Best Practices for Online Teaching

We’ve mentioned how online teaching isn’t something new. There are people out there who have been teaching online for quite a while now, but times have changed, and more teachers have to teach online. Since times have changed, so has the practices for online teaching. Gone are the days are simple PDF files and email correspondences. Nowadays, online education is conducted with high-tech applications that provide students with an enhanced learning experience.

With everything out there, how does a teacher know what the best things to use are? That’s what we’re going to go over now. We can all think about online serves that seemed amazing at the time they came out, but they are now obsolete. MySpace comes to mind. When you think about investing your time into learning about new tools only to have them become outdated in a year or two, you may wonder why you should even both.

Just the act of online teaching is a move away from traditional learning. Exploring brand new exciting, and new tools is a way to bring innovation into your teaching process. The best resources can transform your teaching, which makes it about the classroom, from presentations and discussion, as well as grading.

Here’s what the best practices for teaching can look like in a typical day:

  1. Present your class with the teaching material they need using a series of examples. You can share a document, a podcast, an embedded recording, or a combination of them all.
  2. Assign some activities and provide them with feedback. Online interactive games and flashcards are great ways to accomplish this.
  3. Dive into a topic. Have your students work together on a blog or to come up with dialogues and skits.
  4. Assign more assignments and homework. Think about using an online worksheet that aligns with your content standards.

With that in mind, let’s look at some specific best practices for online teachers.

Define Your Communication Method

In the traditional classroom, communication between the teacher and student is pretty straightforward. Teachers will have specified availability that the students know about. They can offer to stay after a class has ended to answer any questions, or they can have actual office hours. Since you don’t have this with online learning, it’s essential to let your students know:

  • How often they are going to hear from you.
  • How they can reach out to you.
  • The purpose of different channels of communication.

The latter is probably the most important. For example, a teacher could tell their students that email is for educational materials, a Facebook page is for class discussions, Google Drive is for submitting assignments, and texts are for time-sensitive reminders and alters.

There are plenty of communication tools out there that teachers can use. These range from web-based platforms, such as Blackboard, to school messaging systems, such as SimpleTexting. The main thing is that you need to make sure that your students know what the purpose of these different communication tools is.

On that end, let’s go over some conversation tools. All of these can be used for conference type calls.

  1. Skype

Most online teachers have already harnessed the power of video conferencing to talk to their students. Everybody also knows about Skype because it has been around for over a decade. It is practical and effortless to use. Skype has helped a countless number of online teachers to bring the class to life.

  1. Zoom

This is the most obvious choice because Zoom boomed in popularity at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when schools switched to online learning. It functions a lot like Skype but offers other features that help out with collaboration. Its “Zoom rooms” make group calls super easy.

Come Up With and Share Guidelines for Your Classroom

Think about creating and sharing some guidelines for your students on how you expect them to behave while they are in your virtual classroom. Your guidelines could include how they should ask questions and how all of the technology works. It can include small, but still important things, such as how to mute the microphone.

Keep in mind that these learning tools are all new to your students as well, and they are going to need guidance on how to use them. You can give them an orientation class that helps familiarize all of the students with your virtual classroom. These orientation sessions can also be used to lay down specific rules like not using cell phones or browsing other websites while in class.

Ask For Their Thoughts

If you find that you are questioning how the virtual experience is going for your students, ask them for feedback. This can be done verbally at the end of your class, or you can give them a form to fill out anonymously. One way to do that is through SurveyMonkey. It can help you collect this information or see if your virtual platform provides this capability.

Come Up With A Support Plan

You must have a support plan in place. If you don’t, you are risking losing all of your lessons to troubleshooting a technical issue your student is having. Make sure your students know how to reach out to get instructional and technical support. Plus, when they know they have help available whenever they need it, they will feel more comfortable when they enter the virtual classroom. You can direct them to the help desk articles and phone numbers.

Share Excerpts or Recordings

A benefit of virtual learning is that you are creating online resources when you teach a class. You should think about sharing the class recordings or excerpts from it to help your students. You can also come up with a recording that takes students through tutorials and discussion boards. Lastly, you should probably offer the transcript of any question and answer posted during your class.

Plan Every Virtual Class

You must take the time to plan out your classes. While all of the organizational and technological considerations can get overwhelming, it is worth going back over your lesson plan to make sure your virtual lessons are following along and that your students are learning what they are suppose to.

Before you start to make a plan, take a moment, and try to summarize the goal of the lesson. This could include what your students should be able to do after the lesson. This goal should be used as the foundation of your lesson plan. Then start to come up with the structure of the lesson from there. Having a plan will make it easier to track their progress.