I have been working with digital teaching for many years, and have had different systems to work with. For 10 years I have made videos and podcasts for learning and they have been widely used in my teaching alongside lectures and seminars and webinars. Then came COVID-19 and what used to be more peripheral activities overnight became mainstream. For me personally, the transition to digital teaching was quite easy: For many years I taught the online version of the strategy course at BI and was reasonably successful in that. And moving from Adobe Connect to ZOOM was quite easy and gave me a flying start. Now, more than a year later I have summed up my ten best advice for teaching on ZOOM and I am happy to share them with you.
After three semesters with zoom, some experiences have been developed, tried and tested, which has proved to be quite successful. I have got good feedback from students when adhering to these simple principles.
#1 Think about it as a conversation
You have students logged on, and they are on an individual basis with you. Talk to them like you are in a one-to-one conversation. Be friendly and inviting and start with low shoulders and give students some time to settle in. The difference between lecturing in an auditorium and lecturing on zoom is the difference between a theatre and a TV-talkshow. Use an icebreaker in the chat to get them started. Easy question that gets the chat started. Take the pulse of the audience with an easy start: How is the weather?
#2 KISS – Keep it simple stupid!
If you have lectures that you have run earlier – throw out half of the stuff. Going from 3 to 2 hours of teaching is a total change for the students and you cannot push through all your stuff – so you have to brutally simplify. And think about the contents on your slides.
#3 Break the ice
When you start – have some icebreaking activity. I use Mentimeter (see later) to put a question or two up for voting and discussing. The simplest tool of all that you can use is something I call the PULSE: Ask them to write in the chat how they feel right now – just one or two words. There are other icebreakers you can use as well to get the session started – here Mentimeter is a delight: Ask them to vote on an issue: Friday dish: Pizza, Taco, Sushi. Whom would you invite to dinner?
Favourite holiday place. Weirdest place I have been. Instrument that I play. Favourite artist.
#4 One activity per 5-10 minutes
To succeed with Zoom conversation is essential. Make sure you post a question or something to react upon every 5 to ten minutes. There is a green and red button for them to push, that you can find under participants. You can also make a poll in Zoom ahead of class (it is difficult when you have started). Anything will do – short comments in the chat or whatever you can come up with. And of course Mentimeter can be a lifesaver here. There are many fun ways of setting up questions. Word Cloud is always popular, but ranking and use of scales is also great. I have a variation of the PULSE where I use the scale in Mentimeter with the question: How do you feel now? (Hvordan er dagsformen?) A scale will show the average – but also the distribution of votes. I can tell you that the average is normally 3,4. 😊. The whole concept of lecturing is changing. As I have mentioned earlier – think of it as a TV-talkshow more than a lecture.
#5 Use two screens
Presentation on one screen and chat and students on the other. And if you are really taking it to the next level – if you have an iPad or extra PC you can log on as a user and see what your students see. By using two screens you can have full control. Slides on one screen and participants and chat open on the other. I often use an iPad as an extra monitor. I simply log on twice and mute the camera on the monitor. Thus, I can see exactly what the students see and do not have to ask the students if they can see my slides now. My setup has the PC and the Asus 16” screen on the right. It can easily be transported and links to the PC via a USB-C port. I a very happy with this setup and it gives me a smooth presentation mode. I also use a separate camera on top of my laptop. It gives much better picture quality, and I also have the Røde USB-mic providing much better sound.
#6 Integrate with Mentimeter – bring your lecture to life.
I just love Mentimeter. I use Mentimeter all the time-integrated in my sessions. There is seldom any problem in getting people on board with this solution. I upload my classroom Powerpoints to Mentimeter and extend or fill in the presentation with the built-in features (polls, word clouds etc.) of Mentimeter. But make sure that you slim down your presentation first. Keep it simple and to the point. You can now also integrate videos from YouTube directly into the presentation. There is also now a possibility to go the other way. You can import addition to Powerpoint to enable Mentimeter from Powerpoint. Check out videos on this. I like the first version best. The only drawback is that all slides will be static i.e. you cannot build animations. I solve that problem by making multiple copies of the same slide and build that way.
Mentimeter.com has a number of templates for all kinds of events that you can use as inspiration: https://www.mentimeter.com/templates/speakers
There is also a new function called Mentimote. Just go to YouTube and search for Mentimeter and you will find a lot of good ideas. As I have mentioned earlier conversation is essential and this is one way of getting the interaction going.
Is it working? Yes, I think Mentimeter gives me an opportunity for interaction and variation and to keep students interested. But it is not enough in itself – It requires careful editing of your Powerpoints and inserting Mentimeter voting or comments on strategic places.
