08 Aug TeachersLearnTech: Classroom Management Strategies in an Age of Remote Learning
It takes effort and dedication to be an effective teacher in a traditional face-to-face setting. It takes just as much blood, sweat, and tears to create a similar environment when your students are on the screen instead. There are advantages and benefits to teaching online, but also challenges and difficulties that you as a teacher this fall need to think about and prioritize your efforts. We at Thoughtlight believe three main strategies for classroom management are vital for a positive experience both for you as the teacher and for your students. These are technology choices, communication expectations, and engaging experiences.
First, you need to be intentional about the technology you use, and the features that technology can give you for classroom teaching. The possibilities for a student interrupting a class due to an unmuted mic are endless. Your ability to screen share and use electronic whiteboards for class instruction is also a pivotal consideration. You will want to get comfortable with using breakout sessions for students over your go-to video conferencing platform. Consider modifying your participation standards by giving opportunity to both verbal responses as well as chatbox ones. All in all, your ability to manage a virtual classroom effectively will depend to a large degree on your comfort and variability within a technical environment.
Second, to manage a classroom effectively, you must command a consistent routine and set up proper expectations for communication. Students need predictability and consistency, whether that means assignment deadlines, class structure, and dependability for virtual office hours. The more confused a student remains after you’ve started a class, the more likely your attempts at classroom management will amount to nothing.
Consider setting clear rules for how participation will look like on Zoom. Develop the proper incentives to encourage meaningful conversation and intentional listening. Perhaps it might mean requiring students to keep their webcam on so you can gauge how distracted students actually are in the middle of your talk. You need to recapture their attention, which supports our third and last point.
The ultimate defense against any classroom mismanagement will be to create value for your students. Key to this is providing highly engaging experiences. Though this will look slightly different based on each instructor’s quirks and subjects, you will want to involve your students in active learning techniques. Take advantage of various polling features. Don’t simply lecture, establish a sense of community around your topic of instruction.
Be creative with your background image. Lead ice-breakers at the beginning of every virtual class meeting. Throw in self-deprecating humor about the ongoing saga that is COVID-19. Students can tell if you are simply regurgitating what you would do in an in-person setting and not recognizing the realities of online learning, and your need to adapt rather than repeat.
We know it’s not easy. It’s a challenge for teachers everywhere, but effective online classroom management is a doable endeavor. Your students will appreciate your every effort to involve the full capabilities of online technology, even if there may be a few “hiccups” along the way. Remember, make clear your expectations, set a consistent pattern, adapt to their technologies at your disposal, and throw everything including the kitchen sink at your engagement strategy.
If you are in need of additional technical support, Thoughtlight can support you and give you additional consultation on instructional design and running your online courses effectively.