Zoom Etiquette: Five Tips for the Virtual Classroom
| Teaching House Nomads Blog
Until very recently, if you were asked to think about a typical English language lesson, you probably would have pictured a classroom with a phonetic chart on the wall, a teacher writing up new vocabulary on a whiteboard or students huddled in pairs or small groups as they work together on a learning task. But as we have all witnessed in recent months, the world can change rapidly. Like many industries, English language education has had to quickly adapt to the new reality of digital interaction.
The good news is that we live in a time with easy access to digital tools that can help us continue to deliver effective English language lessons online. Zoom, and other digital conferencing platforms, allows teachers to continue live lessons to students who could be down the road or on the other side of the planet. Of course, there are some advantages and disadvantages to teaching via Zoom. We’ll leave those for another day.
Today, we are going to look at the area of Zoom Etiquette. We will explore five key etiquette tips for the virtual classroom. These tips will aid the smooth running of your Zoom lesson, allowing you to get on with what you do best: teaching!
1. Be mindful of background – more light is better
As a teacher, you want a positive classroom environment where your students feel motivated. It’s far from ideal if the teacher is barely visible in a darkened room. Brighten up your environment with an extra lamp if necessary. Remember to make sure the light is in front of you, not behind you, as being backlit makes you harder to see.
2. Try to look at the camera
Often people don’t know where to look in a Zoom meeting. There is the temptation, of course, to stare at your own image on the screen, perhaps in admiration (or dismay!) of your current hairstyle. A good rule of thumb is to look at the camera when speaking to the whole class or even to an individual student. You can also encourage students to speak to the camera when they are talking. It will make communication feel more natural.
3. Stay on mute when you’re not speaking
Whether you are working from home or from a school or office, there is always the potential for disruptive background noise. You might think you are in a dead quiet space, only to forget that you have left on the sound notifications for incoming emails. Or you may suddenly need to cough or sneeze. The safest thing to do is, of course, keep yourself muted when not speaking. Just remember to unmute yourself when you do need to speak!
4. The teacher should be last to leave
As the teacher, you should always be the last one to leave the digital classroom. If you leave before the students, you cannot control what is said or what happens when you’re not there to supervise. It is also good manners to wait until all students have left before logging off, rather than leaving abruptly before them.
5. Give learners time to speak – try not to interrupt!
In a virtual environment, it is not always as clear when someone has finished speaking as in face-to-face interaction. You may not be able to read body language as easily and, of course, there may be a slight delay in audio due to technical issues such as a slow internet connection. Also, of course, language learners generally need more time than native speakers to express themselves. So, it is important to give your students enough time to speak. Allow a second or two to pass before you respond to a learner. This will help avoid those awkward interruptions and those times when multiple people try to speak at once, which can be quite common in virtual meetings.