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Web Conferencing During Class Best Practices
Whether you are teaching using web conferencing during a whole or just part of a class, it is important to be prepared. The following are some tips for before, during and after class:
Preparation (before class)
- Run a test session in your office with a couple of colleagues to get familiar with the application.
- Find a classroom, if yours is not available, and run a test. The audio and camera will be different. How does it work connecting with your remote colleagues?
- Create a contact list of who you and your students can contact for help.
- Assign your students to run through the same test you conducted with their peers. Log into the web conferencing and make sure their camera and microphone work. This should be for all students as we do not know when someone will need to switch to remote learning. Include a link to the IT Knowledge Base to search for quick guides and tutorials.
- Put together a web conferencing netiquette guide for the students so they have examples of what you expect during class. Ideas include:
- Mute microphone when not talking
- Cameras on at all times (unless not necessary in your class due to large number of remote students)
- Classroom students reduce noise which distracts remote students. Don’t shuffle papers, have side conversations, move furniture, etc.
- When asking a question – classroom students speak loudly so everyone can hear – remote students make sure you microphone level is high enough for everyone to hear (test before class)
- Practice with additional tools
- Breakout rooms
- Whiteboard & markup tools
- Sharing screen
- Be prepared if something doesn’t work right. What if the network goes down in the classroom? What if the web conferencing application stops? What would you do? Just include a simple statement about contingency plans.
- What if you are the remote person? Do you have someone to get the classroom started? A TA and/or Student helper(s)?
- Have a plan to start the first class early. Get everything set up for yourself and open the web conferencing to have the remote students join to make sure everyone is ready by class time.
Post course materials in Blackboard
- Update syllabus to include web conferencing information. Also include a continuity plan in case changes, such as technical issues, or course changes.
- Make sure Blackboard course site is up to date
- Post assignments, handouts, additional readings and supplemental materials
- Contact information and office hours
- Attendance expectations, including group work assignments inside and outside of class
- Web conferencing netiquette guide for students
- Send a Welcome message to the students (post it as Announcement with send email selected)
Plan activities and projects
- Be aware of both the possibilities and limitations of web conferencing.
- Practice activities; yourself and with your students
- Develop activities that promote collaboration. This is most important at this time to bring the students together in new ways to learn and teach with each other
- Team projects mixing together remote and in class students
- Presentations, depending on size of the class, have students present during class or record for viewing outside of class. Combine this with asking students to provide formative feedback as they view the presentation.
- Discussion forums for after class continuation of complex concepts, muddiest point, FAQs
- Journals for students to reflect on their learning, minute paper, brainstorming ideas, project development challenges and successes
- Group work for problem-solving, breakout sessions during class, spokesperson shares the discussion with the class
Foster Student Engagement (Create a Community of Learners)
- Learning all students’ names and where they are coming from (name cards for classroom students and remote ones make sure they use their names when logging in to the web conferencing).
- Calling on students in classroom and remote.
- Learn the names of your classroom and remote students and ask them discussion questions directly.
- Never have side conversations with people in your room while remote students are talking.
- Give the remote students opportunities to ask questions to kick off a discussion or to periodically lead the class in the discussion of a particular reading or case study.
- Go out of your way to give remote participants an opportunity to present their views.
- Breakout rooms for small group discussion activities with a report-out time encourage all students to discuss a topic and express their thoughts. They also give students a break from passively watching a presentation.
- Be aware of less overt forms of communication that could be lost in web conferencing classrooms, such as body language suggesting confusion or discomfort
Develop student assessments and course assessments
- Look at the assessments you usually give in your class. Will they work for all students? Will remote students be able to participate?
- Are there different methods you could use to assess student learning? Alternative assessments, wikis, papers, projects, designs, videos…?
- Do your assessments meet accessibility guidelines?
- Use a variety of formative assessments, surveys, discussions, minute papers, muddiest point to provide an opportunity for student feedback and reflection.
Class Sessions (during live classes)
First Day of Class
- Review web conferencing netiquette guidelines you developed with your students. Ask if they have questions or would like to add something.
- Discussion procedures are helpful for all students. Do classroom and remote students raise their hands to speak? Are there times for open discussion they can speak up, one at a time, including remote students?
- Practice discussion with hand raises to share names and a quick “thing to know about me”, or some other kind of ice-breaker to foster a sense of community.
- Another idea is to create an Introductions discussion forum or blog. Have the students post their pictures with and without masks and say hi to everyone
- Share office hours information, including virtual times so all students have an opportunity to visit.
- Come to class early, things may have changed since the last session.
- Start the web conferencing so remote student can join and make sure their cameras and microphones work.
- Remind students about classroom and remote netiquette guidelines
- Reminder to Start Recording for students who may need to watch the session asynchronously.
- Stop the web conferencing recording. Collaborate recordings, when completed, will be viewable in Blackboard. If Zoom sessions are integrated into Blackboard, the recordings will also be automatically be viewable in Blackboard.
- Log out of Blackboard and all applications you have open.
- Log off the computer
- Send in a ticket, or call, the Help Desk to report any issues you experienced so they can be resolved for you and the next instructor.
Web Conferencing Tips
- Eye contact to help remote and classroom student feel connected
- Movement – the camera may not always move with you. Keep in mind the scope of the camera view for remote students view
- Classroom student camera view (if installed), remind students they are being viewed.
- Speak naturally and clearly. The recorded sessions in Zoom and Collaborate are auto captioned.
- Repeat questions to ensure everyone hears the question
- Remind students about background noise that can be picked up by the microphones in the classroom and are very distracting to all, especially remote students
- Remind remote students to Mute their microphones when not speaking
- Use the Smart Podium display when writing and diagraming concepts. If not available us the Whiteboard tool in the web conferencing tool. It will be difficult or impossible for the remote students to see the classroom whiteboard.