Utilizing Webex in the classroom may seem like a daunting challenge but these best practices will help you excel in Webex and making sure you are prepared to teach.
Before Entering the Classroom
Plan your lesson:
Think about how long your session should last and the best way to include everyone, in-person, and/or remote. If you have students rotating in and out of in-person classes and create a separate attendance list depending on who you expect per class so you can send out invites for remote students.
Send a meeting invitation to all remote students:
The link to join the meeting will be in your students’ emails and can be added to their calendars. Scheduled meetings will show up in your calendar also! When scheduling, think about setting up reoccurring meetings if you plan to have repeating sessions throughout the semester. This way they will appear each day you hold class in your students' emails or calendars as well as your calendar.
Plan class pre-work:
Upload reading materials to your LMS prior to the lesson and ask discussion questions to get the conversation started. If you have any worksheets or documents that students would receive in-person, make sure to send those or post them to Canvas prior to your class.
Set remote student expectations:
Students who are remote should be told and held accountable to the standards you set as you would have in a regular classroom. Ask yourself, how should students communicate during class? Webex offers options like voice communication, text chat, and the ability for students to raise their hands virtually. How can students participate to earn credit? When should students join the session for class? Is video from participants necessary*? Setting expectations like these before classes start will help your students to be prepared for class.
Video: A common misconception is that video is necessary to hold virtual classes. In practice, this often causes more challenges than it solves. Yes, video can allow the Professor to see if their students are attentive, but other ways like polls, discussions, and group work can be used to determine attentiveness and participation. These often provide better metrics and are easier on bandwidth usage for those with slower connections.
Entering the Classroom
If possible, arrive early to class and get all your materials in order. Are you doing screen shares? If so, get those documents or applications open and ready for your lesson. Login to Webex either via the Cisco Webex Meetings app on the Podium or via the web using your preferred browser. If you scheduled your class, launch the session early! If not, make sure you send out either an email or post in Canvas the link to the Meeting. Use this time to make sure the camera and microphone settings are set the way you want them for your class. Students can then also join early. Ask the first few students who join to confirm that they can hear and/or see you.
As the host for Webex Sessions, you have the power to control what your students can and cannot do. Do not be afraid to Mute All participants if necessary. This is great if students are unfamiliar with Webex or are in noisy environments out of their control. You also have the ability to Lock Meeting in Webex, and this is recommended to prevent any potential unwanted guests from coming in. The Host will be notified of anyone who comes in later, and you can choose to let them into the meeting or not. If you desire, you can remove the chat option temporarily or entirely from your session to limit distractions. Recording the session is also a great idea as you can then post the session later for review for those that may have missed or as an additional study material.
Ask students to participate as much as possible. Use discussions, polls, breakout sessions (Webex Training specific), and chat to ask and confirm understanding. Students can also be given Presenter roles and can present on prepared topics or assignments.
One of the most important things to remember when teaching virtually is your communication matters as much as the students. Clearly enunciate your words and make sure to speak at a clear, loud volume, and when asking a question, make sure you repeat it clearly so that those who are remote can hear and respond. If you plan on moving around with the room, make sure to face the camera and microphone as much as possible to ensure sound is picked up clearly. If you use a physical teaching aid like a black-board, whiteboard, or projection screen, it is recommended that you take a photo or provide a copy of what you write, draw., or show on those mediums as they may not be clearly visible by the camera. If you are teaching in a hybrid fashion with some in-person and remote students, you can even ask for a volunteer to record what is written on the whiteboard or Canvas to show those online. That person may also be able to help manage any questions that may come up in chat from the remote students. Work with your students to find a comfortable teaching approach.