We are about to host one of our first virtual classroom events here at New College and there is a definite buzz and excitement about it.
I’m a big fan of mixing things up a little and adding a bit of zing to your programme with a mix of on campus lectures, tutorials and workshops and then by changing things up and dropping in some online sessions, flipped classroom and self study. Online classroom environments are also a great tool to make your course accessible to people who just can’t get to your sessions, be that through time commitments or even because they are in a completely different country.
One thing I do advocate though is no matter what, do not treat your online sessions like any old lecture on campus. Just trust me on this one. If you plan to lecture to your students for an hour as you would on campus, prepare for them to be distracted, disengaged or worse log out. To keep your audience with you, engage them and often.
Here are my top 5 tips for a great online session.
- Make contact with your students before the first session. Even if all you are doing is sending an email to give them details abut the proposed session, introduce yourself to help the students get to know you and create that connection to their teacher. If you want to go all out, add some personality by including a short video so students can get a sense of your personality.
- Ask the students to introduce themselves at the beginning of your session. This will help them build a rapport with each other and to create that sense of belonging. it can be as simple as name, what you want to get out of the course and some thing fun like where exactly are you joining us from, your living room, a cafe, the back garden?
- Ensure there are ample opportunities for interaction. If the students feels that things are one way, they have no need to stay focused and on track, if you create that sense of anticipation that they could be called upon at any moment to answer a question, take part in a task etc they will be much more likely to stay alert and engaged. One of my favourite activities to use in an online session is to have a small quiz. Let the students know that every 10 minutes you’ll ask 1 of them to list 5 things in 10 seconds. To create that alert state you could display a count down clock on the screen and have some ticking count down audio. It creates a bit of fun and also gives the students a focus.
- Chunk up your content. Keep things short and moving. Our attention span is much shorter when we are staring at a screen than when we are in person, so keep things moving so that attention needs to be focussed and refocussed. Aim for under 10 minutes for any given piece or change the dynamic by flipping from text to video or audio to graphics.
- Use variety – multimedia and multi-modal. Different people learn and interact in different ways. If you use a lot of text – for example power point, break things up with graphics to hit home important points. Replace some of your text with video or even audio, a tiny change can have a massive benefit and really improve learning for your whole class.
And for the win…
Get to know your chosen classroom tool before hand. Make sure you are confident in facilitating your online session so that on the day all you have to do is what you do best – teach!