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Creating Community Online with Interactive Teaching Using Online Meeting Software

Introduction Heading link

Teaching is often a social process, taking place through dialogue, discussion and other forms of interpersonal interaction. Most of you are familiar with teaching students in a face-to-face environment and have established a series of techniques to encourage engagement and community. You can apply some of these concepts to the online teaching and environment as well.

In an online environment it is even more critical that you establish not just a teaching presence, but social presence as well. The latter happens when students can connect with you and their peers on a human and emotional level. The use of webcams in online educational sessions as this has been shown to help develop social presence when students can see and hear each other rather than just reading text-based messages using the chat. Students do tend to prefer using the chat function rather than using their microphones and tend to not use their webcam.

Keep in mind, there may be reasons why they choose to not use their webcam or microphone – perhaps they don’t want to share their home via a webcam or perhaps they live in a noisy environment. Keeping this in mind will help you to understand why they may choose to solely use the chat feature.

Check out this page that includes sections on recognizing implicit bias, creating an inclusive teaching environment, and this page that includes specific interactive teaching modalities that encourage collaboration.

At the bottom of the page is a form for you to fill out if you care to share your thoughts on creating a welcoming and collaborative educational experience.

Specific Interactive Teaching Modalities That Encourage Collaboration Heading link

In an online teaching and environment, it is more difficult to keep students engaged with the material as well as create a sense of community. Creating a sense of community is especially important for incoming students if our course content in the fall 2020 term is delivered primarily online rather than face-to-face.

Here are some suggestions for modifying some standard teaching techniques for online classes.

Modified from Dr. Lynne Robins / University of Washington ( Teaching Methods with Zoom.Penultimate.pdf)

In online meeting software such as Zoom, interactive activities can be accomplished using the Chat (for pair sharing) or Breakout Room feature (for Group Work). Invite students to record notes and to share their screens when presenting. Collect and collate answers using Google Docs. Zoom’s Polling feature is also a good way to get a quick idea of whether students understand key concepts. Note: you can set up your poll questions in advance in Zoom.

Name of ActivityDescriptionProcess and Tips for Community Building
Think-Pair-ShareThis activity provides instructor feedback about what learners have/haven’t understood. It works well with any size group at any time during the presentation. Promotes learner involvement, even with those apprehensive about speaking up.

  • Instructor poses a question / problem. How this can be done online: Orally / video through online meeting software using your microphone and webcam.

  • Think: 1-2 minutes for individual thought about problem (resist silence anxiety). Make sure you give students explicit instructions for what you expect them to do.

  • Pair: Learners discuss in pairs for ~5 minutes; suggest to students that they use an alternative method of communication to work with a peer to discuss the topic. You can use Breakout Rooms in online meeting software, though an alternative is to let students figure out their own way to communicate with each other in their groups / teams. Give suggestions they can use such as: GroupMe, FaceTime, Google Meet, etc. - they are familiar with these tools.

  • For the instructor, make sure you give ample time for students to do this exercise in a virtual environment. It will take a lot longer to complete virtually than if you were in a face-to-face environment.

  • Share: Invite pairs to report out to the entire group; using their microphones and/or webcams in online meeting software.

Knowledge ProbePosing questions at the start of a presentation stimulates thinking about the upcoming content and primes learners to think about how they will apply learned concepts.

  • Prepare 2-3 short-answer questions or MCQ based on your topic. Give students ample time and clear directions as to what you expect them to do.

  • Have learners work alone or in groups (breakout rooms in online meeting software) to answer questions and record their answers to then present to the large group.

  • Readdress questions in mid- or end-of presentation to help learners see how their knowledge and understanding has increased.

Pause and ClarifyThis activity works best with questions requiring application of understanding rather than purely recall of information. The aim is for each student to clarify their own understanding by comparing their perspectives with their classmates.

  • Allow learners to share their respective understandings of key or difficult conceptual content in their own words using either the chat function or invite them to use their microphone. Remember to invite comments from students (call them by their name) who have not contributed.

  • Note: Calling students by their name creates a more intimate and enjoyable educational experience

Quick Think
This activity helps to increases attention, interest, and learning in a topic.

  • Every 10-15 minutes insert a “quick think” exercise. Examples include: select the best answer, correct the error, complete a sentence starter, compare or contrast, support a statement, re-order the steps, reach a conclusion, paraphrase the idea.

    This can be done with Poll Everywhere, polling within online meeting software (e.g. Zoom), or just verbally asking students to respond by calling on them by name.

  • Participation options: learners record responses individually and then explain their answers to partner, learners generate an answer with a partner, or learners silently think about response. See other examples for pair work in an online environment.

  • Provide feedback so students can hear or share possible answers.

Core CasesUse realistic cases involving concepts that will be discussed during your presentation to prime their learning. Cases are more effective when learners receive at least some of the case information beforehand and can be helpful at the start of a session.

  • Include a brief question that requires the application of key concepts. Students work on the question alone, in pairs, or in groups that then report their answers. See other examples for small-group options in an online environment.

  • Use a small group breakout room session designed around a thought-provoking question / case that concerns the material just presented or prepares them for upcoming content delivery.

    Employ breakout room functionality in online meeting software.

    Give clear directions as to what you expect the teams to do.

    Give a team or two a heads-up that they will be called on first to share their perspectives when you bring them out of breakout rooms and back to the main room.

Minute PaperThis is an effective technique for determining learner progress – understanding course material, reaction to course material, etc.Pose a question about a concept. Ask learners to write a response in 1-2 minutes. You can use resources like Google Docs to collect these responses either anonymously or sharing the name of the person’s response if they are ok with you using it. There are multiple ways to collect - you can have students fill out a very brief survey using Google Forms, use Google Docs to write out their response, or have them share it verbally.
Muddiest PointThis activity allows you to gather information and provide clarification in real-time using online meeting software. It also promotes learner reflection and self-identification of difficult concepts.

