Across the globe, the COVID-19 crisis has forced schools to suddenly shut down and shift to remote learning. Teachers need not feel alone in addressing the new challenges arising from the abrupt change. Here are some ways they can make the move to online learning easier on themselves and their students.
- Be reasonable and flexible. You didn't plan for a global pandemic. Neither did your students or their parents. It's okay to relax your normal expectations. As you attempt to achieve the learning outcomes you desire for your students, keep in mind that society at large is dealing with the effects of the pandemic, not just teachers, students and their families.
- Be consistent. You likely have routines and weekly schedules for your face-to-face classrooms. Aim for your remote courses to be the same. Set up regular days of the week for different activities and assignments. During uncertain times, the comfort of having a consistent schedule is invaluable to your students.
- Communicate clearly and often. In face-to-face classrooms, students look to you to guide them through their schedules. With screens replacing the classroom in the COVID-19 era, that guidance is more essential than ever. Find a platform that allows you to communicate with students and parents, set up due dates and reminders, and establish routines. ClassDojo, Remind, Slack and Whatsapp are a few examples of the tools available, with many offering discounted or free options for educators.
- Supplement or replace real-time interactions with asynchronous materials like pre-recorded videos. Students might be sharing a house computer with parents, adjusting to new schedules or dealing with inconsistent internet access. This can make it difficult for many of them to attend synchronous class sessions. YouTube Learning is a subsection of the video-sharing platform dedicated specifically to educational topics. Not sure where to start? Another subsection, YouTube Teachers, offers helpful materials to give you ideas on how to utilize the platform to suit the needs of your classes.
- Keep your videos short and embed them in course web pages. Lengthy videos can result in cognitive overload, hindering student engagement. Videos should be brief and to the point. Also, students are more likely to engage when they don't have to click away from the page. Use embedding to increase the chances that students will actually watch the videos. Not sure how to do it? Edublogs offers a how-to guide.
- Test out all course materials on your phone. Many students will have to watch your lectures and videos on mobile devices. Do not assume that all the course material you create will be compatible. The change to small screens can affect link accessibility, font sizes, colors and screen ratios. Take the time to test out your course materials, and your students will appreciate being able to access and engage with your course from any device.
- Seek student feedback. Let students take control of their experiences, and allow them to guide you during this time. They can complete brief evaluations to help you decide what works best for them. Ask them to keep response journals, work together in group spaces or participate in one-on-one chats with you. Each of these methods can give you a sense of what they might be struggling with, and how to best accommodate your unique group of kiddos.
Teaching online may present new obstacles for teachers to overcome. With the right tools, they can do it, and do it well.
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