College of Education Tech Center

General Tips for Engaging Students During Synchronous Online Classes

  • Prepare students for upcoming online class sessions. Ask students to set up their UW Zoom accounts ahead of time, and to reach out to edhelp@uw.edu if they have any account issues; let them know that they’ll need to be on camera, if your lesson plan requires it and their bandwidth allows; and offer to work with any student who is unsure that their technology is equipped to handle videoconferences.
  • Establish norms and familiarize students with any Zoom features you’ll ask them to use.
  • Use Zoom features to elicit quick student responses, check for understanding, or get feedback.
    • Chat: You can generate lots of ideas by posing a question and prompting students to reply in the chat window. Chat works well, especially in large classes, because everyone can “talk” at once.
    • Non-verbal Feedback: Students can click on “Participants” (called “Manage Participants” for hosts) and give non-verbal feedback. You can prompt students to use the Yes/No buttons to yes/no questions or the thumbs up/down buttons to show that they agree or disagree with a question or prompt. 
      • Raised hands: You can encourage students to use the “Raise Hand” feature in the Participants window when they have a question or something to share.
    • Whiteboard: Under “Share Screen,” creates a white canvas that you and students can type and draw on. This can be used in the main room and breakout rooms, and participants can save the image to your computer. If breakout rooms (more on that below) wanted to share their image in the main room, they will need to save the image or take a screenshot, then share their screen or paste into a shared Google Doc/Slide for others to see.
  • Make time for individual reflection, and be comfortable with a little silence. Give students time to work individually, whether it’s to read and respond, work on a task, or reflect. It’s easy to get distracted in online environments, so if you do include individual work time, consider calling on students after this time ends or having them submit their work.
  • Use shared documents to provide a collaborative workspace. Google Slides, Docs, Sheets, Office 365 documents can be used in whole group or small group configurations. 
    • Google Slides work well in breakout groups in place of posters 
    • Google Documents: use tables or page breaks to keep the document from moving too much as others type
    • Set up and confirm document sharing permissions ahead of the class session. Students aren’t always signed in to their UW accounts, so “Everyone with the link can Edit” is the best bet during the session. You can change security settings after class ends.
  • Prepare your workspace for smooth transitions. Share your agenda link or share your screen, organize your Zoom windows (main window, manage participants, chat), and prepare links for copying and pasting, if you’re using a shared google document, online exit ticket, or other website.