The final post in my Online Teaching series has certainly been long in coming! As always, I feel I have barely scratched the surface, but it’s time to stop reading and start working.
There are still myths and misconceptions regarding online teaching, whichever its form (the synchronous virtual classroom has been my main focus, but some ideas are equally applicable to asynchronous forms). And yet, there are a lot of teachers, trainers and researchers all over the world who see online teaching as a new exciting tool, an opportunity to engage students in a new way and reach new audiences.
At the very least, online teaching is always better than no teaching at all; if planned and done right, it can provide unique opportunities to students to study in a relaxed home environment without distractions, to develop their soft skills and knowledge and even to work around their shyness. Online teaching can be at the same time cooperative and differentiated, emotionally engaging and factually informative.
To benefit from it, students simply need to have ‘good transportation’ to class (a metaphor I borrowed from a book by Susan Ko and Steve Rossen about online teaching at universities I read this week): broadband connectivity and reliable equipment, as well as basic skills of using teleconferencing software.
To make sure students get the most out of online classes, teachers first and foremost need to be good teachers. In fact, the same book by Ko and Rossen says: “Techies” don’t necessarily make the best online instructors. An interest in teaching should come first, technology second.
That said, some preparation can’t hurt:
- be confident about the technology you need to use
- plan lessons carefully
- adapt activities and materials to online use
- incorporate more visuals
- build in reflection and feedback activities
- modify your teaching behaviour for the webcam
- read more articles (anything by Nicky Hockly is a great start!), blogs, books (e.g. Teaching Online: Tools and Techniques, Options and Opportunities by Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clandfield or Teaching Online: a Practical Guide by Susan Ko and Steve Rossen)
- take courses (e.g. Coursera or FutureLearn courses on online teaching)
- … and practise!