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10 principles of effective online teaching

maya-maceka-yW-Qgw_IJXg-unsplas_20200516-094637_1 Photo by Maya Maceka for Unsplash

10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching

Over the past few weeks, schools all over the world have moved to online learning. Thousands of teachers have had to quickly adapt to educating in an entirely online environment. Making that switch has been undeniably challenging. Teachers need help with methods that help them take offline learning online, quickly and effectively. To help with that, here are ten principles for effective online teaching.

1. Make sure you appear in your videos

Let students see your face in your lecture videos. It's reassuring for younger learners. It can also help keep older learners engaged. In fact, research shows that students who viewed videos showing the lecturer's face were more likely to report that they had a better lecture experience.

2. Test your visuals out on multiple screens

Your students will be engaging with your lessons using a variety of devices. Assume your students will be connecting using devices including tablets, mobile phones, laptops, and desktop computers.

Unfortunately, not all visuals work well with all devices. The last thing you want is to share videos and images that don't render to every device. Do a bit of testing with your own mobile phone, laptop, and other available devices to ensure that everything looks okay. You can even reach out to a particularly helpful student or two to do a bit of beta testing.

3. Add interactivity

Interactivity keeps students engaged. Keep your lessons interesting by making sure they are interspersed with short quizzes, and other learning activities. Fortunately, most learning management systems allow you to do this quite easily. Work with your LMS provider to learn what your options are, and how to create engaging content.

4. Create a student lounge

Students are often able to find answers to their own questions, and come up with creative solutions when they are allowed to talk and brainstorm together. Consider setting up an online space for students to do just that.

To find the right tool, look to dedicated social media sites designed specifically for student use, video conferencing tools like Zoom, or social sites like Google Hangouts. Of course, you should choose an option that can be moderated appropriately depending on the age and maturity of your students.

5. Repetition is better than experimentation

Your first efforts at teaching online aren't going to go off perfectly. Expect to have to make some adjustments along the way. At the same time, consistency is very important to students, even an imperfect consistency.

Once you find something that works, consider sticking with it. Even if you find something later that seems really nifty, balance the novelty of that with the potential it has to disrupt what is already working for your students.

6. Record for maximum flexibility

Live Streaming is a great option because it allows students to interact with you. They can respond to your questions, and ask their own. Unfortunately, not every student will be able to tune in for your live presentations.

Keep in mind that the outbreak has added a new layer of unpredictability to students' lives. In addition to this, many students may be sharing devices and other resources with other household members. Make sure everyone is able to access each lesson by making a recording available.

7. Break long or complicated lessons into shorter modules

If your videos are too long, students may become restless and distracted. They could even miss very important points. Try to keep videos at 15 minutes or less for all students before giving some sort of break. For younger students, you might even keep your recordings even shorter.

The same is true for very complicated lessons. Even if you would normally present a concept all at once in class, you might be better off dividing into a series of lessons online.

8. Take advantage of free resources

The truth is that you are losing something without face to face interaction. In addition to this, your students may be struggling to fully adapt to their new learning environment. You need all the help you can get. So do they.

Fortunately, there are numerous free educational resources that you and your students can tap for extra help and enrichment. In fact, many premium providers have stepped up to offer free software, online lessons, magazine articles, games, and more. Some great resources include, the DfE and BESA's LendEd initiative, BBC Bitesize, Junior Scholastic, Subjecto, Lexia Core, ABC Mouse, Edmodo, CoolMath, Khan Academy, and a host of others (if you've come across any useful resources yourself, why not share them with others by leaving a comment at the end of this article).

9. Provide students and parents with clear guidelines

Students and their parents have also been asked to make a huge adjustment over the last few weeks. Most are starting at even a greater disadvantage than you. For starters, most have no idea how much time should be spent on instruction each day. They're also being asked to manage scheduling and deadlines that were normally handled entirely in the classroom.

They are looking to you for guidance. Give them the information they need, such as:

●The times they are expected to log in and out of the system.

●The amount of assistance parents should expect to provide.

●Total number of minutes per day they should be engaged in online learning.

●How to retrieve grades.

●How to download or upload assignments.

●Emails or phone numbers for academic or technical help.

●Links to resources or software required.

●Expected rules of etiquette when engaged in online learning.

Finally, be patient. You'll spend quite a bit of time answering questions that you've already answered. Consider creating a classroom FAQ so students and parents have an easy-to-access source of information.

10. Create virtual office hours

It's important that you are available to your students and their parents. At the same time, you need some downtime, plus adequate time to prepare lessons, deal with correspondence, grade papers, etc. This is why it's imperative that you establish some boundaries regarding your availability. Make it clear when you will and won't be available by creating virtual office hours. Distribute these hours to students and parents via email. Post them on your classroom website.

Final thoughts

There's no denying that this is a big adjustment for you, and for your students. Fortunately, your top-notch teaching skills can be translated to an online learning environment. Your key to success is patience, flexibility, and a willingness to apply the principles listed here. 


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