With coronavirus sweeping the nation, simply “moving your class online” sounds like an easy solution for those outside of a classroom. But those in the classroom know there are several unique challenges to the transition.
If you’ve never tried to teach a class online before, here are some of the common pitfalls and solutions.
Challenges in online translation
Teach as you normally would, but use your laptop camera to record it – right? This sounds ideal, but there are some challenges which make this method impossible.
If you use a whiteboard to teach and still want to utilize one, anything you write on the board looks backward for those watching the video. This isn’t a computer error, it’s unfortunately how the camera lens works.
When you’re facing a whiteboard in the classroom, your students can usually hear you just fine. For streaming video, that’s not the case. Usually, it’s very difficult for the laptop’s mic to pick up a speaker who is facing another direction. This means you could record an entire lesson, and then realize the exercise was worthless.
You’re able to keep your students’ attention more easily in a physical classroom. That’s because as humans we’re wired to pay attention to someone in front of us. However, when you move online there’s a lot more distractions. Students don’t feel the same standard of social obligation to pay attention when someone’s speaking on a screen. They’re used to multi-tasking on their computer, phone, and chatting. Also, how can you compete when students expect the same quality of video as a movie trailer on their phone?
Humans have a way of automatically zooming in on things with their eyes, focusing on whatever they need to. However, online viewers are limited to the video’s capacity. This means that writing or people can look pixelated or far away. You have to show objects close to the camera for students to see what you’re talking about. You also have to be close to the camera for the student to feel like you’re talking to them.
Not every student has internet accessibility at home, and many libraries are closed while the coronavirus is a public threat. Thankfully, many internet providers are temporarily offering free, quality internet while communities recover. However, free internet doesn’t ensure the experience will be the same for each student. Internet speeds can change based on location, fiber lines, and the age of the computer. You don’t want to teach everything live and then record your lessons all over again for students who missed out when their computer crashed or internet was disrupted.
The answer is simple.
You cannot teach a class online effectively if you’re using the same techniques that you used in the classroom. This doesn’t mean you have to throw out everything you know about teaching, but it does mean you’ll have to change your techniques to match the medium you’re communicating on.
Essentials of online teaching:
- Bring your whiteboard to the screen. Plan on using your laptop or tablet to do any activity you’re accustomed to doing on the whiteboard. Share or record your screen so it’s easier for viewers to see what you’re doing.
- Choose a well-lit room to teach from. This may not be your classroom anymore. This could mean recording at your desk at home or at your dining room table. Wherever you teach from, make sure your background is professional and not cluttered or distracting.
- Get a headset with a built-in microphone. This will allow you to hear your students better when you’re communicating online and allow for them to hear you clearly too.
- Creating connection. As humans, we need social engagement to be motivated to learn a new idea. We need to feel spontaneous, ask questions and instantly get feedback, plus feel connected with our peers. This only happens with live video streaming and a place for typing — like a forum or instant messaging platforms.
- Consider a hybrid model of live and recorded teaching. While learning live is useful, it’s also incredibly helpful when learning a new concept to be able to slow a video down, go back 15 seconds, rehear instructions, or pause and come back to an assignment.
- This means a good solution could be to have a live streaming session at the beginning of the school day. This encourages connection, allows for questions, and ensures students are starting the day with their school work. Then have recordings of your lessons available so that students can learn at their own pace.
- Or it could mean structuring lessons based on “class periods.” You might stream a lesson for the first 15 minutes, then give students an hour to work on their assignment before streaming a lesson for another topic.
- You know your students best, their accountability level, and if they have assistance at home. You can tailor the teacher-led sessions and student self-paced learning based on your classroom’s needs.
Just know that you’re not alone. There are many tools to make your online teaching experience better, and we’ve created a COVID resource page with webinars and articles to help.