Apr 21
WebEx Classroom Etiquette

I am so pumped! Over May and June I will be teaching a course to a fantastic group of RRC Instructors. The course will be delivered blended: About half of the weeks will be delivered synchronously via WebEx and the other half will be asynchronous when students work independently at a time that is convenient for them.

Can I ask for your advice about something? For those of you who were thrown into emergency remote delivery during the past five weeks, what are best practices for WebEx classroom etiquette?

Recognizing that each student is in a unique situation (and we all teach adults), I'm planning to work with the students to develop our own “classroom etiquette" expectations. Having said that, from your experience, what are the major themes we should discuss? For example:

  • Questions & Comments: Is it best for students to raise a hand, or to use that function in WebEx if they'd like to ask a question or share a comment? Or do you use the chat?
  • Timeliness: Do you start right at the beginning of class, or do you give a few extra minutes for everyone to sign in?
  • Muting: Should I mute all students' microphones unless they want to speak, or is it reasonable for students to self-manage this function?

Sign in above and join the conversation below. How can I ensure an effective learning environment over WebEx?

FF@4

FF@4 is a face to face check in via WebEx for faculty and those who work with students. We meet each Tuesday and Thursday at 4:00PM. Just like participating in the blog, FF@4 is voluntary. Join on a day that is convenient for you and when the topic is interesting to you.

At today's FF@4 we'll be further brainstorming some tips and tricks in WebEx and LEARN. Here is the link to today's meeting. You are welcome to join us!

Comments

Janine, you're right. There...

Janine, you're right. There needs to be some ground rules or your WebEx sessions will be a junble of chaotic noise. I learned early on to establish some SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) to ensure that the sessions functioned as smoothly as possible.

First, I allow about 5 minutes grace in case of inconsistent Internet performance. Second, I ask that everyone try and appear as professional as possible. I'm not suggesting they wear business attire but at least comb their hair and sit up. (My early WebEx's had students literally lying in bed!) Third, you need to have everyone mute their mics because background noise is inevitable and very disruptive. Fourth, have participants use the Hand icon to signal a question. I find chat comments distracting and exclusionary, since only I and the student can see them, unless they're sent to Everyone, which is also distracting. I also ask that everyone use their video, if it's functioning, because there's nothing more disconcerting than talking to a blank screen. Finally, prepare any images, documents or other items you plan to share ahead of time. There's nothing worse than searching for materials while your class is watching you fumble through your directory.

Those are some things that work for me. Good luck in your classes.
Picture Placeholder: Harv Mock
  • Harv Mock
 on 4/21/2020 10:36 AM

Here are my top tips: give ...

Here are my top tips: give a couple of minutes for learners to greet & chat; after that, ask all learners to mute their mics (this avoids all the background noise that goes on in homes these days, heavy breathers, etc); my preference is to turn off video (I find it super distracting and depending on the number of people in the class, it may be challenging to see your own screen, plus, it uses bandwidth, so you may get better reception); invite people to write in the chat, so you can follow up with any unanswered questions at the end of the class. Record the class - it's a good record of what went on, you can see the chat and review it again. Finally, I would recommend taking the MOOC Blended Learning, offered through Athabasca U. It's free and offers excellent suggestions and pedagogy for Blended Learning.
Picture Placeholder: Ruth Lindsey-Armstrong
  • Ruth Lindsey-Armstrong
 on 4/21/2020 10:37 AM

Great food for thought, Jan...

Great food for thought, Janine! Our team at the Academic Success Centre has been delivering workshops to large groups (sometimes with 80 students in attendance!), and we've had lots of discussion around this theme.

My personal preference is to invite participants to have their cameras on, and their microphones muted to begin the session. I don't make cameras mandatory, as some students have bandwidth issues or may not want to show their faces/homes. Having a handful of faces to look at helps me to feel more in tune with my students, and I constantly refer to the body language I'm seeing when I give the presentation. I like when students orally participate and unmute their microphones, but it can sometimes bring feedback or echos if they're not using headsets with microphones. I've found most participants are more comfortable with the 'Chat' feature, but I find it harder to manage and continue my momentum.

Our team has been meeting very regularly through WebEx, and we've developed a great culture of self-muting/unmuting as needed (and likewise with videos - sometimes we attend meetings while caring for children, so we turn-off the video and listen-in). I think it's reasonable to set this tone in a classroom environment as well.
Thanks for the morning brainstorm, Janine!
Picture Placeholder: Carleigh Nicole Friesen
  • Carleigh Nicole Friesen
 on 4/21/2020 10:38 AM

I just read your comments H...

