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Engaging Students Remotely During Class

  • Reading the Room
    • Amplify your course with guest speakers – inviting experts or guests to join your Zoom class can help promote engagement, enthusiasm, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Encourage Community
    • Students are more likely to pay attention if they are on camera, and the sense of presence will be enhanced if everyone shows their face via webcam. Consider asking students to turn on their video as a part of participation. It is also easier to engage with the class if you can see them.
      • If a student feels uncomfortable sharing their living circumstances, remind them about the virtual backgrounds, facing their computer to a wall, or putting up a sheet.
  • Breakout Groups
    • Use Zoom breakout rooms to promote discussions and a change of pace from lectures.
  • Amp up your energy
    • Professors who are energetic aids students to stay engaged and listen during class.
    • Bring a sense of enthusiasm into your voice during your lectures.
    • Use compelling audio/visual examples to strengthen students’ understanding of terms and concepts.
  • Less is more when it comes to technology
    • Familiarize yourself with a handful of important features of Zoom. It’s often better to use a few tools well than using too many tools ineffectively. Focus on learning as much as you can with Zoom to enhance your lessons and prevent disruptions during your lectures.
  • Structure your Teaching Space
    • Make sure your teaching space is set up to match your teaching style. This will improve you and your students’ experience. An informal setting can help create a personal feel, and it will also help students feel connected to you.
    • Reminding students that the quantity and the quality of their chat comments contribute to their participation grade can help limit frivolous chat and improve the sophistication and quality of the chat threads.
  • Encourage students to use Zoom Chat to participate. Chat can draw in students who have great ideas to contribute yet may be somewhat quiet during discussions or debates.




Set Norms and Expectations

  • Set Classroom Norms
    • Set clear expectations for student participation during virtual lectures.
      • Inform students that success in the online class will depend on the same commitment that is brought to the physical classroom (e.g., adopt same rules and norms; take notes; participate by asking and answering questions).
      • Inform students of your expectations – join the course in a quiet place, turn on video camera whenever possible, mute your microphone unless student is speaking, close browser tabs that are not required for class.
      • Think about the cell phone policy. Students can easily access their cell phones during Zoom classes. Reminding students of this policy is beneficial for participation. Also remind students to have their phones on silent or turned off.
      • Be Transparent and let students know what to how you intend to communicate and how often.
    • Establish a way for students to contact you outside of the remote class. Be clear about how they can contact your (e.g., text, email, phone), or if they can set up a private Zoom meeting with you and during what times your available. Students should also know when to expect your response.



  • Students have a range of abilities, and you may have students with learning or sensory disabilities. Consider employing some of the practices below.
    • Assistive technologies (e.g., screen readers, magnifiers, etc) are designed to work with text. If you send images to your students, include textual descriptions so a student can follow along.
    • If you use video chat such as Zoom, create a transcript or closed captioning throughout the session.
    • Students may need additional processing time – try not to expect everyone will understand everything after being told one time. Share videos, images, transcripts, etc., for students to examine afterwards.
    • Select accessible resources - Use closed captioning and audio-generated transcripts to ensure equitable instruction for everyone. This allows students with different learning styles to benefit from a combination of written, spoken, and visual material.
      • Choose videos from sources like YouTube that have closed captioning options. You can also choose videos/images (you can also provide this yourself) that have a text description included.
  • Be an Advocate
    • If a student does need assistance, direct them to UMASS Dartmouth’s Center for Access and Success.
  • Take care of yourself and your students!
    • Take breaks and encourage your students to stretch periodically! This will help everyone remain comfortable and keep students engaged.
    • Check in – Ask students how they are feeling? If it may be time for a quick break.


Two Things to Keep in Mind During your Lecture

  • Watch your pace and keep an eye on students’ comprehension and engagement. Check in with students more frequently than you would in a physical classroom, to make sure that they follow the material and remain engaged.
  • It helps students to remain engaged if they can see your face as you present your lecture. You can set up your devices so that even when you’re using ‘screen share’ students can see your face at the same time as the material being displayed.


  • TIP: You can see your students at the same time while you share your screen. You can log into Zoom on two devices at the same time. This allows you to share your screen on one device (laptop) while having the gallery view of your students on another device (tablet).



More Tips for Professors

  • Be clear on your assignments
    • Students can find accessing and understanding assignments and notes online confusing. Clearly let them know what they have to do each week, when the work is due, and how much it counts toward their final grade.
  • Provide ongoing Feedback
    • Providing feedback is important in class, whether the class is physically or remotely attended. Teaching online makes it difficult to connect to students, and providing ongoing feedback is a good way to establish a personal connection.
      • Offering constructive feedback regular helps students identify behaviors or skills they need to improve. It also makes them feel part of the learning community.
      • Create an open forum or discussion board so students can support and mentor each other.
  • Break it Up
    • Take a break during class. Allow for students to stretch or take a 10 minute break during class.
    • Mix in games, discussions, and other activities to break up the instructional time. This can not only help students stay engaged but it also helps them think about the content in different ways.
      • Create Engaging Quizzes/Games
        • Kahoot (Free) – Make it into a game or a quiz
          • Activity can be played on any online device. Professors can develop questions and have students answer the questions. Students can create gamer tags (or their own unique name) instead of their real names and race to become top ranked and the champion of the game (quiz option will differ in set-up). This encourages students to answer questions correctly by awarding points based on speed and accuracy.
        • Quizizz (Free) - Similar to Kahoots
      • Build ‘Outside Class’ Spaces
        • Remote classrooms prevent much of the community-building that occurs before, during, or after the traditional classes. A sense of community that is usually developed between students does not occur as often in remote classes. Create ‘outside spaces’ that are free from content and assessment.
        • Make a “café” discussion board where students can talk freely about current events or common interests.
        • Create a social media page for the class where ideas can be shared.
        • Watch a virtual event together and discuss it afterwards.
  • Have a backup plan!
    • Know how to troubleshoot! Technology can be very tricky at times. For most things, try turning it off and back on again. Check the connections. Is everything plugged in? Is the WiFi connected? Try searching for fixes online, and consider when you will need to reach out to the IT department.
    • Communicate to Students – how will you do this if technology or WiFi fails? Set up procedures for what students should expect after an incident.
    • Use your time – during class time if technology does work – record your lecture and have your students listen/watch it before next class.
    • Know who to call – If you can’t fix the problem, learn who the IT department contact of UMASS, or do you know someone that could help? Make sure you have a contact in place so you can quickly get the problem situated.





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