Online Classes are Annoying— How to Fix Them?

Dear teachers, Let us help you. Sincerely, Students.

Photo by Mohammad Shahhosseini on Unsplash

Several months into the pandemic, once the excitement of the online classes faded away, we started to get bored. We yearned to walk out of our houses and we are annoyed about having headaches and fatigue after long Zoom sessions. Although this Zoom Phenomenon took off massively, we are now finally landing to a destination that we haven’t been before.

The-New-Normal-Land.

So where have we landed in this ‘New Normal’ in education? If we are stuck here, what are our options and chances of surviving this? What could be the fixes?

Let’s look at them one by one.

1. Long hours of classes just like they always were

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Classes especially the college lectures sometimes tend to go at a stretch for hours. But with online classes, this length going to cause a ruckus as we can easily fall asleep or get distracted.

Fix: Shorten the sessions

For 24 hours of lecture time, two of my professors, have different methods. One is using regular 4-hour blocks and the other one is using halved 2-hour blocks, the former completes the syllabus in 6 days and the latter in 12 days.

I find my concentration being maximum at the two-hour block classes. However I noted having a 10–15-minute break at the 2-hour mark of a 4-hour class doesn’t cut it to have the same concentration level in the next 2-hour session, as compared to taking that in a whole different time.

Anyways these time slots are of post-grad level classes. So if you are a school teacher or a college lecturer taking 1 class of two hours, try taking 2 classes one hour each, if you have been taking an hour, now go for two 30 minute classes.

Also try giving a few seconds of stretching time every 20 mins or so, where you would encourage the students to blink and look far away from the screen. You can use the scientifically tested 20/20/20 method where every 20 minutes, the user of a digital device would look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds to reduce the visual fatigue. Please remember not only your students, you’d need this break as well because you are also using a digital device.

2. The Teacher is too close

Photo by Ahmed Youssry on Unsplash

This is extremely frustrating for me during the Zoom classrooms. The Zoom speaker window where we can see our teacher is not at all similar to seeing them moving around, making hand gestures and being a dynamic personality. Instead, we are stuck looking at their face up close, and we soon get tired of it.

Fix: Leap back.

Dear teachers, did you know you can keep your camera or your smartphone a bit far and still live stream your lectures? If you didn’t, I’ll be pleased to let you know that you can. You don’t have to look right into the camera with your face fixed onto it. Sit back, relax and teach! Well, more like a leap back. Go as far enough that you can’t reach the keyboard, but with a forward lean you can change the slides. Now you are free to use your hands to make gestures as you always do in the classes and we get to see a bit of the background(of your neat room, that we believe is as perfect as you ask us to be.)

Nevertheless, do you know what is even better?

Standing up! Stand up like you always do in your class. But to do this and still be nicely visible to your students, you might need a camera with a tripod and a little bit of tech knowledge to get it done. If you can’t do it alone, ask us, your students. We are glad to help(albeit we are also stuck across a screen).

Sub problem: Teacher stands up now they can’t reach the device

Yes, I get you. After standing up how are you supposed to change the slides?

What if you don’t need the slides anymore? You can use a chalkboard.

I can’t believe as an advocate for smart classrooms I’m talking for the chalkboards, but this quarantine classes have made me realize we are so used to them that after some time we yearn for a nice chalkboard diagram (Make sure you focus it well, okay?).

What if you are sitting down and sitting far? I’m sure by this time you know about digital writing pads with a long wire that you can connect and write on your device’s screen. If you don’t know about them, it’s time to look it up. Google is good, you know!

3. The teachers recite the book ad verbatim

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

I mean c’mon! We could let you do it in a regular classroom, but do you want to do it even here? Dear teachers, please step up your game! I’m pretty sure, sometimes your educational qualifications talk more sense than your voice. Remember you took a course called “Pedagogy”? (If you didn’t, its time to look it up and learn some tricks.)

Here are some tips and tricks from Harvard University to teachers who teach remotely.

Fix 1 : Use Interaction

Online classes are easy to get bored and distracting because your students are in front of a smart device. They can easily open another tab and watch something else rather than listening to your Roman Civilization lecture. So, you need to teach Roman Civilization in a more interesting manner than whatever is on the other tab. This is like a marketing plan. You can’t lose your client to a competitor. For that, keep your students on the loop. Always.

1.Surface questions that the students already have some material about

Let’s say you taught your students about the Nitrogen Cycle. Ask questions to use this knowledge as a stepping stone to improve the knowledge of your students on the Acid Rain phenomenon. Then ask them if they know about Taj Mahal in India, and then explain how it was endangered as this wondrous structure is made of marble which is corroded by the acid. The students will be amused, and you will get their brownie points.

2. Use Polls

Polls are nice ways you can use to engage with the class. It’ll be nice because Zoom has an anonymous poll feature where you only get the answer but you don’t know who answered. You can get an idea about how the lesson is going into the minds of your students in a situation where you can’t directly visualize them.

3. Invite students to answer questions

You can use both ‘Cold Call’ or ‘Warm Call’ techniques here. A cold call is when you are showing a cold shoulder and surprise the student by asking a question suddenly. For example “Kevin McCallister, do you like to explain how to tackle a thief when you are home alone?”

