As the school and college campuses shutter in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, many educators find themselves operating in unfamiliar territory, making a shift to remote learning, overnight.
This transition typically requires a measured approach, taking into account the time to learn, plan, and get acquainted with new technology. Amidst all, certain myths need to be addressed and checked if it’s true for hassle-free learning.
The post will talk about the 5 biggest myths about synchronous online teaching.
Online learning delivers an impersonal learning experience
Some educators say an online classroom provides an impersonal and limited learning experience. Still, this viewpoint can apply equally to the in-person classroom experience if the educator is functional, expedient, and antiseptic in delivery. The virtual learning experience is capable of channeling a very personal reaction.
Usually, students do not participate much in their real-world classes; however, they participate way more in the online space. They are more confident writing texts and speaking, more willing to take risks in the comfort of their home, and more willing to share personal and professional learning, even during tech failure.
Correspondingly, the speed of learning via voice and text chat promotes engagement. Besides these, online group projects include virtual breakout rooms, where students share a whiteboard, texting, audio, and video. And the virtual breakout room experiences cultivate a concentrated team effort to connect ideas and think harder precisely because they are virtual. They describe a "high definition" learning experience that brings them closer as a learning community. Such feedback reinforces the notion that the virtual classroom can support a high-impact, personal, and deep learning experience.
Too much goes on
In a physical classroom, students rarely exchange words or pass notes in front of their instructor. Because these attractive nuisances interfere with the learning experience and distract students. The case is different with the virtual classrooms, it has no notes per se, but it does have texts, chats, and other capabilities, which seem distracting. However, the synchronous online classroom can transform these distractions into learning tools by encouraging text chat and using instant feedback from students, which helps accelerate learning.
Not every teacher favors texting, maybe, because they do not have a habit of texting through life's everyday tasks, unlike the tech-savvy students, who text both professional and personal messages while multitasking. For experienced educators, it is hard to believe that texting during class can do anything but distract everyone involved. And, to expect the instructor to read incoming texts and react seems next to impossible. Yet, these texts provide clear data points of learning happening in real-time, which is invaluable when the instructor is far away from their students. It also empowers students who are too shy to participate in oral discussions, providing a safer, more controllable form of communication that allows developing the reluctant participant in new ways. Texting also allows students to respond to those who are talking and add value to the discussion that the speakers can respond to. It is also found that ideas develop faster and deeper when the educator manages such learning interaction. Mastering this skill enables instructors to react faster and provide immediate feedback, resulting in better learning.
Discussion forums push on strings
When thinking of online learning, we think of discussion forums. And the typical problems are to get students to participate and make sure the comments are substantive and relevant to the topic of discussion. When done correctly, discussion forums provide a unique opportunity to expand classroom learning in two ways, they’re:
- A well-constructed forum discussion can set the stage and engage the students before class. Discussion forums provide an opportunity to deliver the initial foundational learning on a particular case or topics that can jump-start the class's exploration of the subject matter.
- The discussion forum can extend learning even after the class session.
It is not about the number of posts but about idea momentum, where students obsess on ideas and check the forum for posts as compulsively as they e-mail or text. Discussion forums can actually fuel a level of learning engagement that delivers learning beyond the perimeters of the classroom experience.
Online group projects are impossible
To some, completing online group projects is next to impossible because they feel a group scattered across the internet cannot manage the work and only one or two students can carry the group.
But in reality, virtual group projects that sound problematic have issues because of the tool an instructor uses to improve the learning experience. Since students are scattered, the virtual breakout room takes on extraordinary immediacy. A sense of learning urgency emerges when students enter a breakout room with a specific assignment that requires them to report back to the entire class in a defined period of time. They ought to complete the assignment while navigating their virtual relationships. The assignment and the breakout room venue actually become important factors for their development. In a very real sense, such practices help students prepare for their future because their careers in the global business world will demand the same skills — solving a problem with a virtual team while under time pressure. Online group projects also hold students accountable for their work, and the written contributions of discussion forum posts and wikis bring transparency to work. Besides, the group project highlights participation and silence because of their virtual nature. An augmented need for accountability in the virtual venue seems to drive this practice. The "virtuality" can become an enabler when handled adeptly by the educator.￼
Tech problems will derail teaching
Last but not least, there’s a myth that technological problems will derail teaching and undermine the student learning experience. Online classes are self-paced, video-illustrated tutorials and live faculty training sessions, extremely helpful, but, at times, they do not fully prepare educators for times when the online classroom gets interrupted because of technological issues. The tech failure disrupts learning and takes valuable time away from the session. Fortunately, several online tools provide avenues for repairing the situation. For example, the instructor can add a post-class discussion forum or blog to facilitate teaching content missed due to technical malfunction. Or, if in case, a student gets locked out of online classes or loses internet connectivity, then students in the class conferences could call their colleagues in on their mobile phones, so they could hear the session and participate via conference call. This was just one solution that even the help desk could not provide, but a determined, creative virtual team could. That kind of agility thrives in the virtual learning space. Technological problems are actually great at offering teachable moments that can drive innovation and teamwork and even become action-learning tools.
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