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Virtual Classroom Reading May Be Challenging, But Possible

Assessing Student Understanding in Online Classrooms Challenging for Teachers, but Successful Instructors Use a Proven Technique.

Clever Hans was a horse that lived in the early 1900s and gained notoriety for its supposed ability to perform arithmetic through tapping out answers with its hoof. Despite initial skepticism, Hans' abilities were widely reported in the media and even verified by well-respected scientific and military figures.

However, several years later, a scientist discovered that Hans was not actually doing arithmetic but instead was able to read nonverbal cues from the audience. Hans could tell who in the audience knew the correct answer to a question by observing subtle changes in body language, such as facial expressions, eye contact, posture, and even the release of a held breath. While Hans' abilities were impressive, he did not actually have the capability to perform math. Nevertheless, Hans' story remained a mystery for decades before scientists renewed their interest in the richness of nonverbal communication.

Clever Hans demonstrated a remarkable skill that many teachers possess, which is the ability to read their students' reactions and understand their understanding of a lesson. Teachers can pick up on cues such as confusion on a student's face, or an unintentional gaze that shows they are lost in the lesson, allowing the teacher to adjust their teaching approach to better support the students. For example, a room full of blank stares is a clear indication to the teacher that they need to further explain a concept. This ability to read the room is crucial for effective teaching, as it helps the teacher to connect with their students and build a strong teacher-student relationship. As Vicki Davis, a teacher and IT director, puts it, "Some people read books. I read people." She highlights the importance of understanding the small, subtle expressions that reveal a lot about the bond between teacher and student. In other words, effective teaching requires not only knowledge of the subject, but also the ability to read and respond to the reactions of one's students.

Interpreting the Online Environment

In virtual classrooms, teachers face challenges in reading their students' nonverbal cues due to the limitations of the online environment. In-person classroom cues such as body language, facial expressions, and eye contact are often lost in a virtual setting, making it difficult for teachers to gauge student understanding and engagement. This can result in confusion over whether a student is truly lost or just struggling with technical issues. The physical absence of the teacher from the classroom can also result in a lack of feedback from students on their own learning, as they may not feel comfortable interrupting to resolve technical issues or ask for clarification.

However, despite these challenges, high-performing online teachers have adapted their teaching strategies by gathering and analyzing student feedback to continuously improve their course design and delivery. In a 2019 study, researchers interviewed award-winning instructors of online courses who emphasized the importance of data collection for continuous improvement, as well as the use of ongoing feedback from students in the form of surveys. These instructors not only monitored student understanding of the subject matter, but also identified obstacles that may prevent full student participation in the course. By reading the virtual room, teachers can continuously make improvements and ensure the best possible learning experience for their students.


For collecting real-time feedback during virtual lessons, nonverbal feedback is a useful feature. Video conferencing platforms like Koala GO have icons like “raise hand” or “thumbs up” that students can use to communicate their status without interrupting the class. To check if students are ready to start, you can ask them to give a thumbs up. Learn with Koala is a fantastic opportunity for students to receive top-notch education from amazing teachers. With the use of Koala GO, an interactive platform, students can experience a dynamic and engaging learning environment that is tailored to meet their individual needs. Whether you're looking for real-time feedback or want to collect student feedback for continuous improvement, Koala GO has got you covered with its range of features and tools. Whether you're a student looking to improve your skills, or a teacher looking to bring your lessons to life, Koala is the perfect platform for you. So why wait? Start learning with Koala today and experience the power of interactive education! You can find and book those classes at this page.

Happy Learning!

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