Recently, due to COVID-19, more teachers around the world are finding themselves teaching online. Some teachers succeed at teaching online, while others struggle. Mastering the art of online teaching takes lots of practice, preparation, and patience. Today we break down the essentials of what makes for a great online educator.
Preparation cannot be stressed enough when it comes to online teaching. Preparation is vital for a smooth-running and stress-free online class. Adequate preparation for your online course means more time spent on the students' educational journey and less time dealing with any mishaps or confusion. Prepare class materials, technology, your work environment, and of course, the lesson plan! I sat down with Gerald Broussard, the teacher trainer, and supervisor of Houhai English's online teachers, for some tips. "First, I make a digital and handwritten calendar which includes everything I need to do. If you don't write it down, you will forget something. I also make digital folders with all the teaching materials I need for each day I'm teaching. If I am teaching a specific unit or lesson, I will only place the specific files needed for that particular class in a folder."
It's essential to practice your lesson and class before the big day arrives. Practice using the technology functions and uploading or sharing documents. Gerald stresses the importance of practicing your lesson ahead of time. "Practice on your own first. Record yourself teaching the lesson and then review to see what can be improved. Then, practice with someone else to make sure your lesson is clear and effective. Similar to having someone review or edit your writing, have someone else review your class. Practice your lesson with a friend to see how things go." It's also important to be open to feedback when it comes to your online class. Ask for help if you're unsure about any potential issues. I guarantee you will learn and be extremely thankful for the valuable feedback you open yourself up to.
BRING THE ENERGY
One of the most effective ways to combat the virtual interphase is by bringing energy. Bring the high energy and visualize your passion. Online teaching is different from offline teaching. You've got a whole computer, and who knows how many miles between you and your students. You could potentially be the most exquisite teacher on earth. However, some teaching methods don't transfer through as effectively in the online teaching experience. Be expressive! Teaching is a performance. Inspire your students through your energy which, as a result, will inspire the students. GB speaks about the importance of staying excited. "The day you have a class, you must be excited. Be excited and stay excited. I see teachers begin class excited, but then they lose it as the class moves along. It's important to be excited and stay excited."
TOOLS, EQUIPMENT, AND PROPS
Explore the world of online teaching tools, equipment, and props. Your main tools and equipment will be your computer and your online teaching application. It, of course, does not stop there. There are numerous tools and props to incorporate and make your online teaching experience lively for your students. Wearing a headset is a must for clear audio for you and your students. Invest in a headset and even an external mic for crisp audio and professionalism. Another must-have is a handy dry erase whiteboard and colorful markers. Some teachers have a whiteboard behind them in their background, and some have portable hand-held boards during class. Having a real tangible whiteboard brings the class away from the two-dimensionality and makes for almost an illusion of being in the classroom. Other great props are flashcards, plush animals, and cool stationery. You never know when you'll need to pull out a prop as an example, so it's best to keep some handy by your workstation. Props keep your students engaged, and they bring your class some fun and life!
SET CLEAR ONLINE LEARNING EXPECTATIONS
It's important to set clear expectations, whether in the classroom or online. However, online class expectations might differ from those in the classroom. Many students are not quite familiar or adequately adjusted to online learning. Clear expectations are a must for maximum learning output. Teachers should set learning expectations from the start of class. Expectation foundations can include behavioral guidelines and learning objectives. It's equally as important to discuss what students expect from you as a teacher. Expectations create familial rapport and comfort in the classroom. Some examples of a teacher's expectations are; leaving the camera on during class, not spamming the chatbox, not using phones or toys, or walking around the house with the computer.
This goes for pre-class time management and during class time. One blessing that comes with online teaching is no commute time. It allows extra prep time but also provides room to lose track of time. One way to overcome this is to set the alarm 30 minutes to one hour before your class time. It's best to dedicate this block to set up and perfect your technology and lesson materials so they are ready for showtime. It's best to block out specific chunks of time for a particular part of your lesson during class. It's also great to have a backup assignment or two readily available to pull out if there's some extra time.
UTILIZE FREE ONLINE RESOURCES
The internet is an incredible resource for so many teaching tools. There's no better time to utilize free online resources than when teaching online! It's so easy to pull out outstanding extra assignments from countless online resources. Resources online are also great for inspiration and perfecting your teaching. One can find exquisite educational games and activities, worksheets, visuals, and teaching instructions online. As teachers, we are always learning and evolving, just like our students. Make it easy on yourself and explore the wonders of online teaching resources. Soon enough, you can even contribute your mastery materials to the web learning universe. We're all in this together, after all.
Have you ever taught an online class while standing up? If not, give it a try. Some teachers note that once you stand up, there's no going back. Standing while teaching enhances your teaching energy and physicality— merely standing up while teaching increases stamina and fights any boredom that might arise during online teaching. Your body and mind will thank you for this one.
BEAUTIFY AND SIMPLIFY YOUR BACKGROUND
It's time to get creative and aesthetic! Creating an aesthetically pleasing background has increasingly become a familiar feat for teachers worldwide. You do not need to go out and spend loads of money or hire an interior designer to secure a suitable background. Backgrounds can be super useful when simple, minimalistic, and non-distracting for students. It's best it get rid of any clutter or loudness when setting up your online teaching background. Play around with different curtain colors or setting pleasant objects around your environment. Cool maps, posters, and flags are always fun, too. A green screen works if opting for the virtual background route. And of course, don't forget about the lighting! Make sure your teaching environment is well lit and bright for your learners. The goal is to create a comfortable and friendly learning environment for your students.
Dress to impress and ignite the learning environment. Dressing sharp not only affects how the students experience you, but it can also affect how we feel and see ourselves. Dressing sharp can increase confidence and energy. Teaching from home can cause people to feel a bit comfortable and, as a result, less productivity. Make it a point to get ready for class.
Mastering the art of online teaching is easy if you set goals and consistently grow your teaching foundations. These are just some of the ways to increase your online teaching potential. With more and more practice, your mastery of online teaching will exponentially grow, and you will become that much better of a teacher online and offline, too!