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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning


An introduction to large-group teaching - lectures, classes and seminars - and the differences between online and face-to-face teaching


Key Points

  • Teaching online in 2020-21 does not mean you will need to transform your large-group teaching into fully developed online education courses.
  • That said, it's not simply translating in-person teaching to a digital setting.



Larger-group teaching (lectures, classes, seminars) is central to higher education. When students sit in lecture halls or seminar rooms with us and their peers, they are both engaged in learning and also developing a more general sense that they are “doing university”. This sense arises from being physically present with others, engaging in conversations and exchanges, and pursuing a common endeavour together – factors that all contribute to student motivation and general wellbeing. 

Since lectures and larger-group teaching at Cambridge will be online during 2020-21 (unless and until public health guidelines change), we will be creating a different university experience, and doing this will involve not only guiding learning but also being attentive to the social dimension of learning in an online setting. This does not mean you will need to transform your lectures, seminars or classes into fully developed online education courses, but neither does it mean simply translating in-person teaching to a digital setting. Planning teaching will encompass considering how to design larger-group teaching and learning which encourages motivation to engage in learning in an online setting. ​

In particular, we recommend:

  • taking time to identify the learning objectives for your students ​
  • designing teaching and learning activities which address these learning objectives ​
  • taking care to create inclusive educational environments and practices for all students​​​

Colleagues have written about their experiences of teaching online. You may find 'Getting to grips with online learning' and 'Conducting interactive STEM teaching online' useful to read.

While this guide addresses accessibility considerations throughout, we would also recommend taking a look at the DRC's pages on Remote Teaching and Learning, which contain some deeper guidance and signposts to further information.


In this Section

Basics of teaching online

Information about technologies, differences between online and face-to-face teaching, facilitating inclusive discussions, and choosing between live and asynchronous styles

Planning your teaching

Considerations for planning your lecture, including choosing between synchronous or asynchronous teaching, and how both options can be enhanced

Learning from experience

Figuring our what works for your large-group teaching, and sharing questions and ideas with colleagues