Tips for virtual teaching, learning and just hanging out

Tamara Vineberg - 01 May 2020

Members of the Pediatric Graduate Students' Association stay connected each week by having a hangout on Zoom. They play games such as online Pictionary.

COVID-19 has changed the way we communicate and learn. Faculty and learners have had to adapt to an online learning platform from the conventional face-to-face classroom setting. Learners are also getting used to socializing and exchanging ideas with each other virtually. Recently, Jessica Foulds and Karen Forbes (both from Pediatric Hospital Medicine) taught a team-based learning session to 111 fourth year medical students via Zoom.The Pediatric Graduate Students' Association (including Simran Ghoman, Peter Johnson, Zeenat Ladak, Ronan Noble, and Shubham Soni) facilitates weekly virtual hangouts. They share some tips on how to engage others online.

Teaching and learning

Think creatively on how to deliver content - Determine how you can improve content delivery using technology while benefiting the learner.
Take advantage of the breakout rooms on Zoom - Foulds and Forbes organized the learners into groups and directed them to 26 online breakout rooms.
Encourage dialogue and questions through the chat - Interactive learning provides a lasting effect on your audience.
Be prepared to look and act engaged - Look into the camera and make it as organic and interactive as possible.
Consider that online learning will take longer with a larger audience - Foulds and Forbes had to add 45 extra minutes to their session to provide enough time to answer all the questions in the chat. They discovered an online session resulted in a higher engagement from learners.
Be prepared with extra hardware - Foulds and Forbes had to manage two laptops and two phones to coordinate the online session in order to handle the questions through chat and the flowing discussion.
Reach out to others for support and don’t reinvent the wheel - Turn to an experienced colleague or ask for help from the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Virtual Clinic Tips (videos)

Getting ready for the virtual clinic
Verify identity and obtain consent
Using rooms for private discussion

Connecting informally

Set a standing time for the hangout - Ghoman ensures it is the same time on the same day every week.
Schedule it over a break time - Consider meeting virtually over the lunch hour.
Plan activities that are easy for people to play, and easy to drop in and out of - Suggest an online game such as Pictionary.
Send out multiple reminders.
Have a small group of people committed to joining the call every time - Three to four people already on the video call is more welcoming for new people who join in.
Keep the call time flexible - Define an end time so people feel comfortable logging off to get back to work, but also be open to hosting the call for additional time if people are interested in staying on and continuing.