10 Virtual Classroom Rules and Expectations to Practice

Published on February 15, 2022 • Updated on January 10, 2024 • About 6 min. read

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students in a virtual classroom

Whether you’re in higher education or professional training, teaching should be a fun, rewarding experience, but it’s not when students or trainees struggle to observe classroom basics, get sidetracked, or forget to respect their classmates and colleagues.

So be proactive about avoiding those typical classroom problems with our set of virtual classroom rules to help develop a positive learning environment where people are engaged, collaborative, and excited to learn.

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Why are virtual classroom rules important?

Virtual classes create new and exciting opportunities for teachers and learners, but online learning also has its challenges, like the temptation for learners to switch to other online platforms, respond to a message, or for background noise and activities to create a distraction.

With some handy virtual classroom rules in place, though, you can minimize those issues, keep classes focused and effective, and help create a safe and positive learning environment for everyone.

How should a teacher of online classes set expectations for conduct?

The best way for teachers to set their expectations in virtual and hybrid learning classes is to demonstrate best practices themselves.

If you value certain behaviors in your learners, demonstrate those same behaviors throughout your classes and interactions with students.

Also, formally establish your virtual learning rules from the outset. You can place them in a document that you can send out before your first class, and then reiterate them early on in the course, or whenever you feel it’s necessary – though always try to do this in a positive, non-judgmental way. Check out this blog post for a list of the virtual meeting etiquette and ground rules we think you should follow .

With a strong example from their instructor, as well as a formalized set of rules they can view at any time, your class will be well placed to meet all your expectations – and enjoy all your classes.

10 rules for your virtual classroom

All the virtual and hybrid learning classroom rules in this post are geared for higher education and professional training, but they work in high school classrooms, too – so read on and decide which ones work for you.

Find your quiet place

A good, solid start to your virtual classroom rules is that every learner has a quiet space where they can join the class without any interruptions. Students should be in an environment conducive to attentive virtual studying and class interaction, which will help set the tone for the group as a whole.

You shouldn’t need to provide too much guidance here but the general idea is that once class is underway, every learner is in an encroachment-free zone with no background noise.

Student studying and taking notes from her virtual classroom

Be prepared

This is as much a practical reminder as it is a rule, but to make sure everything runs smoothly, learners should be prepared and ready to go five minutes before class starts. Here’s what you could include in a quick checklist:

  • Have a pen and paper
  • Be familiar with the device and e-learning platform
  • Fully charge or connect your device before class starts
  • Have a glass of water
  • Check lighting
  • Turn off any notification alerts
  • Download the relevant apps and tools

Note that if you work with a user-friendly video engagement platform like Livestorm for your video communication, you won’t need to download anything at all – just click the link and you’re ready to go.

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Be on time

Late arrivals can be a big distraction – your class time is limited, learners could miss a crucial set of task instructions, and especially in a small regular class, lateness compromises people’s engagement and focus.

Set a grace period of two to five minutes for your ongoing classes and stick to it – any later and people just don’t get admitted – so they’ll have to stick to the event replay. It sounds strict and overbearing, but learners appreciate knowing where they stand and your classes will be better for it.

Mute the mic

Especially with big classes, without a hard-and-fast mute rule in place an array of noises will start to feed through – the neighbor’s dog, people shifting in their seats, the Cobra Kai theme tune – so ask everyone to stick to mute unless they have the floor or are in a group activity.

With Livestorm’s virtual learning platform, you just hold “M” to speak – as soon as you release it, you’ll return to mute.

No distractions

You wouldn’t have learners messaging friends or scrolling through their social media apps in a traditional class, so they shouldn’t do it in your virtual classes either – though online engagement features and activities for students throughout the class will help them avoid any temptation.

No eating

As is the case in an in-person class, eating is distracting and even a little rude – especially during group activities. So other than a glass or bottle of water, no eating or drinking during the virtual class is a rule most learners appreciate.

Raise your hand

It’s just not practical for large classes to have people jumping in with their questions and comments – it’s too easy for other learners to lose the thread or for the class to get sidetracked.

Instead, encourage learners to raise a virtual hand, so you can come to them at the opportune moment.

Alternatively, you can have learners write queries in your platform’s questions tab – with Livestorm, students can use question upvotes to help decide what you answer first.


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Be responsive

If you want engaging classes, you need people to engage – so make it a rule.

Virtual classes often bring people together from all kinds of backgrounds, across different cultures and time zones, so it’s a great opportunity for students to exchange ideas and learn from each other – but it relies on their willingness to contribute and collaborate.

Aside from having it in your class rules to be responsive, you can also do your bit by encouraging learners to use fun tools and features, like emoji reactions, live polls, and virtual whiteboards.

Start each class with a five-minute icebreaker with small groups in breakout rooms, use multimedia resources to break up sessions into smaller chunks, and create a dynamic e-learning environment for everyone to enjoy and look forward to.

Check out our blog post for more of our tips on how to make online meetings more engaging.

Be constructive

If your classes or professional training sessions include pair or group work and peer reviews, it’s inevitable that at some point personalities will collide, especially if you’re asking learners to comment on each other’s assignments or points of view.

So make sure everyone understands the importance of keeping all feedback constructive – critique, don’t criticize.

As well as setting this rule, you can help avoid friction by setting up review tasks to balance positive and negative comments, stick to class objectives, and where possible provide specific reasoning for any negative feedback with examples and alternatives.

Be positive

A successful virtual or hybrid class needs its learners to be enthusiastic, engaged, and collaborative, but especially in an online setting it can be easy for sarcastic humor to be misinterpreted.

So set a rule for no negative jokes – even if it’s intended lighthearted throwaway comment – to make sure no one is ever made to feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.

Warm and positive interactions throughout your classes will help learners feel motivated, confident, and ready to learn.

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How to create a positive environment for virtual learning?

Online learning allows for flexibility, a fantastic mix of learners, and an exciting melting pot of personalities and backgrounds. But as much as that can make for fun and dynamic classes, it can also bring about distractions, tangents, or misunderstandings.

So set a tone for positive, constructive learning early on in your classes with a friendly set of non-judgmental rules that will help everyone get the most out of your virtual or hybrid learning classroom.

By demonstrating the behaviors you value in your learners, and by reiterating your rules whenever appropriate throughout your classes, you’ll motivate your learners to take part in what should be a positive experience for everyone.

Frequently asked questions about virtual classroom rules and expectations

What is virtual class etiquette?

Virtual class etiquette refers to how learners should behave during their digital classes, such as no eating and drinking, no speaking over anybody else, and keeping the mic on mute unless they have the floor.

How can students make up their own online classroom rules?

To create their own online classroom rules, students in a virtual class can work in small groups in breakout rooms and then take turns to compare their rules before using a live poll to decide which ones work best.

How do you teach online etiquette?

The best way to teach online etiquette is to demonstrate good practices. It’s also a good idea to formalize some rules, which you can share before the start of a course – you can then remind your class of those rules whenever appropriate.

What are virtual classroom rules for high school students?

The most important virtual classroom rules for high school students are:

  • Mute your mic except when it’s your turn to speak
  • Find a quiet space to take your class where you won’t be distracted
  • Always be on time for your class and prepared with a charged device and any materials you may need
  • Always raise a hand when you want to say something and wait until you’re invited to speak