Digital Workshops in the Time of COVID

by Scott Steiskal, IJA Board member and Online Festival Workshop Director

Since COVID-19 hit, mathematicians and yoga instructors have reverted to teaching their craft online. The grand power of the internet gives jugglers the ability to stay connected and share skills with each other. We can now spread juggling in new and exciting ways. The IJA festival is happening online this year (as are many others), and we have the opportunity to teach each other virtually.

However, teaching a live-streaming class is not the same as teaching an in-person class. If you’re planning to teach your first ever online workshop at the IJA virtual festival (there will be information on how to sign up to teach a workshop after the tips), follow these tips for teaching on the web.

TIP 1: DRESS REHEARSAL

When performing, jugglers rehearse their routine repeatedly. The same should hold true for workshops. This is doubly important if you are teaching online. Your dress rehearsal should include:

  • A software testMake sure you try the software you will be using to stream the class. You will be concentrating on a lot of things and you want to make sure learning the software isn’t one of them. Know how to start the camera, mute all participants, and how to kick someone out of the room if they are disruptive.
  • A hardware test – Do you have a microphone so people can hear you? How are you holding up your camera/phone? Is the room you are juggling in well lit? Make sure you handle all these things in advance.
  • Consider recording your tricks before the session If the tricks you are demonstrating are already recorded on video your class will be easier. You are not running all over the room making sure you can be heard and seen, and you know you have a good run which will save time.
  • Have a plan– Know exactly what you are going to teach and write it down. Providing a handout for your students will help let them know where you are headed. Some great examples of handouts can be found on Matt Hall’s website, jugglesensei.net. Having a handout will also help students who momentarily lose internet connection.

TIP 2: FIND A FRIEND TO MANAGE/HOST YOUR ROOM

You will be busy teaching and interacting with your students. If you get a friend to manage the room for you, you can concentrate on teaching. Your friend should be listed as the host of the room and will be in charge of muting students, monitoring chats and starting videos.

TIP 3: USE THE CHAT FUNCTION

You should request that all of your students “mute” their lines when not speaking directly. One student with a dog or loud furnace can be an insurmountable amount of background noise. If students are using the chat function that your host is monitoring, you can communicate back and forth with fewer interruptions.

TIP 4: MANAGE YOUR TIME

When teaching online everything takes just a little more time. Assume you will teach less than you would in person. Each transition to a new trick, any feedback you offer your students, and any practice will involve a lot of moving back and forth. A few tips here:

  • If you would normally teach several variations of a trick, consider teaching the base trick and then tell your students, “I have placed several spicy variations of this trick on my Instagram. You can check them out on my social media.” You can also place links to your social media on your handouts.
  • You can tell students to leave videos of their attempts with a hashtag and comment there as a follow up.
  • If your students are willing to utilize their camera, then you can offer feedback as the students attempt. Make sure you keep track of time though. Say to your students, “Feel free to try this trick for five minutes. I will give as many of you feedback as I can. My host will keep track of time.”

FINAL TIP: SHOW OFF YOUR PERSONALITY

You’re in the friendly confines of your home so now is a great time to really show off your personality. Leave a few of your personal items in the background, wear your favorite juggling clothes, have a roommate say hi. We are among friends here to make sure you are having fun with your friends.

If you would like to teach an online workshop at IJA 2020 Online (July 13-19) please fill out the form at bit.ly/IJAWorkshops.

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