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Bored to death? Daydreaming? Zoom fatigue? Not in my class

June 17, 2021
By Ezgi Ozyonum

A bored and tired woman sitting in front of her laptop Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.

Today is the day. I’ve been preparing for this. I have my notes. My hair looks great. I look put together. I remember the advice to imagine everyone wearing only their underwear.

Never in a million years did I think my students would all truly only be wearing their underwear!

Okay I don’t really know if my students only wore their underwear on their bottoms (nor do I want to), but what I do know is that when I imagined what my first day of teaching would be like, I wasn’t expecting to see only the top half of my students through a computer screen.

A zoom class screenshot where students are really engaged and happy A screenshot of my ‘Graduate Seminar in University Teaching’ class at Concordia University.

People have been talking about “the new normal”, making it sound like everything will be new. The reality is online learning was here before COVID-19 and it is here to stay.

Here are 4 basic principles to keep in mind, whether you’re a student or an instructor, to make the most of online learning.

A man is engaging with others through online video conference platform Photo by Surface on Unsplash

1. Be engaging

One of the most important principles in education is engagement which is harder to achieve in a virtual classroom.

If you are an instructor, to help you overcome the dread of the ‘launch meeting’ button:

  • Prepare team building exercises for the first class. For example: if your life would be a movie, what would be its soundtrack?
  • Hold office hours at various times of the week to accommodate students who may not be in the same time zone as you
  • Use breakout rooms to promote student interaction so that students are more comfortable to speak up

If you are a student, you can take charge of your engagement:

  • Find your class list and reach out to your classmates
  • Email your professor and introduce yourself
  • Ask for feedback on your performance

2. Be creative

Online learning might feel a little flat and monotonous so making the effort to be creative can make the experience more enjoyable for all.

If you are an instructor, you should:

  • Widen your vision of what student participation looks like. It does not have to be only unmuting and contributing to the class discussion. Let them engage non-verbally with reactions, through the chat, or participating in a whiteboard/Google Jamboard activity
  • Create interactive content outside of class time to foster ongoing learning like holding an open forum or an Ask Me Anything session

If you are a student, you should:

  • Think outside the traditional ways to prepare your assignments like giving your presentation with Live Prezi or animated video
  • Design your desk and work space at home in a way that excites you to be there and study
Two people are happy and relax while working online Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

3. Be flexible

Teaching should be centered on the student, although that doesn’t mean catering to every whim.

If you are an instructor, you should:

  • Not use additional technology for the sake of using technology. It should serve to advance specific learning objectives like using Padlet at the end of class to gather class feedback, takeaways, etc.
  • Remember that your students might be in different time zones and taking courses in less than ideal home environments. Consider recording your class and even using live transcripts

If you are a student, you should:

  • Take advantage of how, what, when and where you learn. Learning can take place anywhere and anytime in online education
  • Be flexible adapting to changes in routines and take your time adjusting with unexpected situations

4. Be patient

It is normal that it takes time getting used to new things. While you may feel the weight of the uncertainty of the future, still try to be kind and gentle to yourself and others.

If you are an instructor, you should:

  • Remember that teaching online may take more work than you’re used to. It might be heavy sometimes so be compassionate with yourself if it feels awkward
  • Not assume the technology that you like to use is the one that everyone is comfortable with. Make sure to give enough time to yourself and your students to experiment with the tool

If you are a student, you should:

  • Be patient with your instructor and peers. They are still human and trying their best to adapt
  • Give yourself enough breaks and get out in fresh air to recharge in between online classes

Disclaimer: All these tips are more geared towards small to mid-size classes and perhaps pertain more to graduate level courses.

About the author

Photo of Ezgi Ozyonum

Ezgi Ozyonum is a PhD candidate in Education. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Bilkent University and completed her master’s degree at Middle East Technical University. Ezgi has taught at the department of Education, Concordia University, and has delivered workshops for Concordia’s Centre for Teaching and Learning and GradProSkills.

Her research brings critical and decolonial perspectives to the study and practice of internationalization and decolonization in higher education. Through her work, she seeks to interrupt common colonial patterns of education engagement. She presented her research at many national and international academic conferences including Comparative & International Education Society (CIES), American Educational Research Association (AERA), and Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education (CSSHE). Her research findings could move Canadian Universities towards a more equitable and inclusive future.

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