Tom Lippert first began teaching with the RCOBE as an adjunct for the Applied Business Studies Department, and then began teaching with the Department of Management as an Instructor of Management three years ago. In 2013, Lippert began working at Fort Hays State University as an Access Services Manager at Forsyth Library. He worked there for five years and completed his MBA in 2016 prior to moving into a full-time teaching position with the Department of Management. He completed his BA in Mass Communications at FHSU. Presently, Lippert teaches Introduction to Business and Management Principles courses, with five classes each semester. Prior to working at FHSU, Lippert worked for over 33 years with the United States Postal Service, with the last 22 years as the Hays Postmaster.
Best Practices on Zoom Teaching Environment
As with most instructors teaching either Total Online (TOL) or Hybrid Courses (HC), we use Zoom every class period. Trying to find the right blend and pedagogy for our students is important, so adapting our instructional options for various courses comes into play. Naturally, for every course we teach, finding the individual instructor’s style, balance, and comfort is very important.
To continue learning through this changed pandemic world and school environment, we all continue to learn and grow by sharing and using ideas from our FHSU colleagues as well as others from other institutions. Learning from others is immensely helpful for someone in my situation, a relatively new instructor. Therefore, the following are good ideas and tips I have learned from TILT, other instructors, and students.
Some goals that I structure and strive to attain with Zoom classes are:
- Requiring at least one Zoom class meeting each week on a designated day. For example, if it is a Tuesday/Thursday class, then we meet every Thursday, and will meet on some Tuesdays as stipulated and conveyed to students. For M/W/F classes, we meet every Wednesday and Friday.
- Recording video lectures to allow flexibility for students to study. For this I record a chapter lecture that they may listen to around their schedule or take the quiz when convenient for them.
- Providing the “right” amount of instruction that does not exceed 150 minutes of class time each week. For example, some weeks two chapters are covered, so students have two recorded chapter lectures and a weekly quiz to take, in addition to “attending” the required class.
- Making myself available for students on Zoom at our regular class time (as an open office time) to answer questions if we are not having a “required” Zoom class and it is their “flex” day. If no one is on this Zoom office time, then after 10-15 minutes I will close the session. Therefore, we either have class or I am available to students in Zoom every class period.
- Reminding students of what is scheduled and due each week. This is conveyed during the Zoom class, but also in a weekly email/Announcement sent EVERY week (sent Friday afternoons). This is with the premise that consistent communication helps our students.
- Tracking attendance for all “required” classes by using the day/class “Usage Reports” available after each class (under fhsu.zoom.us). The usage reports also shows if a student “ducts out” from a breakout session. You may want to consider requiring attendance at least during this Zoom environment as it helps hold students accountable, just as you would do in an in-person class.
The following is a normal flow of one of my Zoom classes:
- Getting into Zoom early to set the tone: Join in Zoom class a couple of minutes early to briefly visit and say “hello” to each student, especially in smaller classes. Some people suggest getting into Zoom earlier to converse and visit with students to help set the tone, while others suggest not getting in until class is ready to start, allowing students to freely discuss and share things without the instructor present, similar to students in a classroom prior to instructor arriving. Just prior to class beginning, I do thank the students for remembering to turn their cameras on. Sometimes I need to “remind” a student to please turn their camera on, and they normally all comply. Students have shared in email or on student evaluations that they appreciate me doing this and expecting students to have their cameras on.
- Cultivate a sense of belonging by sharing announcements: When beginning class, announce that you are going to start recording the class just in case someone not able to attend requests access. The very first thing we cover in every Zoom class is to allow time for announcements. Students are encouraged to share information on campus events or activities. This is good as students used to circulate more on campus and would even hear others talking in classrooms, so this helps make them aware and remember scheduled activities. Next, just as in classrooms, I share any announcements and info that may be of interest or importance to them (such as the Faulkner Challenge, scholarships or internships available and the deadlines, Career Fair, etc.). For the most part, the more I get students to speak up and visit earlier in the class period, the more open the students become. Thus, the “hello” or sharing info are good starts.
- Foster Engagement: Then, along these same lines, I have found it beneficial either to call upon students very early in Zoom class, or to break out into groups for activities early in class. This appears to be helpful when bringing everyone back together to report and share info, as well as speak to group members back in the “classroom.” When using breakout rooms, it is good to “join” every room at least once, so the students learn that you will be popping in to see how they are doing (which helps keep them on track), to check if they have any questions, or to help with their task, etc.
Other tidbits, such as smiling (difficult for me to do because when I am thinking, my natural tendency is to frown), being consistent, being respectful, thanking them for their attendance and participation, wishing them to be safe, etc., are all good daily reminders.
Bottom line is our students are adapting to Zoom classes, just as we are adapting and improving how we instruct and work with our students in this environment. It will be interesting to see how we incorporate and even use Zoom to some degree after we start back in our in-person classroom environment.