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Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

August 9, 2020

Teaching & Education

5 things teachers can do to improve online teaching.

Mother and daughter doing online schooling

The Coronavirus pandemic has forced thousands of students and educators to reevaluate how they will be learning in the coming weeks and months. Many schools went completely online with little or no notice, and now as the pandemic continues to keep businesses and schools closed, teachers are working to ensure their school year can be successful no matter how it looks.

Some schools around the country are moving to in-person learning, with online options for students who don’t wish to attend in-person. Other schools will be having some days online, and still others will be fully online for the foreseeable future. Now more than ever, educators are critical for helping students continue to learn and thrive amid the uncertainty.

Teachers have extremely difficult tasks before them as they work to adjust their curriculum and lesson plans to fit their new normal. The most important thing for everyone who teaches is to find safe ways for students to continue getting the education that they deserve. Teachers want students to feel safe and comfortable while still giving them opportunities for learning and growth. And as things continue to change and shift, students are likely to feel uncertain about their schooling. Parents similarly feel passionately about their child’s education, and it’s vital for educators to be prepared to provide the best opportunities possible for students. 

Those who are teaching are shouldering an extremely heavy burden, and their value simply can’t be overstated. Educators now more than ever are going above and beyond, doing extra work for online classrooms, changing their strategies and plans, and working to ensure that students can be successful.

If you teach and are getting ready for a partly or fully online classroom this year, there are so many things to consider and plan for. These 5 tips will help you be prepared to improve your online teaching strategy and help students have a successful experience in the classroom this year.

1. Utilize a variety of technology options.

When it comes to online learning, utilizing technology is absolutely crucial for success. There are many ways that those who are teaching need to prepare to implement technology inside their classrooms, especially when they are primarily connecting with students online. WGU offers a learning and technology master’s degree program that can help teachers understand technology and implement it in their classrooms more seamlessly. 

Teachers should plan to spend the first several days of class helping students understand the technology and learn how to work with it. Practice exercises are a great way for students to try out the technology and make sure they understand what to do, asking questions and getting help before projects begin. This learning curve time and hands-on practice will help students and those who are teaching them alike be prepared and work out any kinks in the system.

Some of the best ways teachers can use technology to help create great learning environments for their students include:

  • Video conferencing. Many online teachers will still want to hold lectures or instruction time for students. There are many video conferencing options that allow teachers to connect with their students at a certain time each day. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts are all popular options for educators to use. These video conferencing systems allow online teachers to set specific times that their students will log in to view a lecture or have class, giving those who are teaching online an opportunity to help explain concepts in a way that students can see. They can also enable students to get together for projects or collaboration, or meet with the person who teaches them one-on-one.

  • Videos. Teachers who aren’t interested in doing a live video conference setup for their classroom may instead prefer previously recorded videos. Teachers can use their webcam or a video recorder to create videos for their students. Those who are teaching can use free applications like YouTube, Vimeo, and Microsoft Teams as a resource to upload videos for their students to watch. This allows teachers to record themselves giving lectures and allow students to watch it on their own time.

  • Screen capture. Screen capture technology allows those who are teaching to show what they are doing on their own computer to help them understand. This can be extremely helpful when the people who teach are showing students how to set up a project, demonstrating a concept, or wanting to clearly show students what they need to do. Screencast-O-Matic, Loom, and Camtasia are all popular options for teachers who want to share their screen with students. 

  • Classroom management system. Educators who teach and are connecting with students digitally in online courses or classrooms can benefit from an online control center to help them be organized. This system allows teachers to send notes to the class, list lesson dates, talk about online courses and lessons, upload assignments, and have students turn in their work. Google Classroom, Canvas, and Blackboard are all popular classroom management systems for teachers to use. These systems give those who are teaching the freedom to set up their classroom in an organized way, ensuring students know what they need to do, when. Students can also have discussions, connect with their teacher, and more using this system. 

