Editor’s Note: The following article is one in a series offering insights from faculty members at the American University in Cairo on how to make online classrooms more effective. The comments were originally published in New Chalk Talk, a newsletter of the university’s Center for Learning and Teaching, and have been edited for clarity here.
Previous articles in this series: “Making Online Teaching Work: Insights from American University in Cairo Faculty” and “Reduce Workloads to Ease Students’ Stress: Faculty Insights.”
We know many students don’t turn their cameras on and it’s difficult to teach blank screens, but we also know connectivity issues can make it impossible for some students to have good audio while their video is on. We also know students are anxious about how their participation will be graded.
Camera or no camera, students can participate via audio, chat, Google Docs, or doing formative quizzes or polls using tools like Slido, Kahoot or Nearpod. You can ensure every student participates multiple times during a class session using these options. This is actually one of the advantages of online learning—there is space to ensure everyone participates.
Ramy Aly, department of sociology, Egyptology and anthropology:
“Students can participate verbally, via Zoom chat or via Padlet (which is a great tool). I am also using all the features I can on Zoom to manage participation turn-taking. I should say that most of them are speaking during Zoom, to my surprise, (but) there are a handful who are not engaging using any of these options even though I have sent them many reminders that participation is key and that they can choose their mode of participation. These students will have low participation grades—but there is no way that they don’t know that and in any case that happens whether or not we are online.”
Tarek ElSayed, department of physics, has a simple way of quizzing students during the live lecture:
“I scattered throughout all my slides many (multiple-choice question) quizzes in the content of the current slides. I ask students to write down the answer in the Zoom chatbox, and then I can see the answer of each student and select one to discuss the quiz with him/her. It is the same idea of clickers, done on Zoom.”
ElSayed also highlights student achievements in a “hall of fame” Padlet to encourage them.