Considerations for teaching with a mask

Worried about how masks might interfere with communication this Fall? Here are a few ideas to overcome that barrier between you and your students.

  1. If you find that students aren’t hearing you clearly, try using a microphone. Some classrooms are already equipped for sound and may have built in microphone systems available. IT support staff can help evaluate the best solution. If your classroom doesn’t have a mic/sound system and you think you need one, check with your local classroom support/IT staff to see if they can provide one.
  2. You can also take advantage of assistive technologies to provide captioning. For example, if you are using Zoom and are in person at the same time, you can turn on live transcription and project the Zoom call to the classroom screen. If that isn’t possible, allow in-person students to open Zoom on their devices. You can also enable live subtitling in PowerPoint and Google Slides when in presentation mode. Please note that these automated AI captioning services are not completely accurate so monitor whether it is capturing most of your speech or not (and if the students find it helps). If you have students with accessibility needs, you will need to work with the Student Disability Access Office to get professional services.
  3. It is not practical for all students to have microphones, so changes to class discussions are necessary. The basic idea is to lessen the need to use voices to have meaningful conversations. Students can be given time to annotate a document at the same time online (for example, Hypothes.is or Google Docs) and you can summarize and comment on their thoughts. Use polling to promote engagement throughout the class session. Ask an opinion question as class begins. Pose a question without a clear answer and find out how opinions differ. Then tell students to turn to someone nearby to discuss. To tackle big conversations, instruct students to spread out in the classroom to write their thoughts or answers on the board or a large sticky note. Students rotate to read and add more information.
  4. In some settings, you may want to be sure students are able to see your mouth while speaking, This may not be important in a large classroom, but in a smaller setting it can make a difference for non-native English speakers and students who have accessibility needs. Some disciplines, such as foreign languages, are difficult to teach without facial cues being visible. You can order a clear face mask (not shield) by contacting Tony Galiani from the Student Disability Access Office.

For more guidance, please contact learninginnovation@duke.edu or visit our online office hours.