Teaching remotely is still a relatively novel concept and it takes time to adjust for those who’ve never done it before. Taking the current pandemic into account, online teaching has become a must, because of all the restrictions that make it impossible for classes to be taught live. Thus, shifting from classroom teaching to online teaching is an adjustment, but with research and practice, any teacher can gain the flexibility and easy access that the students themselves are searching for.
1. Plan Classes in Advance
Your students are not physically in front of you. In fact, they probably will never all be online at the same time, and they’re sometimes in completely different time zones. Gone are the days where “just winging it” will cut it. Experts say that planning is essential for an online classroom environment. Virtual students are different – their needs are different from their physical counterparts. Be sure to have your syllabus and materials laid out clearly before class starts. This will give students an opportunity to see if your classroom (the deadlines, materials, and other requirements) can fit into their lives.
2. Prepare and Master Technology
Teaching online requires a certain technical finesse, even if tech support is not right down the hall. First and foremost, a school should invest in the right hardware and software. One will need a reliable computer, a strong internet connection, and the best platform to meet their needs. There are many options out there. Moodle, for example, is an online platform that leans toward the social and adaptable side of education. Do your research and really play around with your final choice – knowing your online classroom platform will help you make your classroom the best it can be.
3. Set Up an Adequate Working Environment
Working remotely (in general) is the next challenge and it is recommended to set up a workspace. If possible, this space should be intended for work only. A teacher will want this space to be friendly and inviting, but also encourage productive work behavior. Keep your work environment free of distractions like television, other family members, or household chores. Natural lighting and an ergonomic chair can go a long way in setting up your ideal work environment.
4. Innovate and Stimulate Discussions
Online classrooms, as mentioned before, run differently than traditional classrooms. Initiating and encouraging discussions can go a long way in terms of how students feel in class. Teachers should encourage participation, much like they would in class. There are a variety of ways teachers can encourage participation, from discussions to posting lectures, to assigning reading material, to monitoring progress. A teacher will want his or her students involved on a weekly basis, as opposed to just turning in assignments. Student involvement (planned, in-depth discussions, for example) gets them working with the material in ways that they may not do on their own. This leads students to get more out of the class – more than just a grade.
5. Communicate Regularly
Every teacher should maintain a consistent online presence, because communication is essential in the online classroom environment. Any teacher should introduce oneself and give their students time to also introduce themselves. This will help bring humanity and warmth into the classroom, that online classes can easily lack. Moreover, it is important to make sure the students know the best methods and times to contact you, as a teacher. Not having a professor physically in front of them can make some students nervous, which is why a teacher should try to ease this, by answering questions in a timely manner and providing plenty of instruction and feedback.
6. Motivate the Students
Everyone learns differently – and motivation plays a big part in the learning process. While some students are self-motivated, in that learning something new is all the motivation they may need, other students may not be. Assignments that are not required may be skipped by the latter students. A teacher should think of ways to motivate all of their students to get the most out of the class. This may include giving extra points for online discussions or optional assignments. Deadlines may also help push forward those less motivated students. A teacher’s goal is to find ways to help students get the most out of the class, without the benefit that a physical presence brings.
Taking all this into account, at Verita International School a great accent is placed on socio-emotional learning (SEL) and the school’s faculty, together with the Verita Foundation have already undertaken several steps, in programs meant to help underprivileged children in rural areas, as well as to renovate and modernize classrooms, for instance. For teachers, Verita International School is constantly identifying stress factors, as well as efficient self-regulation tools for educators, which include mindfulness training, wellness retreats or in-school support networks.
“Also, we are providing basic needs support for underprivileged children in state schools, and programs and events that bring awareness and emotional connection to the broader issues in our community. Together with the Verita Foundation, we are organizing fundraising events and workshops for buying furniture and educational materials necessary for a healthy learning process, via initiatives such as Teacher-Parent Workshops, Dance for Kindness, or Adopt a Classroom,” concludes the Director of the Verita Foundation, Lila Vasilescu.