This is the first part of a set of three resources, shared in a LEaD Light Lunch session on teaching online with Zoom, by Stian Reimers, Reader in Psychology (School of Arts and Social Sciences)
Easy things to do in whole group live teaching
A lot of students like whole group sessions, sometimes more than smaller group activities, and they can be an efficient way of having live contact with students. Some students favour using live teaching (recorded for those who can’t attend) in place of asynchronous videos for presenting the main assessable content, whereas others like having live sessions to complement their asynchronous learning. Last term the vast majority of modules used a mix of asynchronous recording for core material and live sessions to recap and consolidate learning, ask questions and complete relevant activities based on the material. So the focus here will be on this hybrid approach as that’s what we’ve got most experience of to date.
Challenges include extremely variable engagement with prerecorded materials, particularly in the first and second years. Where students were asked to watch the prerecorded materials before the live session, often a large proportion did not do so. This then made live teaching difficult as it either left the students who hadn’t prepared behind or felt like a repetition of the asynchronous materials for those who’d watched them. One way of handling this is to have a fairly focused recap of the material at the start of the session, particularly any material that is important for any activities that then follow.
The other main challenge is passivity – it’s easy for students to tune out when they’re in a lecture theatre; all the more so when they’re watching online. So breaking up the session with interactivity can help keep students focused.
Recaps with Q&A
Last term lots of students asked for recaps of the week’s materials in the live sessions. These can help bring all students to a minimum level of understanding, but as they are summaries rather than repetitions of the asynchronous materials they don’t feel like a waste of time for students who have already watched the recordings, and can help generate questions from students who might otherwise not know what they don’t know. They are also not too time consuming to prepare – a matter of pulling out a few slides from the week’s recordings. Sometimes students get stuck on a bit of a recording and just need to hear a study or theory described in different words.
Recaps can be quick 10-minute things, but spending 20 minutes or longer in a session usually works. It’s good to ask students to post questions in the chat and monitor frequently (or ask your teaching buddy to interject with questions from the chat at opportune moments). You can also ask students to raise their hands if they’re happy to speak their questions, and ask basic comprehension questions as you go along, for students to reply to in the chat.
Some student feedback included:
1) I enjoyed [the] synchronous session as we weren’t split into breakout rooms and were able to discuss as a group with the lecturer. I think this is useful as all the students who are usually keen to participate are in the same room and so more ideas are shared and we are able to build on our knowledge.
2)The combination of the pre-recorded videos and live lectures worked really well.
3 [I]t felt like a bit of a repetition sometimes when I actually prepared for the lecture by watching the videos and doing the reading to then come to the lecture to listen to the content of the videos again.
4) I think the live sessions online could be more guided in the sense of a lot of people don’t have questions on the top of their head, maybe if we went through highlights then people would have more questions. /As the content of this module is quite heavy I would like to have a short run through of the topics covered in the learning materials for each week in the synchronous session. I do tend to do the reading and would not mind hearing it again. / For such a content heavy module I think we need summaries and discussions in the live sessions
Ticks, Crosses, and Reactions
A really easy way of getting a bit of involvement from students is to get them to use the ticks and crosses buttons that should be available by default. They’re useful for large groups because if you open the ‘participants’ view on Zoom you’ll see an overview of the total number of people who have responded each way. See screenshot
You can use what Zoom calls the ‘non-verbal reaction buttons’ to:
- Ask the students a question (“Did you watch the videos in advance?”)
- Check their agreement with a proposition (“There should be a tax on high-sugar food products”) – it can work well doing this initially and then again at the end after discussion or activities.
- Ask about a subjective experience (“Press tick if your earliest memory is from before the age of 6? How about 5? 4?” / “Is it blue and black or yellow and gold?”)
- Ask students to click to raise their hands if they’re happy to be called on to give a response to a question or activity.
You can also use the standard reactions from the main zoom page – for more informal activities you can get students to react with an appropriate emoji to some kind of question or proposition. Bear in mind that students joining on some devices may not have as easy access to the reactions or buttons, so don’t expect everyone to respond.
Using the chat
Zoom’s chat feature is most frequently used to let students ask questions during the session, but can also be used for easy interactive activities that don’t need a lot of preparation but can make a session feel more engaging:
- How would you define “Health”? Everyone spends two minutes thinking about how best to define the term (without googling) and then posts in the chat (you can ask them to post it direct to you if they are worried about it being seen by everyone, and you can then summarise anonymously).
- Show a video where a person falls onto the subway tracks and then pause and ask student to type into the chat some of the factors that might affect how quickly someone will jump down to rescue them. (Could also send them to a website to read something and then come back and post in the chat.)
- First correct answer – the lecturer gives a question about the topic for the day (“What percentage of people in the UK experience depression in a given year?”) and ask students to post their answers in the chat. The lecturer watches the chat and notes the first correct answer and can comment on the range of answers given.
- Academic bingo – various ways of doing this (see bingobaker for a more involved example), but the general idea would be to get students to answer a series of questions read out by the lecturer to fill in a bingo sheet, and when they reach a criterion they have to type “HOUSE” or similar in the chat, and then give their answers.
- Can also use this for teams in a pub quiz style competition, where students are allocated to a team by breakout rooms or tutor group, and then post their team name in the chat as soon as they know the answer– they then have a chance to answer, and if they get it wrong it goes onto the next player.
For more advanced and slick-looking activities, you can use Zoom’s integrated polling or for more functionality, use Poll Everywhere. This lets you run quizzes, collate anonymous text-based answers, and visualise responses with word clouds among other things. There’s more to handle here and more complexity but it can be useful for some activities.
Many of the group activities in the separate breakout rooms guide could also be adapted for students to complete on their own. So getting students to search for information, construct an argument, complete a series of tasks and so on could be done individually in a whole-group session.
Please record and upload the main content of these sessions to Moodle for students who can’t attend. If recording is likely to put students off contributing, you can pause the recording for certain parts of the session.
Any questions or other suggestions to share? Join the Learning and teaching community on Teams