In the coming academic year, many teachers will have to adhere to online teaching, be it full-time or in a hybrid model. But this time around, teachers can anticipate better classroom coordination, and most importantly prepare ahead. So, the question is - what can teachers do differently this time?
If teachers are reading this right now, you’d want to know what to do next when online education is gradually taking over the traditional classroom methods of teaching. Access to quality education is being made available everywhere, provided there are digital devices and an internet connection available. Stepping into a new era - the revolution of online education has considerably taken form in mind-blowing ways.
Why has online education gained popularity despite its challenges?
First and foremost, it is flexible. Teachers and students can recognise their strengths/weaknesses and move at their own pace. A better balance of work and studies can be achieved, by monitoring time management skills as well. Online education makes it possible for students to learn from any corner of the world, meaning the need to travel is not a necessity. Not only does it help to save time, but also money, which can be used for other requirements. Not to forget, on a platform like an internet, there are infinite skills and subjects to teach and learn.
The access to diverse materials such as e-books, learning applications, tools, videos, and even tutors can also integrate other formats like forums or discussions to improve lessons. Mostly, online classes allow for greater interaction and feedback between teachers and students.
The teaching environment this year may not be the same as the last. Both students and teachers need to remind themselves that an attempted effort of teaching is still good teaching. Virtually, things have taken a different toll. But online teaching can always get better, with experience.
What can teachers do differently this time?
- Create a sense of presence with students. Schedule small group meetings with them, keep a check on each of their progress weekly, and let students know that they are noticed. Video conference is a great way to connect with students. Sending e-mails or text messages regarding assignments, project deadlines and subject timetables can be shared to keep students well-informed about planning schedules. As an extra gesture, leave questions at the end of messages that students can respond to, ensuring that they take part in the discussions too.
- Encourage students to pick what they want to learn, rather than forcing them to ‘study’ or ‘do’. From compliance to engagement, the idea of creating an environment where students want to learn rather than being told what to learn is a huge step in this second round of online tutoring. Instead of putting tremendous efforts into making a subject interesting, the shift to giving choices taps interest in students. Yes, it could be an iterative process in the beginning, but the scope for success is large.
- Motivate students to own their content. Do students absorb everything after an online lesson? The answer may not be favourable to all teachers, but there is some truth indirect instruction to students. In online courses, it is a common model to consume the content and discuss the information afterwards. However, when online education seeks change, helping students to engage in meaningful projects can develop their mindset. Engaging students in creative work online can work wonders, especially when it comes to creating their own work. It can be blogging, creating podcasts, or making informative videos. Students can share it with their peers as well as teachers. This gives a deeper connection with ideas, students learn to take creative risks, and most importantly, they are engaged in the learning process.
- Communication with parents/caregivers needs to streamlined and predictable. As long as the online education phase continues, parents need to be partners along this learning process. Set boundaries for attending calls and being available for video calls, rather than expecting calls at any time of the day. Establish a consistent platform and predictable schedule for sharing information with parents. Also, parents can be taught about the technical aspects of the different digital applications used by students to learn.
- Teachers need to have regular staff meetings to get connected and discuss their modes of teaching styles. In this way, teachers can learn from each other and analyse what changes can help boost their classroom sessions. Time and attention should be given to teachers’ well-being and emotional health.
In this second round of online education, teachers, students, and parents now know what to expect and what not to, considering the unforeseen educational setting the world witnessed. Be it a new or old practice, strong classroom management is an essential requisite in online classrooms as it is in the traditional one.
Yet, not everything should change in the coming academic year. Teachers need to stay focused on good communication skills, create explicit routines, use research-based instructional strategies, determine whether to use digital or non-digital modes for assignments and focus on authentic learning.