In the remote context, giving students opportunities to connect with one another and instructors will be especially important. They may have fewer chances to discuss ideas, ask questions, and build social connections virtually unless instructors facilitate these interactions. Collaborative and group learning increases achievement, leads to more persistence in STEM, and improves students’ attitudes toward STEM disciplines [1]. Instructor “presence” is also correlated with success in online learning [2,3]. When not physically present, instructors have to be more intentional about creating an online presence so students know they care and that someone is leading their learning experience.



Watch this 3 min video on creating instructor presence

See more tips for crafting effective online discussions, including question prompts here, here, and Tip #7 here.

Read an article about the principles underlying group work in science classrooms and techniques for implementing group work.


1. Springer, L., Stanne, M. E. & Donovan, S. S. (1999). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: a meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research 69, 21-51. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.3102/00346543069001021 

2. Baker, C. (2010). The impact of instructor immediacy and presence for online student affective learning, cognition, and motivation. Journal of Educators Online, 7(1). https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ904072 

3. Sheridan, K., & Kelly, M. A. (2010). The indicators of instructor presence that are important to students in online courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(4). https://jolt.merlot.org/vol6no4/sheridan_1210.htm 

4. MCB Distance Learning Task Force. (2020). MCB Undergraduate Remote Learning Survey.

5. Theobald EJ, Eddy SL, Grunspan DZ, Wiggins BL, Crowe AJ. Student perception of group dynamics predicts individual performance: Comfort and equity matter. PLoS One. 2017;12(7):e0181336. Published 2017 Jul 20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28727749/