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Submitted by Andrea U. Jost Ashdown, Instructional Designer, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

In a residential classroom, questions and answers often arise organically. Faculty and students can use visual cues, natural breakpoints in presentations, and other spontaneous indications to stop and pause for Q&A and discussions.

In the Zoom classroom, while technology allows for similar means of raising hands and typing questions in the chat, the process of pausing for a question can seem less natural or more disruptive to the flow of your lecture, and it might be helpful to consider additional or alternative strategies to get through your lecture content and as many questions as possible and to engage meaningful interactions with everyone.

Here are some ideas:

  • Instead of allowing Q&A throughout the entire lecture, announce blocks of time where you will accept raised hands and read questions posed in the chat and answer them. Encourage students to write their questions as they come up but indicate you will answer them at specified times. This could be at the end of your lecture and/or throughout, at intervals defined by you that work with the flow of your lecture. Use your experience from the classroom about when questions commonly occur, if applicable. Consider creating short (5 min.) independent work segments (students watch a video or review a document, etc.) in which you can read questions posted to the chat. Spending a little time on pre-structuring your session will allow you and your students to plan ahead and organize.
  • In addition to, or in combination with the above, implement “lightning rounds” where each student gets a short time (this will depend on the number of students) to either ask a question or give a comment. This will ensure that all students are included, not only those who tend to proactively engage regularly. Announcing this at the beginning will also help encourage everyone to be fully committed to the lecture instead of potentially multitasking.
  • Anticipate common questions and create a FAQ document that you can post to the class before or after a lecture. Additionally, you can make this a shared document that students can use (during a specified time period) to add questions that you will respond to in that same document. Depending on the class, it might be a good idea to share this before the session starts, so you can prepare answers ahead of time. In other cases, a shared document might serve as a follow-up where you can share additional resources for specific questions.
  • Consider pre-recording your lecture or parts of it to allow more time for questions and discussion during the Zoom session.
  • Consider creating discussion forums in Sakai, polls in Poll Everywhere or Zoom, or questionnaires using Sakai or simple document shares that will help streamline the conversation and allow you to cover as much ground as possible during the Zoom sessions and follow up on questions in a dedicated space.

Whichever method you choose, announcing it ahead of time and setting expectations will help students get ready to participate and help you answer as many questions as possible.

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