Fighting “Zoom Fatigue” While Making Your Classes More Efficient
In these times of physical distancing, are you suffering from “Zoom Fatigue”? Has the abundance of video conferences on your schedule led you to put yourself in the shoes of your students and ask yourself how they experienced a complete, full-time semester of remote learning? If synchronous video conferences definitely have a place in college education, each teacher can ask themselves what moments really need to be experienced live in a video conference and which ones can be executed otherwise.
Lectures would benefit from being turned into pre-recorded videos. Focus on the essential, and segment what would have been a 50-minute lecture into 2 or 3 (or 4…) short capsules from 6 to 10 minutes, each targeting a specific element.
What we lose by switching to remote learning
In class, in person, you could have observed the nonverbal language of your students to evaluate their levels of attention or interest. Through video conferences, the camera does not give the same insight… and even then, that is if you manage to convince your students to turn on their cameras!
The integrated interaction tools of the various video conferencing platforms (thumbs up, etc.) and online surveys (whether integrated in the video conferencing platform or external) allows to make up for the lack of nonverbal communication if you use them to your advantage [in French]. But, if we only ask the student to raise their thumb once or twice during the meeting or if the survey questions that we submit to the students are a variation of “Do you have any questions? Did you understand?”, then we can question the real added value of the “live” format.
Pre-recording rather than doing it live
Pre-record short video capsules that your students can watch when they want, at their own pace, and even multiple times if they want to. This is part of an inclusive pedagogy. This also allows you to refine the presentation of the content more than during a live performance (and you can use the videos for many groups of students!). (For an original reflection on the subject, read a text published on the site of The Chronicle for Higher Education that takes inspiration from the August 2020 party conventions in the United States to formulate tips for teachers.)
In addition to your videos, multiply formative evaluations and diagnostic quizzes for your students:
- Offer them auto-corrected exercises
- Launch discussions on a forum
- Have them build a mindmap linked to the notions presented in the videos (individually or as a group, in collaboration)
This will allow you to reduce the duration of synchronous classes all the while making them more profitable.
Efficient use of synchronous classes
Use the synchronous classes to really interact with the students and have them interact with one another. For example:
- Launch video or chat discussions. (Here is a very interesting article on strategies to conduct class discussions. The text was written with in-person classes in mind, but the suggestions can easily be transposed for online classes.)
- Have them work in breakout rooms on:
- case studies
- complex, authentic problems,
- Have them react on a whiteboard.
The suggested structure (pre-recorded theory and formative evaluations followed by opportunities to apply the content) is close to what many teachers were already doing in their in-person classes: the flipped classroom (which has already been discussed at length on Profweb).
This is not a cure-all and you may have excellent reasons to want to teach a given notion to your students through a two-hour-long video-conference lecture. It can work, and even be fun for the students. Still, if I were to go back to school today, I could not see myself taking a complete, full-time semester filled with back-to-back two-hour video conferences.