  • Assisting tools. People who are teaching and are moving to online education need to rely on new technological methods to help them connect with students. This can include showing them third-party videos, using visual aides, creating interesting projects, and more. YouTube, Power Point, Prezi, and learning games can all help add an interactive and visual element to your online classroom.

2. Connect to students individually.

While those who teach need to create good strategies that will help them work with all of their students, when they are in an online environment it is extremely important to also meet with students individually. In traditional classroom settings where those teaching can see how students are doing daily, interact with them one-on-one if they have questions, and speak to them in private if needed. Teaching online can still allow for those same opportunities for students. It can happen as teachers open hours and virtual resources for students to log on and chat or message them if they have questions or concerns, or teachers can video call and check in with students every week or two in order to make sure they are doing well. These meetings can help teachers assess how students are doing academically with the online courses and lessons, as well as socially and mentally. Good education involves students who are successful in other areas of their life, and teachers play an important role in this wellness. Meeting one-on-one with students will help teachers evaluate how their students are doing. 

A young teacher teaches her class remotely.

3. Prepare to work with parents.

As teachers spend less or no time with their students in an actual classroom, parental involvement will play a huge role in their school success. It’s extremely valuable to teachers to communicate with parents about how they anticipate the school year will go so parents can help ensure students have the equipment, setup, and technological skills they’ll need to succeed. Parents will also be needed to help answer questions and work on assignments for the online courses and lessons, so it’s vital for teachers to communicate regularly with them about what the expectations for their students are. Now more than ever, parents are playing an integral role in their child’s virtual education as it is happening at home, with them nearby. Instead of teacher’s being able to answer a question or help fix a problem, parents will be needed. Working with parents and talking to them often can help them feel successful as they help their learner navigate the school year.

4. Consider new learning methods.

 There are a wide variety of learning styles that students have, and a wide variety of learning methods that teachers can utilize in the classroom to help their learners. As teachers are transitioning to online learning, it may be a good time to evaluate their lesson plans and tactics and decide if they are the best approach for students. For example, many teachers may opt to do a flipped classroom style. This teaching method involves learners viewing video lectures and instruction as homework after school, and then during class time when they are online with the teacher, they go over problems and do assignments. This allows them to watch videos and learn concepts in the afternoon and, and spend the school day asking their teacher questions and solidifying their understanding. This learning model is a great option for digital learning, as it gives students the opportunity to interact with their teacher and ask questions for the majority of their school day. Similarly an inquiry based learning model where teachers act more as a facilitator for learning instead of the authoritative figure can be great for online classes. This kind of learning promotes online students discovering what they want to learn about, and teachers helping them. In an environment where online students and teachers are separated, this learning model can help them enhance their motivation and excitement about learning.

5. Provide collaboration and socialization opportunities.

School isn’t just about education, important social skills are developed in the classroom as well. Teachers can continue to foster socialization and collaboration even in their online classroom. Teachers can create group projects and have online students meet on Google Hangouts or Zoom to connect and work together. Teachers can also hold smaller group sessions to work with students, allowing them to chat more openly and work together in a more conducive environment. Some teachers may opt to start their school day with a chance to visit, have students take time each day sharing about what they have been doing, or even have a way for students to share jokes or funny stories. Chat channels can allow students to discuss things with their online class and have easy ways to connect even when they are far apart. Teachers can allow “recess” or a break that lets students just visit, laugh, and have socializing opportunities. This kind of socialization is important to a happy, exciting classroom for students. Building these relationships among their peers and with you as the teacher is critical for a positive experience.

If you’re currently a teacher wondering what your online classroom will look like next year, it’s important to start making a plan that will help your students thrive. Even in uncertain and unconventional environments, students can have a positive learning experience where they find a love of learning and develop important skills. Teachers are vital in making that happen, and are so important and valued for the work that they do. Consider earning a master’s degree in teaching to help you boost your résumé and be even more prepared for career success.

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