Teaching Practices for Your Virtual Classroom
Now that many in-person courses are moving to virtual environments, you may begin facilitating live, video-based sessions with your students. Although you may be new to virtual instruction, you’ll discover it has the same goal as face-to-face learning: for students to engage with the material and interact with you, their classmates, and the subject matter. Like in the traditional classroom, your role as an instructor is what makes virtual courses impactful and special. In this article, Adam Shaw, Faculty Development Specialist at Wiley Education Services, walks through essential steps to follow when you plan and facilitate live sessions for virtual classes.
As you transition from a physical classroom to a virtual learning environment, it’s vital to plan for the differences between these formats. By taking this process one step at a time, you can make it much less daunting. That’s why we’re focusing on actionable steps you can take to set up, deliver, and wrap up a live, virtual classroom session. Following this process can empower you to maintain your instructor presence, create impactful learning spaces, and give students opportunities to interact.
Step 1: Plan Your Session
As you might imagine, designing a virtual classroom session requires planning and foresight. With that in mind, follow these best practices when developing each session:
Choose Your Format
You don’t have to limit your video classes to lectures. After all, lectures without student participation can lead to passive learning experiences and make it difficult to justify the use of a synchronous format (Green, 2016). To foster interactions between yourself and students, you can make time for debates, Q&A sessions, and group discussions.
If you prefer to give lectures, consider pre-recording them to let students view them on their schedule. You can also deliver this lecture content in an engaging format, such as a PowerPoint with voiceover, reading assignments, or recording yourself using a webcam. Taking this approach to delivering asynchronous lectures allows you to use the live session to walk through challenging content and create opportunities for student participation.
Plan for Classroom Management
The complexity of managing a live session depends on how you facilitate the class. Address these questions before class begins:
- Will you monitor the chat for questions and respond in real-time?
- Will you dedicate time to a Q&A?
- Will you use breakout rooms for small-group discussions?
- Do you want all students to have their cameras on the entire time?
- What will you do if students have technical issues?
- Will you record the session for students who can’t attend?
Host Practice Sessions
Practice sessions give you and your students the freedom to experiment with course technology without the risk of disruption or missing a presentation. Students can ask questions about issues they encounter or learn to use the video platform. Although offering a practice session doesn’t guarantee a mistake-free experience, it helps students learn what to expect when the real sessions begin.
These sessions offer benefits to you, too. For instance, you can identify which students seem proficient with course technology and assist students who struggle. Assistance may include providing quick-reference material or connecting students with the university’s tech support team. If you feel comfortable with the video platform, you could set up one-on-one sessions to focus on individual challenges (Green, 2016). Practice sessions also give you opportunities to simulate classes, which is a low-stress way to gain confidence with the synchronous software.
Send a Pre-Session Announcement
To ensure students know about live sessions, send a reminder before each meeting. This outreach also prompts students to prepare for class. Include a link to the session, instructions for updating software, your contact information, relevant materials, and a list of expectations (Green, 2016; Park & Bonk, 2007). For more details, download Preparing for Your Virtual Class Session.
Step 2: Facilitate Your Session
Now, it’s time to facilitate your video lesson. You will have completed a lot of behind-the-scenes work to reach this moment, and executing your plan will lead to learning experiences that students consider valuable, effective, and high quality.
Although there are many ways to lead a video lesson, you can boost your success by following these best practices:
Set Up an Optimal Teaching Space
Lead your virtual class in a quiet location with good lighting, and check that your audio and video work properly. If possible, use a headset with a built-in microphone.
Structure Your Session
Video-based interactions feel different than classroom engagement, but the same tenets apply. Remember to start virtual classes by welcoming students, offering a session overview, setting clear expectations, and giving opportunities for student participation.
Remember Your Audience
Be intentional about creating connections with students and providing them chances to participate. You can create active learning experiences by asking questions that elicit prior knowledge or misconceptions, and pausing for student input. If you’re working through problems or visual content, you can have students share their screens as well. Make sure students know if/when you are monitoring the chat for questions, or enlist help in doing so. It is also important to leave time to review the main points of the class, and for student questions.
Going into the session with a clear game plan will ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible. For more detail on the best practices, download Running Your Virtual Class Session.
Step 3. Archive Your Session
If you’ve chosen to record your synchronous session, it’s also important to archive the session recording, a process that offers several benefits:
- Students who had technical issues can review the recording for the section(s) they missed.
- After the session, students can return to the recording to review content and clarify concepts that you covered.
- The recording is a resource for students who could not attend the live session.
When you have your recording link, share it with your students via email or by placing it in the LMS. Be sure to include session takeaways and your availability for questions.
The work required to set up a virtual classroom session pays off in the end. These sessions allow students to use various learning styles and build a community within the course, which enhances their learning experience.
Are you seeking more best practices for teaching in a virtual environment? Visit our Virtual Instruction Resource Center to explore our resources.
Green, P. (2016). How to succeed with online learning. In N. Rushby and D. Surry (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of learning technology, 261–286.
Park. Y., & Bonk, C. (2007). Is online life a breeze? A case study for promoting synchronous learning in a blended graduate course. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3(3).