Or use a warm call where you inform the student that you are going to ask a question in the private chat such as “Hey Ron, I’m going to ask you a question on spiders, please be ready.”

4. Encourage students to ask questions

Zoom has a ‘Raise Hand’ option, that the teachers can ask the students to use. Encourage the students to unmute themselves and speak their thoughts just like in a class. But make sure you give equal chances to everyone so that the silent student who is shy wouldn’t always be overshadowed by the talkative and bright gunner.

Fix 2: Create interesting Multimedia

You definitely would need better-looking slides than you would usually make. Don’t just copy and paste the Textbook onto your slide. It’s boring and it’s going to make the slide look busy. None of those is conducive for an effective teaching session.

You have the luxury of using Videos and Audios directly in your classes now. Make use of them wherever necessary and our new generation which is full of audio-visual lovers would greatly appreciate them. However, make sure you don’t cause copyright issues for yourself.

Fix 3: Make your Slides Consistent and Distributable

PDF or Portable Document Format is a good old document formatting method where you can keep the formatting of one device to another device without the risk of changing and messing it up. Making your graphical slides in this way would help you to make sure your students see what you intended them to see in your slides.

Sub Fix: But if you have a word document made where you would get your students to fill in the blanks or write important matter when you do the lecture, consider uploading the document in an editable format such as .doc or .ppt as well. Because you can’t be sure if they would print it. Who knows maybe they would want to directly type into the blanks and make themselves a full note without ever your document coming out in a paper version.

4. Teachers are too rigid

Photo by Katy Ward on Unsplash

We can understand that sometimes being rigid is a part of the teacher’s personality or sometimes they do it to maintain the discipline of the class. But this measure to maintain the distance would make the teacher look extra detached when the classes are conducted online.

Fix: Relax — Use informal language and make plenty of jokes. We love humour

I know someone who did this. We had this one professor who we thought as a very strict person. He would not make jokes in the class, he would stick to teaching facts and that was it.

But with the pandemic, our good-ol’ professor had to resort to using Zoom. On the first day, he was complaining that Zoom doesn’t feel at all like a real class.

7 sessions later, he was cracking jokes, teasing students in first name basis, and making us laugh more than 4 times in his 4-hour class. Compared to his earlier grumpy attitude, 1+joke/hour is a very good rate, to begin with.

At the end of the day, we found ourselves privately discussing how much we love his new online personality and how effective that is in keeping the class together, in an otherwise boring topic like Osteoarthritis.

5. Intermittent voice — I mean lagging Internet

Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash

Dear teachers, do you know we don’t understand it, when we only hear parts of your discussion? Your bad internet is one of the biggest reasons that make us feel nostalgic about live classes. This article on The Irish Times shows its a prevalent situation even in the developed world.

Fix: Stop background apps and if it doesn’t work, get yourself a faster internet

You can try disconnecting other devices, closing down any other apps or websites which use your bandwidth, such as YouTube videos and several other tabs (please close down your unwanted tabs anyways, we don’t need to accidentally see your NSFW stuff on another tab).

But if none of these work, maybe you would want to subscribe to another faster internet connection.

6. The teacher goes offline soon — I forget the question

Photo by Owen Vachell on Unsplash

Asking after-class questions in-person is an integral part of the teaching and learning process. But with the online classes, the teacher sometimes logs off immediately without letting the students ask the questions. Then I would forget the question and I wouldn’t ask it anymore.

Fix 1: Stay extra 10–20 minutes for the forward students.

So that they can ask you the question like how they always do in the classes.

Fix 2: Give a private contact number for those shy ones.

This is for those shy kids who silently come to your office requesting an explanation. A private contact number where they can personally call you or text you would be better for them.

At last, to maintain the class environment healthy, ask your students to…

  1. Use blue-light protectors. It usually comes as a pair of glasses or screen filters to protect the eyes by filtering out the harmful blue light that gives rise to a plethora of eye related diseases.
  2. Adhere to class rules, such as keeping the video on, and wearing a dress suitable for the class. This way they would be more likely to engage in the class work.
  3. Be in a better posture, use ergonomic seats and utilize the 20/20/20 method to reduce body pain and eye fatigue.
  4. Be open with you about the class schedules and times so that they can give you their opinions about the timings and length.

Dear teachers, I think we made our point here. We hope to see you in the live classes as soon as possible. But until then let’s utilize these tips to make the Online classes a bit more interesting and tolerable.

Age of Awareness

Medium’s largest publication dedicated to education reform | Listen to our podcast at aoapodcast.com

Bhathiya Wendakoon, MD, BSc

Written by

Young MD with a heart for writing and understanding the world in its own way.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn | Tune in at aoapodcast.com | Connecting 500k+ monthly readers with 1,200+ authors

Bhathiya Wendakoon, MD, BSc

Written by

Young MD with a heart for writing and understanding the world in its own way.

Age of Awareness

Stories providing creative, innovative, and sustainable changes to the ways we learn | Tune in at aoapodcast.com | Connecting 500k+ monthly readers with 1,200+ authors

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