Educators all over the world, from elementary to higher education faculty, are now shifting from face-to-face facilitation to teaching remotely, as a way to deliver courses in the current global pandemic situation. Presented here are recommendations and strategies to support educators.
We hope you find these pedagogical considerations for faculty holding a synchronous class session via a video conferencing tool as timely, practical, and rewarding. The intent is to allay your anxieties about offering quality instruction to your students; thereby, helping you to adapt quickly to this new situation.
Setting the Stage
Send relevant messaging to students to schedule the video conference session.
When sending announcements about the video conference session:
- Inform students on what will be covered
- Provide a simple agenda or brief overview of the meeting topic
- Relay what you’d like students to achieve during the live synchronous session
Ensure that the topic aligns with a course or module objective/outcome.
Plan to create an engaging, interactive experience for students.
Some video conferencing tools offer the ability to set up certain activities as well as controls prior to the session. You can:
- Set up a poll
- Put students into groups for breakout sessions
- Designate the controls students can use
Consider, too, when and how you’d like students to respond during the session. The idea is to keep them engaged within a structured learning experience.
Prepare with a script or outline, perhaps posting prior to the synchronous session.
This helps for two reasons. One, you can provide students with the script/outline to accommodate learning preferences. This supports students who prefer reading along during live instruction, while watching and hearing the instructor. Two, having the script allows you to make it readily available to your institution’s accessibility office, should a student in your course need closed captioning.
Consider your lighting and background.
Though not physically present, you can still create an authentic and professional-looking human connection virtually. You can achieve this by following best practices for looking professional during your video conference sessions.
Setting the Tone at the Start
Create space for effective communication.
Begin by greeting students as they enter the meeting. After everyone has joined, request that they mute their mics to prevent background noise and block their video to ensure good viewing quality of the presenter. You can then introduce the topic or agenda for the session. Additionally, go over expectations for the format; for example, if you will use the chat, remind students to communicate respectfully, with appropriate language and actions. This can also be a time to prepare everyone about potential technical issues and any troubleshooting that may need to occur, such as if internet connection is lost, how to rejoin, or giving everyone a few minutes to confirm that their video and audio is working.
Communicate the functions of the video conferencing tool to students.
Encourage your students to actively participate in the session; this can help build community among the participants as well as promote engagement in their own learning. Show them how to use functions like the ones listed below (as applicable, considering which video conferencing tool you are using):
- Communicate by chat message
- Share their screen
- Upload a deliverable file
- Rename themselves
- Use the chat to send a message to one person or everyone
- Send non-verbal feedback, like a raised hand or thumbs up
This is a screenshot of a Zoom video conferencing platform’s non-verbal functions.
You may also want to send links to help guides; Zoom, for example, offers a Help Center with many step-by-step instructions for its conferencing functions.
Create a Video Conferencing Covenant.
A “Video Conferencing Covenant” can be an agreement that you develop with your class. This would be a document that outlines how the students (and yourself) will interact together throughout the sessions. This document could be a list of guidelines that you determine together. Statements might include, but aren’t limited to:
- Use the chat for sidebar comments
- Use the “raise your hand” icon when you wish to speak
- Use the “thumbs up” icon to non-verbally respond positively in the chat
- Keep conversations that occur during the session confidential
- Don’t take pictures or video record during the session
- Participate in a space where you can focus and be actively engaged
- Be considerate of others’ viewpoints, seeking to understand rather than react
By facilitating the creation of a covenant, you foster a safe space for learning.
Relay content in a meaningful method during your video conference session.
When presenting your content or enabling students to deliver their content (whether by presentation, whiteboard, screen share, or document), keep in mind that students must find the content meaningful to learn it. Consider points where students can engage. This can easily be achieved by managing participants, taking moments to monitor or encourage chat, and prompting or checking for non-verbal feedback. Additionally, remember to facilitate the sections or main points of the session in increments of 1 to 6 minute chunks. Use relevant and engaging activities that are interspersed throughout; this can also promote a more meaningful and organized experience for everyone.
Delivering Content in an Active Method
Integrating activities throughout your session.
Here are an array of active instructional methods:
- Poll students to check for understanding and to keep them engaged
- Conduct a KWL (What do you Know? What do you Want to learn? What have you Learned?) about any topic
- Prompt students to answer Socratic Questions in a small or large breakout group session and become the experts on that topic
- Conduct a Fishbowl Activity to spur meaningful conversation or engage in a debate – other students observe to analyze the small group’s conversation, through verbal exchanges or chat or collaborative document
- Prompt students to respond to scenarios or case studies to apply their knowledge of the session’s topics
- To foster students’ development of logical persuasion, set up debates in which students’ take a side of a particular argument and support their side with logic and evidence
- Have students answer a question with a One-Minute Paper, like, “What do you understand about the topic covered?” and then share their work (via file upload, chat, or screen share), as well as review and respond to other classmates’ submission
- Pair students up to have a topic-based conversation in breakout rooms; get them started with Socratic questioning or with a Think-Pair-Share Activity
- About any given situation topic: ask students why and let them answer, then follow that with 4 more questions about why, to encourage deeper thinking and help them discover the root cause of any problem or scenario
- Provide a shared document for all students to contribute to in real time during the session, and show your screen so the class can view the ongoing contributions
This Padlet board was shown in real time via the video conference platform while it was updated by students with their answers to the question prompts in each column.
Summing It Up with Meaning
Provide engaging methods to summarize the content presented.
The ending points of your content delivery should make a lasting impression. Try these ideas:
- Wrap-up your session with a Parking Lot designed as a quadrant (see below), use a shared document and include the following quadrant headings/questions so students can respond in real time:
- “?” What questions do you have?
- “+” What did you find positive (or likable)?
- “Δ” What changes would you like to see?
- “[light bulb emoji]” What “aha moments” did you experience?
This image is an example of a Parking Lot created on a shared whiteboard using scribblar.com.
- Prompt students to tie the content together with a Six-Word Memoir to summarize a story, an essential topic, or multiple points in a single statement
- Have students share what they felt was the Muddiest Point of the session, such as what was most difficult or confusing
Virtual Instructional Facilitation as an Opportunity
Remote instruction via video conferencing offers an engaging, quick shift to virtual facilitation in today’s unprecedented circumstances. Despite these circumstances, our students need to continue feeling supported by their instructors and progress academically. This is a time when we, as educators, can use a powerful learning tool like video conferencing to effectively reach and teach our students, while providing meaningful and effective instruction. Let’s give them the best opportunity we can.
Amanda Major, EdD, CPLP, PMP is an organizational development and project management specialist in the field of online learning in higher education. Currently, she provides instructional design guidance and leads professional, leadership development projects at University of Central Florida. Actively involved in the field, she has presented at national and international conferences and has peer reviewed publications about e-learning organizational development, operations, and projects.
Amanda has experience delivering results in a variety of learner-focused and client-oriented environments. Prior to arriving at UCF, Amanda taught online courses, partnered with online program management providers, participated in strategic planning efforts, developed policies, and improved business processes to contribute to quality online programs at a large public, research-intensive university. She enjoys partnering with faculty and leading projects to enhance digital learning.
Tommi Barrett-Greenly, EdD has more than twenty years experience in training professional development, technical and educational writing, instructional planning and leadership in both the public and private sector, including sales, aerospace, K-12, higher education, military and defense. In 2009, she was named Teacher of the Year for Milford School District in Delaware. She also completed two summer internships as a writer for NASA and continues to serve as a NASA Student Ambassador.
Currently, she acts as a consultant and trainer for the company she founded, SET-Solutions for Education and Training LLC.