The COVID-19 pandemic has forced teachers to switch to teaching online. As schools close due to the virus, teachers are forced to adjust their classes for virtual learning. It is a very difficult process and can be very overwhelming. However, know that it is very possible for a virtual classroom to be as effective as classes conducted in person.
While virtual classrooms may be different than in-person sessions, they don’t need to be an inferior way of learning. However, it’s important to know that online teaching isn’t simply presenting lectures in front of a camera instead of a classroom. Teachers must adopt a different classroom structure and preparation. We’re here to help to give a few tips on how to do just that.
Keep the class structure simple
One of the biggest obstacles that teachers switching to the online format will have to overcome is addressing misconceptions regarding assignment instructions. In person, teachers can introduce assignments, run through all the requirements, and follow it up with student questions. Also, students feeling stuck on an assignment can ask the teachers or their peers for help. In an online setting, it’s much harder to get clarification on an assignment.
Teachers can and should make themselves available through email or video call office hours to answer any questions students might have. It’s also best to make the assignment requirements clear and simple, minimizing any potential misconceptions students may have. If appropriate for the assignment, provide examples of the assignment or readings that help students understand concepts better. Online teaching can leave students with a lot of questions, so the more resources they can use, the better.
Provide a clear assignment timeline
Since students aren’t physically going to the class and verbally being told when assignment due dates are, it’s important to clearly lay out when assignments are due. The best way to do this is to provide every student with a PDF of the schedule for the semester — in other words, a complete syllabus. This document should list all the assignments and their due dates in order by week. If there are any changes to the schedule, be sure though to let students know. When that happens, update the schedule and notify the students of the change in email and in video meetings.
Also, send out weekly reminders at the beginning of the week that detail what will be happening this week and what is due. Many students are dealing with different online class structures with each teacher, so it is possible an assignment due date may slip their minds.
Use video to increase learning
The best way for students to learn during online teaching is to engage with them in multiple formats. While it is possible for students to learn with just text, they will learn better if visual learning is incorporated. Visual learning can take the form of video lectures, demonstrations or linked examples.
Platforms like Zoom hosts large group meetings, which can be run like a classroom. Set a time for everyone to join the session and hold discussions, lectures and critiques.
The more virtual interaction the students can have the better. For instance, if presentations are a part of the curriculum, students can film themselves presenting and upload the video. Thereafter, other students can give feedback on the presentation. Additionally, be open to having virtual office hours, giving students consistent time to video call and discuss any questions or concerns they have.
Create an effective management system
To keep things simple, it is very important to use an effective management system. Platforms like Canvas, Google Classrooms, and Blackboard can be used to keep everything students will need in one place. Colleges and universities usually already use one of these platforms. However, if these platforms don’t work with the class, self-created class websites can work, too.
It’s crucial to have a single place where students can go to get assignment information, updates and announcements. It’s best to keep things consistent, so students know what to expect and feel comfortable using the platform.
The switch from in-person teaching to online is a challenging one, but it can be done. Remember, keep things simple, clear and consistent. Use all the video tools you have at your disposal to engage students. Also remember, you are not in this alone. If you’re a teacher or student with questions or advice about effective online learning, please share in the comments below.