Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with the Department of Sociology at McMaster University about my work on online learning. We had a discussion about best practices for digital instruction as faculty ramp up for the inevitability of an online fall semester.
There were a lot of really good questions:
- To what extent should the course be synchronous or asynchronous?
- How should we think about engagement in online classes?
- How can we protect students’ privacy in an online class?
- How can we make sure that student interactions online are appropriate?
- How, if at all, can we bridge aspects of in-person courses we care about to online instruction?
I won’t try to rehash the entire discussion, but one thing that really resonated in our discussion was the concept of appointing a student or TA to be a hype person. What do I mean by hype person? I mean someone whose role it is to keep the live chat exciting.
While you’re on camera lecturing most people simply can’t simultaneously keep track of everything going on in the live chat. How to solve that? A hype person. Someone who hangs out in the live chat to welcome everyone when class starts; shares an ice breaker; acknowledges when others make interesting comments so they feel heard; kindly reminds everyone about chat expectations when needed; and even surfaces key questions or themes that come up in the chat to the on-camera instructor.
For other ideas for online instruction, I wrote up a bit about a hybrid course I co-taught here.