Students around the world had to transition into online learning mode in March, and fall finds many of them continuing to learn via video. It’s not only school-age children, though. New hires are attending virtual trainings. College students are logging in to online lectures. All manner of continuing education has moved to remote communication. We might not all be in school, but many of us are now learning online. This poses a great challenge to teachers, who are adapting their lesson plans to an entirely new learning context. Here a few tips and tricks for those among you who have been tasked with teaching in these unprecedented times.
Use The Chat Feature
Video is probably the most important tool in an educator’s kit, but don’t disregard the importance of the chat feature. First, some students might feel more comfortable participating via chat. Younger students especially might feel socially awkward on a video call, and using text can be a great way to bring them into the conversation. Second, directing students to ask questions via chat can drastically reduce distractions and cross-talk.
Mute Early And Often
This one is pretty simple: everyone except the teacher should enter the video conference on mute and stay there until it is their turn to talk. In small breakaway groups, it might be feasible to let everyone keep their mic on, since conversation tends to flow more easily when people can simply jump in when they have something to say, but for larger online instructional settings, the only way to ensure a clear and audible learning experience is by keeping everyone’s microphones off.
Replicate In-Person Activities
School isn’t just a place to learn. It is also a place to make friends. To laugh. To be silly. To share confidences. To connect. Do whatever you can to encourage and facilitate activities that abide this spirit of kinship. You might want to set aside time at the beginning and end of classes to let your students talk about whatever they want. Don’t be afraid to let conversations get sidetracked once in a while. You can use more formal team building strategies like icebreakers and structured activities, but people tend to come together under less formal conditions. Let people find each other in ways that feel natural to them. The way to do this online is to relinquish just a little bit of control. It might not feel natural, but it will pay off.
One of the best things about online learning is that even people who miss class don’t really have to miss class, because with recording capabilities, anyone who couldn’t make it can watch the session at a later date. They’ll miss out on the interactive aspects of the class, but they’ll have everything else they need to keep up.
Remain Open To Feedback
Nobody’s perfect! You might have done everything you can to ensure a smooth transition into online learning, but it’s nearly impossible to predict the needs of every student. So when someone tells you something isn’t quite clicking for them, that’s an opportunity for you to improve your online teaching practice. Stay open to feedback from your students.
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