Suggestions for Teaching with a Small Number of Remote Students Zooming Into an Face to Face Course

by Sandy Gambill, Sr. Instructional Developer, Reinert Center

This fall, you may find yourself with only one or two students using Zoom to attend your face to face class.  Avoiding situations where these remote students feel like they are just watching the other students take a class is important.  Here are some suggestions that might help.

  • Set up a regular check in meeting with remote students to make sure they are getting what they need.
  • Don’t stand with your back to the remote students.  Try to shift your position in the room so that you can keep an eye on the remote students on the screen while still looking at the students in the classroom. If you feel that you have a limited space to stand due to social distancing requirements, talk to your chair about ways to rearrange your teaching space. Facility services may need to become involved.
  • The decision to turn on or leave off a camera is complicated, as it’s an equity and inclusion issue. However, a remote student might not understand the barrier they put up to being seen as a full participant in the class if they don’t turn on their camera. It can be more difficult to engage with a student you – and their classmates – can’t see. You might want to have a private conversation with the student about their choice.  If the student’s computer will handle a Zoom background, you could discuss that. If not, you may need to make other accommodations. 
  • Remote students shouldn’t hesitate to participate in discussion just as the in class students do. Coach them to speak up and speak loudly. If you can keep on eye on the screen, show the students how to use the raise hand feature in Zoom’s participants tab. Encourage remote students to wear headphones with a microphone so they are more clearly heard.
  • Make sure the remote students can hear what the in class students are saying.  You may have to repeat/summarize frequently.
  • Make sure when you open PowerPoint or other computer windows you are displaying on the screen to students in the class, you are not making the Zoom window so small that you cannot see the remote students.
  • Have a plan for sharing PowerPoint or materials you use with in class students with the remote students. Post the materials in Blackboard or master the screen sharing feature in Zoom.  Be sure to check with all students that they can see the material in screen share.
  • Decide how to handle the chat function in Zoom.  You might need to tell the remote students not to use chat during the live class session. Or consider developing a rotating student chat monitor role. The students in the classroom could have the Zoom meeting opening on a device, so they can monitor chat if there is a question. The student monitor should have their sound muted and may need to wear headphones. Make sure that doesn’t impact their ability to follow the class.
  • Anything you can do to connect the remote students with the in class students will help integrate them.  Consider a formal arrangement where students in the class pair up with the remote students and facilitate their participation in class discussion “I think Susie wants to get in.”
  • Use the names of remote students to ask questions or for feedback. Their name should display on Zoom. Students will know you have not forgotten about them and that you will be checking in with them throughout the time you are with them. Set up placards with the names of students in the classroom so the remote students can see them.
  • Consider small group discussion before moving to whole class discussion.  The remote students can be brought into a small group on an in class student’s computer or phone. Work with muting microphones that aren’t necessary to minimize feedback.
  • Consider using polling software with the entire class, especially if they can’t always hear each other.  It’s a quick way to get opinions or solicit answers.  If you don’t want everyone to have Zoom open on their computer, there are other easy to use options students can do from their phones.  See the Reinert Center’s guide for more information. [link]
  • Consider setting up a Google doc that all students have access to for common note taking and asking questions during the class.
  • When you are having an activity that requires students to work in groups, have a method of setting up the groups that includes the remote student on Zoom.  Don’t make the remote student feel like a last minute add on to a “real” group.
  • Ask student groups to work together outside of class to develop a product they bring to the next class. This could be as simple as questions about the reading, but it will give the remote students an opportunity to work with the in class students.
  • Student feedback from the spring indicates that they need more help setting up study groups when virtual classes are involved.  Work with your class to make sure the remote students know what study groups have formed among the students on campus and how to join them.  You might need to mention this in class and follow up with an email to the entire class. They will need you to make it happen.

If you cannot reasonably accomplish the above suggestions, consider alternative ways for remote students to access the content and community of the class that don’t include joining the class synchronously.  There are many ideas on the Reinert Center’s Instructional Continuity page under asynchronous courses. [link]