To adhere to social distancing guidelines within classrooms, many colleges and universities that are planning to have students back on their campuses are offering concurrent classrooms in which professors teach some students in person and others simultaneously online. Under those circumstances, professors can feel overwhelmed by attempting to cater to two audiences and worry that the online students may have a diminished learning experience.
In this article, we outline six strategies to promote meaningful engagement for online students while at the same time providing a rich in-person learning environment. Fundamentally, professors can take one of two approaches with their distanced students: they can simulate the in-person experience or differentiate online engagement.
First Approach: Simulate In-Person Experience
The basic premise of this approach is to make the online experience feel as similar as possible to the in-person experience by integrating across modalities. Here are three strategies that ensure balanced student engagement regardless of setting.
No. 1: Chat mods. Online students can struggle to get their professor’s attention over the more visible students in the classroom, and introverted students -- especially in an online setting -- may lose out on participation altogether. Online contributions need to carry the same weight as those in person to achieve a balanced learning environment.
To ensure that happens, assign chat moderators, or chat mods, to filter questions or other quality contributions from the online platform’s chat. Already knowing which student is designated for this role for the day eliminates the time spent searching for an online student willing to speak and allows for smooth transition and curation of the best student contributions. Rotate this role among the students who attend online, potentially partnering two students per class session to serve at a time if necessary. Include specific checkpoints in your PowerPoint slides or lecture notes where you will purposefully elicit the chat mods to share with the class.
For this strategy to work, of course, online students need to provide content for the chat mods to filter. Assigning participation points can increase online student engagement and quality. The online students can earn points for contributing a question or example via the chat, and the chat mods can earn points for their successful presentation of the most popular or insightful contributions to the class at large. You can also save the chat contributions through default settings for easy grading after class.
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– by Amy E. Crook and Travis W. Crook, Inside Higher Ed.