Director’s Blog

Pandemic Pedagogy: Synchronous Student Engagement

by | Oct 31, 2020 | Director's Blog

One common theme I’m hearing from faculty is student engagement (or lack thereof) in synchronous courses. Students aren’t turning on their cameras, they aren’t responding to questions, breakout rooms are nothing but silence and black boxes. So I put together some tips for helping your students feel more comfortable participating during class. You can watch my short video or read a condensed version below.

  1. Be sure students know how to engage. Should they use chat? Raise hand button? Just unmute and start speaking? Be clear on which options you want them to use.
  2. When using breakout rooms, make sure students have a clear task to accomplish. It can be for a few points and can be done in Canvas discussion boards, a Google doc, or a debrief following the breakout session.
  3. If students are having trouble with video or audio, have an alternative form of participation available. This could be the chat function, a Canvas discussion board, a Google doc, or any other tool, such as Piazza, that would allow them to type answers.
  4. Practice engagement on the first day of class. Get students comfortable engaging with some icebreakers or low stakes activities. This makes it clear that engagement will be a major component of the class.
  5. Consider using learning assistants. These are undergraduates who are trained in pedagogy and can facilitate active learning during class. Students are often more responsive to their peers, and learning assistants can check in during breakout sessions.

If you have other successful strategies, I’d love to hear them!

In other news…

I am a voracious reader – I aim to read two books per week, so I thought I’d share what I’m currently reading. I also love a good cocktail, so I’ll also share what I’m currently drinking.

What I’m currently reading: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. I really enjoyed Gyasi’s last novel, Homegoing, and this novel is another good read. Her character development makes you feel like you know these people intimately.

What I’m currently drinking: On The Rocks Spicy Pineapple Margarita. So I am rarely a fan of pre-mixed drinks, but I am loving this one. An added bonus is that the burning on your tongue will distract you from the burning of our globe.

Andrea Aebersold

Andrea Aebersold

Director, Faculty Instructional Development

Andrea Aebersold is the Director of Faculty Instructional Development at University of California, Irvine. She earned a PhD in English and was an associate professor of teaching before coming to UCI. She specializes in active learning, evidence-based teaching, and reading mountains of books.