Tips for online teaching

These tips come courtesy of the MLF.

Before the course starts

  • Record a short video of yourself to introduce yourself to your students.  Make it fun.  Show your kids, your pets, whatever!  Let them see you as a person rather than just the teacher behind the mask at the front of the room.  You might also talk about what makes the course important/relevant/fun and how they can succeed in it. 
  • You might also have students record short videos of themselves in the first week of class.  You can use your learning management system or a tool like Flipgrid to do this.  You might ask them to give their name, their hometown, and a fun fact about themselves.  Or you can tie it into the course content. 
    • Eg: Tell us something special about yourself (a fun fact, an extracurricular passion of yours etc.) and tell us something special about your country corporate law and / or corporate governance system.]
  • Learn their names quickly. 
  • Get to know them personally.  
    • You can also ask students to fill out a Google Form at the start of the semester that asks a whole host of information about their background, why they came to law school, and their broader interests.  In your later communications with them, try to refer back to things you know about them from these more personal meetings.  
  • Check whether students have any concerns about using Zoom for teaching purposes. According to press reports, Zoom does not guarantee that the Chinese government does not have access to Zoom meetings.

Throughout the course

  • Bring in speakers remotely.  
  • Record brief interviews with practicing lawyers about the material.  
  • Embrace imperfections.  New online teachers often have a desire to make their class sessions perfect. I was definitely guilty of this in the spring.  When I recorded asynchronous videos, for example, I would keep re-recording them until I could get a take without any stumbles or other issues.  But experts in online pedagogy say that stumbles help personalize online courses.  Students don’t necessarily want the Coursera version of a law school course.  They want to see their professor as a real person and that means seeing the version of the video where your kid interrupted your recording or where you momentarily  forgot what you were going to say.  
  • Get to know students personally.  
    • Consider setting up Zoom coffee dates with individual students in the first few weeks of the term? 
  • Record periodic videos yourself.  If you get a few questions from students on the same point, you might record a brief video clarifying the point and send it out to your students.  Make these videos a little more personal and engaging than you might in a normal semester. 
  • Notice positive contributions.  
  • Send students a personal email when they have a good contribution in class, a discussion board, or an assignment. 
  • Keep track of who has received emails, and see if you can send at least one or two emails to every student during the semester. 

Individual lectures/seminars

  • Use two screens so that you have your slides on one and the students on the other.
  • Simulate Unstructured Classroom Time. 
    • Let the students know that you will open up the Zoom class ten minutes early, but will mute your own mic and speakers, so they can talk to each other.  You can also tell them that you will stay after class for 10 minutes for their questions.
      • A different way to do the latter is by creating a separate zoom meeting where you can simulate the quick Q&A that you get when you exit the classroom in face-to-face teaching (you can use Waiting Room and let students “in” for a couple of minutes one by one).
      • Let students use the chat to ask questions but then, when it’s time for the question to be discussed, ask the student to ask the question themselves to the whole class.
      • Connect iPad or similar to screen and use it as a whiteboard
      • Use Polling. 
  • embed polls into PowerPoint slides; 
  • use eg PollEverywhere, Mentimeter, iclicker
  • You can see the various types of questions that PollEverywhere offers here
  • Direct the conversation more than you normally would. 
  • you might assign a discussion leader for each case or class. 
  • you can assign panels so a group of students is officially on call for each class. 
  • Practice active moderation by interrupting interrupters and making space for those who have not participated. 
  • Allow more pre-discussion reflection. 
  • In remote courses, you can send students into breakout groups and have them discuss the question on their own first, so they are then more comfortable then discussing the issue with the larger group. 
  • Use slides as background in Zoom.
  • Use breakout rooms.

How to use breakout rooms

  • Discuss shared norms. 
    • Breakout rooms are new for all of us, so students may not know how to work in them productively.  It’s worth having a discussion about the group’s shared norms at the start of the semester.  Discuss ways that groups can get off track and how to address them.
  • Clear deliverables. 
    • Don’t send students into breakout groups to “discuss” a topic.  Instead give them an assignment with a clear deliverable that they have to turn in at the end. 
      • For example, you might have a specific question they need to answer when they return to the full discussion. 
      • Or you can have ask them for their top three thoughts on a given topic. 
      • Use Google “Word” or “PPT” to let them write down their answers to then share with the class 
  • Assign students different roles. 
    • One student may be the moderator who is tasked with getting the discussion going and keeping it on task. 
    • Another student may be the reporter who will have to share the group’s output with the rest of the class. 
    • One or more students can be the devil’s advocate to ask hard questions and push the discussion deeper. 
  • Make the task clear
    • Give them a written summary (by using the Chat function) that they can refer back to when they are in the breakout rooms. 
      • Remember that any slides you have screenshared before sending students into breakout groups won’t be visible in the groups, so you can’t just rely on screen sharing to share the prompt.
  • Avoid suddenly appearing in the rooms as it can be disruptive. 
  • Name the Groups. 
    • The name will show up in the left hand corner of the groups’ screen, so they can easily see it.  Naming the groups has a few clear benefits.  First, if the groups have different tasks, it will let them know which tasks they are responsible for, preventing a “wait, are we the plaintiffs or the defendants in this exercise?” moment.  Second, if you are using google docs to direct them to a group workspace, it will tell them which workspace is theirs.  Third, it will allow you to direct questions to specific groups when the class gets back together again. 
  • Pre-Assign Groups. 
    • Zoom lets you assign students to groups manually or randomly
    • Consider putting students into assigned groups that they stick with for a few class sessions, mostly to let them get to know each other a bit better. 
  • Use a Timer 
    • Zoom has the option to set a timer for the breakout rooms that shows students how much time is left in the groups.  It is easy to enable, and it helps focus the conversation as time is running out. 





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