The new reality of the pandemic has made us put aside face-to-face classes in favor of virtual learning. This is a new experience for many that can be intimidating or strange. However, it is possible to become a trained teacher with sufficient confidence in your abilities with some tools and tips.
If this is the first time you have the opportunity to teach online or even be a speaker at a webinar, here we will provide you with some convenient tips that can be very helpful to do so successfully.
How to keep the attention of the students?
This is one of the most delicate points when conducting online classes. Since each attendee is remote, it is straightforward to get distracted and stop paying attention, which is a problem. Some dynamics and tools can help you keep the attention of the assistants in the Virtual Learning process.
Before preparing specific materials for a class, it is necessary to be very clear about how the available resources are adapted to the subject we want to teach and how the student can take advantage of them.
Introduction of the topic
We have all attended classes where we did not know what we had gone for, where the teacher directly entered the subject. We did not find sense to dedicate time to these abstract concepts. This cannot happen in your classes. Create a context, a starting point, even something like an Asbestos Class. If possible, link it to current events or give a practical example.
It is also an excellent technique for Virtual Learning to challenge the minds of the students. To do this, you can propose a challenge, something that causes a cognitive conflict between what they know and what you will explain. In this way, they will be much more attentive.
Presentations are the lifeblood of your class, so the more entertaining, engaging, and dynamic they are, the better. It is not about overloading everything with animations or animated gifs. Still, it is about breaking the monotony of the class a bit.
They must be consistent with the students’ characteristics, such as age and educational level, as well as the subject or subject in question. For example, a concept map is handy for studying history but not so useful for mathematics.
Interact with students
Especially during development, you should seek to connect with your audience. Students are fed up with boring classes in which the teacher drops his block, and that’s it.
Ask questions that make them think, give them time to express themselves, take the initiative, and suggest an exercise. Involve your students in the class. A proactive attitude in class makes Virtual Learning much easier.
Question and answer rounds
One of the newest techniques in education is feedback, that is, allowing students to participate, add information, ask questions, and more.
Some applications that are very useful for Virtual Learning are Mentimeter or Kahoot. Both allow you to create surveys, ask questions and consult the students in a fun and practical way during class.
Volunteer or victim?
Suppose you see that there is little participation, and no one wants to volunteer to answer questions. In that case, you can use “Wheel of names”, which is a wheel where you can put your students’ names, and when you spin the Wheel, a random victim will come out. You can even customize it with suspense music to make it more exciting.
Dynamism above all
Many people suffer from stage fright, which causes them to speak in a monotonous and non-stop manner during their presentations. This forces students to quickly lose their attention and interest in their Virtual Learning classes.
Prepare an outline or a script that marks the class’s development and helps you not to leave the topics to be discussed (although it may be necessary at some point). Make sure it is clear to both you and the student. They must perceive a structure and feel that it will help them better organize themselves when reviewing and studying independently.
Rehearse the class’s content before giving the lesson, evaluate your tone of voice, incorporate humor as necessary, consider what points you can pause. Also, it would help to ask students some questions.
It is essential that you can know the student’s opinion at the end of the class. In addition to asking directly, you can create some kind of questionnaire to assess learning. On the other hand, it is convenient to establish a continuity for what has been taught, planning tasks to correct in another session, and making recapitulations at the beginning of the classes.
How to correctly plan a virtual class?
Students know perfectly well when a teacher arrives with the class prepared or improvised it on the go. In Virtual Learning, the same thing happens.
The class must have an objective, explain the central concept, and all this in an entertaining way. While it is true that improvisation comes in handy at specific times, it is also true that planning is essential for a good teaching activity. And the spelling too.
Check out the three steps on how to plan a class:
Purpose of the class
They are your goals for that class. Please take into account the context of the student and where he is learning. You should be able to adapt your explanation to their level.
Each class must have a goal. For example, today’s goal is for my students to learn how to add 1-digit numbers.
Now we need to give it a meaning, something that makes them see its practical application.
Please find a way to get their attention. A good story or an introductory activity are two exciting options. It is best that you count an application in everyday life, although it will not always be possible.
Continuing with the silly example, if you have five apples and they give you 2, you will have seven apples.
Putting this very basic example helps me to show you that what may seem like a truism to you as a teacher, for the student is not. So don’t take anything for granted, but put yourself in the shoes of the students.
Make a synthesis of the lesson and select the most relevant of Virtual Learning. What concepts do you want to burn in his memory?
That is the core of the class, also called “the Core.” In our example, the core is adding values of one-digit numbers. To do this, they first have to know the numbers and understand that the unit is 1.
Thus, they will know that two is twice 1; the 3, three times 1, etc. Without prior knowledge, they will not be able to add.
Your work environment
Although an online class also allows a lot of mobility for the teacher, it is very important that the space from which the class is taught meets a series of requirements. All resources, both technological (headphones, micro, speakers, etc.), and non-technological (books, material to show the student and everything that the subject to be taught may require), must be kept within reach.
Do not forget that the place must have good lighting and it is essential that there are no noises that could interfere with the class.
