Teaching on Zoom can sure have its advantages.
However, the one thing that you’ll find a common struggle between different lecturers is how to keep students properly engaged.
When you’re learning online, it often means that your students will be watching on Zoom from the comfort of their own homes.
Maybe even their own beds. And when you’re not in a specified space for learning it can make concentrating a little more difficult.
Think about all the distractions that are around them. It’s so easy for students to drift off, and get preoccupied with the things around them.
They could be trying their hardest to keep on with the task at hand, but their pet walks into the room, their phone pings, the possibilities are endless.
And this is why it is so important to ensure that you are implementing the correct strategies for student engagement to keep them interactive and alert.
Because students that are engaged and interacting, are students that are not distracted. They are students that are learning.
But how do you make a Zoom lesson interactive to engage students? Aside from fun virtual backgrounds to spice things up, are there even Zoom tools that you can use? Yes! There are!
Zoom has four major student learning tools that will allow you to boost interactivity and engagement throughout your classes.
There are breakout rooms, reactions, polls, and annotations. So let’s take a closer look at these tools and how you can use them during your sessions.
These Zoom features can help you create an immersive learning experience for your students.
The Four Main Engagement Tools
If there is one engagement tool that you should really be making the most of during classes on any Zoom meeting, it’s breakout rooms.
This tool is honestly invaluable. Breakout rooms allow you to section off larger audiences into smaller groups.
These can be as few as two people, or they can range up to much larger rooms. These are especially great if you have really large classes taking place.
You can identify students that need extra attention, and move them to a smaller group where they can get more personalized help.
You also have the ability to assign tasks to these groups so you can maximize productivity during those smaller sessions.
When you are teaching 50, 60, or even 100 pupils at a time, it can be pretty hard for students to actually engage in the conversation.
Even if you’re asking open-ended questions, it is likely that most students will find it too daunting to find their voice in front of that large of an audience.
This can lead to passive listening and learning. This kind of learning is really not beneficial to the student or teacher.
It is likely that they won’t be sinking in the information this way and you run the risk of boring your students. And bored students are distracted students.
Students learn better when they have the opportunity to engage and collaborate with each other.
When you section the class off into breakup rooms you’ll find a lot of the shier students come alive and there will just be more engagement with the topic overall.
It is a lot less daunting to state your opinions or thoughts on a topic to 5 people than it is to 50.
To ensure that the appropriate work is being done in these breakout rooms, you will need to prepare and plan for them first.
Here are some teaching strategies on what you should do before sending students off into breakout rooms.
- Purpose & Duration – All students should have a clear and concise understanding of the purpose of their breakout room as well as how long they should expect to be in them.
- Clear Expectations – Each student should understand their role in the breakout room and what you expect from them upon return to the larger group. Remember that students tend to forget things. So there should be an easily accessible recall information sheet for them to refer back to.
- Shared Documents – Using shared documents for notes and progress throughout the breakout room is a great way to track progress.
- Jump Between Rooms – Ensure you pop your head into each breakout room to answer any questions and facilitate any discussions.
While breakout rooms are great for online learning, you can’t constantly have your students in them.
So what can you do to help with interactivity and engagement during the main sessions?
Now, it’s a pretty simple option, but you’ll be surprised how well it can help increase participation throughout your lessons.
Zoom offers reactions as an engagement feature where students can post short-lived emojis that pop up on the screen.
You can ask students to engage with certain aspects of content with emojis to show that they agree with a thumbs up for example.
It can be a great way to receive some feedback from the content and for students to show that they are following what’s going on.
Of course, if you’re more imaginative or creative, I’m sure you can find other fun ways to incorporate these emojis into your class content.
Perhaps even make a game out of it?
It really is up to you, but just giving your students the option to get involved in whatever way they can does help to keep them interactive and engaged.
Another great option for interactivity during Zoom meetings is to create polls.
You can add little mid-class multiple-choice questions that you design before the lesson begins. These can be easily launched during class.
You can also invite students to little mini-quizzes that test their knowledge of what they have learned so far during the session.
This can help you gauge how well students are finding concentrating and learning during your class.
Or, if you don’t want to keep quizzing your students, you could have your polls be more feedback bases.
You could ask questions such as I understood chapter 5 and then have strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree as the answer options.
This will also give you insight into how the students are finding the topics that they are learning about (also see, ‘How To Mute Zoom‘).
Should you wish, after the polls, you can then bring up the results to see where the majority stands and discuss the answers.
If you get feedback that people are struggling you can then revisit topics or ask for input as to what may help them better understand the content.
Whether you opt for quizzes or feedback, both have a common goal.
They keep your students alert and allow them to join in more physically with the lesson and this is sure to boost engagement, interactivity, and learning outcomes.
Finally, Zoom also offers an annotation feature that can really come in handy when teaching online.
Typically, your students will be used to working with paper or whiteboards where their work can be annotated.
Reproducing this on Zoom can help give a more authentic learning environment feel, which can help to boost engagement.
You can also find that it can be a struggle when showing students pictures or images that really need to be annotated without them.
Using this feature can help reduce confusion in class and helps to make things clearer. And when things are clearer, they are much easier to learn.
To annotate on Zoom you’ll need to do the following:
- Share your screen.
- If your annotations are going to be on top of a photo or graphic image, then you’ll want to share the opened image file/PowerPoint slide and then go to ‘View Options’ and click Annotate.
- If you’re annotating on a blank background then you can pick to share the whiteboard share screen option.
I will say this about annotations though, for your more basic annotations, your mouse will be adequate.
However, you may do better investing in a stylus input using a touch-screen or tablet to annotate.
This is honestly so much easier and makes your annotations actually legible.
The last thing you want to do is opt for annotations and then none of your students be able to tell what you are trying to write or draw.
As you can see from this article, Zoom lessons don’t have to equate to boredom and distraction.
Keeping students interested and on-task is no easy feat for any teacher, but for those teaching over Zoom, this mission can be so much more challenging.
At least at school, there aren’t quite as many other distractions around them.
But when you are teaching over Zoom, keeping your students engaged and interactive really is the key to keeping them focused on their learning.
And that is why adapting to these types of strategies is so imperative.
So if you are unsure of any of these tools, I would really recommend dedicating the time to learning how to use them and understanding them a bit better.
Breakout rooms are by far the most valuable engagement feature that you can use.
You will really notice a difference in how much more your students will discuss and debate topics when they are not overwhelmed by the bigger classes filled with students.
Polls are a perfect way to engage your students while also getting some helpful feedback about how your class is going.
Using emojis is a great way to keep current and contemporary and allow engagement at a smaller scale.
And annotations will keep things clear and can really help more visual learners.
So give these engagement tools in your next Zoom class and witness for yourself just how many students and how much more your students engage in class!