How to Make Online Teaching and Learning more Interactive

With suspension of classes, we can’t hold our regular classes in a tutorial room or a lecture theatre. Even though we can’t meet up in person, teachers and students can see each other by using remote meeting tools such as Zoom or Skype for Business. However, the dynamic of real-time online learning and teaching is very different from face-to-face classroom interactions, so it is essential to keep the online session productive, interactive, smooth and enjoyable. 


Ms Tanya Kempston shares with us how she prepares her students for the online meeting section. She distributes a meeting note to tell her students the datetimeobjectives, and what they have to prepare before the meeting. It is also a good idea to put the meeting detail such as meeting ID, password, and links.

She also assigns roles for her students to keep the flow of the meeting

RolesStudent’s Name
Chat provocateurs’ please pose a relevant question to the group if the chat thread goes silent for too long,Student A, Student B, Student C, Student D 
Breakers’ of the audio silence that can sometimes happen when open-ended questions are askedStudent E, Student F, Student G, Student H
Catchers’ who sends key points to classmates who might temporarily drop out of the online class if their wifi falters.Student I, Student J, Student K
Teacher talk timekeepers’ – please let me know if I talk for more than 5 minutes at a time so the session does not turn into a monologue!Student L, Student M
Sweeper’ who shares the Zoom recording and chat with the whole class shortly after the session concludes to keep what occurred fresh in our minds.Student N

Finally, a timetable is a good idea to help students prepare for an online learning experience. Let them know when and who is going to do what for how long.

What?Who?How and how long?
Introduction and class businessTanya to start everyone to chip in as necessary  5 – 10 mins
Key Concept: What does ‘diversity’ mean to you? Tanya to start off and everyone to contribute via Chat/MicWhat forms of diversity have you observed in your SE/TP school so far? How is diversity met/accommodated in your TP setting? What are the major challenges for you in terms of catering for diversity when on TP?15 mins approx.
Theory into practice: how might we cater for diversity and could we apply some of these situations in our own TP class? Tanya to lead

Harfitt’s observation of the ‘Penalty Box’ (p. 117) – how effective would this be, and would you consider using it in your own class?  What sort of ‘penalties’ could you realistically use? 
(Student A, Student E and Student L) 

Increasing the Variety of Language Tasks like dictation Harfitt: 139 
(Student J and Student N) 

Ur Effective Learning for All and Materials p 306 -307 (what Ur says on materials could be a useful citation for MM 1 and 2 assignments) 
(Student F, Student I and Student B) 

Ur Using Compulsory + Optional and Open-ended cues p 309-311– you might also want to reference your visit to James’ school on 20 Jan
(Student G, Student K and Student M) 

Using the Genre-based approach to teaching writing (Forey Firkins and Sengupta, p. 343-347) 
(Student HStudent C and Student D
20 mins approx. We will soon be looking at the Genre based (and process) approach to writing in our MM sessions later this week
BREAK8 mins
Preparing for TPI am going to be an optimist and predict that you will be going on TP! As such, there are a few things I need to outline to you. There is a PPT on TP up for today’s session and I will touch on a few points on that: clearly some of the dates, like your submitting your timetable that school gives you will have to be delayed, but there are other things I need to make you aware of and this will also be a good chance for you to ask questions.15-20 mins (approx.)
Wrap-up:  Your questions on today’s content, TP, assignments?  All 10 mins


The followings are some strategies suggested by Miss Nicole J. Tavares on how to enhance the quality of T&L via Zoom:

  • incorporating other online platforms (e.g. Desmos, Nearpod, Mentimeter, Kahoot!,, Classdojo) for activities either in Zoom sessions for some hands-on work for all / for greater variety (and hence less boredom) or as prep tasks
  • using a real-time shared Word / PPT doc (which all Zoom participants can write on) for collective brainstorming / collaborative work with the whole class before team tasks for a higher level of ownership and engagement
  • watching a Video clip on VideoVox with some tagging activities (and asynchronous discussion) prior to the session for a more focused Zoom session
  • prep reading on task-sheets and hence immediate response to this as the session begins
  • a 15-20-minute student-led discussion which students take charge of (Zoom allows the teacher to release remote control of the session to specific students
  • spending the last 30 minutes of the Zoom class on lesson-planning or other tasks, allowing students to decide whether to use Zoom or other means for communication, after which ideas/plans are posted on Moodle for inter-team peer review, feedback and sharing in the next session (It’s interesting to note how each team selects a different ‘venue’ for discussion. I remember a team spending the next hour on Zoom as I was requested not to end the ‘meeting’ so they could continue with their discussion!)
  • (Based on the above) students starting the next session with peer feedback and sharing followed by teacher feedback, thereby having a stronger voice on Zoom
  • experimenting with a range of ‘breakout room’ settings – random grouping, manually organise students according to their indicated stance (identified from Moodle ‘Choice’, combining two teams with different stances for a more heated debate, …) for a more simulated in-class setting
  • preparing some specific prompts for different ‘breakout rooms’ and ‘pushing’ them into the rooms at the start of their discussions aiming for more focused interaction among them
  • assigning group reps (if necessary)
  • a built-in 10-15-minute break during the Zoom meeting
  • I also request that students show themselves on Zoom as I’ve found Zoom sessions in one course rather interesting interacting with 30 names in black boxes but of course it is eventually individual students’ own choice.
  • Given students’ recent input/feedback/requests, I feel we do need to take work assigned to students prior to and after the Zoom session into consideration when deciding on the duration of the Zoom class to avoid exhaustion in front of the computer.

These are some of the strategies I’ve been trying out. Hope this may be of some help.