Meaningful interaction requires that all parties have ways to meaningfully engage with one another. Clearly communicating to your students how you want them to interact with you will reduce confusion and foster an effective learning environment.
Synchronous communication from students
- Open a Google Doc or Canvas Chat for each session and designate a student or teaching assistant to monitor it for you. Check in regularly throughout the class to answer any questions, review the discussion, etc.
- Consider linking online students to in-person students through designated groups. Encourage students to communicate with their groups as questions/comments arise. In-person group leaders can also funnel questions to the instructor.
- Consider using Top Hat (Centers article) to rapidly collect answers to questions from every student, and if desired, to graphically display a summary of data. This helps instructors activate the classroom as well as peers to engage with each other while interacting with complex materials. Top Hat utilizes no separate hardware but rather asks students to use the devices they already have with them in class including a phone, tablet, or laptop. No additional hardware needs to be installed on the computer to run polling and Top Hat is integrated with Canvas and has the ability to synchronize grades.
- Use the Annotation tool in Zoom (Zoom article) to allow students to collectively draw/comment on an image. This can be an effective tool for brainstorming and gauging students' initial understanding of a concept. Annotated images can be saved and later posted to the class for additional activities. Coach the students to verbally describe their annotations for the benefits of anyone that cannot see the video.
- Zoom polls (Zoom article) Launching a Zoom poll at the start of class can prime students for the day's content, allow the instructor to survey the class' reaction to a recent assignment, and facilitate communication in other ways. Zoom polls should be written before class begins.
Asynchronous communication from students
In many cases, interactions from student to instructor that occur outside of class sessions are of great importance to an effective learning environment. Students may be unclear about assignment instructions, due dates, or expectations and will need clarification from the instructor to alleviate their concerns. These guidelines can help minimize some of these frustrations and allow you and your students to function in an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding.
- Clearly explain how you want students to communicate with you (i.e. Canvas Inbox (Canvas article), Outlook email, etc). Set expectations for how frequently you check these channels and how long students should anticipate before they receive a response from you. Include this information in your syllabus and review it multiple times during in-class time.
- Regularly review any Canvas Discussion activities you create to see if there are concepts or questions that need to be addressed during synchronous class sessions.
- If the class size is not prohibitive, require a short (10-15) minute Zoom call with each online student to get to know them. They don't have the same chance to chit chat before and after class. This helps tremendously with engagement.