Our Director of Education, Ed Richardson shares his top 10 tips using the acrostic ONLINE TIPS.
Objectives: Set clear objectives for each lesson. Students may not be familiar with online learning, so make sure they understand your expectations and what needs to be achieved in the available time.
Norms: Set ground rules for your online sessions as you would within a physical classroom. Explain clearly what students should do if they have questions or don’t understand. Help students to develop effective approaches to learning online.
Layout: Keep content on your whiteboard structured and clear. Cluttered boards distract students. Written work can be photographed/scanned then uploaded to boards for review. There are many online whiteboards (e.g. BitPaper, Conceptboard.) Pick one and stick with it for simplicity’s sake.
Innovate: Use a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. Independent learning tasks may be more easily set and completed non-digitally in between online sessions.
Notifications: Disable notifications on your computer or tablet. They can pop up when you least expect and can distract you and your student (especially if you’re sharing screens!)
Environment: The area around you when you teach online should be neutral and quiet. Look at your background and consider whether it could be distracting (some videoconferencing software lets you blur it.) Wear headphones where possible. This improves sound quality and reduces ambient noise. Encourage your students to do the same.
Troubleshoot: Always be prepared to help with students’ technical issues. Try calling a student on a phone if audio disappears or have them share their screen if their hardware is not behaving. Pick easy to use videoconferencing (e.g. Zoom or Skype) and online whiteboards. Road test thoroughly before starting. Wired internet connections tend to be more stable than wireless. Quite often, a 4G hotspot on your smartphone can be more stable than a misbehaving wifi. Always explain the Plan B to your student/client before any tech issues arise so that everyone knows what to do in this situation.
Interaction: Use both video and audio wherever possible. This gives you a more complete understanding of how the student is learning. Don’t use too many online platforms or tools; it can be confusing. If you are concerned a student is distracted by something else on their computer, most videoconferencing software allows you to share screens, enabling you to see a student’s view.
Pedagogy: Think carefully about your approach to teaching online. Gauging student focus can be tricky for those who have not taught extensively online. Use shorter time-bound tasks and check for understanding regularly to help maintain engagement and pace. Consider incorporating movement into your sessions where appropriate. A couple of star jumps or stretches can be a great mid-lesson pause. Encourage students to exercise when at home, as they are likely to be sedentary if learning from home fulltime. Finally, encourage students to feed back to you on this medium of teaching.
Storage: Most online whiteboards allow you to make PDFs of the content created. This can then be downloaded and saved for students to refer back to. Without physical resources in the shape of workbooks, software such as Dropbox can be very useful for filing this content.