Resource Guide to Teaching in Relationship Online - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Resource Guide to Teaching in Relationship Online

Main Content
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Written by:
Lesley Litman, Ed.D. (, Director, Executive M.A. Program in Jewish Education
Miriam Heller Stern, Ph.D. (, National Director of the School of Education
Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Ed.D. (, Director of Clinical Education, Rhea Hirsch School of Education

Guiding Principles

  • People learn best in relationship and when they feel seen - especially at a time of physical distancing
  • Pedagogy in the virtual setting is different from the face-to-face setting
  • Content is mastered when learners feel connected and actively engaged
  • Consider two milieus: the online “live” session, student interactions between sessions
  • Not everything will be perfect. Expect to make mistakes, seek out feedback

Teaching in the Zoom Room

(All of these tips are designed to alleviate frustration and save time during the learning session)
  1. Send students all materials for the session ahead of time and ask them to either print them out or have them on a separate screen (tablet, cell phone) from the Zoom room (this includes PowerPoint presentations). Always include page or slide numbers for easy reference.
  2. For small group work: Create the groups prior to the session (chevruta or larger groups).
  3. Type up any instructions, writing prompts or discussion questions that you can quickly cut and paste into the chat box during class, or place in a Google Doc and send the link to students ahead of time or paste in chatbox.
  4. Record short videos for students to view prior to the session. This will decrease lecture time.
  5. Test out any technology you plan to use (including PowerPoint) ahead of time.
Zoom Etiquette/Norms
Be clear about expectations. Below are suggested norms. Elicit others from students.
  1. Be aware of background and lighting
  2. Mute when not speaking
  3. Turn off video when getting up (movement and/or an empty chair can be distracting)
  4. Always keep video on when present
  5. Find a room where you will not be interrupted by others
  6. Prepare yourself for learning/teaching: bring something to drink, dress properly, look presentable
  7. Avoid using other devices (except for course-related materials)
  8. Modulate your voice: most people tend to talk too loudly

Pedagogic Tips for the Online Milieu

Guiding Principles:
  • Be aware of screen fatigue and sitting for too long
  • Alternate between large and small group work
  • Create many opportunities for interaction
  • Keep lectures to 10 minutes or less
  • Share the plan for the session at the beginning of class
  • Use Google Docs to track student ideas and comment on them (make them appealing)
  • Give pause time for students to look away from screen to gather their thoughts or give them a writing or thinking prompt
  • Find a natural pause/break time for students to get up and stretch
Whole Group Work:
  1. Keep the relational in mind: keep your eyes on the students, look for their responses and facial expressions.
  2. Getting started: Welcome everyone to class, acknowledge current events (if appropirate), check in, notice where they are, how they look
  3. Minimize screen sharing. You can only see some students when you are sharing and, therefore, cannot see their reactions. Send any documents you want students to look at ahead of time and ask them to print or have on separate screen.
  4. Taking notes/writing on white board:
    1. White board: Zoom has a White Board function, but it requires screen sharing and you might not be able to see students.
    2. Separate Google Doc: Keep a running Google Doc (you may want to use a larger font, put topic areas in bold) from class to class for student comments, ideas, questions. Don’t forget to add the date before each class. You can also comment on their thoughts between classes.
    3. Ask students to monitor the note-taking Google Doc during class time
  5. Taking questions and comments:
    1. Hand-raising: students can either physically raise their hands and you can respond, or you can use the “Raise Hand” function in Zoom. Physical hand-raising is more relational and forces you to look at the students/scan your screen.
    2. Chat box: Students can make comments or ask questions in the chat box BUT this means you will have to be scanning the chat box as well as looking at the students. The chat box also moves as comments are entered so you may miss comments. (If you do use the chat box, you can save to your computer at the end of class).
  6. Slow down/Pause for 5-10 seconds after posing a question: It’s hard to read who is getting ready to speak. Scan the screen for facial expressions and body language. Ask for a thumbs up when people are ready to move on.
Small Group Work:
  1. Use breakout group function: be sure to divide the groups up ahead of time. You will have to enter the groups manually when it’s time for them to break up, so planning the groups ahead of time saves time. Don’t worry about the lag while you are setting up. Students need a breather.
  2. Make sure students have access to instructions, questions, texts (they do not transfer from the chat box on the main screen).
  3. Clearly delineate the timing: how long do they have and how many minutes warning will they have to finish up. You can even encourage them to set a timer (and set one for yourself).
  4. Move from group to group at the beginning to make sure everything is going okay, then go back as you wish.
  5. Use collaborative documents: Google Docs (can make tables for students to use, or straight text), Linoit online bulletin boards. These can be part of the larger class running Google Doc.
Between Sessions/Classes:
  • Use Canvas Forums discussion threads before or between sessions to get students to interact and to see where they are grasping materials (in addition to you responding – you can ask students to respond to each other)
  • Assign small group/chevruta work to be used in class
  • Create office hours where you get on Zoom for 30-60 minutes (you decide) and students can drop in (you can sit at your desk and work while waiting) or set up specific check-in times with individiuals or small groups of students.
  • Zoom tips: Free accounts give you unlimited time with one other person in the meeting and 40 minutes with more than two people.
Contact Before Content by Micol Zimmerman Burkeman
Linoit bulletin boards (you can create your own account):

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