I just read your comments Harv! It's so interesting to me to see how varied our experiences can be and how they affect our performance and choices. There are some very funny memes floating around about online learning/meetings. Have you seen the Zoom suit yet? If not, I recommend searching for it. Hilarious! Thanks for your perspective!
Picture Placeholder: Ruth Lindsey-Armstrong
  • Ruth Lindsey-Armstrong
 on 4/21/2020 10:40 AM

Thank you both so very much...

Thank you both so very much for all the meaningful blogs! Thought I'd make a small contribution today (apologies for not contributing to all previous meaningful blogs!).

Re: "How can I ensure an effective learning environment over WebEx?"
A. I can only speak from experience, so here is what works for me (both as a student and educator at a distance):

1. Is it best for students to raise a hand, or to use that function in WebEx if they'd like to ask a question or share a comment? Or do you use the chat?
A. My ESL students are (oh, so very) communicative, so they type in the chat box (very frequently) their need to speak/contribute/agree or disagree with what is being covered at that particular moment. They use their mic in sequence of who volunteered to contribute first (I provide direction).

2. Timeliness: Do you start right at the beginning of class, or do you give a few extra minutes for everyone to sign in?
A. In my regular f2f sessions, the classroom was available for the students one hour before class time; therefore, I have kept the same hours – the students love the online interaction before class starts. Although ‘official’ interactions and Q&A with me/each other start earlier, I only start “class” and the meeting recording (with permission) at the scheduled time. I also make an effort to end at the scheduled time (the students love long goodbyes at the end, though…).

3. Muting: Should I mute all students' microphones unless they want to speak, or is it reasonable for students to self-manage this function?
A. In my ESL classes, the students mute themselves until it is their turn to speak, ask a question, make a comment and contribute.

4. How can I ensure an effective learning environment over WebEx?
A. Planning well and sending the meeting agenda 24 hours in advance work with my students. I also post the Webex session slides in LEARN to encourage a Forum Discussion ahead of time (if necessary) and afterwards (students love that!). During the synchronous sessions, I have (random) check-in questions related to the course content/task/assignments, and ensure the students (whose names are randomly picked) know I am open to all types of questions/concerns/suggestions made (I love letting go of control …).

Thank you both for helping us all be connected, Janine and Amanda. I value the work you do!

Note:  some of us may not be contributing due to (extra) long hours during this fluid situation – sorry!
Picture Placeholder: Rita Z. Prokopetz
  • Rita Z. Prokopetz
 on 4/21/2020 11:01 AM

This conversation is a good...

This conversation is a good reminder for me that standards of behaviour vary widely across the student population and, as an instructor, I have to continually remember that students in my course cannot mind-read what my particular standards are for them in my classroom (virtual or not). Therefore, I tend to bake into the first class or two an activity that teases out their expectations and my own. That said, I could not have imagined that any student would enter a WebEx classroom from their bed, while eating cookies. However, that is what one of my colleagues experienced in a recent course! She then had a discussion about 'video etiquette' -- not dissimilar, really, from teaching about email etiquette, I suppose!
Picture Placeholder: Amanda  Le Rougetel
  • Amanda Le Rougetel
 on 4/21/2020 11:24 AM

You might want to use Webex...

You might want to use Webex Teams instead of Webex meetings. It's a little work to set up because you have to enter all of your student usernames, but you only need to do this once. The big benefit is that you can break students into groups (each group is in a space) and let them do activities and discussions while you pop in and out. I've found some students hesitant to speak in large class sessions, but they engage with cameras on and they speak readily in groups. Webex Teams also keeps posts accessible to students all the time. I prefer this over the LEARN Discussion forum tool.
Picture Placeholder: Gail Horvath
  • Gail Horvath
 on 4/21/2020 12:54 PM

Gail, I'm going to check ou...

Gail, I'm going to check out WebEx Teams. I'm teaching Marketing over the summer and there are a number of group projects. It sounds like WebEx Teams might be really useful.
Picture Placeholder: Harv Mock
  • Harv Mock
 on 4/21/2020 12:59 PM

Thanks for sharing WebEx Te...

Thanks for sharing WebEx Teams, Gail - that is very interesting!
Picture Placeholder: Carleigh Nicole Friesen
  • Carleigh Nicole Friesen
 on 4/22/2020 1:22 PM