As Covid-19 continues to spread rapidly across the globe, people from all walks of life are struggling to quickly transition from working face to face in bustling buildings to working online from their homes. Making this pivot swiftly and smoothly is especially essential for teachers and other educators.
Young learners look to their teachers for advice and guidance during these difficult times. Being able to navigate an elearning classroom confidently goes a long way in reassuring students that even though things are different, the important people in their life are still there for them, and their education is still a priority.
Lighting for Web Conferencing
Lighting is an essential part of a functional online classroom. If it is too dark, students may not be able to see the teacher’s face and expressions easily. Green screens and other backgrounds often don’t work properly in low light. For people whose home offices are not already well lit, purchasing either a softbox light or simply some additional desk lights can be a wise choice for improving the quality of their online videos. Softbox lights are not always practical options due to their large size. Desktop lights either on the desk or mounted to the computer like a ring light can be an efficient and cost-effective way to go. When setting up your lights, the primary factors to consider are how best to light your face naturally while also keeping shadows to a minimum.
Backgrounds and Visual Appeal in the Online Classroom
When you are setting up your home office space to host a virtual classroom, remember to be mindful of what students are able to see. In some ways, you are inviting the students into your house. You want the space to look friendly and inviting while still being professional. Trying to keep similar visuals to those that students are used to in the physical classroom may help to ease the transition to online learning. Wearing similar clothing to your normal work clothes that students often see you in will also help to create more continuity. Set up your desk ahead of time so that you have easy access to any props or visual aids that you may want to use. The last thing you want is to be fumbling for the right prop and derailing the rhythm of your class. Visual aids may be even more essential for your online classroom than they are when teaching in person. They can help to keep students engaged and enhance their learning process, which can be particularly crucial when students are adjusting to elearning.1
Few things make a home classroom look professional as quickly as a nice background. This can be as simple as taping or nailing a plain colored sheet or table cloth on the wall behind you. Some people choose to put up green cloth, allowing them to create a virtual background easily. Even without a green screen, Zoom enables users with good lighting and processing power to have a virtual background. A felt board can be a great option as it is easily changed to correspond to different lessons. Some people may choose to go with an add-on such as ManyCam to allow more features with their virtual background.
Platforms to Use for Elearning: Zoom
While there is a variety of different conferencing software that may be used for online learning, one of the most popular and user friendly is Zoom. Zoom can be used to conduct meetings for full classes, break classes into smaller groups (breakout groups), and allows for sharing of desktops and other virtual visual aids. While Zoom is quite accessible, it does have some tech requirements. In addition to requiring an internet connection, a webcam, and a microphone and preferably headphones, Zoom also requires a minimum of a 1ghz processor. It is recommended to have at least 2ghz processing and at least 4 GB Ram. Regardless of what software you decide to use, be sure to practice with it before you start hosting classes with students. While not difficult to use, these platforms do often take some getting used to. Be sure to explore the accessibility features of platforms you may be considering as well. It is vital to take into account students with additional challenges and disabilities when considering which platform to use.
Noise and Minimizing Unwanted Sounds
If you are working in a household shared with multiple people or family members, be sure to consider noise when setting up your office as well. Closing and locking doors to avoid accidental interruptions can be a wise first step. While you likely don’t need to fully soundproof your home office, you may want to consider asking people to avoid squeaky stairs, loud tv watching, and other noisy activities while you are working. Even just choosing a room with carpet and wall hangings can go a long way towards absorbing unwanted noises and echoes.2
You may even be able to enjoy some aspects of moving to elearning. While not identical to those seen in face to face classes, many platforms offer innovative ways to interact, including polls and embedded media. Rewatching the class can also provide immediate information on how to improve and continue to innovate in your new setting.3 While transitioning from in-person classes to e-learning classes on short notice can be jarring, by quickly acclimating to the new setting and the temporary “new normal,” you can help minimize disruptions to students’ learning and can help provide stability and reassurance during a difficult and confusing time.
Citations for How to Set Up and Elearning Classroom:
2 Lasky, Julie. “How to Look Your Best on a Webcam.” The New York Times. The New York Times, March 25, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/25/realestate/coronavirus-webcam-appearance.html.
3 What is a Virtual Classroom?, December 21, 2017. https://raccoongang.com/blog/what-virtual-classroom/.
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Lauren Krystaf has been teaching with ALO7 since 2017 and loves having the opportunity to teach English from anywhere with an internet connection. She enjoys traveling, reading, hiking, and spending time with her family.
Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from SUNY Buffalo and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Drexel University. She also has a 120 hour TESOL certificate. Lauren is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Beta Phi Mu honor societies.