Remote Teaching Tips

Questrom Best Practices for Zoom Classes

The following are best practices for faculty on running effective Zoom classes. Some of the information below was adapted from Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.

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 Organizing the Class Session

  • Be prepared! The BU Questrom IT group has provided extraordinary levels of support and many resources are available.  Use these resources to get yourself up to speed and be sure to practice so that you do not spend valuable class time figuring out technology.
  • Be realistic about what you can cover in the remote-delivery format; it will likely be less than you can cover in a face-to-face class.   
  • Overcommunicate with students!  We are hearing from students that communication from faculty is appreciated. 
  • Place less weight on participation in the final grade than you would in a face-to-face class. Be aware that many students are concerned about weight given to participation and team projects in this new format. 
  • Make sure that all students have access and can participate. Those who cannot participate should not be graded on participation. 
  • Decide on a local time window you think is reasonable for students to be expected to attend synchronously. 
  • Consider other ways of measuring participation, including online discussion forums and submitting questions via email.  Consider letting students who are not able to attend do write-ups about the material for that day (submitted before class starts). Plan ways to engage students who realistically cannot attend synchronously, either because of time zone differences or because they have technology issues. 
  • Coordinated courses must use the same requirements for synchronous participation in the course.  Teaching teams should decide what makes sense for their course given the assignments and structure of the synchronous sessions.
  • Incorporate interactive activities into the session
    Feedback suggests that more interactive activities are needed in remote delivery format.  

    • Polls can be used to keep students engaged and to formatively assess students’ learning progress before proceeding to the next topic. 
    • Breakout groups provide an opportunity for students to interact. Short (2-3 minute) breakouts prepare students for a broader general discussion. Longer breakouts (15-20 minutes) give students an opportunity to explore a question in more depth. These can be followed by report-outs by some teams.  
    • Open discussions engage students in broader discussion. Remember to allow several seconds of delay for students to respond to your questions. 
  • Manage time carefully. Think through the time required for each activity and do not allow the session to run over. You most likely will not be able to cover everything you would in a face-to-face class session
  • Allow time for breaks.  Remote delivery requires more frequent breaks and possibly longer breaks.  Do not give students work to do during the breaks!  You could plan an optional short stretch to get people moving.
  • We will consider requests for TA support for faculty who need additional help.  A TA could help monitor the chat for questions. Assign TAs as co-hosts and discuss with them your teaching plan and the support required during the meeting (if applicable). TA’s could also help with grading.  If you are interested, please reach out to your department chair. When doing so justify in detail why a TA is needed. 
  • When possible, rehearse your activities.  Consider doing a dry run with your TA. This will allow you to learn the Zoom features and to track the duration of each activity.
  • Plan some time for post-session questions. 
    If possible, stay after for 10-15 minutes to address students’ questions. 

Running the Class Session 

  • Email the Zoom meeting links to students (rather than or in addition to posting them in a folder on QuestromTools). Inform students that they are expected to attend the synchronous sessions.  Recordings don’t capture everything (for example, breakout groups or polls).  
  • Open the Zoom conference 15 minutes before the start of class.
    Put up a greeting screen, which may include class announcements, a clock, and a music background (Example from Professor Pedro Sandro of CSE).   While waiting for the class to start, students can read the class announcements, test their Zoom connection, and make themselves ready for the class. To create a welcome page, load up the page in a browser, type in the announcements and share the browser screen in Zoom.
  • Use the time before the class formally starts to engage with students.
  • Set the recording to cloud when you begin the class session. Ask students to keep an eye on this and remind you if they notice that the class is not being recorded (you may sometimes pause the recording during group breakout sessions). 
  • Display the in-class etiquette standard in the first slide (every class!). This should include: 
    • Use “raise hand” to participate (especially in larger classes, see below)
    • Keep mute while not speaking – students can use the spacebar to unmute while speaking
    • Use headsets to minimize background noise
    • Students should always have their cameras ON (assuming they have a camera), to ensure virtual presence. 
    • Students should either use a natural background or one that is appropriate and not distracting.  A quiet, desk-like setting free from distractions is preferred. 
    • Students (and faculty) should dress appropriately.
  • Use a split screen so that students can see the other participants when you share slides. 
  • To instantly share materials with students use the “…” button in the chatroom.
  • Do not try to use and monitor the chat function during the class Experience shows that when a professor teaches, he/she will not have bandwidth to monitor chats. Either turn it off completely, or let students know that you will turn the chat on from time to time to take questions or share a file. Even if you have a TA attending and helping to monitor the chat, students who start focusing on the chat pay less attention to the instructor. Just as you would not allow students to speak freely to each other while you were teaching in a physical classroom, you should closely regulate when they can use the chat function.  

 Managing Participation 

  • For all classes, use only one mode of participation (e.g., hands-up on Zoom, hands-up on video, or “jump in”) and communicate clearly to students which mode you’ll be using; more than one mode is confusing.   
  • For larger classes (25+ students), use the “hands-up” feature for participation. Feedback suggests that students perceive this as the fairest approach in a large class, where the instructor cannot view all students on the grid. 
    • Open the participants list (by clicking on the Participants icon at the control panel at the bottom of the screen) and keep it open as a separate window (by using the pulldown menu at the top left corner to select popup). This way, even when you share PowerPoint slides, switch back to gallery views, and back and forth, you will always see the participant list, which shows who has raised their hands in the order of when they raised their hands. 
    • Use the “mute all” button in the Participant list when you hear audio feedback. (Shortcut: Command+Control+M for Mac; Alt+M for Windows).

Other Considerations

  • Remember that many students are incredibly stressed out about the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sensitive and empathetic to their concerns.
  • Hold Zoom office hours. Using the “waiting room” function in Zoom lets you see who is “in line.”
  • Post notes and slides before class to QuestromToolsIf you produce notes during synchronous sessions, remember to leave enough space so that students can still read and comprehend.
  • Remember, some students will not be able to attend the live class.  The University told students to return home and we have students in many time zones, some with limited bandwidth to live stream a class.  You will need to be flexible and consider providing some asynchronous content going forward. Please be compassionate and flexible with these students.

Technical Tips

  • Zoom shortcut keys can be found in (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/205683899-Hot-Keys-and-Keyboard-Shortcuts-for-Zoom).
  • How to Remove Meeting Participants: If meeting attendees are disruptive or unwelcome in a Zoom meeting, they can be removed by the host. To remove a participant from a meeting: 
    • During a meeting, select “Manage Participants” at the bottom of your screen.  This will open a list on the right side of your chat window with a list of all your meeting’s attendees.  
    • Find the name of the attendee you would like to remove.
    • Move your mouse to the right of their name and click where it says “More”.
    • In the menu that appears select “Remove”.
  • How to Set a Zoom Meeting Password: Zoom meeting passwords make meetings available only to attendees who have a password, shared previously by the meeting’s host. 
    • When scheduling a new meeting in Zoom, in the “Meeting Options, select “Require Meeting password”.
    • In the box that appears, type the password you would like to set for users to use to enter the chat.  Be sure to save the exact spelling and capitalization of the password you’ve chosen.
    • Using QuestromTools email, send that password to your meetings’ attendees.  
    • When your attendees join your chat, they will be prompted to enter the meeting password.  When this happens, they should enter the password exactly as you entered it in order to schedule the meeting.