In last week’s blog post we introduced 10 tips for a successful synchronous session. Today we’re going explore tip #1: Consider splitting large classes into two shorter, smaller groups.
The physical classroom offers students natural opportunities to move around, whether they’re getting into groups or walking up to the board. This isn’t the case with virtual classrooms, where students sit and stare at a screen. Even when presented with fun, creative online activities to do, it’s still difficult to sit and pay attention for long periods of time. It’s therefore beneficial to keep virtual lessons relatively short. One way to accomplish this is to split larger classes into two. If classroom size is cut, the teacher can cover more material more quickly.
But that’s not the only benefit to smaller class sizes, especially in a virtual classroom. The virtual classroom setting can feel rather artificial and intimidating at first, with one person speaking at a time, and everyone looking at that person. It can take a lot of nerve to ask a question or make a comment in such an environment, causing some students to fade into the background. By splitting students into two smaller groups, however, teachers can help alleviate this problem.
Smaller groups are generally less threatening, so students are more confident in taking part in classroom discussions. With more students participating, sharing their perspectives and ideas, the lessons become more interactive. The smaller group size also allows for time to hear from more students, even with a shortened lesson. An intimate virtual classroom environment is also conducive to collaboration and learning team-building skills.
Teachers benefit from smaller classes as well. They can more easily monitor students’ performance, detect gaps in their knowledge, and provide immediate help and feedback. With fewer students, teachers can more easily personalize lessons and have students work at their own pace.
If you’re unable to split your classroom into two and teach each group separately, there’s an alternative option. You can start sessions with the full classroom, and then divide students into groups by sending them to separate “breakout rooms” or “chat rooms” available on your virtual classroom software. Towards the end of the lesson, you can bring everyone back together and ask representatives to act as spokespeople for their groups.
Next week we’ll discuss how to prepare students for an online lesson, as we explore tip #2 of our “10 Tips For a Successful Synchronous Session.” See you then!