Facilitating In-Person Classes with Remote Students

These strategies focus on teaching students in the classroom and remote students equitably using a video conference platform (e.g., Zoom). The simultaneous format offers more flexibility and accessibility options for students, such as those who cannot make it to class due to sickness or family emergency. Also, it can provide more engagement opportunities for students who typically might not speak up in a face-to-face classroom.

When hosting two learning environments simultaneously, you will engage students in ways that you might not have experienced before. Students will have various ways of responding to you and the class. It takes time to develop this facilitation skill, and requesting support from your teaching assistants (TAs) or student leaders can help.

The tips below can help smooth the transition to teaching in this format.

Before the session

  • Clarify all participation roles to help manage the space (including remote students, in-person students, TAs, and yourself as the instructor) using a rubric or list of protocols. Set expectations for behavior from the various groups, and decide if you want to attach a participation grade to it. Participation grades should be equitable. This means everyone should have opportunities to be successful that fit their circumstances, and differences among groups of people are taken into consideration.
  • Designate student volunteers or TAs to support you with facilitation (e.g., moderating a chat, announcing online questions, relaying activity instructions to remote students.)
  • When planning, sketch out additional activities you might create for remote students in a lesson plan, starting with your original in-person activities (adapted for social distancing). To promote equity in both spaces, in-class activities will ideally have a matching or similar course activity for remote students. Consider providing asynchronous materials or online discussion board prompts for those who cannot attend. Also, encourage students to review and reflect on course topics.
  • Consider how in-person and remote students will interact with you, with each other, and with the course content. Provide students in both spaces with opportunities for interaction, such as interactive class discussions, group discussions, breakout rooms, and polls. For breakout sessions, assign student roles to maintain on-task behavior (e.g., note taker, reporter, etc.).
  • Test out audio-video technology in the classroom before the first day.

During the Session

  • Icebreakers or quick interaction activities at the beginning of a session can help encourage remote students to turn on their cameras, get in the right frame of mind, and feel more connected to the session as well as with one another and their in-person counterparts.
  • While facilitating, stop often for questions and check in regularly for how this is working for students. Some Instructors build checkpoints into their sessions.
  • Have in-person students speak their comment or question out loud and then also enter it in the chat if on a computer. For all questions and comments, repeat back what a student said to the rest of the group. As a facilitator, double check with students to ensure you are representing the question or comment correctly.
  • Encourage all your students to help you (not just student leaders/TAs) to keep track of the remote Zoom space to ensure remote students can hear or see. If they cannot hear or see, have a designated method for students to stop you from proceeding. (e.g., raise a hand, say something, etc.)
  • Encourage student leaders or TAs to model the behavior you want to see for online and in-person students. Show examples of strong behavior and examples of behavior you do not want to see. Consider providing a rubric or criteria for success for specific activities.
  • Expect lags, pauses, and silences, and lead with patience.
  • Share all resources used in the classroom with online students through Canvas or by posting links in the Zoom chat. Instructors can record and archive classroom activities for all students to review later.
  • Facilitate group activities for remote students using Zoom breakout rooms. Provide a clear task and assign roles for students (e.g., note taker). You or a TA can even drop into their breakout rooms to check progress. One possibility is collaborative concept-mapping, which is possible using the Zoom Whiteboard feature.

Technology Tips

Audio

  • Test the in-room audio and work with the local IT support team to address issues. See the Classroom Audio-Video Technology Overview from CIT.

  • Be sure to test your lapel microphone in the classroom as well.

Video

  • Give priority to showing the most important content on the screen for remote students to see. Consider whether remote students should see the instructor, the board or another writing surface, slides, or the room/classmates.
  • To show materials while lecturing, it is much more effective to share the tablet screen then to attempt to aim the in-room camera at a projected image on the screen in the room.
    • If you have not used the tablet before, you will need to request to have the tablet drivers added to your computer (contact your local IT team to request these drivers – be sure to do this well in advance of your class as it may take some time)
    • If the room in which you are teaching is not equipped with a tablet, contact your local IT team and they will be able to request one from CIT
  • If you need to write on the materials you are showing, use the annotation feature (see information on the Zoom whiteboard feature)

Engaging with remote students

  • Interact with remote students during your session regularly. Check-in often. Provide several opportunities for remote students to participate. Build pauses into the session for reflection as well as times for comment. Allow students opportunities to comment on statements made by their classmates.
  • Ensure that remote students feel equally important and necessary to the course rather than an afterthought or second class. It is easy for remote students to become passive viewers during each class, and over time, this can become the norm. Instead, some days provide activities geared around the remote students, such as composing the discussion questions for that day or running a fun ice breaker.
  • Have students create materials based on the lecture/discussion/breakout room activities and post those in a discussion forum using Canvas Discussions or Ed Discussion. Discussion forums are spaces everyone can see together, and where you can check for understanding and keep the conversation going after the session ends. Be sure not to assign more work to the remote students as it can feel unequal. Instead, expect the entire class to post and participate in online discussions.
  • Consider prepping materials and activities in advance that can work in varied circumstances (in-person, online, or both), such as:
    • pre-recorded lectures: these can give you more flexibility with how you use your class time
    • group activities where students can work in breakout rooms or in small, distanced groups
    • moments for individual work (thinking, writing, researching) followed by opportunities to share with a partner, small groups, or the whole class