With teachers across the world having been forced to adapt to online teaching or a blended learning model due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more important now than ever before to develop strategies for online teaching.
Online learning poses particular challenges and with nearly 1.6 billion students moving to distance learning in 2020, it is thought that the socio-economic gap may have widened as much as 30% due to Covid-19. Therefore, teachers need to use particular strategies to help overcome the specific challenges which online learning poses, to ensure that all students achieve the best possible outcome.
However, even before the pandemic, technology was quickly evolving and teachers had to constantly adapt and innovate in order to keep up with the latest technological evolutions. The Covid-19 pandemic has simply sped up the process, forcing technophobe teachers to face their fears head-on.
The Advantages of Online Teaching
While it can sometimes be easy to focus on the disadvantages of online teaching, let’s focus on the positive aspects of online teaching before discussing some strategies to overcome the specific challenges it poses.
Firstly, online teaching is far more time-efficient, for both the teacher and the students since no time is wasted traveling to and from school and from different classrooms around the school. Meaning that students get more time to focus on their learning and also have more time to spend doing things they enjoy outside of the classroom, which is hugely important for a child’s development.
Another thing that the move to online teaching has also highlighted is the importance of the role that parents can play in their child’s education. Online teaching has meant that teachers have seen far more of their students’ home environments than they would have before, meaning that they are able to better understand the situation at home. Meanwhile, parents have had to help motivate their children to complete their schoolwork, perhaps sometimes with varying levels of success. The move to online teaching has therefore made many parents gain a newfound understanding and appreciation for the roles that teachers play in their children’s lives.
Online learning can also be extremely beneficial for those students who struggle to ask questions in a traditional classroom environment out of fear of judgment from other students or for those students who struggle to communicate orally as they can instead type what they wish to say in the chat.
Teachers should make use of these advantages, where possible, during their online classes.
1: Use the chat function if using video conferencing software
As mentioned previously, the chat function can be extremely useful in synchronous lessons for students who struggle to ask questions orally due to potential judgment from the rest of the class. However, the chat can also be a useful tool for the entire class as it can be a way for you to gauge the entire class’s understanding of a particular topic. For example, you can post a comment in the chat asking the students to ‘like’ the comment if they understand the content or ‘dislike’ it if they don’t understand it yet. This immediately gives you a clear idea as to whether you need to spend more time on a particular topic or if you can move on to something new.
2: Utilize a range of online tools
As teachers, we need to recognize and accept that online lessons are not the same as face-to-face lessons but this does not mean that they can’t be as good or even better! Teaching replicas of your in-person classes in an online format will most likely lead to an unengaging online lesson.
Therefore, a good way to adapt lessons to work well in an online format is to utilize some of the thousands of online teaching tools that exist. For example, you could create a quiz for the end of the class to see what information the students have absorbed. The quiz-making website ‘Kahoot‘ is extremely popular with both students and adults alike and makes a very fun but also extremely useful activity. You could also create a class message board by using ‘Padlet‘ where students can discuss topics from class in detail or can even ask and help answer each other’s questions.
There are a wealth of online tools which you can make use of during your online classes, if you want to discover more, check out our post ‘Remote Teaching & Tech Tools for Teachers‘
3: Don’t forget about your wellbeing!
Teaching is known to be one of the most stressful professions. It is extremely important that when you are teaching online, you ensure you look after yourself properly, just as you would if you were teaching in person. Make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep, exercising, and getting plenty of fresh air. Your lessons both online and in the classroom will always be better if you are well-rested! Many teachers also find yoga and mindfulness useful to help them relax, a study in Wales showed that after just 8 weeks of Mindfulness Stress Reduction, teachers showed marked improvements in their depression, anxiety, stress, and their ability to relax.
Are you interested in finding out more about Mindfulness and Well-Being? We run an online course on ‘Wellbeing in Schools: Positive Education and Mindfulness‘
4: Get parents involved
In the virtual classroom, parents play a vital role. Since they are the ones who are able to physically spend time with students, it is very important that they feel able to motivate their children to attend online lessons. There are many ways that you can keep parents involved. You could send monthly emails to them with details about how their children are performing and how they can improve or if students are struggling to attend, you could call their parents to discuss this. You could also create a newsletter outlining events that the school is putting on and recent student achievements.
5: Communicate expectations to the students
Just like in the physical classroom, what you expect from students with regard to behavior, should be clear from the very start of the lesson. You should set out what you expect from them in a message on the chat so that all students are able to see your expectations of them throughout the lesson. These expectations could include that students must not use their device during the lesson for purposes other than their schoolwork, that they must use the ‘raise their hand function’ if they want to answer a question, or that they must remain focused on the task if in breakout rooms.
6: Don’t worry if the technology goes wrong!
While it can be very stressful if you or your students are having issues with connection or faulty resources, it is not a disaster! If you have time, it can be helpful to do a trial lesson without the students to make sure that you know how to use the resources. It is also a good idea to have an alternative activity- just in case you do experience any technological problems.
With online teaching set to continue until at least the end of this academic year in many countries, the key to successful online teaching is that teachers adapt their lessons to fit an online model and don’t just attempt to replicate a class they would teach in the classroom. Equally, teachers must still have high expectations of their students, just as they would in the classroom, and ensure, by engaging parents, that students exceed these expectations.
Have you got any strategies or tips that we haven’t mentioned? Share them with us in the comments below!