Tuesday, July 27, 2021
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Improving participation in remote courses and meetings is vital

By Nancy Bowne

I look around the gallery of my computer screen, and faces and rooms tend to blend together through the different squares. Some professors have even stopped trying to use new technology on whiteboard apps and video formats. You even have students who pretend to ignore what the professor just said, or a question they asked. I look at these people, people I might have been able to become better acquainted with, could have grown friendships with or go to Eick with after class. At this point, it all just feels so frustrating what we could be missing or creating anew. How can we improve this process?

Online environments have created a different set of expectations for students (Envato Elements).

Remote learning has made us question what we expect from our classes. The world of remote school has especially shifted the dynamics of classroom instruction and the partnerships we create with peers and professors. While many of the same necessities remain, the relationship between professor and student has become more of a partnership, almost as colleagues, as we navigate new forms of communication and gathering information. 

Many students have commented on how sometimes it doesn’t feel like a supportive environment to ask questions. They feel they would just get criticized from their question or cut off when trying to explain something. Sometimes professors don’t leave time for questions either. 

When it comes to classroom interaction, it is the responsibility of both professor and students. 

These are issues that have always existed in the classroom, but this issue has only expanded through delayed audio or a shift in the teaching style. 

So in order to move forward through this historic semester and prepare for the spring semester, I have gathered some tips that could be helpful insight into this new dynamic. I like to call it “particability”: the ability and accessibility to participate. Yes, this is not a real word, but it’s one that has helped me level-up to a class’ approachable means of discussion. No matter the subject, a class that engages its students is beneficial.

Preparation before class is something important to keep in mind with improving participation. When professors have a detailed syllabus or announcements before class, they can include  some questions and discussion points, especially pertaining to an article. This also helps introverted learners, because responding to questions on the spot can be overwhelming. 

Another tip is to have breakout sessions with specific tasks or documents to show the work. So many break out rooms can just be dead air. When you have a question or graph that is prominent, not from a slide you shared for two seconds that students are expected to screenshot, it mobilizes students to take action and have that discussion more prominently. 

 So what are some incentives to participate? It’s a form of connection to your peers, especially in a time when everything is remote and picking up pizza can be your biggest expedition every week. Participation also shows you’re invested in your learning and can help to clarify comprehension. Speaking things aloud can build your total understanding of a topic. 

Additionally, your professor needs participation just as much as you do. Professors have commented that it feels lonely to essentially be teaching into a void, and not able to see distinct reactions to the content they are providing. 

While it might seem pointless to participate, it can help develop a better understanding and an overall community within the classroom. We need this more than ever, and finding ways to personalize a Zoom room creates the best overall experience. Reach out to your professors with comments and suggestions too. The world of virtual communication is not going anywhere.

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