The past year has witnessed the expansion of online learning across all levels of education in all corners of the world due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Teachers all over the education spectrum have been working diligently in transitioning their face to face lessons to an online format. However, designing online courses takes significant time and effort.
No matter how long you have been teaching face to face in the classroom, teaching online can be a very challenging undertaking. Online classes can feel completely different from in-person classes, and you may not be able to do all the same things online that you bring into a face-to-face classroom. But that is not to say you cannot create the same type of inclusive environment for your students. With the right tools and a dose of patience and creative, you can master the move online for Asynchronous or Synchronous courses. Asynchronous learning is where students are required to complete their work according to their own preferred schedule. Synchronous learning takes place when classes occur on set schedules and time frames.
1. Be specific
Communication online sometimes does not come across as clear as we think or want it to be.
Make you sure you clearly define all class expectations if you want to save yourself valuable time and repeated messages. The syllabus, projects, deadlines, and assignments must be clear about how student grades will be determined. Essentially, this means that is important to design distance learning experiences that have clear instructions and use of resources that help the students meet the requirements of the course. In addition to setting clear guidelines for what your learners should bring to your course, you should also inform them what you expect from them during the course. Simplicity is key.
2. Be responsive – but set limits
While maintaining communications with the students is important, we must also let them know when you are and when you are not available, as well as when they can expect a reply. This definitely goes a long way in avoiding misunderstandings. We know that students are accustomed to expect instant feedback. It is very important to clarify that communications through online classes are by email and that an email is not a text message. Being online does not mean that you are accessible 24/7.
3. Use interactive tools
Quizzes and polling are good ways to engage students in the online learning environment. You should provide students with sample quizzes and tests. This will allow students to become familiar with your style of asking questions and testing formats. For example, in my classes I use Canvas – a designer tool that allows you to make your lecture presentations more visually comprehensible, consistent, and logical.
4. Add personal touch
Teaching online does not allow us to interact with our students in the same manner as the face to-face classroom. When you are not in a face-to-face classroom environment, downloading and uploading lecture material, students sometimes feel like they are being taught by a computer rather than a person. That impersonal feeling is not very conducive for learning. You can help your students feel more connected by injecting some personal touches. Post a picture of yourself or an introductory video, anything to remind them that you are indeed ‘not a robot.’ In addition, on Blackboard you can personalize your lectures using images and examples.
5. Improve student retention online
Specifically, in online classes, retention could very well be a challenge because students sometimes do not feel motivated and connected to the class. There are students that struggle
to understand course material, and, on many occasions, they make a decision to drop their class or classes. In order to retain our students, we need create strategies that support
our students in developing a better understanding of the lectures. One method that helps students develop a better understanding of the lecture material is through outlines, examples, practical applications of the concepts and related videos. This supplements online learning and helps engage the students in their online classes.
6. Be a committed educator
We must understand that not every student will learn in the same way. To be a committed educator, we must have the desire and motivation to be good teachers, recognizing and accepting individual worth, and meeting professional responsibilities. Educators must also evaluate student wants, needs, and interests first to make a difference in student achievement. This requires practices that enhances teaching methods and techniques to bring the students a quality learning experience where they feel motivated and engaged in the course. The major focus is to stimulate students’ learning.
7. Be organized
Managing and organizing your time is critical because of the many responsibilities we have outside the teaching-learning environment. This calls for organizing our work and other responsibilities to accomplish the goals we have set for the semester. Creating a to do lists goes a long way in meeting our daily schedule. Other tools that are of equal importance is the use of daily planner to organize class meeting time, and other activities that require our attention and participation. Blackboard, for example, provides tools to organize the courses by chapters, modules, assignments, grades, surveys, etc. Finally, for a successful online teaching experience, we must find the best combination of online teaching strategies, practices, and methods for your specific group of students and the online teaching environment.
Mayra L. Mojica Butler
Mayra L. Mojica Butler was born in Puerto Rico. She received her Bachelor Degree in accounting with a minor in finance from The University of Puerto Rico and the Master Degree in accounting from The University of Phoenix. She has several years of experience in the field of accounting. Her extensive experience includes various accounting positions as Accountant at the Department of Labor (DOL) and Human Resources at Puerto Rico and Intern at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, as well as Community Education Assistant at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. In 2010 participated in Postgraduate Professional Development Program – PPDP in The Washington Center Education in Washington, DC.