Increasing Student Preparation for Online Classes

While maintaining energy and engagement may be some of the most important parts of ensuring the successful delivery of online classes, this is particularly difficult if few students have prepared in advance for the class. Particularly for discussion-focused classes, ensuring that students take steps to engage with the material in advance of the class can go a long way to avoiding situations where the conversations remaining very superficial in nature.

Framing: Explain the role of any pre-reading material

Highlighting the role of any pre-reading material in the overall class structure can go a long way in getting students on board. Helping to illustrate how the various class components complement and build on one another can go a long way to getting students on-board: it is a lot easier to get student-buy-in when students understand the role the pre-reading material and how it is important for the class. 

Ensuring that classes reference and build on the readings, without duplicating them

One of the key reasons that students skip preparing is that they can’t see the benefit of undertaking the preparation. The dangers are at the extremes on connections made in class to the material.

  • Excessive repetition: If the class is largely a duplicate of the content already read, then there is arguably little incentive for students to prepare in advance.
  • Little to no connections with prior material: Likewise, if there is hardly any connection between the preparation material and class content, there is likewise little reasons for students to prepare in advance.

The key thing with integrating class content with preparation material is striking the balance of connections: sufficient connections such that the class can build on the pre-readings, however not so much that the class is just a repeat of preparation readings. 

Post questions in advance to focus student attention

One way of increasing engagement with the material is to consider posting questions for students to consider when engaging with the reading material. While this is routinely included in syllabi, it can be useful to also re-post the questions to the course wall, helping to ensure that students who are not actively checking the syllabi are still reminded of the questions that they should be considering when going through the reading material. 

Add mini-exercises to submit

Another way of helping to ensure that students connect with the material in advance is to assign mini-exercises (potentially as part of async content). Assigning the material as required in advance goes further than just suggesting the questions for consideration, and ensures that students have engaged with the material.

Including min-exercises as pass/fail may be a good approach with mini-exercises, positioning the activities as ‘learning activities’ (and in turn avoiding the constant examination that students can sometimes feel), while also keeping the grading process manageable. 

Consider making participation a component of the grade

A standard way of increasing participation is to tie a component of the class grade to participation. The knowledge that they will need to speak in advance can help ensure that they prepare to be able to talk. 

Although this can help participation, it is also worth noting some potential tradeoffs associated with including participation as part of the formal evaluation:

  1. It can encourage students to speak when they have very little to say – potentially repeating prior students or adding very little to the conversation
  2. It can result in frustration, with students feeling that they are unable to participate in the discussion. This tendency may be particularly true in on-line classes – given that only a limited number of students are discussed on-screen at once (on Zoom, up to 49).

Summary

It can always be a challenge getting participation in classes – this doesn’t change when teaching online, although, with the ability to turn off their webcams, the ability to gain involvement may be even higher. By considering ways of ensuring students to prepare in advance, getting participation may be higher. 

Related articles

Managing Virtual Office Hours

Virtual office hours can be an important companion to an online course, allowing students to resolve administrative questions and address gaps in understanding. This article explores different approaches for holding virtual office hours.

Disable Webcam Mirroring in Zoom

While mirroring your webcam is often a useful feature on Zoom – with your preview the mirror-image of how it is recorded – there are occasions when it is more natural to disable this and see your preview the way participants do. This article explains how to disable the mirroring of your webcam in Zoom. 

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.

Maintaining Privacy in Online Teaching

Respecting the privacy of others is important, and maybe especially so when teaching online. There are multiple ways of inadvertently sharing personal details that you did not mean to share. This article considers ways of reducing the likelihood of oversharing when teaching online and using Zoom.

Using Zoom’s Waiting Room

The waiting room feature help ensures Zoomboming is a thing of the past. This article explains Zoom’s waiting room feature, and important things to know about the feature for managing your class.

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.

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.

Setting up Virtual Backgrounds in Zoom

Have you considered using a virtual background when on a Zoom call? Whether you are looking to add some personalization to the call or avoid a cluttered backdrop, this article explores the opportunities and explains how to set one up.

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

Although the default settings in Zoom limits the number of thumbnails displayed in the gallery view to 25, this can be increased to 49. This article explains how to increase the number of participants displayed and the technical requirements to do.

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 »

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 »

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 »

Establishing Online Class Norms

Establishing clear norms and expectations around online learning is important for ensuring a smooth and successful class delivery. This article explores some of the important expectations to establish to help deliver a smooth and successful 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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »