Online Classroom Management Tips

What Are The Keys To Effective Online Classroom Management?

by TeachThought Staff

The shift to online learning is somewhat new and it has its share of challenges for many teachers all over the globe.  

Whether learning remotely or in an actual classroom, effective classroom management is crucial in achieving a productive study environment. Proximity is one of the most effective classroom management tools for mitigating low-stakes disruptions and reminding students to redirect their focus to their work, but in an online classroom environment, physical proximity isn’t possible. Still, there are many ways that educators can manage and support student behavior and engagement in an online setting.

Whether you’re teaching in a hybrid or completely virtual setting, here are several strategies you can use to help maintain a well-managed virtual classroom environment.

1. Communicate clearly 

Establishing norms for communication between teachers and students is essential for proper online classroom management. During video conferencing, you should set up standards and expectations such as enabling camera use, reducing background noise, using the chat function to seek assistance, and preparing for class ahead of time. Ask students what expectations have helped them learn best in online environments and consider integrating good suggestions in your communication norms.

Standards are also crucial for adding inputs or feedbacks in online forums. When working with students, you’ll inevitably come across some who don’t grasp virtual communication etiquette. Have patience — remote learning is new for most American students, and some students receive more support at home to help them stay on task and engaged. Teachers can help all students get better acclimated to online classrooms by modeling appropriate behaviors — waiting to speak until someone else has finished, reducing/eliminating temporary background noise by using the mute button, and showing multiple approaches to participation through verbal comments, written comments, emojis, and thumbs up/down functions.

It is important for students to understand what inappropriate use of the class platform looks and sounds like, as well. As we know, it is easier to make a hurtful or sarcastic comment from behind a screen. Once again, you can center students by asking them to share their experiences in environments where technology has been used inappropriately, and how that has affected their learning. Tools like Padlet are great for collecting (anonymous) student feedback with these kind of potentially sensitive topics.

Don’t forget that some parents may be overwhelmed by new learning methods. Some may be working at home while managing the schoolwork of multiple children at the same time. With this in mind, it’s best to make the communication process simple, positive, and accurate. Display standards and expectations in a prominent location, such as the course home page, so parents can retrieve information efficiently. Depending on how you’ll provide both students and parents information, you should state the available methods. Some ways include posting guidelines on social media, utilizing an online learning platform such as Google Classroom or Canvas, or basic modes of communication such as emailing, using apps like Remind and Google Voice, and scanning PDFs from a mobile device. Providing clear communication lines will help reduce confusion and multiple emails that seek the same information. 

2. Encourage camaraderie

Creating a positive relationship among teachers and students is one of the key factors in cultivating a productive learning environment. Likewise, camaraderie among students is crucial during online learning in the same way as a traditional classroom setting. For students, it’s easy to feel isolated in online learning, so try to create opportunities for them to collaborate. There are countless apps to aid teachers in this process — some of our favorites include Kahoot and Quizlet for formative assessments, Flipgrid for video discussion, and Peergrade for peer review. Check out the options under the ‘Social Learning’ category of our post — 100 Essential Edtech Tools by Category [Updated 2021].

To better combat feelings of isolation in online learning environments, teachers can sort students into dyads or triads so that, if one student misses class or has a question the teacher has not yet answered, they can consult with their partner(s) to get clarification.

Online learning and virtual classrooms aren’t ‘worse’ or ‘better’ than in-person but they certainly are different–and so require different forms of support. Helping students help themselves is a major part of teaching and helping students develop social emotional skills.

3. Design for student engagement 

Poor learning engagement is one reason why issues arise in online classroom management. Take the time to understand their interests, where their strengths lie, and what challenges they’re facing. Make the most out of this information to build a plan specific to the needs of your students while also providing several opportunities for interactive learning.

4. Have the plagiarism talk 

The definition of digital citizenship is the “quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.”

And while there’s a lot that goes into a concept like that, part of it is content attribution, copyright laws, safety, and plagiarism. Ever since online learning has become the norm, it led to an increase in plagiarism among students as they’re utilizing devices to access abundant resources. Sadly, the temptation to copy information can feel overwhelming. Whatever the subject, it’s critical to deal with plagiarism. 

Teachers can go about resolving this dilemma in several ways. First, they can strive to create assignments and assessments that are “plagiarism-proof.” Just as students may be tempted to plagiarize a summary from Sparknotes, so may teachers feel tempted to borrow resources without properly vetting or adjusting them. This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with using another teacher’s material, but it is important to consider if that material truly represents the objectives and assesses learning of what has been taught. Instead of using multiple-choice responses for a major test, is it possible (within your content area) to ask open-ended questions that prompt students to think critically?

We suggest having the plagiarism talk upfront. Let students know that you’re aware of the temptation, and speak honestly about how, while plagiarizing may help them in the short-term by getting an assignment done on time, it has negative long-term consequences. It sets them up to miss foundational information that they will more than likely build upon in the future weeks and months of a course. It can potentially set them into a state of anxiety — wondering if they will be caught — which can distract them from learning. Plagiarism sets off a vicious cycle in which a student forsakes responsibility for their own learning, and not necessarily to more reputable or knowledgeable sources.

Educate students about what plagiarism is all about and provide clear examples. Additionally, outline the possible consequences for the offense (disciplinary and ‘real world’). Many times, students feel pressured to share their work with others who are seeking to copy it. Have the discussion about how sharing responses may seem like a favor, but in actuality, it does a disservice to their friends. It makes it difficult for the teacher to be able to make educated decisions about how to differentiate learning from student to student. It devalues the hard work that they may have invested into an assignment or project.

Finally, share how easy it is to detect plagiarism. Teachers were once students, as well. It is possible that they may have had issues with plagiarism as students. They know the typical tricks of copying and pasting a question into a browser, going to the top search result, and directly copying and pasting the result they find. The same process can be used to identify plagiarism. Additionally, many schools are now using plugins like Turnitin to automatically check for plagiarism. Hopefully, after an honest discussion, students will see that you care about their learning, and come to view plagiarism as an obstacle to their growth.

5. Set norms and expectations–then be consistent 

When establishing standards in an online learning environment, students need consistency. Therefore, ensure they know the possible consequences and penalties of disregarding classroom guidelines, and enforce them uniformly. Students will notice if one student is constantly allowed to interrupt, while others are reprimanded. Students will question why some don’t turn their video function on for the entirety of the class, each and every class, while other students are called out. This means that teachers need to consider what expectations they can and should enforce. It is not realistic to control the online learning experience of every student, and teachers should not attempt to do so. Modeling and emphasizing what students should strive to do is more effective than focusing on all the things they should not do.

Remember, some students might not meet your expectations similar to a traditional classroom setting. You should have a plan if this occurs and make sure both students and parents know this plan. Make sure to always be transparent with everything you’d implement. 

6. Establish routines 

Creating a routine is essential in a virtual learning environment, especially when you can’t be present with your students daily. Therefore, it’s best to simplify the essentials. A good example is how the students would submit work and receive feedback, which should be consistent throughout the course.  

You should set up office hours to get in touch with you in case of concerns. Additionally, maintaining consistency with the work assignments every week will help students establish a routine at home. Lastly, it’s vital to reiterate your guidelines often, and in positive ways that communicate your belief in your students’ abilities to meet expectations.

7. Recognize student achievements  

When your students are engaged, productive, and learning effectively, make sure you acknowledge them. It’d be best if you consider this in every classroom. It’s important to note online students won’t get to have a high-five from teachers as they’re not in a physical classroom.  Consider implementing a ‘Student-of-the-Week’ award, which you and a co-teacher can choose, or students can vote for via an anonymous Google Form. Use sites like Canva to design badges that you can paste into a chat forum or add to a student’s online binder.

Utilizing the communication avenues available to let your students know they’re on the right track is a must. Always remember, positive reinforcement will result in higher engagement. A higher engagement in a virtual classroom is the key to a well-managed online environment.

More Tips And Strategies For Online Classroom Management

Use the right technology for engagement. Your video streaming platform may not be up to you (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc.) but for presentations, you can choose from Google Slides, Prezi, Pear Deck, Nearpod, and many others.

Have a place for messaging or announcements. Even a simple shared Google Doc can be useful here. You can also use a private twitter account, the Remind app, Google Voice, or a teacher blog.

Create a strong sense of community.

Use checklists–or rather, create them for students or have students create them for themselves. These can be for projects, due dates, group activities–whatever they need help organizing and reminding about.

Use feedback forms–Google Forms is useful and free while Qwary and Type Form have more features for cost (though they also have a free account level).

The camera is the student. (This is obviously not literally true but if you think of looking the camera ‘in the eye’ as looking a student in the eye, it can help shift your mindset as a teacher.)

Be human. You have needs, shortcomings, hopes, failures, etc. This can more obvious in person than online. 

Have an online morning meeting where you communicate norms, needs, changes, priorities, tasks, to-do, etc.

Have a weekly summary and ‘look forward’ to the proceeding week on Fridays.

Create an online learning space as close to possible to your physical classroom while also taking advantage of the benefits of eLearning (e.g., asynchronous, 24/7 access).

Have an FAQ page. Whether for assignments, content, class procedures, upcoming events, or anything else, a class FAQ page just makes sense. Make one.

Emphasize relationships with students because, after all, relationships are the best basis for classroom management of any kind.

Make a video syllabus

Conclusion 

Creating the ideal virtual classroom environment is crucial to ensure effective learning. Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, it shouldn’t put a stop to learning.

With the help of these tips in establishing an effective online learning environment, it’ll make the learning process engaging and productive.