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 '12 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 '12 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 '12 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 '12 at 11:29

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"
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    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. – Atilla Ozgur Aug 14 '12 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 '12 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. – Maddy Byahoo Aug 23 '12 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. – Dave Kanter Jul 8 '15 at 20:05
  • "Make short, <10 minute videos to retain attention" I suggest 3 minutes is more appropriate for normal students. – Anonymous Physicist Apr 7 '20 at 7:16

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