10 Tips for Giving Engaging and Effective Online Lectures

Online learning has been hard on everybody, so rest assured that you are not alone if you’re trying to find ways to improve your online lessons. While lecturing is arguably one of the easier instructional methods to use in an online class, there are a few strategies you can use to bring your teaching style to life when you’re presenting information to your class. Keep in mind, lecturing is typically a pretty demanding instructional method for students. It can be hard to sit still in front of a computer and focus for long periods of time, so make sure that you’re breaking up your lessons with discussions, formative assessments, independent learning, and group work to keep your students engaged.

1. Compose your lecture for the lesson.

Create an outline of what you’d like to cover in class. Compile a few notes or bullet points for each subject to make sure you’re including all of the essential information. You don’t need to script everything you’re going to say (this wouldn’t be interesting to students anyway), but you should still have the beats for each key idea worked out.

2. Break the lecture up into 15-minute chunks.

Plan quick mini-activities to divide the lecture into smaller sections. If you just talk at your students for an hour, they’re very likely to zone out and start daydreaming. Have your students complete a think-pair-share, answer a question, or do some freewriting every 10-15 minutes. This will make it much easier for your students to process what they’re learning, and it will give them something interactive to do which will keep them for dozing off.

3. Create a visual aid to keep students engaged.

If you’re using any slides, try to avoid overloading them with text. Build a slideshow full of interesting images that demonstrate what you’re talking about, and use humorous gifs to give your lecture some character. Feel free to include a little bit of text to display formulas, quotes, or key passages, but don’t throw huge blocks of text at your students. This will make it much easier for your students to follow along and pay attention.

4. Use polls and questions to get students to interact.

Set up questions for the students to answer over the course of the lecture. These can be prior knowledge checks, predictions about the material, or formative comprehension checks to see if students are following along. If students know they’re going to be answering questions at certain points in the lecture, they’ll be more likely to pay attention while you’re speaking!

5. Have students read any text-heavy slides.

If you have a visual aid with large blocks of text, ask for volunteers to read. Not only will this give you a break, but it will give your students the opportunity to speak. For the students who don’t volunteer, hearing a fellow student speak will encourage them to get engaged in the future, and they may absorb the information better if they hear another student share it. It will also reinforce the feeling of community in your class, so don’t hesitate to ask for volunteers to read for you.

6. Crack jokes and tell anecdotes to keep students focused.

Students are more likely to listen if you’re entertaining. Allow yourself to wander off of the lesson plan if you have an interesting and relevant anecdote about the material. Tell a joke if something comes to you in the spur of the moment. Not only will students have more fun in the class, but they’re more likely to internalize the information you’re giving them.

7. Familiarize yourself with the streaming software ahead of time.

Read through the platform’s manual to get comfortable with the program. Learn how to mute yourself, share your screen, and turn your camera on and off. Everything you need is typically located on the bottom tray of the program where are all the buttons are. Ask a friend or family member to help you test a call out before class starts to ensure you’re comfortable.

8. Test your mic and camera to avoid tech issues mid-lesson.

Open the program and check your camera to see if it’s super pixelated. If it is, either plug in an Ethernet cable to get off of the Wi-Fi or move your computer so it’s closer to the router and modem. Test your audio using your program’s “test” function, which is typically in the button tray at the bottom or the top of the screen. If your audio is jumbled or your video is hard to see, your students may struggle to pay attention during your lecture.

9. Keep the cameras on when you aren’t showing slides or graphics.

Seeing you speak will make it much easier for students to follow you. If they see how engaged and excited you are to be lecturing, they’ll be more likely to ask questions and take notes from home. If you’re comfortable with it, ask your students to keep their cameras on as well. This will make it much easier to identify which students aren’t following along or look confused. It will also make the class feel more like a community, since students will be able to see one another.

10. Record the lecture ahead of time to play it back.

If you want to avoid tech issues or other potential problems, avoid giving the lecture live. This strategy will also let you pause the video at any point to add additional commentary or ask your class questions. To record your lecture, use the webcam on your computer. Record your screen in the video conferencing software by recording the meeting and keeping the visual aid up the whole time.

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