As if it weren’t hard enough for accounting professors to keep students engaged with their work, COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. The struggles of the classroom’s overhead projector are now swapped for the bugs and glitches of virtual meeting software.
But even if it’s virtual, a classroom is still a classroom and one where you can keep students engaged. Through acknowledgment of the situation and preparation for what’s ahead, you can help make your virtual classroom a successful one.
Become Familiar with the New Technology
At this point, you may already be familiar with common virtual meeting software like Zoom. However, it’s critical to develop a deep understanding of how the software works and how to troubleshoot issues. You’re likely to be the first line of tech support for your students when software hiccups occur during class. So, make sure to know the basics like muting, unmuting, and sharing your screen, and learn how to find answers if a student has trouble logging on.
Some of these skills can be born from partnerships with your university’s IT team. They can be a fountain of knowledge and may be able to provide you or your class a tutorial on how to use their new classroom tools.
With your newfound or gained skills, you can also run through practice sessions of your lesson plan. This gives you time to make sure font sizes, designs, and colors all make your presentation clear. Practice also allows you time to perform audio tests and that your audience will hear you at a comfortable volume and clarity.
Manage Your Virtual Classroom
Classroom management is an essential skill whether you meet with your students in a brick-and-mortar building or a virtual webspace. Visual components, like slides and videos, work just as well on the internet as they do in person. They can help spark discussion, which you can mediate virtually through promoting or muting students as needed.
Many online classrooms feature a chat function, a potentially potent tool to drive interaction. Often, the record of the chat can be saved, so you can follow up on any missed questions or comments as needed.
If possible, it would be a good idea to record each class. This gives students who had issues, technological or otherwise, an opportunity to still receive the lesson and benefit from the classroom interaction.
For students, some of their most enlightening in-person interactions with their peers come in the time immediately before or after class. You can still maintain that sort of casual, yet essential, interaction through a “fun” chat room that’s separate from the official classroom one. The fun room can help keep potentially disrupting conversations out of the classroom, too.
Make It Easy for Students to Stay Engaged
It will likely take time for you and your students to adjust to this new learning environment. You can aid adaptation by recognizing the fact that virtual meeting fatigue is real. For all classes, but especially ones longer than an hour, you should incorporate breaks for students to move around, drink water, and just get away from their computer.
Many students will also be craving human interaction. You should encourage this through one-on-one meetings with your students where you can check in on how they’re doing. You can also use the fun chat channel mentioned above to hold contests or for students to post silly photos or memes, which can make them excited to return to class.
It will be important for students to have a quiet place where they can plug into the virtual classroom. As much as possible, distractions should be limited on both your and the students’ end so they don’t disrupt the class.
Adjusting to the new classroom reality might seem difficult at first. There are expected speed bumps whenever a classroom turns virtual. But, by acknowledging this new reality and its inherent difficulties, the transition into virtual teaching will be much smoother.