  • Give a couple minutes for learners to write down a response to the question: “What was the ‘muddiest point’ in the presentation, discussion, etc.?” Or, “what questions do you still have about today’s presentation?

    You can use a Google Doc for this as has been done in many blocks in Phase 1 for this purpose.

Pass the PointerThis activity can provide insight into group knowledge and learner understanding.
Round Robin Teach Back Process
This is an iterative process: ‘teach back,” open-ended questions, address misconceptions, and then ‘teach back’ again.Ask a learner to explain their understanding of a topic or concept to demonstrate and explain a technique using their webcam and microphone. The instructor (or another student) can then follow up using open-ended questions to assess the learner’s understanding and/or ability to transfer that understanding to a related by fairly new topic.
Ice BreakersIce breakers can help set the tone for the session and help ease people into communicating online more comfortably. Questions will have to be selected carefully and probably not time-efficient in a mandatory class session.
PollingWe use Poll Everywhere extensively here at UICOM. It has been a proven way to encourage participation in class discussions and can be used in an online or face-to-face environment. We have created a document to explain how to use Poll Everywhere: Faculty have reported issues presenting Poll Everywhere slides that are embedded in a PowerPoint slide deck in a Zoom web conferencing session. Poll Everywhere says this: "One of the most important points to remember about presenting activities during video conferencing, webinars, or online meetings is to share your entire desktop. If you share only the presentation software window on which the activity displays, the audience will not see your activity. This is the case even if everything appears normal on your end."
Collaborative Note-takingThis approach provides a structure for active listening during class–notetakers don’t participate in the discussion but try to capture all of it they can, while the rest of the students can focus on participating in discussion without having to worry about taking notes–and might be particularly valuable in a classroom where it is hard to hear some students, especially if the note takers are scattered throughout the socially distanced classroom..This can involves setting up a shared Google Doc or OneNote for students to use during class to take notes on the class discussion. An example: two or three students are appointed lead notetakers for a given class session, with that duty rotating among students over the semester, but all students are invited to read and contribute to the shared notes.
WhiteboardUse the native whiteboard features of Zoom or other online meeting software to encourage participation.Zoom, like other web-meeting software, has a built-in whiteboard. You can find it when you click on the 'share screen' and choose 'whiteboard' as an option. Alternatively, you can also use Microsoft Whiteboard which comes with our subscription to Office365:

An additional option is to use free software like Lucidspark
BingoThis site has a simple template for creating a Bingo game card: Flippity.Use the template to create a Bingo card of terms used in a f2f or online session. First student to yell out Bingo gets a prize...the prize of knowledge.
Google DrawGoogle Draw can be used by individuals or teams to create a collaborative drawing.Have students (either individually or in teams) go to their Google Drive account. Click New, and then choose More and Google Drawing can be found there. Give the drawing a name and then they can invite their teammates to collaboratively draw.
Concept MapsConcept maps when used appropriately promote critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities allowing students to convert theoretical into application-based knowledge.Web-based concept mapping software includes Mindmup, Gliffy, Mindmeister, Bubbl,, Google Docs, and Minddemo.
3-2-1 ResponseAs preparation for class: Students read/annotate assigned readings, review in order to respond to the following:

3 things learned – ideas, issues, insights.

2 examples of how to apply the ideas, issues, insights to case challenge.

1 unresolved “something,” which you can express as a question, name as an area of confusion, or point to as a difficulty.
In small discussion groups, individuals can draw on what they’ve written to set out the group’s multiple and/or shared perspectives, and then collaborate to create a 3-2-1 that can be shared with the entire class for follow up discussion. Teachers might collect each group-generated 3-2-1 response to review and draw on as the basis for follow up full group discussion. Evaluate the individual and/or group writings to assess students’ critical reading acumen.
RSQC2This 5-step protocol – Recall, Summarize, Question, Comment, and Connect – can be used to engage students in focusing on a previous lecture/core case/lab session, a section/unit at its mid-point or closing stages, or even to focus on single reading/lecture or set of either.

Instructors develop one question/prompt for each of the five steps, aiming to engage students in gathering and synthesizing data, expressing new questions, and connecting the pieces to express new understandings and/or insights.
The five steps can be woven into a class session, providing a framework for actively engaging students throughout a lecture or other activity; the Recall and Summarize steps can be embedded in students’ assigned preparing for class work, serving as the “ticket in” for a class session. The development of questions provides opportunities for students to engage in peer learning and to ask authentic questions during class. By using note cards or student response systems allowing for paragraph answers, instructors can collect Comment and Connect responses, for review, reviewing for levels of understanding as part of planning a next presentation, an upcoming review session, follow up homework, and/or a general report to students.
DebateProbably not the best choice to use for large enrollment classes, but might be useful for small-group learning. A suggestion is to have 2-3 students per team.
JeopardyJeopardy is an individual or team-based game that can help create a sense of camaraderie. Take a look at the pages on gamification on this site for more info.We have access to Jeopardy Labs. Give it a try. Contact a coordinator at your campus to learn more about it.
JigsawThe Jigsaw Classroom is a cooperative learning technique that reduces racial conflict among students, promotes better learning, improves student motivation, and increases enjoyment of the learning experience.On the Jigsaw website, there is some guidance on how to use it and you will likely have to modify how to use it since it's mainly geared at k-12.


Give Some Feedback: Creating Community While Teaching and Learning Online Heading link

What are your thoughts on how to create community in online teaching and learning. Specify the type of tool (e.g. Zoom, Blackboard Discussions, etc.) and an example of creating community.

  • Selected responses will be shared as crowd-sourced examples.