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Teaching Tip: Online OM

May 16, 2021

As an OM instructor, you teach complex concepts. And you’re maintaining situational awareness of a classroom of dozens, if not hundreds, of students. (As of last year, you’re trying to do all of this through a tiny Zoom screen). That’s a lot to handle. Teaching OM class synchronously means you carry an extraneous load including the following:

  • Remembering students’ names and calling patterns
  • Reading online chat windows
  • Keeping track of time
  • Maintaining eye contact and body language

The key is to focus on what’s intrinsically valuable, writes the Harvard Business School Faculty Lounge (May 11, 2021). Here are some tips for how to do that:


 Before Class
  • Create a teaching plan with an adequate level of detail. Give yourself as much structure as you need to feel comfortable, knowing there’s something you can refer to if you do get sidetracked
  • Develop and sort call lists ahead of time. Come to class with a general sense of which students you’re going to call on.
  • Clear your workspace of distraction. Even small distractions can really affect your ability to pay attention.
    • Ensure a clock is visible; Have a pen and notepad ready; Eliminate background noise; Fix sightline distractions, such as a computer light
  • Block 15–30 minutes before class. Take this time to review your teaching plan, remember where you are in the syllabus, and just generally focus on the class ahead of you.
 During Class
  • Ask clear, concise questions. If your students aren’t clear on what you’re asking, then you will end up expending time on the confusion rather than on the topic.
  • Encourage follow-up questions. Challenge and build on student comments, and have your students do the same.
  • Accept cognitive “gifts”—unprompted, unexpected insights from students that help tie together the lesson.
  • Acknowledge when you’re feeling overloaded. There will be times when your working memory runs out and you need to stop and process.. For example, say, “I want to put you in groups. I just need a minute to think about how to structure them productively.

Finally, learn to let go of perfection. Have empathy for yourself. Just do the best you can with where you are in the moment.

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