You’re an excellent educator in a physical classroom. It may be because you can engage student interest, you know the location of everything in your classroom, or you can get a whole lot of work done in a short amount of time and maintain your sanity. But, now you have been assigned an online course (either hybrid or entirely online). Can you be a rockstar in that environment also? Absolutely! With some forethought and creativity, you can be just as amazing in a virtual classroom environment.
It is not just a matter of uploading your lesson content to an online platform and hoping students dig in. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started teaching online.
Engaging Student Interest
Student attention is a challenge to maintain in any classroom. There will always be distractions, even in a well-controlled classroom–a squirrel in a tree outside, a student who cannot stop sneezing, rumbling of hungry stomachs, etc. When teaching an online course, student attention is pulled by both environment and technology distractions. Even so, you can still rely on some conventional teaching methods to engage students online. Make content interactive as much as possible, such as having students answer a short quiz after completing a reading or watching a video. Rely on interesting and unexpected visuals, much like advertisers do, to catch students’ attention when they log into the classroom. Post recordings of yourself, either video or audio clips, so students know you are a real person!
Organize Your Online Classroom
Online classrooms can take different forms, such as a shell of a course that you need to upload all your content into or an established course where you add personal touches. Either way, it is essential to place course materials where students can easily find them such as the syllabus, course policies, and readings. Many students explore the internet just by clicking and seeing where they end up. With this in mind, consider putting materials in multiple locations for easy access. Create a “map” or screen capture video that demonstrate where to find resources, documents, and tools they will most likely need at the beginning of the course.
Most online classrooms are accessible 24/7, which means that you can respond to students’ discussion posts early Sunday morning while wearing bunny slippers and pajamas. Establish a schedule to help manage student expectations for responses to their communications. Let your students know when you are most likely to be online, especially if you have an instant messaging feature in the classroom. Also, let them know when they can expect emailed responses from you so that they do not email you multiple times asking for a response to their questions. Embrace the flexibility of teaching online without letting it take over your life.
With all that in mind, still have fun teaching! Students can sense your enthusiasm and gift for teaching, even in a virtual environment. Learn how to translate face-to-face courses to the online environment in following modules: Desiging Your Online Courses and Teaching Online: The Basics.