skype-logoI’ve been web conferencing into my class for the entire school year. It’s been awkward at times. Sometimes, it’s been more of a monologue and fallen flat. But things have been getting better. Here are 4  strategies that I have found make web conferencing with my students effective.

1. Get them involved

If you have an audience on the other end, you need to get them involved. I’ve been having a student help out at the whiteboard as I ask the students questions and get feedback.

2. Be silly

It’s hard to communicate humor over text, but video and audio make it possible. This week, I started and ended my class time with some horrible puns.  It helps with the awkwardness that comes with web-conferencing and gets the students engaged from the beginning.

3. Be Responsive

Find ways to respond to them. People are more interested in their own thoughts and their own questions. Last week I posted a forum called the Question Box. I instructed my students to post their questions as fodder for our Skype discussions. This resulted in a much more engaged class. It also gives me feedback about what they are really learning in the course (way better than those after-the-semester-is-over evaluations).

4. Find ways to follow up

After the web-conference was over, I posted a follow-up discussion post. In it, I reviewed 6 main points from the discussion, and asked for them to share their own thoughts. I did this because of two factors: A) Because of our hardware and web connection, hearing my students can be difficult. We were just not at the place where it can be a really effective discussion. B) I want to give the more introverted students a place for their voice, and online threaded discussions are an effective tool for that.

Hopefully,  you’ll find that these tips will make your teaching web-conferences a bit less awkward and a bit more effective. If you are having a guest speaker Skype into your classroom, I’d recommend forwarding these over to them.