5 Things I Don’t Do in Synchronous Classes

  1. Use photos for slides. In a good LMS, screen reader users can access text from OCR-capable PowerPoint and PDF files shared in the session. Slides should not be crowded, with a goal of no more than five lines of text per slide, and no more than five words per line. Slides should be high contrast (preferably black and white). Headings and text should be used for maximum legibility. To optimize for use with screen readers, assign titles to slides, and ensure that the text order works.
  2. Seek feedback primarily via video/voice. I work hard to engage students with frequent, custom polls. These allow teachers to demand participation, keeping students engaged in the course. For example, teachers can have students take on meta-cognition to improve the accuracy of their self-assessments by repeatedly polling students to self-assess their understanding, and then assigning the work so students can contrast their self-assessment with experience. Other custom polls can include multiple-choice answers to pre-built problems on slide decks for retrieval practice with immediate feedback within the lesson. These techniques are also useful in an asynchronous session when students attempt to answer for themselves while watching the recording.
  3. Use Interactive Slide Decks Common on third-party websites, links to the websites are posted within a learning module in the LMS. For example, students see a Jeopardy screen on their device in a synchronous session, and tap it to play a game with other students. Gamification runs the risk that students engage with the context more than the content, distracting already distracted students. Second, multitasking (switching between two or more screens) reduces academic performance. Third, because online teaching generally means that teachers have significantly less time with students (I have two, 50-minute periods a week, for 32 weeks, to teach Algebra I), using class time for unnecessary activities is prohibitively time-expensive.
  4. Picture-in-picture Displaying a smaller video image while the main video screen is still on is a feature to be used with caution. Students have better engagement with recordings when they can see the instructor, but this does not necessarily translate into increased learning, possibly due to distraction. In addition, because live picture-in-picture adds additional video streams, it requires extra bandwidth for students in synchronous sessions. Therefore, limit this mode to the beginning of each synchronous session.
  5. Extensively Screen share Essentially, teachers can choose whether to show their entire screen to the class, just a portion, or just one application running on their computer. If a teacher insists on using animation in their presentation, this is a method for sharing the animations. Screen sharing strains bandwidth and should be used with caution.




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