Online teaching has become a necessary part of school life during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. If we were to break it down, there are three models of online teaching that are viable in most cases: the synchronous model, the asynchronous model, and blended.
In the first method – the synchronous model – teachers and students use Zoom or Google Meet to teach students face-to-face and in real time via a computer. The second way of online teaching, the asynchronous model, has the teacher provide educational materials in a Google Classroom and lets students view the materials on their own time. The students then studies the material, completes the assignments and uploads them on Google Classroom or another LMS. The final model is blend between synchronous and asynchronous model where Google Classroom is used along with online classes with Zoom or Google Meet.
In today’s blog post, we’re going to discuss some tips that you can use in all three of these models for classroom success.
Zoom Tips for Classroom Success
Here at GIFLE, we have been mostly using Zoom to do synchronous online training programs and classes, namely our school visit program and the English Conversation Program. As a coordinator observing, managing, administrating and teaching these programs, the following are a few observations I had about doing classes through Zoom. However, as mentioned, these tips can also prove useful for those doing asynchronous or blended methods as well.
Bigger Text, Readable Fonts, Clear Pictures
The above PowerPoint slide was used in a class that I taught about US Culture. When making the slide, I thought all the text and pictures would be visible to the students.
That was not the case, and trying to use fonts that were too small interrupted my entire lesson.
When teaching in in-person class, this slide might be visible because you have a big projector screen or big screen TV. The small fonts and numbers might look fine to you when you’re making it, but on a Zoom shared screen, these are no longer visible. When making teaching material, teachers need to be aware of their presentations from a student’s perspective. Visual presentations need to be visible, clear and readable. Without these things, students will no longer be focusing on the lesson. Instead, they will be attempting to comprehend the visual content. Time spent on figuring out the pictures or text on a PowerPoint slide is time spent away from learning necessary content.
It Takes Longer to Do Things Online
When we teach in in-person classes, there is freedom of movement. You give instructions on an activity, you can teach some and then you can quickly move onto another task. Done.
However, with Zoom online classes, each action requires time expended. If you want to put students in breakout rooms, you need to press the breakout room button, make the breakout rooms, and provide instructions on getting into the breakout room and what to do once students are in there. Once they are done, you have to close all breakout rooms and wait until everyone leaves. Then you can continue on with your class. All these steps are done just to use the breakout room function.
Another example would be doing an interactive activity using non-Zoom software like Google Slides or Jamboard. With these, there is an added step of explaining the software and what to do with the software. All time spent on explaining and using different software and function is usually longer than expected. Some students can understand the technology quicker than others. To figure things out will take some time. So when planning for activities or tasks in lessons, account for more time spent moving from one thing to another.
Need to be Animated on the Screen
The above picture is a screen shot of a Zoom class where I shared my PowerPoint presentation. This is a common occurrence in most Zoom classes; the PPT takes up most of the screen, and you yourself are a mere tiny box. If a teacher does not move and/or has a monotonous voice while teaching, it can be difficult for the students to stay focused and interested. There has to be some movement in order to them focus on what is taught on the screen. A tip is that even if you are explaining or lecturing on Zoom, you have to be animated.
How? When explaining or giving instructions, use gestures instead of just using your voice. If you are counting down, then use to hand to count the seconds. If you are providing instructions, use hand motions to show what you want students to do. If you want them to read a passage, use your hands to show that they need to read something. If you want them to write something, use your hands to show that they need to write something down. These visual cues are important so that the students have something else to rely on aside from only your voice.
It might sound silly, but your facial expression cannot be the same. The only visual cues that the students have, aside from the shared screen, is your face. If your face stays the same without any change, the students can possibly lose interest in your class. If the students did a good job, provide positive feedback by offering words of encouragement and smiling and clapping. If you need the students to be serious, then your face needs to show that you are serious. When teachers are in the classroom, the students are able to see all of you. They can see your facial expression and body language. Since via Zoom, they cannot take visual cues from body language, teachers need to make more of an effort to use facial expressions to show what they mean to students.
Lag with Annotations and Shared Audio/Videos
Using the annotation function on Zoom and sharing videos are great ways to teach classes and mimic the way that classes are taught in person. The main caveat here is the timing of using the annotation function and sharing of videos. During my observations of GIFLE Zoom classes, I have noticed that the teachers would teach to what they see on the computer monitor. The problem comes from the students side. Just because a teacher wrote something on the screen at a certain moment doesn’t mean that the students saw that. There is a lag between when a teacher writes or draws and when the students see it. Teachers need to be cognizant of this fact when they are explaining something that requires lots of notes or drawings. Pausing and then continuing with the teaching is necessary when writing or drawing something in an online class. Students will be less confused with the lesson if the timing of the teaching and annotation is in sync. Teachers should write first, pause, and continue. This timing needs to be internalized when you are teaching using the annotation function.
The same concept applies to sharing audio or videos. When a teacher presses play on a video, that doesn’t mean the students see it immediately. There is a lag between the teacher’s computer and student’s computer. So when teaching by annotating on a word document or digital whiteboard and sharing audio or video files, teachers need to know that they need to wait a while before continuing onto the next part of the lesson.
When teaching on Zoom, things aren’t always as straightforward as they might be in an in-person class. There are all sorts of small things the teacher needs to keep in mind to have a successful class. However, if you follow the few tips that were presented here, we think that you can improve your online teaching and be well on your way to Zoom success.