A year (and more) in, even though most of us are starting to get accustomed to teaching, learning, and working remotely, eLearning is still a relatively new concept. This is especially true for those who have had to suddenly embrace technology. We are becoming more adept at it, yes, but still, let’s appreciate the fact that it takes time. The platform you use for eLearning or training takes a lot of getting used to.
The younger generation may not know that the modern-day eLearning or Online Learning that we’re adapting to today is a spinoff of what people in the industry used to call distance learning.
For those who are unfamiliar with its history, the concept of distance learning did not catapult off the charts the way it was expected to when first introduced. Instead, it got flack for being an easy alternative that added little value to a person’s skill set, knowledge, and accolades.
Even Columbia University’s year 2000 unprecedented $25 million attempts, which came in the form of an online learning portal, did not take off. Little did we know that they were ahead of its time by a decade, what it was doing back then is now a necessary norm.
Fast-forward to today, it is obvious that traditional classrooms now have few other choices but to go online.
If you’re still trying to find your footing in creating and organizing lessons or planning your online classes, here are a few tips for you.
1 – Plan Your Classes Ahead of Time
It bears reminding that your students are not in front of you and they’re probably a little more lost than they would have been in a traditional classroom. So, go in prepared and let them know what is ahead of them if that is possible with the online learning platform you’re using. This is particularly important if you have students from different time zones because virtual students are dealing with completely different environments and situations.
Get your materials ready and set it out before starting your class. You’re also setting a good example for your students.
Using either BeED’s Journeys or LMS system allows you to set everything up ahead of time so that everyone is ready and on the same page before class starts. If you’re not familiar with it, log in often and give it a few trial runs.
2 – Recording Your Lessons Instead of Streaming
One of the biggest benefits of streaming and recording your lessons/lectures (versus live streaming) is that students who are struggling with intermittent internet access or are unwell can still access the class after the streaming has ended. In fact, some students may even need refreshers along the way, especially when you’ve handed them assignments.
You can either record the lessons in the form of 5-minute videos or audio. It is recommended that you keep your videos short. Audio is also a great alternative if you’re dealing with data transfer problems. The file is much smaller and easier to upload.
If you are recording the lectures, let your students know and send them the links so that they can watch/rewatch or listen to it at their own pace. Remember, every student is different and we should offer a helping hand to those students who are having a hard time playing catch-up.
As an educator, you can even rewatch your own lectures for self-evaluation. It helps you see if you can adopt a better approach or technique or tighten up your lessons. You can then use the information to include things that you could have missed during your live streams.
3 – Your Face is Important to Your Students
Creating a good relationship with your students is important in engaging them. Research suggests that live lectures that show a teacher’s face during class produce more favourable results compared to live streams featuring Powerpoint slides.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use slideshows and presentations. If the live stream is interspersed with you talking directly to your students or asking for their reactions, the entire lesson is simply more authentic and engaging.
So, turn your camera on and speak directly into it the way you would in a classroom.
But first, find the right angle and distance for the live stream. Seeing you too up-close for long periods might be disconcerting or uncomfortable for your students.
Find the perfect distance, check the lighting, ensure the people around you know that there’s a class going on, check the acoustics, and keep the background of your video clear of clutter.
4 – Help Your Students with Instructions
Constant communication, whether via messaging apps or email, is a must for online classrooms to work. Encourage your students to keep up with your classes with detailed instructions communicated to them regularly.
With BeED’s learning management system, you can keep in constant contact with your students and fellow educators via the app and our web-based platform.
Once you’ve set things up, i.e. the class/event/video, send them a direct invite link which should include what to expect during the lesson and what the students need to prepare.
For example, if you need your students to set up their webcams, let them know ahead of time instead of leaving them scrambling at the very last minute. If they need to use specific apps or programs, this, too, should also be communicated to them as soon as possible.
As the educator, log into the lesson early and send a reminder out to your students approximately 10 to 15 minutes before the start of class.
5 – Get Feedback from Your Students
Online learning is a two-way experience. You can only become better when you ask for and act on feedback from those you interact with. The learning experience will improve immensely when you meet the needs of your students with effective approaches and lesson plans.
This is an important point to note if you’re new to carrying out online classes.
Students who are asked for their feedback will also feel more appreciated, comfortable, and engaged when you show them how much you care about what’s happening during the lecture.
The method you use to gather the feedback is entirely up to you. Some teachers find it easier by posting up a poll or survey. Others ask for feedback via email or messaging apps.
6 – Ask Questions and Be Interactive During Class
Let’s face it – you don’t know what’s really happening at the other end of the camera. Most learning management systems come with functions and tools that encourage interaction throughout the lesson.
When educators keep the door of collaboration open to students and other teachers, they collectively make it easier to make improvements. By being interactive and involved, you bridge the digital gap between your students and you since online classrooms have the tendency to feel more mechanical and less human.
Punctuate the lessons by breaking them down into shorter sessions, and if possible, include puzzles, presentations, pitches, quizzes, games, virtual field trips, or even group brainstorming sessions. Just imagine…this might bring quieter students out of their comfort zones.
By communicating regularly with your students, not only will you be building rapport with them, you’re bringing the humanity and warmth that could have been felt in a real classroom into an online setting.
7 – Encourage Group Contributions and Activities
Teachers don’t always have to feel the pressure of taking centre stage all the time. You’ll be surprised by how willing older students are willing to take the lead. So, go ahead and give them control over projects, assignments, and activities.
With the BeED learning management system, it’s easy to set up small groups. Give these groups the settings, requirements, questions, and provide them with the support in an online community. Whenever they have questions or you need an update, touch base and ask them how things are going.
Some students are more outgoing than others, so the quieter groups may need extra encouragement, support, or an ice-breaking session to get things moving. The important thing is for you to be the pillar of support they need.
When you are using the BeED LMS platform, organize touch-base sessions through forums, Bluetooth chat (for those who prefer real-time interactions without WiFi connections), and video conferencing blocks for face-to-face discussions. These features are available whether it is on a peer-to-peer or teacher-to-teacher level.
8 – Set the Expectations for Your Students
According to research, many college graduates have taken at least one online course before the Pandemic hit, especially the younger generation. These students are more accustomed to meeting your expectations whether it is about handing in assignments, contributing to group projects, or participating in discussions.
Be age-specific when coming up with lesson plans and deciding on the choice of activities or assessments while maintaining a zone of proximal development.
Stepping in with the Right Learning Management System
It’s confusing as it is for students, teachers, and the school administrators to adapt to an online learning environment, so do a little leg work and test things out before making a decision.
The good thing about using BeED’s LMS and Journeys learning platform is that we will take you through from A to Z during our on-boarding training. Our support team is also always ready to walk you through problems swiftly.
Once we help set up the suitable classes in an academic year, our team of experts will dive straight into the curriculum materials to customize the training while offering 3 days of hands-on personalized training that lasts up to 2 to 3 hours per session. All this while, clients can keep in constant contact with us via surveys and Whatsapp. If the need arises, our team will organize follow-up training sessions to help our clients along.
At the end of the onboarding journey, you would have created professionally-developed courses and training.
Stay in Touch with BeED
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