Hi Mark,I teach a course with some similarities to yours and we've been operating fully online since our semester started February 27 (two weeks past schedule). One thing I can say for Zoom is that there is a very useful breakout group function that allows you to send students to work in pairs or any size group you want and then bring everyone back to the main "room" when you want. You can pop into all the breakout rooms to make sure students are on task, listen for things you want to address, and answer questions. You can let zoom randomly assign participants to rooms or you can assign the groups yourself. It has worked very well for us!
I also have students doing homework where they have to get on zoom together and do a task, then send me the video later, which I spot check. You could consider dedicating part of your allotted teaching time to tasks like that since you don't normally assign homework.
There is also a whiteboard feature and a share screen feature in zoom. I have 12 students in each section and I have them use the "raise hand" feature to let me know they want to speak if discussions are getting very active but we talk about using that function similar to what one might do with body language in a face-to- face conversation. Meaning, you don't always need to use it to gain the floor. It opens up interesting discussions about what we actually do in f2f communication and also introduces them to a platform they are likely to use in the future (eg, job interviews, meetings with international colleagues, etc - these types of computer-mediated conversation are more and more common).
Finally, there is a chat function where students can also post comments and questions during class. And there are some emojis they can use to give thumbs up and applause. I encourage them to give me thumbs up when I'm just checking that everyone is still on board (eg, Everybody ok so far? Or: Does everyone have that handout?). I encourage them to use the applause emoji if they really like what a classmate has said but don't necessarily have anything to add. In this ways, I'm trying to build some of the community we would have in the classroom.
I also use the discussion board on the LMS for asynchronous discussions to scaffold the synchronous ones on zoom but it sounds like that won't work for you since you don't normally assign homework. Oh, and I'm also using Flipgrid to have students record themselves doing various tasks, like explain their final project research question. It's free and super easy to use. I created a homepage on our LMS with a subpage for each week to keep everything organized in one place. I stick the link to Flipgrid in there whenever I want them to use it.
I'm still flying a little by the seat of my pants but as long as I get the next week up by Monday morning, I feel ok!
I didn't intend to write so much, but I know what you're going through and all these things just kind of flowed out! Let me know if you want to talk more. You can email me!good luck!Marcella
Hi, Mark,Zoom allows you to create breakout rooms, as you've already heard. And WebEx allows you to create those, also.
All the best,Rene