Teaching a Distance-Learning Course

Hints for Making Your Class More Interactive

Set your expectations from the first day and model them.
You want your students to contribute, to synthesize, and to add value to your teaching. They want the same things from you.

  • Get them to actively participate on the first day of class. A class introduction allows you to start learning their names with a name game and helps students learn names in remote sites too.

  • A one-minute quiz on what they may know, questions about class expectations, or a picture reaction that can tap their affective domain are all good ways to create engagement.

These early techniques will suffice to get them used to whatever microphone they’ll use and any delay that it may have. The goal is to get students to participate in learning - not a watch video.

Getting used to the screen.
The incoming monitor is placed as close to the teacher’s camera as possible. Maintaining eye contact with your students is even more relevant for the connection of caring teacher to go across the miles to your distant students. You may find you have to work harder at looking and seeing at the same time. Most of the time, if the local class is having issues the distant sites will too.

You may find that the distant sites, by working harder to gain and understand content, have better insights to class questions because they have done work beyond the local class.

Keeping everyone tuned in.
We get bored when we watch a talking head. It’s tough enough in a face-to-face class and we’re somewhat used to falling asleep in front of the tube. You can counteract the wandering off by changing stimuli.

  • Take no more than 8-10 minutes of lecture before involving the class in some way.

  • Changing their focus by varying media between effective visuals, group-centered discussion, and collaborative project means they will get to interact and add their own meaning and perspective to your class.

  • Be sure to take as many responses from distant sites as you do from your classroom.

Encouraging dialogue.
It’s not hard to feel as though your distant students are a million miles away. You can counteract this feeling by speaking not just to the local group, but to the camera.

  • Call on distant students by name, and use all their names as often as is practical.

  • Make students at all sites sit within the camera range. Phantom voices in the classroom will become phantom students over time.

  • The same signals you get from reading the live classes’ body language works across the monitor as well. You need to see them to interact with them.

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