Online learning, the “new normal”, can be found everywhere today.
Whatever you may call it a “distance” learning approach or opt for the “online” moniker, it has a significant role in the ongoing remote teaching practice. However, all that widespread adoption is all because of Coronavirus. It has disproportionately impacted school education, educators, and students globally. It has put numerous restrictions on the traditionally practised classroom-based teaching and learning in schools, compelling institutes to shift to digital learning platforms for both teaching and student assessments. Many structural and institutional issues hamper even these virtual digital learning platforms. Not only this, the use of technology in online learning has laid bare another category of the divide between school students across the world, known as the Digital Divide.
The sudden lockdown of the world to contain the spread of the pandemic has posed several challenges for school education globally. However, while lamentable, the disruption to education systems worldwide has offered valuable lessons and provided a unique opportunity to reimagine and restructure education. But, amidst all, there is amiss in teaching, i.e. the essence of in-person teaching into remote teaching.
This article brings you some effective techniques and strategies that could help you add a human touch into your remote campuses, shared by several experts and organizations.
Building a more resilient education system
Known to all, school education is undergoing unprecedented difficulties and challenges during the pandemic. This has highlighted how vulnerable and unprepared our system is, including physical infrastructure and teachers’ preparedness to meet any unforeseen event or happenings. The crisis has made people and schools realize the need to build a more resilient education system to ensure continuity of teaching and learning under any circumstances. Of course, make sure that it's not devoid of a human element. To achieve this transformation, we need to exert effort to capitalize on IT, provide vocational training for teachers and enhance their capacities, engage in a comprehensive digital transformation, and review old educational philosophies, goals and outputs of the educational system; in short, we need to build a more resilient education system.
Simulate In-Person Experience
In online teaching, you need to make your virtual presence feel as similar as possible to the in-person experience by integrating across modalities. The aim should be to ensure that there’s a balanced student engagement regardless of setting. Students struggle to get their professor’s attention over the more visible students in the classroom in an online class, and introverted students may lose out on participation altogether. Therefore, online instructors need to carry the same weight as those in person to achieve a balanced learning environment. They need to make sure an in-person experience occurs by either assigning chat moderators or filter questions or other quality contributions from the online platform’s chat. Instructors should ask such students to speak and allow smooth transition and curation of the best student contributions. You can practice this with other students as well for engagement.
Breakout rooms with deliverables
In our previous articles, we have mentioned breakout rooms and their offerings. It allows for peer-to-peer conversations online akin to those that occur in a traditional classroom. However, online breakout rooms are harder to monitor, so you need to have a clear deliverable from the class group. Sometimes the deliverable may be the same for in-person and online groups, while other times, it can effectively give groups different objectives and let them know it. By doing so, the online students will be aware that their group’s outcomes are distinct contributions to the larger class discussion, and their voices are as important as those of in-person students.
Additionally, you can direct the student to upload their deliverables to the learning management system as an assignment or discussion board entry for further asynchronous interaction and then increase cross-collaboration by having students comment on the other groups’ contributions.
Use Interactive tools
On the list, polling and quizzing are good ways to engage and connect with students in a physical and online classroom. However, most online meeting platforms have limited polling functionality in the system and are poorly suited to serving both students in class and online. Other options that permit a wider array of question types - such as open-ended responses, word clouds or clickable images -- include Poll Everywhere, and Slides can be put to use.
Differentiate Online Engagement
Instead of duplicating the in-person and online experience, differentiate them; it can make way to different experiences and lean into that various opportunities. If some students join class virtually, you can maximize the benefits of having those students on their devices and unmasked, which is, of course, not possible in a traditional setting.
Assign discussion leaders for the day to complete prep work to stimulate student debates or deeper inquiry and research outside content relevant to the day’s topics and generate complementary student discussion questions. Then, display a discussion leader on the projector screen in the classroom to speak to the students and share their own screen with prepared content. This will help keep the class engaged and add the essence of a physical classroom.
Since online students are already on the internet, you can use this strength and engage them in live searches for current events or answers if not found in the textbook. You can make it a light-hearted competition for the fastest find or the best example procured and reward the best performer, in real-time or simply, you can have your students share their findings back to the class live during the session, drop them in the chat or post them on virtual whiteboards or the learning management system for a deeper dive. Coupled with the discussion leader ideas above, these strategies can quickly diversify your course content as well as keep it up-to-date.
Ask your students to summarize what discoveries were made in the session or how course material applied to their everyday life between class meetings. Also, you can have students generate relatable analogies or memes. Once summed up in a class session, you can either have them drop those in the chat at the end of the session and read them aloud as class is dismissed or have them submitted more formally for your review. Then in the next class meet, you can develop a few of your favourite reflective takeaways to recap the previous session. Having this in practice will let you have a wonderful informal discussion and also make students feel connected.
If your class is missing that human element of a physical classroom, then this written piece is for you. Do try these strategies and let us know your experiences in the comments.