Jason Duque is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education and Teacher Education Program at UC Santa Barbara. He's been using Nectir in his undergraduate and graduate classrooms (both virtual and in-person) since Fall 2019 and his class channels have achieved some of the highest levels of engagement across any Nectir workspace. We're excited to share with you his tried-and-true methods for building a dynamic virtual classroom for his students that made them excited to learn and eager to share their thoughts with one another.
Watch Jason talk about using Nectir in his class:
How was interaction different on Nectir than it was in the physical classroom?
What were your students' initial reactions to using Nectir in your class?
How did you use Nectir to keep your students engaged throughout lecture?
Why is having an online version of your classroom so vital for students?
Let's break down the steps.
1. Create a welcoming environment where students feel comfortable engaging with you and each other
Set the tone for your channel by making sure that the first message your students see when they enter is from you or your TA. It should briefly explain what Nectir is, what the purpose of the channel is, and any guidelines you have for them, such as graded sub-channel or specific meeting times. This helps clear up any potential confusion from your students and sets them off on the right foot. They'll be more likely to engage once they know what is expected of them.
Here's an example of a helpful welcome message from one of our instructors:
2. Structure your class channel to make it easier for your students to navigate
Once you create your class channel, it's up to you to decide how to structure it. One option is to create multiple class channels for specific types of correspondence, such as having one for classroom announcements and one for lecture discussion. Alternatively, you can use sub-channels to keep all of your messages in one place. Sub-channels help you control the flow of messages. You can create one for office hours to help you contain all of the questions and answers in a single location, or even make one for each lecture topic for your students to submit graded responses. The possibilities are endless! Try it out ‣.
In this Computer Science class, an instructor and his TA create a sub-channel for each section, lecture, and week:
3. Set specific times for your class to log on and interact together
Jason's favorite way to ensure his students engage with one another and the reading material is to set specific times for them to log onto Nectir and participate in graded discussions. His students know that in order to get the grade they want, they must have their readings done so they can join in the conversation. Jason and his teaching assistants moderate each discussion, prompting the students with thoughtful questions to gently guide the conversation. Within minutes, however, his students typically begin choosing the talking points themselves, letting Jason and his TA's take a backseat to watch the debate unfold. It's a surefire way to get your students to think deeply about the material and engage with one another simultaneously.
Jason's students a few minutes early to their 5 PM discussion:
4. Encourage your students to answer each other's questions
Creating a chat space for your students allows them to trust each other enough to ask questions in front of one another. The next step to building community amongst them, however, is encouraging them to answer each other's questions, too. When students feel comfortable enough with the material to answer someone else's question, a sense of trust is gained both between the students and within themselves for having the necessary knowledge that their peer was searching for. It reinforces the student's own expertise of the material, as well as creates a safe space where they feel empowered to be helpful and engage with the class when the next opportunity arises. Not to mention, it takes some of the load off of you and your teaching team!
Quick tip: Make sure to leave a "thumbs up" emoji on the student's question/answer to let them know that they've answered correctly!
5. Stimulate interaction by being present and consistent
After midterms or big assignments, it's typical that engagement can fall as your students relax a bit. To keep the flow of conversation going, make sure that you or someone from your teaching team is present in your class channel every single day. Even if it's just to send a "Hello and good luck!" message, your students will appreciate knowing that there is someone on the other side of the screen who is there for them. Creating a poll or sending a funny GIF is an easy way to get students back into the interaction mode.
6. DM your community manager whenever you're stuck or need some tips on how to keep your students engaged
One of the most useful features in your school's Nectir workspace is the community manager, a real life Nectir representative who is available to you and your students all day long to answer any burning questions. You can directly message your community manager by searching for "Vicky" or "Nectir Staff". They're always available to you to show you how a feature works or even give you some tips on the best practices for your channel.
DM us for a quick chat any time and we'll get back to you ASAP: