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Solve Common Online Teaching Problems

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Here we offer recommendations and resources to help address common online teaching issues that instructors typically encounter when teaching fully online courses.

Need something else? Schedule a consultation with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). 

“Too much Zoom!”

If you’re feeling burned out on Zoom, you’re not alone. 

Luckily, you can run a very successful class by cutting down on in-person Zoom time and shifting some of the class time to asynchronous activities. This can help both you and your students overcome Zoom fatigue. Learn more about using a mix of asynchronous and synchronous teaching.

Another tip is to build more engaging activities throughout a Zoom session. If you've been talking for fifteen minutes or more, it might be time to shift to something interactive, whether that's starting up a discussion or activity or even just asking an open-ended question and getting students to type a quick answer into the class chat. See some ideas from Stanford instructors on how to alleviate Zoom fatigue.

“Students don’t know each other.”

It takes some intentional effort to build a community online, and peer-to-peer community can be among the hardest to support.

Breakout rooms are an excellent tool to encourage student-to-student conversations. Sometimes very short (~5 minute) sections work better than longer ones, depending on the task. You can do a range of small-group activities in Zoom that will help students connect with each other.

You can also reinforce student-to-student community by rethinking some assignments--consider awarding points for low-stakes social interactions (i.e., writing an introduction on the class discussion board), or assigning group projects to encourage students to get to know each other. See more ideas on supporting student interaction from Stanford instructors.

“I'm not connecting with students the same way I normally do."

You'll want to think about intentional ways to build classroom community, such as sharing some information about yourself and encouraging students to come to office hours. Some of the tips in adding warmth to live video calls might also be helpful. Try building time into the class structure specifically around community-building. See more ideas about creating opportunities for connection and presence from Stanford instructors. 

You might also want to consider ways you can seek student feedback; it can be more challenging to know how students are actually feeling in an online class, so build in low-stakes minute-papers or mid-term evals. See more about how Stanford instructors are eliciting student input.

“Bad internet and disparate time zones.” 

While you can check out tips to mitigate internet connection issues, realistically internet and time zones will at least occasionally be a problem. 

The best way to handle this is through course structure. Talk to your students early, and think about providing a mix of asynchronous and synchronous activities–not relying wholly on Zoom for every class period will make it easier for students who have difficulties completing some or part of the lesson. Try to be flexible where you can in offering alternatives for students who face issues, and set equitable classroom policies. This will also make the course more accessible.

See more ideas from Stanford instructors about working with students with limited internet connections. 

“Students need extra help."

Whether it's help connecting with digital library resources or addressing urgent psychological or financial needs, you may find student struggles are making it harder for them to succeed in your classroom. The good news is that there are ample campus resources; sometimes a simple email connecting students to the right program can have a huge impact. See Support Resources for Students for a comprehensive list.