Although some schools have decided to re-open, many others have either chosen to keep their doors closed or have been forced to suspend classes due to confirmed infected cases. As it stands, more and more educators have had to resort to migrating their classes online, and that trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Getting your students to pay attention to you is difficult enough in a physical classroom, but it’s even more difficult when you have to conduct class virtually. Here’s how you can create an engaging virtual classroom that your students will love:
Reach out to your students
This is a difficult time for everyone, so it’s important to check up on your students first to see what they need most and incorporate that into your lessons. Some students might not be able to afford the necessary equipment for the class, or they may not have a dedicated space to study. While it’s impossible to satisfy every single need, it’s still worth it to try to accommodate as many as possible to make the learning environment more welcoming and engaging. For example, you could try to set up students with your IT department or a Microsoft or Dell vendor to temporarily supply them with a laptop for the school year and use more plain text files rather than attachments to help students with limited internet access.
Set rules and boundaries
Just because your students are at home and not in a classroom setting, doesn’t mean you can allow them to treat virtual classroom sessions like any regular video call. Make sure to set rules and boundaries, and clearly outline this in your syllabus, and also relay this to your students during your very first meeting. Your guidelines will dictate how students should behave in order to foster the best learning environment for everyone involved. For example, you can remind the class to mute their microphone when they’re not speaking, or only ask questions by typing them in the chat so as not to disrupt the flow of the class.
Familiarize your students with the new set-up
You’ll have a much more engaged and attentive class if everyone is familiar and comfortable with the new set-up. Use the first day of class as an orientation for students to acquaint themselves with the platform/s you’ll be using. This is also the perfect time to lay down the ground rules and guidelines on how to conduct themselves during class sessions. You can also involve your school’s IT department to teach students about the basic troubleshooting steps in case they run into any issues. If time permits, write a short guide on how to use the equipment and platform and send these out to your students and their parents, so they can lend a hand too in case something goes wrong.
Take control of the class
Be flexible yet firm when taking control of your class. There are bound to be some mistakes for the first few weeks, such as students forgetting to mute their mic or questions asked verbally rather than through chat. When it comes to more purposeful unruly and disruptive behavior, it’s time to put your foot down. Always remember that you have the power to mute other users or remove them from the virtual classroom, and report them to a higher-up or to their parents.
These new circumstances might be difficult and unusual for both students and educators alike. These tips ensure that you can adapt to the situation much quicker and provide an engaging and productive learning environment for your students.