Building Engagement in a Video Conference Classroom

We have experienced a tremendous amount of change in the past few weeks.  From being largely in person, with some online courses, to now delivering all of our learning experience in a  blended model, with lots of online components and some virtual connections with classes.  A big thank you to our instructor team, we managed that change well, thank you!

As we’ve adjusted, we’ve picked up on some ideas on what is working and what is not.  While each of our course groups has their own ‘flavour’, there are some things that come across.  For example: engaging students in the learning experience.

When we deliver face to face, it is easy to build and see that engagement.  When using video conferencing tools, that’s not as easy to judge. As instructors, we want to look for ways to keep the students engaged in the classroom:

-set expectations: tell students up front when you will be going online and how.

-tell students when you want them to have their cameras on and off, microphones muted.  I’m finding my class prefers to reduce the ‘band width’ by keeping cameras off, but I ask that they turn them on when they are speaking.

-make use of the chat feature: both GoToMeeting and Zoom have a chat feature.  I use that to ask small questions and get some quick typing going; or even to ask if things are ‘okay’.  Students can use the emojis to send a thumbs up or another gesture to stay engaged.

-use the video and microphone to have students speak up for longer responses, just as you would in the classroom.

-in Zoom, there are breakout rooms for small group discussions, and ‘polling’ to ask survey questions.

It is still possible to build engagement, even in a video conference.  Students, and even instructors, will appreciate an active and engaged class.

Q & A With the Class

Doing question and answer sessions with a class is invaluable; there are techniques to make it better.  Regardless if you are posing questions to the class, or taking questions from the class, the instructor can enhance these points in the classroom to benefit everyone.

If you are taking a question from a student, repeat the question so that everyone can hear.  Confirm that you heard the question correctly, and that everyone understands what is being asked.  Then respond to the question.  In doing so, speak to the whole class not just the student that posed the question.  Look around the room as you answer, then come back to the student asking the question and confirm you answered the question.

If you are posing a question to the class, state the question, then wait.  If someone tries to answer right away, ask them to wait.  You want to give everyone a chance to think about the question, some students may have to translate the question in their head.  At a minimum, everyone will need to process it.  Then restate the question, and now call on someone to respond.

Listen the response, then repeat the response so that everyone heard what their classmate said.  Follow up by confirming that the answer is correct, or correct it if needed – you could even say that the answer is not quite right and ask someone else to give a response. Then repeat the response, and follow up with the right answer to the whole class.

Question and answer is about involving everyone in the room in that dialogue, not just two people having a conversation.