For me personally, it has meant lifting my lecturing and student contact to new levels. Allow for some shameless self-promotion at the end here. This is the result of my contribution to the Skrivebonanza yesterday where I ask students for feedback:
#7 Use collaborative software
For a long time, I have used Padlet in my teaching. I will recommend that for group work and all types of assignments. It is very flexible and can be adapted to many situations. And it is easy to share and make pdfs. But there is a lot of other things going on:
I recently started using MURAL and MIRO as collaborative software. This enables students to work simultaneously on a big worksheet where they can develop and share thoughts on things. You can for instance set up one worksheet pr breakout group and share and discuss afterwards. This really sets things in motion. One of the nice things about these (they are very similar) are the numerous pre-defined templates for a number of situations: Brainstorming, project planning, workflows and many others.
It takes a little while to get used to these new ones, but it works and can enhance the learning process. But the starting point is Padlet if you have not done it earlier. And my experience is that the students jump straight in. Easy and practical.
#8 Use videos – but not long ones
I find it very smart to produce videos. I have done so since 2010 and I have a library of videos that I can draw upon for different purposes within the field of strategy. They are not pre-recorded lectures but short thematic videos on strategy models. For some courses (net studies) recorded sessions for sharing is ok, but remember, this is not a very pedagogical solution, and serve more as a reference for later.
There are many smart ways of producing a video. Powerpoint with voice-over is too dull. Recently I have made videos simply by setting up a Zoom meeting with myself. That is the lazy man’s approach. For more advanced videos I record myself talking into the camera/iPhone with slides on the computer behind the camera so that I talk into the camera. Then I insert the slides into the video afterwards, making a smooth transition between my narrative and slides. I edit my videos on iMovie on a Mac. This takes a bit of practice but is not very difficult.
Here is an example of a video from 2016 where I present the PESTEL model. It is quite informal and I do not strive for perfection. It is in Norwegian. https://youtu.be/qcGjyycgU6c
Most videos I record with my iPhone on a mic stand in front of me and then load it into the editing software.
Short and simple.
#9 Think about your surroundings – sound and lighting matter.
Sound and lighting are important elements, and sound is most important. Use a USB (Røde NT USB) mic for sound. I use a separate camera that can be mounted on a stand in order to have it elevated above the PC. Avoid a window behind you. I use two IKEA lamps for indirect lighting against a white wall. Make sure that your camera also is in line with your eyes. We do not want to look up your nostrils. I normally put a few books under the PC to elevate it to eye level. You can also lower your chair. Also, make sure that the noise level around you is as low as possible.
And dress in a neutral way. Stripes on the shirt can cause some strange effects on some screens (stroboscopic effect). And LED lighting sometimes can cause reflections if you wear glasses and you will look funny.
Some people use virtual backgrounds. I find that more the exception than the rule. Some people look strange on virtual backgrounds – they have suddenly been stripped of ears. I think the “beach in the Pacific” is the most unnatural one. Try to construct a background that looks more real where you are now. It becomes more personal. I would rather see a messy desk than an unnatural background.
As you can see from my own environment, I have a quite neutral background: A small bookshelf with a replica of “Le Penseur” on top, and my guitar on the right. This shows a little about me and makes it more personal. And it is what I have, so whatever your environment – try to make the best out of it.
#10 It is all in the preparation – and practice – and ENERGY
Start simple – learn how to share a screen and content. Practice and become comfortable with it. Learn how to use a breakout room and move in and out of different elements. There are tons of video advice out there on how to use ZOOM. It is here to stay and will be and will be an integral part of future teaching.
One factor that I feel is important is the way you personally show energy in your learning sessions. Even if you sit down and there is a white wall and a camera in front of you it is important to show the students that you love your subject and show enthusiasm and engagement. I know that it is a solitary job, and that self-motivation can be difficult, but it is important that you show yourself and your presence through the screen. In one of my student surveys, more than 50% of the students prefer ZOOM over streaming, so I think that is a much more learning-oriented approach than standing in an auditorium, and even worse – showing a ppt slide or an overhead and appearing as a little matchstick figure down in the corner. You need to be personal.
I wish you the very best for your teaching and learning.
Here is another little trick for you. If you need a manuscript or simply will do a talk on video, you can make a “Reodor Felgen teleprompter”. Simply enlarge the font, put your manuscript just below the camera and collapse the ribbon in Word (it is that little arrow on top). Then your eyes will not fully show that you are reading – at least if you make some movement. And then you simply scroll the text with the mouse.