Many international school teachers are having to move teaching quickly online. To help you find your way, we’ve put together seven strategies based on research that will help set you and your learners up for success in your new online teaching and learning environment. You’ll also find some useful tips here.
1. Know the technology
- This is likely to be new to everyone, so be prepared to troubleshoot and let your class know you are working on it. Take time to familiarise yourself with the technology you and your school have chosen to use.
- Be very clear to learners and parents about where they should go for technical support so you’re not fielding set-up queries instead of teaching (good digital technologies will have support services or you may have a school colleague who could offer dedicated support for families in this area). Make their contact information readily available, and be prepared to direct them there if needed.
2. Expect the unexpected and remain flexible
- At some point, your technology may fail, whether it is a video not connecting and/or resource links not working properly.
- Have a backup plan for all learners’ work and assessments that rely on technology.
- Be clear in your communication to learners and their parents about technology failure. For example, outline what learners should do if they’re unable to submit work or access resources you’ve asked them to use due to technical issues.
- Don’t be afraid to solve technical challenges in real time, such as during online class discussions (if you run these) or in collaborative real-time activities, to save time.
3. Create and maintain a reassuring presence for your learners
- Send a message to all your learners, by video if possible, to welcome them to online learning and reassure them that even though face-to-face classes isn’t taking place, learning still goes on.
- If your school policy allows, use video chat rather than email when interacting with your learners.
- Get older learners talking by beginning discussions in discussion boards, and then contributing regular, and open responses to questions.
- Use non-verbal communication such as emojis.
- If the platform you use enables this, encourage your class to customise their profiles with avatars and information about themselves. Do the same yourself.
4. Set clear expectations
- Online learning is new to your learners as well. Make it clear how you any assessments will be completed and how homework will be submitted and marked now.
- Set expectations for response times to parents if they have queries about their child’s learning. For example, make it clear that you will respond to emails within one working day, otherwise they may expect you to answer an email within a few hours, and disengage or complain if you don’t.
- Share resources for your learners on how to be an online learner. You could use some of the tips here to help you.
5. Establish a sense of comfort and develop a community of learners
- Your learners are looking to you to set the tone. Demonstrate enthusiasm and excitement about teaching online to any alleviate fear, anxiety and isolation they may be feeling.
- Consider sharing a little more about yourself than you may normally do by posting a welcome video, a biography, photos that tell stories about what you are doing to keep busy during social isolation, links to news articles that may help them or video clips.
- If the technology platform you use allows, encourage each learner to personalise their homepage and spend time going around the class asking them to share information about what they have posted.
- For older students, think about incorporating instant messaging, web cameras, blogs and vlogs to help support them.
- If you’re teaching live classes, ask questions that encourage the class to question each other, and get some rich discussion going, in the same way you would in a normal classroom situation.
- Respond to the community as a whole rather than directing all responses to individual participants outside of the community.
6. Seek regular feedback and be mindful of learner confusion
- Check in with your learners to see how things are going as often as you can. You could think about formal or informal surveys to assess attitudes, workload and challenges. Then adapt your teaching as necessary — we’re all learning in this new environment.
- Use ad hoc quizzes to assess learners’ comprehension of material.
7. Regularly check your content, resources and applications
- Regularly check all links, resources and activities you send to your learners. Online content can sometimes move or change – or communication platforms can go down – which can lead to disengagement or worry among your learners.
- Help learners (or parents) who are having difficulty navigating online links or managing content spanning across various web pages.
- Demonstrate the process of navigating to websites that you ask your learners to use and show them how to appropriately manage keeping track of navigation when jumping from site to site.
These tips for getting started with online teaching and learning are summarised from:
Smith, K. (2016). Toward an Understanding of Training to Teach Online: A Review of the Literature. Pearson Efficacy & Research.