Although the online synchronous classroom simulates the traditional classroom in many ways, it can provide some challenges when it comes to classroom management. Finkelstein (2006) suggests the following facilitation strategies for managing the online learning environment:
- Set ground rules: The instructor should tell students which online tools to use for each activity. He should tell learners where to focus their attention throughout the lesson, where to respond (chat box, whiteboard), etc.
- Create a sense of community: Instructor and learners can great each other at the beginning of each class and say good-bye at the end of class. Instructor and students should call each other by name. The instructor has the responsibility of ensuring that everyone feels welcome, and foster a sense of inclusion among the participants.
- Recognize and neutralize distractions: The instructor can make students aware of the distractions around them by having them post them in a chat box. This action neutralizes the distractions by reminding learners to shut out the distractions and focus their attention on the lesson.
- Specify and maintain student focus: The instructor should tell the students where they need to focus their attention during the lesson, and also what tool to use to converse with the class. For example, the instructor can specify that students submit their comments on the whiteboard in one lesson and in the chat box for another lesson.
- Use virtual body language: Facial expressions and body language are ways of creating immediacy, community, and trust. Making eye contact is as important in the online settings as it is in the traditional classroom. Emoticons are a fun and easy way to share one’s mood.
- Polling: The instructor can use polling to gauge learner interest, understanding of the lesson, and encourage student involvement in discussions.
Good classroom management is important for student success. Specifying where students should focus their attention during the lesson minimizes student frustration. Specifying which tool students should use for their responses maintains order. These are some of the strategies that the online instructor can use to manage the learning environment from an administrative perspective.
Finkelstein, J. (2006). Learning in Real Time: Synchronous Teaching and Learning Online. Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection.