For some unknown reason, online classes often get way out of control faster than in-person discussions. There are many factors that we may blame for this. It could be because of the distance between participants, the misinterpretation of intentions due to a lack of visual cues, or even just general courage amongst students. Whether none or all of these factors contribute to the disruptive nature of your class, you have to get things under control.
Here are some rules that will definitely serve you well if you apply them to your online classroom.
The first thing an educator should do is make sure that students are participating. If your students are not participating in the online lecture, you might as well be talking to yourself. You have no idea what's happening on the other side of the screen, and students may be engrossed in something other than the lecture. The only way to make sure that isn't happening in your class is to ensure that every student participates, no matter how little.
Now, as an instructor, you can't just give an injunction for students to participate and be done with it. You have to give points for participation in the class. You have to ask open-ended questions, start debates, come up with controversial viewpoints that will make students argue. You could also make participation a requirement to pass the course.
Be Formal in Writing
One great way to stop the class from spiraling out of control and getting out of your hands is to make sure students are formal. You're running a class, not a community playgroup— so you need your students to behave professionally. One good thing about making your class communication formal is that it leaves less room for "smart" quips by students that could turn the entire lecture on its head.
If students have to communicate formally, not only would they be better behaved, their communication skills would also have improved greatly.
Respect the Identities Of Your Students
This rule isn't really peculiar to online classes, but it's worth mentioning because of the diverse nature of many online classes. More than ever before, classes have taken on a level of diversity that may not be possible even in the most diverse physical classes. That means that educators have to be extra mindful of the diverse nature of their class. As an educator, you must be accepting of different gender identities, ethnic groups, and sexual orientations.
You can't let members of your class feel left out of discussions, and more importantly, you can't alienate them with your syllabi, so you have to make sure that even the topics you're teaching reflect the diversity of your class.
Be Kind and Listen
Many educators forget this, but the goal of teaching is to help students learn. If no learning has been done, no teaching was done. So you need to be kind and actually help your students to learn. Students who you are kind to will be kind to you in return and may even make teaching the class easier than you'd expect.
It's difficult to make this a rule, but you can endure that when you listen to your students, and even take advice from them. A lot of students these days are more knowledgeable about tech than their teachers, and listening to what they have to say about making your online teaching experience better can actually elevate the quality of the class. For example, they could even recommend new tools for educators to teach the class with.