To create an inclusive atmosphere over online platforms like Zoom, you must be intentional. Adding some structural elements to your synchronous remote lessons can help you make the unexpected switch to online learning smoother for both you and your students and ensure that no one gets left out.
Some suggestions for making your Zoom lessons more inclusive include:
- Have everyone display their preferred name and, possibly, pronouns in their video display. This is especially helpful for instructors with large classes. As always, if you want students to do this, you need to set the example by showing them how their names should be displayed and how to they go about changing it in Zoom. You can change your display name by going to your account settings and selecting the profile menu.
- Set rules and communicate why you have decided on them. Sometimes things that seem obvious to you are not clear to your students. Transparency is important for creating an inclusive class culture and students need to know what is expected of them (eg, how they go about asking questions, how they should proceed if they are have to leave class early). If time allows, you can also have students work together to create class etiquette rules.
- Alternative opportunities for students to “speak up.” The more opportunities to engage students, the better. It’s important to remember students do not always have to say something to participate in class. For instance, you could have everyone give a thumbs up reply to a quick procedural question, use the chat feature to submit questions, or take a poll to get student input.
- Plan how to start and end your lessons. As the normal signaling that class is beginning or it is time to wrap things up is missing in remote instruction, instructors need to be more intentional about how to begin and end their lessons. Otherwise, students might feel awkward and hesitant to participate. Asking question can bring students together; and, if they provide their answers to your questions in the chat feature in Zoom, they can read through everyone’s answers while waiting for class to start. The chat feature can also be used for students to provide some feedback at the end of the lesson that can be applied to your next lesson.
- Use breakout rooms. Breakout rooms are great for small group work. However, instructors cannot be in every room at once so be sure to set guidelines for what should be discussed along with a time limit and expectations on how the group will debrief their discussion to you or the rest of the class. For instance, a group member can give a brief summary or groups can write a discussion board post of what was discussed.
- Make asynchronous learning options. In order to be as accommodating as possible, provide opportunities for students to participate in the course that are not dependent on scheduled class time. As their name suggests, discussion board prompts with clear instructions and deadlines can facilitate class discussion outside of meeting times. Synchronous lessons can also be recorded and posted for later review for students who are unable to attend live class sessions. (Remember that students must be informed before and at the start of every lesson that is recorded and posted on learning management systems!)
For more tips, check out "8 Ways to Be More Inclusive in Your Zoom Teaching" by Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy from the Chronicle of Higher Education.