The onset of COVID-19 has forced a significant shift in how we go about our daily life; impacting our work, recreation and our education system. The evitable transition to working and studying online has now become the norm with one sector, in particular, requiring rapid change—Australia’s education system.
While the majority of Australia’s public and private groups scramble to adapt and develop methods for online teaching, the transition has proven somewhat less traumatic for those already accustomed to distance learning. As an experienced distance education teacher working with the Australian Christian College, the shift to online education has been a natural progression.
Many teachers and educators are coping with feelings of nervousness or difficulty adapting to the world of online education, a situation I feel under the circumstances, totally understandable. For the first time, experienced educators realise teaching online is very different from the face-to-face approach, which so many are accustomed to. To help other teachers and educators transition more easily through this process, I’ve collated some useful tips on how to succeed when teaching online.
Orientation for Students and Parents
Online orientation ensures students a quicker and smoother transition to online learning. Taking your students through new processes and structures will help better facilitate training and defining academic expectations. It is crucial students and parents are aware of how online school interactions differ from social interactions online—increasing parent awareness and providing training strategies to help students stay safe and succeed is crucial.
Student Supervision Essential for Productivity
For the majority of students participating in online learning for the first time may feel somewhat isolated and experience difficulty in being productive—one way to overcome this is by assigning a supervisory or ‘buddy’ teacher to each year level. By overseeing the student learning process, it enables you to guide and offer solutions to ensure each student is working to their best ability.
An organised workspace and structured timetable are essential for student’s maintaining accountability for their work, and provides supervisory teachers with the ability to monitor student performance while helping them overcome obstacles and provide some incentive on days when they feel less motivated.
Structure: The Key to Online Education
The key to online education is structure. Consistency in the delivery of every lesson in the same format achieves a higher level of student understanding. Clearly defining student expectations and ensuring adherence to guidelines is vital to teaching success online. By setting a clear example through a universal teaching framework, will help aid students to structure their behaviour and time management.
A format which has benefited me and lesson effectiveness is:
- Ensure every lesson has an outline and a goal.
- Show a video which reinforces your message through a personal anecdote, humour or story.
- Contextualise your message concisely.
- Assign students a task to draw on insights and extents on learnings.
- Finalise the lesson with a test which reviews content learnt.
- Auto-grade test results where possible; or use a checking process which encourages accountability while tracking progress.
Video in the Teaching Environment
The use of video and its effectiveness in the teaching environment has been well-documented and widely accepted. While not discounting the essential role the written word plays in the teaching process, students can find large bodies of text overwhelming, especially those new to online learning. Video is a medium which enables students to connect and interactively learn on a more personal level more efficiently while also providing students with the opportunity to comment on or refer to the video for further advice.
Seeking Support and Building Your Network
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to raise the bar is through collaboration—start building your support network by reaching out to the various teaching associations and by using online tools which compliment your goals while easing your workload.
Actively seek support from others within your network to help overcome issues which arise from working in areas with limited funding or differentiated learning. Check out the usual State administrative teams and websites, while not forgetting the wealth of resources which can aid you in building a more thorough and detailed curriculum.
Sustaining Student Interaction Through Online Learning
COVID-19 may prevent us from personal interaction with students; however, interactive lessons are still possible. There are numerous online resources available to bridge the social distancing gap; a personal favourite of mine is Kahoot. Kahoot brings together distance learning and online study with a range of premium plans to boost student engagement while allowing you to balance features with your budget. It’s also great in getting students to commence lessons on time.
While the method in which we teach has fundamentally changed and possibly for good, the role of teachers remains fundamentally the same. The current crisis provides teachers with an opportunity to improve and refine how they communicate with students, investigate new options and avenues of teaching, through observation and learn from changes implemented.
Online teaching provides you with an opportunity to rediscover education in new and exciting ways, removing us from the stereotypes and stress of the classroom and dwell on the true privilege which education provides.
Rather than allowing the current crisis to stifle our enthusiasm, let it show how we can rise above adversity, shake off anxiety and connect with our fellow teachers, students and community with a newfound passion for the things we have learned.
Adversity provides us all with an opportunity to take measure of how we look at life, work and friendships—and while online learning is a new concept for the majority of teachers, teachers today are fortunate to participate in a historical change in the way we teach.