With some students physically present and others online, typical activities such as asking questions and engaging in discussions require special consideration. With masks and physical distancing, typical visual and aural cues for in-person conversations will also be missing. Instructors should remember that:
Instructional Goal: Use short, small group activities periodically during a class meeting to deepen student understanding of the key concepts.
Recommendation: To minimize confusion associated with conflicting noise levels of in-person and remote students simultaneously engaging in Zoom breakout rooms, instructors can group students based on their location. The instructor may consider placing in-person students of physically distanced groups of 3-4 in the classroom, establishing one person as the group leader to report back to class. (If Zoom recording is enabled for the class, the recording can be paused during this time to ensure that discussions in the classroom remain private to each group.) The remote students can be placed in Zoom breakout rooms with an assigned group leader and/or a TA to facilitate students’ conversation. At the end of the assigned group time, the instructor can close the breakout rooms and provide each group an opportunity to briefly share out their groups’ findings to the rest of the class. To increase collaboration between remote and in-person students, the instructor may consider implementing asynchronous and reflective group activities outside of class time, such as Canvas Discussions.
A Note About Recording: Unless it is for accessibility reasons or a specific use case, recording breakout rooms is generally discouraged, as they can only be recorded locally (by a participant in the breakout room), and recordings can easily be shared creating privacy concerns. Also, keep in mind that breakout rooms often provide an opportunity for students to speak freely, so recording may not be desirable. If recording is necessary, instructors should consider giving students in a breakout room the option to only share the recordings amongst themselves, via a shared Google folder. Learn more about how to record breakout rooms.
Instructional Goal: Use small groups for in-depth and sustained course activities.
Recommendation: Instructors can build an effective community in their course by creating longer opportunities for students to engage with one another through in-depth small group discussions. Instructors can divide their course meeting times into two separate purposes: (1) lectures; (2) collaboration. For example, in a course that meets twice a week, an instructor may decide to dedicate one class meeting time to lecture and then dedicate the second meeting time to remote small group collaborations through Zoom. By using Zoom breakout rooms when all students are remote instructors can create mixed groupings of students and not have conflicting noise levels.
Instructional Goal: Give students opportunities to ask questions during the lecture
Written - Ask students to submit questions or answers via a digital platform such as Top Hat, Zoom Chat, or Slate. All students will be able to read the questions, so instructors need not worry about auditory comprehension or interruptions. However, instructors must monitor the digital platform, or assign a TA or student leader to monitor the questions and relay pertinent questions to the class.
Verbally - Students can speak their questions. Remote students’ questions will be heard over the room speakers. Room microphones will capture the questions of physically-present students. In some instances, it may help if instructors repeat the questions before giving an answer for remote participants to confirm their hearing of the original prompt. Note that spoken questions require students’ to manage how and when they speak so they can be heard and do not interrupt others. Before starting these conversations, give students a little time to formulate their answers or questions. To promote greater participation and prevent students speaking over one another, it is useful to create a queue by asking for a specific number of volunteers and then ordering them.