The current pandemic is something that not many people (if anyone) was able to predict; especially its long-lasting impacts on just about all facets of life. With face-to-face (F2F) contact occurring less often, every industry has had to find a way to around this conundrum for the better part of a year. Education is no different.
All facets of learning, collaboration, and communication have had to take place without the privilege of being F2F. This is where the design of the learning is important. There have been many complaints about the lack of interest from students in virtual classroom learning. Sadly, in some cases, virtual learning has been translated to “the classroom via Zoom” and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In the translation of F2F learning to virtual synchronous learning, a quick needs analysis shows us that we must take into account the various extra-classroom factors that cause these situations to differ:
- Sometimes the student is at home with their gaming consoles, computers and other goodies.
- Some students still can’t learn at home because they have to travel to a site that has internet access, or even food.
- Some students are looking after siblings during the day while their parents are essential workers.
- Conferencing technology allows the learner the opportunity to show or hide their faces, which removes even more of the personal connection between teacher and learner. E.g., teachers cannot pick up on visual queues when a learner is struggling.
So how do we overcome all of these factors that compete with education for the attention of the learner? The truth is, virtual learning and F2F learning are different beasts. There are some things that virtual cannot accomplish that F2F classroom learning can, like moving the learner to a more neutral environment. The same can be said vice-versa, though. For example, virtual learning has the luxury of not having to rely on a location (as long as said location has a reliable network connection). But there are some things educators can do to close the gap:
- Provide clarity up front. what are your students learning for the semester, quarter, week, or day? Make this information easily accessible.
- Provide a crash course on the tools being used. Learners can easily become overwhelmed shifting from online system to online system, eventually becoming disengaged.
- Be present. The more you show your face, the more the learner knows you are available.
- Have a method of conversing with the learner privately and virtually (live, showing faces). The learner may be struggling and not wanting to admit it in front of the class.
- Take advantage of peer (group) contact. If possible, have learner complete some assignments in groups. This can maximize engagement and collaboration even when far apart.
- Weave in fun activities. Scavenger hunts, badging, etc., are all ways to motivate learners when they aren’t inside a classroom.
What are some of your tips to conduct the “Classroom via Zoom”? I’d love to hear them!