Teaching online is the new Holy Grail for many young K-12 educators. They dream about how wonderful it would be to spend part of their day working from home and conduct meaningful interactions with students online while preparing dinner. To them,
teaching online means never having to be anywhere at any particular time, never having to wear uncomfortable and never being asked a question without having time to research the answer.
Nevertheless, the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the network connection. While online teaching offers many rewards for instructors, it takes a special set of skills and attitudes to excel at it. Here are 10 tips you shall need to be a successful online teacher:
Know Thy Students : It's hardly news that a great deal of human communication is nonverbal, so the chances of misunderstanding increase exponentially. It takes a great deal of time and effort on the part of online teachers to make sure they are really clear in their own communications, as well as to understand who they are teaching, what students are trying to tell them, and how well their students are succeeding in each course.
Get to Work…Really : Quality classroom teachers succeed by absorbing oral and visual feedback from each class session as it unfolds, and making moment-to-moment adjustments in response. Except for a small minority of instructors working with expensive learning systems that provide continuous one-to-one visual and auditory communication, online teachers don't have the luxury of making real-time modifications to their instructional strategies. Your teaching must be accurate, complete, and spot-on. Between preparation, correspondence, and time-consuming troubleshooting of student problems, on an estimate you will need to put in 50 percent more effort in teaching technical courses online than in teaching the same material in person.
Give Thoughtful and Regular Feedback : This is a critical element to online teaching success. Feedback and assessment in an online course should be continuous because, online learners crave recognition and comment. In fact, many students find this kind of engagement to be even more essential to feeling successful and recognized in the online environment. So, give students thoughtful and regular feedback throughout the course.
Decide How You Want to Communicate with Students : There are many avenues for communication available to instructors working with students but it’s critical that the right one is chosen for a given type of information. Some communication with students should take place in discussion forums, while other conversations are best to have in a private email. Using a variety of methods to communicate and experimenting with which works best for a given group of students, is important for online education success.
Be Proactive About Course Management : This includes monitoring assignment submissions, reminding students of upcoming deadlines, and making course progress adjustments when they’re needed. Course management depends on the needs of students, but you will be more successful, regardless of the experience or dedication of students, by putting greater emphasis on this in the early weeks of the course as students adapt to the new responsibilities of online learning.
Have a Contingency Plan : Whether the course management site decides to crash or you get unexpectedly ill, there may be times during an online course when the usual rhythm of things will be interrupted. These occasions can be far less disruptive to students if an instructor has a plan in place for these kinds of unexpected events. You must have a plan for how you’ll communicate changes to students, should something serious take place. This reduces stress for you and your students and ensures that online courses will operate with limited hiccups regardless of any unexpected events.
Help Students Track Their Progress : Without information about their progress and feedback about where they’re going in the class, most students in an online course will feel pretty lost. Student assignments and tests should be returned within a couple of days and grades should be posted online as soon as you have them available. It’s also important to touch base with students throughout the semester, especially those who are struggling or may need a little more encouragement to push themselves to their potential in the course.
Emphasize Active Learning : Encouragement of active learning is one of the traits central to successful online learning. Active learning is a model of instruction that puts the responsibility of learning on the learner. While you can be a facilitator of this process, also make students understand that they will get more out of the course and achieve a better grade when they take responsibility for their own learning.
Keep Students Motivated and Engaged : Much of the interaction in online classes happens in discussion forums and chat rooms. While students should be allowed to communicate with each other without your constant supervision and encouragement, you do play a key role in helping students get the most out of these experiences. Ask questions in these settings that will help to get and keep students interested in the subject matter. Asking questions that facilitate reflective thinking, collaborative learning, or knowledge building can be especially helpful.
Revise and Refine your Lessons : Even if you’re experienced, you need to be flexible when it comes to a willingness to revise and refine lessons. Certain groups of students may need additional support or information may just need to be presented in a different way for some students to really understand it. While a total overhaul isn’t necessary, you’ll find greater success through adapting course materials to the needs of students, not forcing students to adapt to the needs of the course.
If you, as an online teacher are able to efficiently implement even 50% of these tips in your teaching, I assure you that success will come knocking at your door very soon. You are invited to share more tips, views or just comment upon the context. The Comment Box awaits you.