Once you have your class content established and organized, it is crucial to monitor and organize your work environment. The distractions, technical problems, and late-night improvisations can create a bad experience.
High-speed internet connection
This is one of the main factors that will help the transmission not face any interruption or lag between the audio and the video, which would be detrimental to your students. It is ideal to have High-speed Internet since to transmit video, it is necessary to have a good upload speed.
This guarantees good speed and stability on your Internet connection. This investment can make a big difference when it comes to teaching life. In case your Internet connection is slow, you will have to take the following precautions into account:
- Close the browser tabs you don’t need for your class.
- If possible, connect with an ethernet cable to the router instead of wirelessly.
- If you have to connect via Wifi, disconnect other devices that are using the same network.
- Ask your family not to use the Internet to download files or watch movies and series online while you are teaching.
Having a good webcam will allow students to see their teacher. There are different models on the market; the important thing is to get one with a fair resolution (Full HD 1080p). The lighting can be adjusted and has a good definition. Once you have your camera, test it before class to make sure it’s working correctly.
Having a microphone will allow you to be heard by your students or the Virtual Learning assistants and headphones to listen to the assistants (if this is necessary). While it is true that there are professional microphones with different functionalities on the market, the important thing is that it works and that it has a reasonable volume.
There is nothing wrong with using a headset that incorporates headphones and a microphone. Still, it is crucial to test it beforehand to verify its function. Ideally, use headphones to avoid background echo problems (an echo that increases over time).
Select the place in the house where you are going to be when giving the class. Your background must be clean and tidy. It does not matter if it is just a white wall; the idea is that it does not turn out to be a distraction for the students. Even with Zoom applications, you can use a green background and replace it with another within the same platform without problems, if possible.
Likewise, this space must be well lit so that your face looks good. Avoid sitting with your back to a window as you will see yourself against the light. Finally, it is recommended that this space be as quiet as possible to avoid unnecessary interruptions.
Before class starts
Before starting, you must be clear about the student’s needs and adjust the contents of the class. Try to put yourself in the student’s place to know if the resources and tools are adequate to guarantee to learn. Although each class can be flexible, you must keep in mind the overall syllabus and teaching objectives. Ask yourself what knowledge the student must have acquired at the end of the classes. It is not the same to think of reinforcement classes, courses to prepare for an exam, courses to refresh knowledge, etc.
It may seem very obvious, but before starting the class, always check:
- If you are using a laptop, plug the charger into your laptop as you don’t want it to turn off in the middle of class.
- Pre-open files, pages, etc., you need so you don’t waste time looking for them during class.
- Close or delete any files you don’t need from your desktop to protect your privacy. If possible, create a second user account just to teach, so you can keep your desktop at ease and private.
- Stop all your notifications to avoid distractions and reveal any personal or sensitive information to your students.
What platform to use to teach your classes?
There are a variety of platforms for video-transmissions that are being used for Virtual Learning, and each one has different functions and characteristics. These are some of the most used:
Zoom is one of the most widely used platforms for video conferencing, webinars, and online classes today, especially after the pandemic.
Among Zoom features are that classes can be recorded to be able to watch the videos later, conferences can be scheduled, Zoom also can simultaneously display the screen and the webcam. It also offers a virtual whiteboard; it integrates calendar apps; it can be scheduled a virtual background, has a chat tab, and much more.
One of the exciting features to avoid trolls is the waiting room, so you can verify the students’ identity before entering and prevent any undesirable user who wants to ruin your day.
Google Meet has very particular and useful characteristics, especially when it comes to teaching online classes. For example, other participants can be silenced or eliminated, and anonymous users are not allowed. Zoom’s video calls are encrypted, it can be used from PC, and mobile devices can be entered directly with Gmail. Up to 250 participants are allowed, among other advantages.
Moodle is a platform that is used to create virtual courses by uploading videos, as well as through other didactic resources, which allows establishing not only other communication channels between teachers and students but also facilitates collaborative learning environments.
This application has the advantage that it works directly with the browser, so it is unnecessary to download additional software or extension. Likewise, Hangouts comes integrated with Gmail. It allows you to share the screen. You can have control over the camera and audio of the participants. You can make live broadcasts through YouTube with this tool, which is ideal if you want to teach an introductory course or do not have a list specific to students.
Other additional tools such as Skype, EasyMeeting, and Microsoft Teams, among others, all with their free and paid versions. In the end, it’s about getting the one that best suits your needs and using the most appropriate one.
If you lack ideas, you can use other teachers’ experience, visiting free online course platforms. See what resources they use and how you could apply them in your class.
This will help you to be able to master virtual classes successfully, leaving your students wanting more and, best of all, with many lessons in their hands. Remember, virtual classes are not about a monologue or speech but about creating a suitable space to impart and acquire new knowledge.
Ready for the future
In the event of a new pandemic that paralyzes everything, you can continue teaching online because you will be trained and prepared for it. If you work as a teacher in a school, institute, or university, you can teach your colleagues the advantages of online teaching and take advantage of new technologies.
Education is a necessary and essential good for society. We cannot let any circumstance paralyze it.