BigBlueButton World 2024  |  June 25th – 27th

Connecting with Students in the Virtual Classroom

Teaching online is not that different from teaching in a physical classroom. There are many similarities. For a traditional lesson, you need to think carefully about the objectives and the structure of your lesson beforehand, which applies just as much to an online event. Classroom management is just as essential. You need to anticipate questions, actively involve all students, and ensure that your instruction is sufficiently differentiated. One element you need to pay extra attention to in online education is connection and involvement between teacher and student. Here are nine tips for connecting with your virtual students:

Break the Ice

At the start of the lesson, sound out how your students are doing. Pick up on events that took place over the past few days, something fun they experienced, their personal goals for the day, and so on. Take into account – or rather make smart use of – the fact that your students attend the online classes from different locations, each in their specific context. Encourage them to share their experiences from their unique perspective.

BigBlueButton allows you to create a short check-in poll which you can share at the start of the lesson. Take a moment to discuss the answers. Additionally, you can encourage users to set their status with an emoji to represent their mood.

The KISS Principle

You can apply the KISS (Keep it simple stupid) principle to almost any area, so why should online education be an exception? The BigBlueButton virtual classroom is open source software and, as such, a versatile tool that can easily interact with various other digital tools. Nonetheless, we recommend that you use these options frugally. Not because the system cannot handle it, but because for each tool, you need to ensure that both you and your students are having the best possible experience.

Do not just keep it simple but also engaging. With your digital learning material, you need to ensure that the students optimally process the information offered. The knowledge clips and online instructional moments must remain varied yet short and powerful. Be mindful that superfluous information and distractions have a talent for sneaking into your course material.

Activate your students’ prior knowledge. If this is limited or not available, encourage them to actively process the material by offering them some short formative tests.

Ensure a Clear Structure

You may have heard this often before, but it is good to communicate in advance what your students can expect from you and what you expect from them. Keep this short and to the point; there is little point in overwhelming your students with unnecessary announcements. They will already have enough information to process during the lesson. Be aware that BigBlueButton is your ally when announcing or maintaining the structure in your curriculum. You can set up the teaching materials, assignments, and other documents neatly so that you can access them at the right time.

Optimize Online Collaboration

Make full use of the features typical of the BigBlueButton virtual classroom, such as the multi-user whiteboard, the chat and the breakout rooms. Especially in a breakout room, your students have ample opportunity to collaborate and learn from one another. While they can always rely on you to ask questions about the learning material, it is beneficial if they can exchange information amongst themselves. Are your students actively participating in such smaller live sessions? Recognize their efforts. After all, teamwork makes the dream work.

Acknowledge Creativity

Never underestimate the online creative skills of your students and make use of them. There could be an amateur cook with yummy recipes on their Instagram account, a budding artist who creates beautiful drawings in Clip Studio Paint or an influencer on YouTube with over 1000 subscribers. When planning assignments, think about what students do well in the digital environment and build their work around those skills. Build teaching activities that encourage them to co-create and peer review.

Questions? Ask!

Make sure your students know how to ask questions and raise their hands during a presentation. They should also know how and when to reach you online. Organise regular online consultation hours and encourage students to drop by and ask their questions.

Also, always try to be the first to arrive and the last to leave the virtual classroom.

Keep an Open Ear

Consider what works with your colleagues. Ask them how they go about it. If something works for them, how can you apply it yourself? Share your ideas too. Do away with the cliché that older teachers have a more challenging time coping with transitioning from a physical classroom to an online location. On the contrary, some of them have been present in the online world much longer than you can imagine.

Unplug!

As a teacher, you also need to disconnect and recharge your mental batteries regularly. Allow yourself a moment under the radar. Remember that exercise is not only good for your body but also your prefrontal cortex. Be sure to share this tip with your students. 

Be Yourself

This piece of advice is one that every teacher probably gets when they give their first lessons. When you are going through the transition from physical to online and are very conscious of being in front of the camera, the spectre of insecurity sometimes rears its head again. Everyone is human, so mistakes can always happen. Do not be afraid of a slip of the tongue or to correct yourself in a knowledge clip. Let your unique style and personality shine through. 

Share Your Tips with BigBlueButton

This list has become quite long, but we know it is not complete. Do you have any tips of your own? They are most welcome!