr Anna Young’s teaching approach to consider online strategies and tools that can be used to successfully engage students in a large cohort.

This case study was written by Lynn Cheong-White (Instructional Designer) in conversation with Dr Young.

Background Context

Dr Anna Young teaches Fluid Mechanics in Mechanical Engineering alongside Dr David Cleaver. The cohort Dr Young teaches is a large one, with over 320 students. The students are a mixture of first-year and second-year students, as the unit is part of an integrated multidisciplinary course between Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Dr Young taught this unit on Fluid Mechanics last academic year, but with the change to blended online learning, she has adapted the way the content is delivered. Her weekly content is now divided into pre-recorded lectures, focused on the theory, and live online interactive learning sessions, focused on practicing what students have learnt in the recordings. This division does not add any additional content on top of previous years, but instead focuses on how to deliver the same amount of work in a different style.


In a typical unit, students would be expected to put in 5-6 hours of work per week. From general student feedback in Semester 1, students were feeling overloaded with coursework. Dr Young’s teaching approach was to adapt her previous year’s session plan and to not create or add more content over a ‘normal’ course. Dr Young also strived to increase engagement and maximise her contact time with her students during the Live Online Interactive Learning (LOIL) sessions.

Weekly content was roughly divided in the following way:

  • Pre-recorded content (2 x roughly 15-25 minutes a week)
    • Dr Young kept the pre-recorded content to roughly 15 - 25 minutes per session, keeping in line with the amount of lecturing she would have done in an in-person session. As there were 2 LOIL sessions each week, Dr Young produced 2 pre-recorded videos each week.
  • LOIL Sessions (2 x 1-hour sessions a week)
    • Students would then come together twice a week for their LOIL sessions. As Dr Young had already delivered the week’s content and theory in the pre-recorded videos, the LOIL time was used to check students understanding and for students to practice applying their knowledge.
  • Tutorial Worksheet (2 hours a week)
    • From what students learnt in the pre-recorded videos and LOIL sessions they would then apply that knowledge in tutorial worksheets, independently and in their tutorial groups. The tutorial sessions themselves are 35-40 minutes long and are mainly tutor group discussions on the worksheet with input from Graduate Teaching Assistants.
Benefits Drawbacks
  • Amount of contact time increased, but workload did not
  • Students have time from pre-recorded videos to LOILs to process information and form questions
  • Students afforded more contact time to ask questions in live sessions
  • More opportunity for engagement during LOILs
  • More opportunity to apply information in LOILs
  • Time needed to adapt sessions and decide what can be pre-recorded and how to reframe material to activities for LOILs
  • Time spent considering scaffolding in videos as students will not be able to ask questions and get live answers whilst watching them
  • Will need to spend time explaining to students the organisation of the unit
  • If students do not watch the pre-recorded videos it will affect their ability to participate in the following LOIL

Tools used during LOIL sessions

During the LOIL sessions, Dr Young found the following tools increased student engagement:

  • Polling
  • Chat feature
  • Drawing tablet monitor
  • Zoom
  • Cat GIFs
  • Mario Kart music


To check students understanding in real-time during her sessions, Dr Young used Slido to insert polling throughout her presentation.

Screenshot from LOIL session using SLIDO.
Screenshot of slido poll used during LOIL.
Screenshot of LOIL session showing SLIDO poll results.
Screenshot of Slido poll results during LOIL.

With bigger cohorts this provided a more comprehensive check of their ability level, due to the large sample, compared to asking students to speak up, where only a select few may contribute. Along with gauging the number of students that knew the correct answer, Dr Young includes common wrong answers as multiple-choice options. This enables Dr Young to address common mistakes or areas where students may need more elaboration.

Benefits Drawbacks
  • Can provide a clearer understanding of students abilities
  • Can help students see where they have made a mistake
  • Can prompt students to ask questions
  • It does take time to come up with plausible and common wrong answers
  • Students must be present at LOIL session to participate in the poll (not as useful to students watching a recording of the LOIL)
  • Need to use and teach students how to use another application during the session, such as Slido or Turning Point

Chat feature

To moderate discussion in her LOIL, Dr Young explained to students the expectation that they had to write any question on the Zoom chat. Dr Young then ensured she allocated ample time during the LOIL session to look over chat questions and offer students answers and guidance. Having another teacher on hand to moderate the chat also allowed for student questions to be answered.

Benefits Drawbacks
  • Keeps questions organised in one place
  • Students can ask questions without interrupting
  • Allows peers to answer each other’s questions
  • Chats can be biased to the more confident and louder students
  • Need to allocate time to answer questions as being short on time can lead to students feeling nervous about asking questions in the future

Drawing tablet monitor

As most questions worked on during the LOIL were equation based, Dr Young used a drawing tablet monitor to write out and go over problems in real time with her students.

Benefits Drawbacks
  • Annotation can be done and saved directly onto slides
  • Easy to see changes
  • Additional kit that needs to be purchased


Comparing Zoom to alternative online meeting applications, Dr Young found the application positively impacted her LOIL sessions.

  1. Interaction:  The application increased her interaction with students as well as peer to peer interaction. Unlike Microsoft's Teams Webinar, which was used to conduct the large LOIL sessions in semester 1, Zoom did not have any delay. Dr Young was able to respond to students in real time and there was less of a delay between questions and answers.
  2. Security: The security features of Zoom, such as muting students and allowing students to only communicate via the chat function, allowed Dr Young to moderate the commentary.
  3. Automatic Recording: The settings in Zoom allowed Dr Young to set her sessions to automatically record, which became one less thing to worry about and students could then have access to a recording of each LOIL session to review.

Cat GIFs

Dr Young uses humour within her LOILs to increase engagement between her students. Students are more likely to interact with the chat and their peers when there is a light hearted topic to discuss.

Cat with showercap on head.
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
Benefits Drawbacks
  • Increased engagement from students
  • Can build a sense of community
  • You become known as the cat person
  • From student feedback, some people want dogs

Mario Kart music

Please see Cat GIFs.



  • Overall, the large LOIL sessions have been successful. As one student put it, Dr Young “use[s] our time wisely”.
  • The number of students watching pre-recorded content before each LOIL session is roughly equal to the number of students attending LOIL sessions, showing students are attending LOILs prepared to apply the theory.
  • By dividing the theory and practice to pre-recorded material and LOIL, students are given more time during the LOIL to ask questions and to apply what they have learnt, therefore being a more active participant in their learning.
  • Not being in a large hall, some students may even feel more confident asking questions during a LOIL session as it may not be as daunting writing a question in a chat box than speaking up in front of 300 peers.


  • It does take time to set up. Dr Young started preparing 2 months earlier than expected. She used the extra preparation time to restructure her existing content and record her videos.
  • Time will also have to be spent thinking of plausible wrong answers for polls. Without plausible wrong answers it can be more difficult to work out where students got lost.
  • Students do not feel as comfortable asking about work from previous weeks in a tutorial, a point Dr Young hopes to address in the future.
  • Engagement did drop in later weeks, probably due to some students choosing to concentrate on their coursework, and an issue with students feeling less motivated to attend LOILs after missing some sessions.

Going forward, Dr Young will use polling to continue interacting with her students, although she will have to rethink the application as students during in-person sessions may not have access to the technology required to participate in the polls.

In the future she expects preparation time to diminish as she now has a structure and content she can re-use.

Additional resources


Thank you to Dr Anna Young who offered her time to share this recent LOIL experience.

Posted in: Bath Blend, Blended learning, learning technology, Student engagement, teaching, TEL


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