The following 5 steps can assist teachers and students in optimizing their virtual classrooms to facilitate clear, open and caring communication during eLearning:
1. Minimize noise and distraction.
- Find a space that is quiet and private.
- Rooms that have partitions or that can be closed off are preferred, will offer fewer distractions, and will help ensure the privacy of all participants.
- A clutter-free space will help minimize distractions.
- Mute your microphone when you are not talking.
2. Lighting is important.
- A well-lit space will maximize the visibility of all communication partners and increase comfort.
- This may be especially important in the case where participant(s) have vision impairment.
3. Position your equipment effectively.
- Consider what equipment you will need to enable eLearning (e.g., video and microphone capabilities).
- Position these effectively to maximize both audio and visual communication (e.g., camera placement should ensure a close-up view of yourself and include your head and shoulders).
- If you are using a telephone for audio communication, consider hands-free capabilities via speakerphone mode.
4. Be aware of your surroundings.
- Make sure your virtual classroom backdrop is clutter free and with limited reflection from surfaces (e.g., cameras need to be positioned well to minimize reflection from windows).
- Even though you may be participating from home, your attire should be suitable and as neutral as possible to limit distraction.
- No food allowed.
5. Practice virtual etiquette.
- Practice optimal self-positioning in front of the camera.
- Stay seated (with good posture) and be present for the entire session.
- Maintain good eye contact by looking at the camera (not the screen).
- Speak up and use clear speech.
- When conducting audio-based appointments, consider that all pauses will be heard as silence—let your communication partner know if you are pausing to think/reflect – acknowledge your engagement!
Prior to beginning each virtual classroom confirm the set-up is adequate for all participants. These 5 steps will help ensure that all participants can actively participate in eLearning sessions to the best of their ability.