Online courses have been in practice for decades, but with the rise in distance learning, hybrid classroom models, and online schools and universities, the online teacher now has many more opportunities to shine while students benefit from the format and save up to 72% of the cost of traditional learning materials. Whether you are transitioning from a traditional classroom to online teaching, working in a hybrid or blended learning environment, or you are a seasoned online teacher, there are various strategies you can implement to improve your classroom performance and effectively engage your students.
Traditional classrooms and online classrooms are very different, but you should still set reasonable and attainable expectations. Make sure that your classroom policies are laid out clearly from the beginning and are in alignment with school policies.
It is also important to make sure that assignments are appropriate and add value to your students' learning experience. You want your students to be productive with their time and learn from your course, not to be bogged down with unrealistic expectations or tedious assignments.
Often, online teachers find themselves with a group of students who have never met, live in different regions, and have significantly different backgrounds and goals. It can be beneficial to bring them together as a community. Set up group spaces for small groups to consult, brainstorm and work together. They'll feel more connected and supported. It will also allow them to ask quick questions, which can reduce interruptions to live class time and reduce emails to you.
The adage, think before you speak, is true for online platforms too. Reread everything before you submit it. Make sure your writing is clear and easy to understand. Check the tone to make sure you do not unintentionally come across as sarcastic or condescending, which may alienate some of your students. Also, look for wording or phrases that could be ambiguous or misinterpreted. Be mindful of slang and colloquialisms, and be considerate of language or cultural barriers that might cause misunderstandings or communication issues.
There are many ways to foster relationships with your students. Take time to get to know your students. Offer virtual office hours through video conferencing, where students can reach out to you with questions, concerns, and one-on-one discussions. Set aside time to respond to emails with personal and thoughtful responses. This will help your students feel supported and willing to come to you again in the future.
Your students' progress is often a reflection of your teaching ability, but you can use more than their quiz results to gauge your effectiveness in teaching. Try to get regular feedback from your students. You can ask a quick question at the end of a live discussion, as simple as "Is there anything I can do to improve your classroom experience?"
Alternatively, you may choose to request feedback during office hours, when students email you with questions or ask for clarification, or create anonymous surveys so students will feel comfortable giving honest responses.
Implementing student suggestions and taking constructive criticism seriously throughout the semester will be beneficial for you as a teacher, and give your students the best chance for success. It's also important to follow their lead. It is okay to deviate from a lesson plan or the syllabus if it means your students are engaged with the material. Letting students be active participants in the trajectory of the class can help them feel more invested and motivated.
Individual assignments and projects are important to gauge a student's grasp of the material, but group projects are also beneficial. Not only does it help to build your supportive online community, but it allows students to continue to develop communication, problem-solving, and other soft skills that will be necessary for future success.
The wisdom of your predecessors will save you a lot of time and stress. You do not have to create original content for every single lesson. You can use the recorded videos from credible lecturers and experts, published studies, and original sources to supplement your lessons. Just make sure that any resources you require are open resources and your students can access them without problems.
Recording lectures means you do not have to worry about interruptions, technical glitches, or students missing a live lecture for any number of reasons. You can post your videos for students to view on their own time.
Save your live classroom time to answer questions about the lecture and give your students time to discuss the material in real-time. This will help you involve your students and remind them that you are supportive and available.
This goes back to fostering a personal relationship with your students. When planning your pre-recorded videos, make sure you plan to have some face time with the camera. Try not to keep your back to the camera while you write on a whiteboard, or only use slideshows for your lectures. Show your face, and do not be afraid to show emotion, at least periodically, during your videos. This will make you more personable, and help students be more focused and engaged than if you are just a voice in the background.
Shorter videos are more accessible not just for attention spans, but also for technical reasons. Some students may have slower internet speeds, which affects downloading or streaming, so short videos are important. Recording lectures ahead of time means you can be intentional about keeping them at 15-20 minutes. If there's more information, consider breaking up your videos into two or three shorter videos, and interspersing the videos or slideshows with interactive content or activities. Understanding you and your students technology (and edtech) is critical!
Students frequently access online content from tablets and phones, so it is important to check your slides to verify that they are mobile-friendly. This is also a good time to check your spelling, font size, and colors. Make sure your slides are easy on the eyes and easy to access from any device.
Just like your "tone" can be misinterpreted in writing, written instructions can be ambiguous, and when you are not there in real time to answer questions, it can cause confusion or delays. Make sure your instructions are clear and concise and that there is little chance for confusion. You may also suggest an order for assignments, pertinent sections of text to read, or specific segments of videos to watch, so they can break their assignments into manageable chunks.
Many people thrive on routine and predictability. While you don't want to give the exact same assignments week after week, you do want to offer some structure and predictability. When you find a technique or method that works, stick with it. Your students will appreciate the predictability, and it will cause less confusion, making your class more straightforward and accessible for students.
It is important that you find teaching strategies for online lessons that not only complement your teaching style but are effective for your students as well. Classavo is an all-in-one teaching and learning platform that allows you to increase student engagement through interactive content and analytics. Students benefit from the format and can save up to 72% of the cost of traditional learning materials. Contact us today to have all your questions answered, or get started for free - Classavo is free for professors!
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