Updated: Feb 15, 2021
As a dance or fitness instructor transitioning from in-person teaching to virtual teaching can be an adjustment, just as it is for your participants. It is a great opportunity to continue learning as an instructor, as we come together as a community to adapt and create new innovative classes to engage participants online. With children’s classes this can be especially challenging, it can be difficult to maintain their attention in real life, let alone through a computer screen. It is important to keep your virtual class content fun, fresh and productive to keep everyone feeling just as accomplished and motivated at home.
As a dance instructor myself, my first virtual class was terrible. I struggled to keep my group engaged and giving it there all. Not to mention as an instructor I found it be much less engaging with my dancer’s microphones muted- I felt like I was talking to a wall! But over the past 10 months I have learned how to have fun teaching virtually and mastered this new art of virtual instruction to produce fulfilling classes for both myself and my dance students. As we all navigate these unusual times as instructors, we have put together a list of our top digital teaching tips!
Zoom has now become a staple component of the education and fitness industry. It has opened the doors for continued virtual classes and allows individuals to connect from all over the world. Although the technical difficulties associated with any platform can be frustrating it is important to remain calm and accept it part of the experience.
· Encourage your students to pre-download Zoom before classes
· Ensure they use their name as their screen name
· Ask for all microphones to be muted unless called-upon or to ask a question
· Use ‘reactions’ where students can put a thumbs up, hearts, smiley faces etc. to react to your teaching
It is also important to recognize that when teaching or choreographing for Zoom you will appear reversed. This means that if you use your right foot, it will appear to the students as though you are using your left! This means you must actually reverse your choreography but say the direction as normal (ie. if you choreograph a right leg kick, you would execute on your left leg but say right leg), although it can be confusing on your end, it makes the participants experience much better.
For dance especially music can make or break a class, especially if it is choreography based. One the biggest challenges with virtual classes is the music quality and music delay users may experience.
· ALWAYS test your music volume and quality beforehand
· There are a few options for audio:
- External Speaker
- Sharing Audio
- Adjusting your audio settings to optimize quality (under advanced audio settings set 'suppress background noise' to low/never ->this is KEY!)
3. Class Structure
To keep virtual classes engaging it is important to foster and maintain the social component that was present in your in-person classes. This may mean opening your class 5 minutes before start to allow your participants the opportunity to socialize, ask questions and catch-up. You can also take planned breaks throughout the class to allow students to cheer one another on in groups, watch their fellow participants perform choreography or exercises. The exact same we would in an in-person class.
4. Games & Activities
Especially in classes with younger students it is important to add in fun games or activities to keep their attention. This might include a fun scavenger hunt at the start of the class or a game during class. When I teach tap classes over Zoom, I like to have students collect a few items from around their house (different sizes/colours) and create a sentence with these items. They then have to put this sentence together to tap steps by counting the syllables. I then ask some students to share with the rest of the class.
5. Space-Friendly Choreography or Exercises
One of the main challenges with at-home classes is space. Some students may have more space available to move than others, and for the most part it's important to modify movements and steps as needed to fit into a smaller space. This will make the experience much less frustrating for the participant too.
6. Show & Share Time
As we discussed earlier, it is important to continue to foster the social aspect throughout your class. I find show and share time is a great way to do this. If you have students working on a new move or step, ask them to share with the class! Call on your students by name to show different movements or choreography they are succeeding with.
7. Enthusiasm & Attitude
As an instructor it is important to maintain a positive attitude throughout this period of virtual instruction. This positive attitude will rub off on your students, and the more excited you are to teach them the more excited they will be to participate. Although it can be strange teaching to what feels like a silent audience, just know that your participants are there and taking in the energy you are emanating.
8. Guest Instructors
Especially for studios, having guest instructors over Zoom is a great way to keep your classes new, fresh and exciting! It is easier now more than ever to connect your students to a variety of new choreographers and instructors. This provides them the opportunity to advance their training in new ways and also switches up the routine of their usual classes.
As instructors we must embrace this new way of teaching with open arms and continue to put together positive and engaging programs for our participants. The impact dance and fitness classes have on individuals and children is extremely important, both mentally and physically and we have the opportunity to truly impact the lives of others.
So, let's continue reaching for the clouds!