Establishing Norms in an Online Class Environment

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

Establishing clear norms and expectations around online learning is important for ensuring a smooth and successful class delivery. While every professor has their different style of teaching, this article explores some of the important expectations to consider establishing to help deliver a smooth and successful class.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

Use of webcam

Webcams play an important role in online teaching, providing subtle cues to enable coordination in discussions and ensure that students are paying attention to the class. Specifically, reminiscent of the old days of voice-conference calls, when students don’t have their webcams on or are not able to see the webcams of others, it becomes very difficult to know when someone is wanting to speak, increasing the likelihood that students will talk over each other. In addition, without webcams on, it is difficult to know whether students are actually engaging with the material, or are primarily focused on a different activity, such as walking on a treadmill or traveling. Students without webcams on may well be preoccupied with other tasks, and may not be viewing the class video. Requiring that a webcam is on helps reduce the likelihood of these behaviors, while also putting the expectations from the peer environment to focus on the class discussion. 

While the phone call in option to Zoom can be a useful feature for enabling students to attend class who otherwise would have missed (for example if a student is running late, but able to phone in), in general, classes are more likely to be successful when everyone is clearly engaged, and able to ascertain when is a good time to talk. 

Default microphone setting

While it is beneficial to ensure that students maintain their webcams on through the class, having microphones permanently set to being on is more dependant on class size. While encouraging students to leave their microphone may help with free-flowing discussion, one of the dangers of this approach is that the slight background noise from a non-speaking participant (who has their microphone on), can disrupt the class, both causing noise and the focus of the video feed to switch to them. As such, in general, an ‘all-on’ microphone policy is best suited to situations when the number of students in the class is particularly low.

Expectations for discussion

Related to the decision regarding students keeping their microphones on throughout the class is the extent to which they should either raise their hand prior to speaking, and whether to do so physically or using the blue digital hand-raising button in Zoom. While we discuss this consideration in more detail in our article on managing discussions in the class environment, in general, free-flowing conversation can work great with very small groups, physical hand-raising for medium groups, and digital hand-raising when the number of students exceeds that which can be displayed in gallery view (i.e., up to 49 with settings adjusted), since it elevates students who have their hand raised to the front page.

Class start (and end) times

For in-person classes, there is a clear well-established expectation among faculty and students that classes should begin and end on time. While the same basic principles hold true – students don’t want to waste time with a late starting class, and often have other sessions to attend shortly after the class is due to finish, without careful attention it is easier to fall into the trap of a late start and end. For example, for starting the class, it is easy to see the number of students yet to arrive and to get into the habit of delaying the beginning of the class to accommodate (and in turn encourage) late arrivals; for the end of the class, without the pressure of having another professor and students trying to enter the room, it is easy to justify going on long. While there may be merits to waiting and going long, in general, both start to set bad precedents, annoying students that their time was wasted before getting going at the start of the class, and that they were late leaving (or had to end the call before the class officially finished) at the end.

Opportunity to ask administrative questions

In-person classes have an unwritten rule that small administrative questions, or examples regarding assignments or an exam, can be asked in person at the end of the class. While many of these questions could likely have been answered from the syllabus, the ability to resolve small issues is both important for student satisfaction and for resolving small things quicker than through email correspondence.

Although it is easy to discount the need for students to ask administrative questions, not providing opportunity can introduce much more frictions, and maybe especially so in the current teaching environment, with students more isolated and not less able to directly interact with other students for support. A good opportunity to resolve basic questions, if possible, is to remain on the call after the class ends, to provide students the option of asking follow up questions. 

Related articles

Setting up a Class in Zoom

If you are new to Zoom, there are a lot of settings that are useful of being aware of when setting up a meeting. This article explores those settings, with guidance on what may be useful for your class.

Scheduling Office Hours with Doodle

Doodle is possibly the simplest way of setting up office hours – within five minutes you can have signup splots. This article explains how to use Doodle for scheduling your office hours.

Using Prezi Video

Prezi video offers a really easy way of transforming how you present PowerPoint slides online, allowing you to present both your webcam and a slide deck simultaneously. This article explains the basics of how to use Prezi Video.

Trimming a Zoom Class Recording

While having Zoom recording is a fantastic resource for students, enabling those who miss class to rewatch the missed material, it is possible that students may raise tangential or private issues, particularly at the start and end of classes when they may assume that there is no one else in the room. This article explains how to use Zoom’s trim feature to remove this unwanted material from the archive.

To Sit or to Stand when Teaching Online

It’s easy to assume that sitting is the best way of teaching on-line – all your students will be sitting down. However, there are some advantages to consider of standing up when delivering your class. This article will explore the benefits of both options.

Changing Zoom’s Resolution

The resolution of your video classes can have a big impact on the overall experience – high resolution makes everything feel crisper and closer to in-person discussions. The guide illustrates how to change the resolution of Zoom calls, reducing pixelation from default settings. 

See a Student View of Zoom

It can be useful to see Zoom as your students do – this makes it easier to know what they are likely seeing at there end and provide guidance and instructions. This article shows how Zooms looks from the student perspective.

Using Teaching Assistants in Online Classes

For large online classes, in-person teaching assistants can be a useful resource can to resolve in-class issues and improve the flow of the class. This article examines possible uses of Teaching Assistants in the online format, as well as how to set up Zoom so that they can take on these responsibilities.

Related articles

Bringing Energy to your Online Class

One of the most important considerations when teaching online is how to maintain student energy and engagement. This article explores ways of bringing some energy to the class, with a specific focus on online teaching environments.

Read More »

Display 49 Participants in Zoom Gallery View

One of the challenges with teaching medium to large classes on Zoom is viewing all students simultaneously. Although the default settings in Zoom limits the number of thumbnails displayed in the gallery view to 25, this can be increased to 49 (depending on your computer’s capabilities). This article explains how to enable this option, the computer specifications required to enable the feature.

Read More »

Setting up a Class in Zoom

If you are new to Zoom, there are a lot of settings that are useful of being aware of when setting up a meeting. This article explores those settings, with guidance on what may be useful for your class.

Read More »

Contingency Planning your Online Classes

Online teaching presents some new difficulties that have the potential of derailing a class. This article explores some possible sources of disruption and considers ways of reducing the likelihood of issues arising, or dealing with such problems should they occur in the class.

Read More »

Downloading Class Attendance from Zoom

If your class incorporates attendance as part of its grading structure, it is useful to be able to download a list of class attendance, rather than have to manually record participation levels – this article describes how to download attendance for each class.

Read More »

Sharing a PowerPoint via Zoom

One of the most common ways of presenting on Zoom is to share a PowerPoint Presentation. In this article, we will explore how to set PowerPoint presentations to open as a separate Windows that can then be shared from within Zoom.

Read More »

To Sit or to Stand when Teaching Online

It’s easy to assume that sitting is the best way of teaching on-line – all your students will be sitting down. However, there are some advantages to consider of standing up when delivering your class. This article will explore the benefits of both options.

Read More »

Resolving Student Technical Issues with Zoom

From connection and internet issues to microphone and webcam problems, there will inevitably be at least some technology issues during your Zoom classes. This article and its accompanying student-companion, is intended to help you to provide support to students who are having issues connecting to your Zoom call.

Read More »

See a Student View of Zoom

It can be useful to see Zoom as your students do – this makes it easier to know what they are likely seeing at there end and provide guidance and instructions. This article shows how Zooms looks from the student perspective.

Read More »