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Creating an Inclusive Virtual Classroom: Strategies for Building Connections and Fostering Belonging

Updated: Mar 31

Now that virtual learning is part of the norm, it's clear that creating an inclusive classroom environment over Zoom is more important than ever. When students learn from home, they can feel disconnected from their peers and teachers, so it's crucial to build connections and foster a sense of belonging in the virtual classroom.

2 Students working on computers, doing distance learning

Therefore, we are excited to bring you 6 strategies for doing just that!

  1. Build Community Through Icebreakers and Check-Ins. Start each class with a fun icebreaker or check-in question to help students get to know one another and build a sense of community. This can be as simple as asking students to share their favorite song or TV show, or more complex questions that require deeper reflection. Additionally, provide students with opportunities to connect with each other outside of class, such as through group projects or discussion forums.

  2. Be Mindful of Language and Communication. When teaching in a virtual classroom, it's important to be mindful of the language you use and the tone of your communication. Be clear and concise in your instructions and avoid using jargon or technical terms that may be confusing for students. Additionally, encourage students to ask questions and provide multiple avenues for communication, such as a chat function or private messaging.

  3. Incorporate Universal Design for Learning. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in your teaching approach to ensure that your lessons are accessible to all students, regardless of their learning style or abilities. This might include using multiple modes of presentation (such as videos, images, and text), offering multiple means of engagement (such as gamification), and providing multiple ways for students to demonstrate their understanding (such as through projects or presentations).

  4. Use Education Technology Tools Like Equal Time. Technology tools like Equal Time can help teachers monitor student participation and engagement in real-time, providing insights into student interactions and ensuring that all students have equal opportunities to participate in class. With Equal Time, teachers can review speaking time per student, view a transcript of the class, and gain insights into student interactions.

  5. Encourage Student Feedback and Input. Encourage students to share their feedback and input on the virtual classroom environment. This can help to identify any barriers to learning and ensure that all students feel heard and valued. Consider using surveys or polls to gather feedback, and be open to making changes based on student input.

  6. Provide Accommodations for Students with Disabilities. Make sure to provide accommodations for students with disabilities to ensure that they have equal access to learning materials and opportunities. This might include providing captioning or transcripts for videos, using assistive technology, or offering extended time for assignments or assessments. Work with your school's disability services office or with individual students to identify and implement the accommodations that will best support their learning needs.

By implementing these strategies, teachers can create a more inclusive virtual classroom environment that fosters a sense of belonging and connection among students. With the help of technology tools like Equal Time, it's easier than ever to monitor student engagement and ensure that all students have equal opportunities to participate in class.

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