Tip #9 – Mute students when they aren’t talking

Today’s tip for a successful synchronous session is tip #9 – Mute students when they aren’t talking.

One thing that can be very distracting during a synchronous online lesson is background noise. Whether it’s a dog barking, cars honking or audio feedback, it can interfere with students’ concentration, break the flow of a lesson, and lower students’ enthusiasm for what they’re learning.

You should therefore mute students’ microphones before a lesson. (On some video conferencing platforms you can set the default to mute.) When students want to speak, they can unmute themselves, or you can unmute them. You should also mute your own microphone when you’re not speaking. When you’re quietly observing students, for example, mute your microphone and unmute it when you want to interject.

Another benefit to muting students is that it gives center stage to a single student who’s speaking, and prevents interruptions. Muting is especially necessary for large classrooms. In small breakout sessions of up to five or six people, however, leaving microphones on can actually help a conversation flow naturally.

Many video conferencing platforms have a raised-hand icon, which students can use to show that they would like to speak – as they would in the classroom. Some have an emoji feature, so you, or your students, can react to something being said by sending an emoji (such as a “thumbs-up” or applause) rather than speaking. In these ways, even though students aren’t speaking, they’re still active participants in the lesson.


Make sure to check in next week when we discuss the 10th and final tip in our “10 Tips For a Successful Synchronous Session.” Tip #10 – Don’t forget your synchronous toolbox! See you then!


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