For my last session for the Wyoming Innovations in Learning conference, I attended Patricia Pulliam’s presentation on Practices for a Synchronous Classroom. In this presentation, Pulliam led a discussion around the lessons she learned delivering instruction in a web meeting format.
The discussion began with comparing and contrasting asynchronous and synchronous instruction. Reasons that you may want to opt for a synchronous distance learning environment is that the content may be better suited for a real-time environment. Additionally, you may need to fill a class.
Pulliam highlighted two important concerns when beginning a synchronous class. First, not all students may be aware the class is conducted in a synchronous manner. You will have to make them aware. Second, there may be technical issues to work through. Ideally, you will have provided them with detailed instructions on equipment needs and connectivity details. Troubleshooting will be essential at the beginning of the term.
When Pulliam spoke about her synchronous classroom and the selection of applications, she spoke about her needs.
Considerations for Teaching Online
- You will have to adjust how you teach. You must take the technology into account.
- You must adjust to the different technologies. For example, is there a whiteboard as part of the program or will you be standing in front of a whiteboard? Each method requires a different way of teaching. These activities must be programmed into your lesson plan.
- How will you keep students engaged? In part, you must humanize the experience. Have an activity at least every 5 minutes. This can be in the form of:
- Breakout rooms
- Stretching breaks
- You will also need to bring in more quiet students using such strategies as direct questioning and tracking participation.
- In addition to providing a lesson as a webinar, you must also provide supports in another manner such as written instructions, and slide deck, etc.
- When using a slide deck, only deliver one topic at a time. Too many bullets become a distraction. Control the discussion.
- Learn to practice silence. Do not feel the need to jump in.
Pulliam synchronous classes are different from those at JCC in that her students log into a webinar session independently rather than connecting multiple classrooms. With this comes additional distractions caused by the environment that the student is connecting from. Here are strategies for managing these distractions:
- The student must make those around them aware that they are taking a class. Some people do not see students taking a class remotely as real.
- Use headphones and a microphone. This will help control noise as well as set boundaries.
- Have students create boundaries.
- Send out best practices for controlling boundaries at the beginning of the term.
- Prior to starting each class, remind students of housekeeping rules such as turn off distractions, close doors, use headphones, etc.
Getting students involved in the discussion
To get students involved in the discussion, Pulliam has students read content ahead of time. The students must then write a response to a journal, discussion, or assignment in order to get credit for class attendance. Students must indicate what they liked about the content, what they didn’t like, and what they didn’t understand.
Her preferred webcam is called a Hovercam.
There was a lot of good discussion in this session. While this is a different teaching method than what is used at JCC, it did provide good ideas for incorporating students who cannot make it to a classroom.