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5 Ways to Handle Difficult Students in a Virtual Class

A TV show in the background, toddlers running in and out of the room, parents screaming, and cats staring into the camera. When it comes to teaching a virtual classroom, anything can happen! Being a teacher in a virtual class is not a walk in the park and, in some cases, can be a complete nightmare. Teachers have to deal with many types of learners on top of new distractions.

While challenging students can make virtual classes seem impossible to teach, managing them is possible. Having some tricks up your sleeve can help you retain control of your students and meet your teaching goals.

Level 1 Difficulty: The Student Keeps Disappearing

When called upon, this student keeps disappearing from the class and always has some technical issues. While playing peekaboo makes for an interesting game, elusive students can hinder efforts such as group work or Q&A teaching styles. When you discover that a student is often off the camera at vital classroom times, you must take action fast.

Solution: If a student keeps disappearing, don’t take offense and consider that they might have some valid reasons. Consider making your class more interactive on-screen. Rather than read-on lectures, take the initiative to engage learners. As you teach, hold aids to your screen to illustrate, which will require the student to remain focused on their screen.

Level 2 Difficulty: The Student is Always on the Move

This student is never static, and you might see them attending class in the kitchen, hallway, bedroom, and, on some occasions, outside the home. Virtual classrooms make it possible to study from all locations and devices, but the reality is that the background environment always affects learning. If your student keeps changing locations during classes, they might become a distraction for other learners.

Solution: To handle such a learner, create classroom policies that require stable internet and quiet backgrounds. The learner might be assuming that where they study doesn’t matter.

Level 3 Difficulty: The Student Loves How They Look on Camera

Virtual classes demand cameras, and for some learners, the technology can be just fascinating. Some can spend the entire class checking their appearance. Such students can be distracting since others might check how they make funny faces, defeating the learning process.

Solution: When you realize that you have a student that loves being on camera, appreciate them since most love being off-camera. To manage them, introduce activities that require the camera into your lesson. Presentations or short plays can give the learner their moment in the limelight, reducing the need to act out on camera.

Level 4 Difficulty: The Student is a Technological Fanatic

Some students are more enthusiastic about technology than others, and they might try to show off. These learners might show up to class like a potato emoji or add funny backgrounds, such as being on the moon. While you might encourage your students to engage with technology more, this bunch might be taking it overboard.

Solution: These learners usually seek attention from others, and they often find pleasure when peers find them funny. With such students, you can start by requesting them to act reasonably. If all else fails, use your discretion to mute or block these learners using their video or sound features.

Level 5 Difficulty: The Student Brings the Entire Family to Class

This student might be a bit clingy at home, and every time they are in class, they are never alone. It might be a pet, sibling, or even a parent who’s always creeping around the room doing nothing and everything. Having multiple actors on screen can disrupt the learning sessions for everyone, including you, since drama can be more entertaining than the curriculum.

Solution: To address this difficulty, communicate with the parents to indicate how you feel about the unfolding events. If this is not possible, ask students to mute their audio or video when there’s chaos around them to limit the distraction. However, take care not to exclude them from class participation.

Give Your Virtual Students a Chance

There are many tips on handling difficult students, depending on the circumstances. The best thing you can do as a teacher is to remain calm and collected, to show learners that you’re in control. Even when learners exhibit chaotic behavior, try to give them the benefit of the doubt and, most importantly, don’t take anything personally. Every student can be on their best behavior when given a chance!

Written by Simon Riitho
Education World Contributor
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