Virtual Class Etiquette for Instructors
Written by Iwona Gniadek, Instructional Designer
Edited by Nancy Fischer and Lori Isber
Thinking of diversifying your online course by adding synchronous sessions? If so, here are some useful tips on etiquette and technical setup to consider.
Tips to use before class
- Adjust your lighting. Sit in front of a source of light so that your face is clearly visible. You may need to test this at various times of day if natural light is involved.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Try to position yourself in a space in your home with an uncluttered background. You may prefer to use a background wallpaper or blurred background setting. This way your true background will be invisible to others and won’t distract them and will also offer a privacy shield for you. Be sure to test the suitability of your chosen wallpaper in advance.
- Eliminate distractions. Mute your phone and desktop notifications, and close unrelated tabs in your browser. Eliminating distractions allows you to focus on one activity at a time, which conserves your mental energy and reduces fatigue during and/or after class.
- Edit your screen name. Use your preferred name, i.e., how you want your students to address you. Also, you may want to add your pronouns.
- Prepare housekeeping guidelines. Create guideline slides to share with students when the class starts. Include such points as how to ask questions (use the raise hand feature), tips for using the chat, a call for a moderator, breaks, when to keep cameras on/off, whether the class will be recorded and where to locate any recording after, and finally, a reminder of respectful communications.
- Open the class early. Launch the class a few minutes before start time. This will allow you time to adjust your audio/video/seat settings and be ready for teaching. Students should be encouraged to do the same. This is also a great opportunity to create a time for students to visit with each other, as they would in a face-to-face setting.
Tips to use during class
- Wear a headset. A good headset not only provides you with better audio, but also produces a better quality for those hearing you.
- Check your sound. Ask students if they can hear you well. Keep in mind if an audio issue is not universal, it’s more likely at the student’s end, not yours.
- Housekeeping. Share the housekeeping guidelines, before you start class content.
- Call for a class moderator. Moderating a meeting is a useful skill to develop. Students can help with moderating the chat, keeping track of questions, reading questions aloud for accessibility, sending time reminders, muting noisy participants, etc.
- Introductions. Ask students to announce their presence: via audio in small classes, and via use of the chat in large classes. You can incorporate this into a warm-up question – see next tip. Even though technology may record attendance, it’s a humanized and interactive way to connect with students at the beginning of class.It also serves as a test of technology for everyone.
- Warm-up activity. Ask students what’s on their mind as a warm-up activity as it helps to build empathy and community. Students may have questions relating to the class topic that you may refer to later.
- Breaks. Schedule breaks into your planned content and encourage everyone to step away from their device. Taking a screen break will give you and your students both a mental and eye rest and reduce screen fatigue. Remember to switch off your camera and mute your microphone during the break, and prompt students to do the same. Instead of saying, “We will resume in 5 minutes”, say “We will resume at [provide specific time].”
These handy tips on etiquette and technical set up will help you create an atmosphere that encourages student participation, reduces screen fatigue, and helps to create a more involved, engaged learning environment.