The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way people interact with one another. With social distancing regulations, and the shutting down of non-essential buildings, including schools, being implemented in large parts of the world, people have had to adapt in order to continue communication.
The most popular of these adaptations has been the widespread adoption of video conferencing apps such as Zoom. These apps have allowed companies to continue holding meetings safely, and for schools to continue classes.
However, with many people being new to using Zoom and its contemporaries, people have struggled to fully embrace this new form of communication. Students, more than most, have struggled to adapt, with many finding it hard to focus during long Zoom lessons.
The same format and techniques for engagement used by teachers in person, often don’t translate well to video conferencing. Students who spend their entire schooldays on Zoom calls, are starting to glaze over rather than paying attention to the lesson. Schools need to rethink the techniques they use to keep students engaged, and adapt to the new reality that is online learning.
Here are a few techniques teachers can use to keep students engaged during Zoom classes:
Most teachers using Zoom convey the content of the lesson using slideshows. However, staring at a slide is not nearly as interesting as a blackboard, especially if these slides are just massive walls of text.
As a teacher, it’s important to keep the slides varied and interesting to look at. Rather than a large wall of text, try and keep the text to a minimum, and include graphs, pictures, and other visual methods of relaying the lesson.
Make it so you can spend very little time on a single slide, and still convey all the necessary information. This quick pace can keep students from getting bored.
Staring at slides all day can also get monotonous, so make sure to take regular breaks from the slideshow to have a bit of face-to-face time. These can be used for questions and answers, or to ask students to provide feedback on the lesson.
A fantastic feature offered by Zoom are its breakout rooms. These allow the host to split participants into groups, and then send them into a different chat room with only the members of their groups. This feature is criminally underused by teachers, and can be a great way to facilitate group work and discussion.
Students can often struggle to make themselves heard during a Zoom class, be that due to low confidence, or a poor internet connection. By sending them into breakout rooms in small groups, teachers can give students with poor communication skills or internet connections the opportunity to have discussions with other students in a manner similar to how a physical classroom works.
This also gives teachers the opportunity to engage with students in more manageable numbers, making it easier for them to identify issues individual students might be having.
Due to the internet dependent nature of Zoom classes, students with poor connections can struggle to keep up, or worse they might not be able to attend at all. Other than internet issues, studying from home can lead to many other reasons for students to miss class.
A very quick and easy fix for this problem is to record lessons, and then post them on a student portal or forum, for students to be able to review later.
This eliminates any issues arising from students being unable to attend classes, or missing portions of a lecture due to a bad internet connection. It also gives struggling students to go back and hear the lesson again from the teacher, a convenience that physical classrooms simply cannot offer.
Zoom classes can be extremely monotonous, with students often completely losing focus after staring at a screen for hours on end. Online classes can be mentally draining, which is why it’s extremely important to take regular breaks.
Breaks can be useful for a variety of reasons, letting students stretch, review the lesson up that point, or just rest for a bit and reflect. Teachers can use these breaks in order to forge a stronger connection with the students by holding impromptu game sessions, dance parties etc.
It’s important to make online classes as fun as possible to maintain maximum engagement, and taking a break from studying to have some fun can be a great way to inject some fun into the school day.
Allow for Cameras to be Turned off
There are a variety of reasons students may not want to turn on their videos, from physical insecurity to not wanting to share their financial situation. The most common reason is most likely privacy.
Students, like most grownups, value their privacy, often more than grownups. It’s important to allow them to feel comfortable, and not place them in a situation where they are made to feel awkward. A better way to ensure students are still there is to just ask them.
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