Engaging students in a Virtual Classroom
Your presence as a teacher
- Keep the enthusiasm and energy in your voice and in your whole approach – nothing is worse than a monotone in the VC.
- Make sure that your own audio and microphone are working perfectly.
- Stream your own video if you possible can (depending on bandwidth), and get the students to do the same – at least at the start of the session (if they object, remind them that in a real classroom, their faces would be seen!). If the broadband is not handling the load, pause the videos so that the image of the person is up there at least.
- Use the pointer as much as possible when you are talking, to give the students a point of focus.
- Make your slides as lively and engaging as possible – lots of graphics, relevant examples and case studies, minimal text, but beware of animations and transitions. Make them interactive, but including lots of slides in which the students have to contribute or participate.
- Remember that it is harder to maintain concentration in the VC than in a face-to-face class. Keep the sessions to the point, and if there are individual students with queries which are not relevant to the rest of the class, try to dela with them separately after the session.
- Have somebody with you if possible – to help with technical issues, respond to individual students, keep an eye on the chat pod, etc.
- Have a strong introduction and conclusion, and don’t be distracted by people coming late or leaving early.
- You will need to pace the session a little more slowly than a face-to-face session, and don’t expect to cover as much. Build in some time for technical issues, etc.
Get the students actively participating
- Students are more likely to maintain interest if they are actively participating, and an easy way to do this is to get them to use the status icons in answer to frequent questions. They are also more likely to maintain interest if they feel that their input is being noticed or monitored by the teacher.
- Use an icebreaker to get students interested at the start – a nice icebreaker if to share a map and get students to use the annotating tools to show where they are, and then tell us a little bit about their location. If they are all in the same city, ask them to show where they want to go on holiday, and why.
- Ask lots of questions, and don’t be afraid to direct them to specific students, especially those who are unlikely to answer of their own accord. Some students are more introverted than others, and need assistance to actively participate. Some are not introverted, but may be more uncomfortable in a non face-to-face setting, and will need encouragement to actively participate.
- Used effectively, the whiteboard can have the same type of impact as open questions and interaction in a face-to-face lecture. Make as much use as possible of the whiteboard, and get the students to use the whiteboard too; for example, get them to answer questions by all writing on the whiteboard. Try to design whiteboard opportunities into your presentation, if you are giving one. You can draw or show images, diagrams, graphs, etc, and you and the students can annotate them, and highlight them. There are plenty of tools to select between. You can use video in the VC – there is a plug-in which will allow YouTube videos to be played within the classroom, rather than on the students’ browsers.
- Use the chat tool to summarise ideas and pose reflective questions. You can get all or any students to answer using the chat tool – often easier than getting students to answer vocally, especially if some are having problems with their microphones, as often happens.
- If you feel confident to do so, put the students into groups and get them to complete activities in the breakout rooms. They can have any of the VC tools to use in the breakout rooms, and you can drop in on each room to see how they are going and to guide them. They can then report back to the whole VC.
Prior to the session, take the time to set up your VC so that it is ideal for your topic – in the same way as you would set up a face-to-face classroom. Upload your slides, set any videos you want to show, set up the pods that you want, customise with wallpaper and images.
Do the presentation from a quiet area in which you are comfortable, and close down all other applications on your computer.
Provide user guides for the students – there are plenty of digital resources, including lots of videos, on how to use the Adobe Connect VC
If you can, make the first session an introduction session – little content but lots of checking of the system and practicing the tools.
Be prepared for students to not have working microphones – it is the single most common technical issue that you will encounter. Tell them to use the chat and get them to answer using the whiteboard.
Have backup plans in case of technical problems – eg, a backup VC, a backup computer, a backup headset.