Nailing Virtual Class Participation: Tips & Tricks

Nailing Virtual Class Participation: Tips & Tricks

Class part, class part, class part. You might hate it or love it but regardless of how you feel about it, it’s inevitable. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, you are probably looking for some advice on how to class part virtually since the majority of the lessons are now held online. No longer will you have the luxury of periodically nodding in class to show prof you’ve been paying attention for the last 10 minutes.

So how do you show your professor that you are invested in their class? How do leave a lasting impression? Essentially, how do you class part virtually? Well, we have 5 tips on how to do so but I’ll be frank here, you’re not going to like all of it.

Why you should take Class Part seriously

Let’s get one thing straight: Your Class Part score IS going to be a grade differentiator. The weightage of class participation ranges from 10 to 15% depending on the module. Scoring well could mean achieving an A- (3.7) instead of a B+ (3.3) or a B+ (3.3) instead of a B (3.0).

If you’re a wallflower, you may consider forgoing the fraction of the grade that class part accounts for just because it doesn’t seem worth the additional effort. But even if grades aren’t a focus for you, engaging in class participation will help in your learning and here’s how: 

  1. Builds your confidence – although you may be nervous before the first time you speak up in class, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment once it’s done.
  2. Strengthens your communication skills – as you continue to class part over the semester, you also improve your oral communication skills.
  3. Gives you a chance to stand out – you may be familiar with the term “class part wh*re” but honestly, it’s not the worst thing to be called one. It just proves to show that you’re well known for participating in class discussions and aren’t afraid to speak your mind!

Now that you know the WHY, let me tell you HOW.

Tip#1: Don't be shy, turn on your camera

One of the challenges that you will face as you enter this new virtual semester is finding a way to differentiate yourself in class. 

While it is a good idea to keep your mics muted when the professor is teaching, consider turning on your webcam to show that you’re actively listening. According to Forbes, speakers better connect with their audience when they can see their faces and better interpret their reactions. In addition to helping a professor gauge student’s attentiveness, it also helps them differentiate you by putting a face to your name. This will eventually help you foster a valuable connection with your professor and be a simple start to building your confidence to class part.

However, this is completely a judgement call and may not even be a decision up to you if your professor prompts everyone to keep their webcams on/off throughout the class. 

Two things to note – first, if you’re on a call where several students have their camera on, it can reflect poorly on you if you keep yours off. Second, don’t be shy to be the first to turn your camera on. It’s fully up to your discretion, but you may encourage others to turn on theirs too.

Tip#2: Put your phone away (eliminate as many distractions)

For audio-only classes, you have the freedom to stand up, move around the room, fidget, or even play on your phone. In fact, we’re likely to be tempted to spend a lot more time on our phone, now that Prof can’t exactly call us out anymore. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these distractions will eventually backfire if it impacts your ability to concentrate and engage in class part over time.  

In a perfect world, you can attend class in a quiet room with just your laptop and lecture notes to stay fully focused. In reality, there will be tons of distractions around you and it is up to you to decide how attentive you will be. Though it may sound simple, start by leaving your phone in another room before the lecture begins. But let’s be real – we’ve all got Whatsapp and Telegram for desktop, and Instagram and Facebook are 2 clicks away. If you truly want to block out these distractions so you can focus and efficiently participate in class, here are some apps to help you out

Tip#3: Don’t wait too long to speak up

Remember this: Everything is still the SAME. If you’re not afraid to speak up in class, you shouldn’t feel afraid to speak up over the mic. Still, many might argue that it’s harder in an online setting since you can no longer exactly “read” the other people in the room and know when you can speak up.

If you’re a freshman, it is perfectly normal to feel nervous when speaking to a class of 50 students for the very first time. Now, this may sound tough and extremely excruciating but honestly, you just have to push through the nerves. I am confident that most students will agree with me when I say this – a lot of the fear and anxiety (especially the racing heart and sweaty palms) goes away after the first (or second) time you speak up in class, whether you’re raising a question or sharing a thought. 

If I’m being honest, almost everyone initially faces this irrational fear of class part, even the extroverts. In fact, before I entered SMU, I heard of stories of how SMU can be really competitive and how the class part culture can be really intense. But honestly, it’s really not that bad. The biggest fear of class parting is the fear of saying something stupid in front of over 50 people. If you feel that way, you should stop. There is a book that I was introduced to recently called “What SMART students know” by Adam Robinson and in that book, one of the principles mentioned was “Making mistakes (and occasionally appearing foolish) is the price you pay for learning and improving”.

Tip#4: Be better prepared

If I’m being honest with you, how well you class part boils down to how well you prepare for class. Pre-readings are critical to determining how much and how well you class part. If you do your readings ahead of time – instead of skimming them 10 minutes before class starts – then class part is likely to come naturally to you. Annotating reading and making notes before class enables you to ask questions clarify doubts proactively AND answer questions with more confidence. 

Tip#5: Manage your time

The truth is, you can no longer walk in 30 minutes late to an 8 AM lesson holding your kopi-c and blaming the congested traffic in CBD during morning rush hour that delayed you. Unless, you’re one of those students that comes clean about sleeping through their alarm, in which case kudos to you.  

When it comes to online class, you can either set your alarm at 8:10 AM to enjoy those few extra minutes of sleep and compensate for all the times you’ve had to wake up at 6:30 AM. With classes online, you can literally save hours that are usually spent in commute to and from school. You can use this extra time to stay organized and practice time management. The flexibility from having “extra” hours in a day is one of the biggest appeals of having online classes. Use this time to be better prepared for class and plan certain topics for discussion ahead of time. Saying that you didn’t have time to do readings is no longer a valid excuse!

Final Word

You could wait till August to experience your first virtual experience, or you could use your time this summer to practice understanding what the setting will be like so you’re not intimidated to speak up during your first online lesson. If you did an internship this summer, you may be quite experienced in participating in virtual meetings. Chances are, you may have even attended a workshop too – though its likely your webcam and mic were off during the session.

Personally, the best advice I can give is to challenge yourself to attend at least one virtual networking event this summer. In addition to the countless benefits you gain from networking, this is a great chance to get a taste of an unchartered territory for you. It may seem intimidating at first, but you walk away with first-hand experience in speaking up in front of a crowd in an online space, and it is the closest simulation to what online classes next semester will be like.  

Avente Team

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