No More Zzz’s on Zoom: A Teacher’s Guide to Effective, Engaging Virtual Teaching

Covid has changed the way many of us live our lives. If you’re a teacher, then there’s no doubt that Covid has changed the way you do your job.

While switching to virtual learning helps everyone stay safe and healthy, it can also make it very difficult for you to teach your students. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction, and it can be very difficult to keep your students engaged through a screen. Luckily, there are some tricks you can employ when virtual teaching to help keep your students engaged.

Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about effective, engaging virtual teaching.

Create Learning Objectives

Creating learning objectives will help students know what you expect from them upfront. It will also help you better focus on your teaching.

Each learning objective should build on prior knowledge and offer clear ways of measuring success and progress. For example, if you’re a science teacher, one of your learning objectives might be that at the end of the lesson, students will be able to identify parts of a cell.

As you create your online lessons, make sure that each learning module aligns with your learning objectives. Ask yourself, “Does each slide, presentation, and activity help students learn, practice, and apply what they know?

Using this framework will ensure that you only include the necessary information in your lessons. Anything outside of this framework can still be included, but it should be labeled as supplemental information.

Create an Introductory Video

As we mentioned, it can be very difficult to connect with your students through a screen. For this reason, you need to make an extra effort to get to know your students.

To start off on the right foot with your students, we suggest making an introductory video. This will set the stage for better student engagement and allow your students to get to know you on a more personal level.

This video doesn’t need to be fancy. All you need to do is introduce yourself, share some fun facts about yourself, and talk a little bit about your background. Sharing what makes you unique can help jumpstart a student’s interest in the course material.

If your class size is small enough, you can also have your students make introductory videos of their own which they share with the class. Or, you can just have everyone go around and quickly introduce themselves.

Create Other Videos to Help Students Learn

In addition to an introductory video, there are some other videos that you should create. These videos will help keep students engaged and organized. Here are some other videos you should think about creating:

Course Navigation Video

This video should help students understand the organization of the course and how to access course material. It should include information regarding:

  • Where to submit assignments
  • Where to find the syllabus
  • How to navigate the course calendar

The more in-depth you can make this video, the less class time you’ll waste answering questions about where to find things.

Overview Video

Any time you start a new topic or unit, you should create an overview video. This video should help prepare students for what’s ahead in the coming lessons.

These videos are a great chance for you to express your excitement about what’s ahead and share interesting tidbits that will help students feel more connected to the content.

Walkthrough Videos

Walkthrough videos should cover the more technical aspects of online learning. In these videos, you should go over everything from how to submit assignments to how to use classroom discussion forums to how to take quizzes and assessments.

These videos should also go over due dates, lab procedures, goals, and timelines.

Project Feedback Videos

While you’re likely used to giving students written feedback, you need to seize every opportunity you get to connect with your students on a personal level when virtual teaching.

This is why we suggest giving feedback via video instead. This will make it easier for students to understand how they can make improvements. Plus, you’ll be able to show more encouragement and empathy via video than you would with written text.

Create Interactive Quizzes

One of the biggest issues with virtual classrooms is that teachers often feel like they’re droning on and on and their students aren’t paying attention.

One great way to ensure students are staying engaged throughout the lesson is to add interactive quizzes. With an interactive quiz, students must pay attention to what’s being said during the lesson to answer questions correctly.

These quizzes will allow you to assess in real-time how well your students are understanding key concepts.

Use Graphics and Motions

If you’re creating video lessons for your students, it can be very helpful to use graphics and motions. If all you’re doing is writing out the text and inserting a few images, the information you’re sharing is going to fall on deaf ears.

To keep your students engaged, create simple graphics with movement.

Invest in the Right Gear

It’s really hard to keep your students engaged if your volume is shaky, your connection is going in and out, or there’s a bunch of background noise in your home.

This is why it’s so important that you’re equipped with the right technology when virtual teaching. At the very least, you should have a laptop and a headset. Other things we recommend investing in include:

  • WiFi extender
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Data hub splitter
  • External microphone
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Tablet

If you’re looking to invest in a new laptop for virtual teaching, check out these Lenovo options.

Fuel Connections in Various Ways

While you can’t connect with your students in the same manner as you would in person, there are still a variety of creative ways for you to make connections with your students virtually.

How you connect with your students will really depend on their age, subject matter, and accessibility levels. If you’re looking for more ways to engage online, you can enable comments during lessons, set up chatrooms, and create short questionnaire videos.

Also, keep in mind that in addition to connecting with you, your students should be connecting with one another. During your lessons, we suggest setting up breakout rooms to facilitate small group discussions.

Create a Social Media Account for Your Class

Chances are, most of your students and students’ parents are on social media. Why not use this to your advantage and create a social media account for your class?

You can create a private social media account where you post classroom announcements, assignment reminders, study tips, mini-lessons, shoutouts, and more. While social media should never be a substitute for other online learning platforms, it can be a nice supplement.

Set Clear Expectations

While virtual classrooms are convenient, it can also be very difficult to stay focused in this environment, both as a student and a teacher. To prevent students from slacking off, you should set clear expectations from the get-go.

Have a tardiness policy in place that you outline on day one. Obviously, you’ll need to be somewhat forgiving if a student has a bad connection, but letting students know that lateness is unacceptable right away will help ensure your students log in on time.

You also want your students to be in the mindset that it’s a school day, so don’t allow them to wear pajamas (save for special occasions). They should show up dressed and ready for the day.

You should also tell your students that they should have their cameras on as much as possible. This way, you’ll have an easier time ensuring that everyone is focused and staying on task.

Essentially, you want to treat your virtual classroom like it’s a real classroom as much as possible. This means that students shouldn’t be snacking, scrolling on their phones, or playing video games. Let your students know that if you catch them doing any of these things, there will be penalties.

Are You Ready to Start Virtual Teaching?

Now that you’ve read this guide on effective and engaging virtual teaching, it’s time to get started. While virtual teaching isn’t a walk in the park, using these tips will help ensure that your students stay as engaged as possible.

Hopefully, the virus will soon dissipate and we’ll be back to in-person learning in no time. For more tips and tricks on keeping your students engaged, be sure to check back in with our blog.

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