In the past, I have attended a few "virtual" classroom sessions as a trainee and I always found it a little boring. I could notice the sincere effort that the trainer has put through but I couldn't control the feeling of boredom.

Are there any techniques specific to teaching in a "virtual environment" that can improve the pedagogical experience and keep students motivated? I do have a list for a normal environment but it is of little help in this new medium!

Thanks for helping.

  • This question is purely pedagogical, which is off-topic for this forum.
    – eykanal
    Aug 6, 2012 at 19:57
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    I beg to differ. In the FAQ section, it has been mentioned that this forum is applicable for university professors. Conducting sessions in a virtual environment is becoming more frequent and I think this question will help me and my likes. I could see questions in similar context asked about conferences in this forum. (from a audience point of view). Ex: How can I get the most out of conferences? (it is from you actually)
    – Janaaaa
    Aug 6, 2012 at 20:48
  • @eykanal, I think the issue is with framing. I would recommend that the question be rephrased: "Are there teaching techniques that are specific to 'virtual' classrooms?" This would satisfy the mission scope as well as the questioner's needs.
    – aeismail
    Aug 6, 2012 at 20:56
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    @JeffE - Ha, and I was the one who had written that. Thanks for reminding me.
    – eykanal
    Aug 7, 2012 at 11:29

1 Answer 1


When I read this question, I immediately thought of this TED talk.
In it, Peter Norvig, who taught a huge online course on AI, shares what he learned about teaching to a large virtual audience.

His main points:

  • Mimic a one-on-one teaching style by positioning the camera overhead as you write and speaking as if it is a single student.
  • Alternately, use a livescribe pen (I've had experience with this for a math class; loved it)
  • Make short, <10 minute videos to retain attention
  • Ask questions to check understanding (they will pause+answer) and then go over them
  • Have due dates for watching the videos; students need motivation to watch them in a timely manner
  • Encourage online forums because peers are great tutors they "remember what it's like to not understand"
  • 2
    take them down after a week? What about repetition? Do you expect people to remember everything? Do you realize that you penalize less technical people since more technicall ones will be able to save them. Aug 14, 2012 at 13:45
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    take them down after a week — I think you misspelled "Leave them up forever, so that students can review them later as needed."
    – JeffE
    Aug 15, 2012 at 1:53
  • Snark, snark! I believe, not that I'm rewatching the video again, that he mentioned having due dates and some sort of limit. I know the videos are kept up for posterity, but he emphasized making sure current students got to them during the class. I will edit. Aug 23, 2012 at 3:08
  • Yes, agree completely with this approach. Nothing more boring than an online class where the instructor just drones on and on. I stopped teaching online because the Uni I was working for had a system that only supported this approach and I was spending more time un-teaching in the chat rooms what I had "taught" in the pre-recorded lecture.
    – Raydot
    Jul 8, 2015 at 20:05
  • "Make short, <10 minute videos to retain attention" I suggest 3 minutes is more appropriate for normal students. Apr 7, 2020 at 7:16

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