After running two months worth of online meetings, I've concluded that I need to double-down on my moderation duties.
A Moderator’s Only Responsibility
A good moderator must safeguard timid students by fostering settings that give people both listening and speaking opportunities.
There are several techniques that help a moderator do this.
- Publish an agenda ahead of time. I call this "rundown" and expect everyone to read it beforehand.
- Put the Rundown into the meeting description section. This ensures everyone has access to the agenda during the meeting, so there are no surprises as to where (in general) the conversation goes.
- Get inputs for the Rundown. Three days before each online meeting, I ask students for inputs to the rundown list. The Rundown helps people bring meaningful items to the online session. I often set up the rundown so there are natural segues between various topics. This means students can pivot from one a previous snippet of discussion to their own item of interest.
- Read the live chat section during the meeting. If someone realises they need time that's not on the Rundown, they make a comment inside the chat section of the meeting.
- Stop people who interrupt.
- Try to give every student equal time. This is difficult for students who don't actively participate in standard classroom settings. To create equal time segments, I set questions ahead of time for everyone and occasionally specify individual questions for certain students.
- Remind students that questions are one sentence comprising a question.
- Maintain focus. If a topic starts to meander, I recommend a separate meeting at another time on only for the meandering topic.
- Finish on time. If we finish covering all topics before the time frame set for the meeting, we close the meeting ahead of schedule. We have covered significant ground inside of 20 minutes on several occasions, giving back 40 minutes of time to students as a result.
Time Slots during Moderated Conversations
I've discovered my most effective online sessions are those with structure. In our traditional classroom, I don't let floating commentary run over or through class discussions. So I don't want to watch that happen in my Microsoft Teams meetings.
I borrow from some public etiquette concerning social rules.
People respect well-established social rules and my students have honed high levels of netiquette. I believe that if I set written agendas beforehand and outline for students the level of online banter expected during a scheduled meeting that we will get meaningful tasks accomplished and that students will be happy to return to a scheduled meeting or they will self-organise to nail down discussions that did not conclude during our group session. Moreover, students who are timid can carve out their speaking time because the preset agenda removes their hesitation of having to ask for time.
[Bernie Goldbach uses Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet when teaching creative media for business on the Clonmel Digital Campus of the Limerick Institute of Technology.]