Schools, universities, and businesses around the world have adopted online learning methods. For some, this year was an expansion of distanced programs that were already in place. For others, it was a necessary switch that came with little warning.
While learners are still covering the same material, the processes involved when learning at home versus in a classroom setting are different. There are unique challenges that educators face. There are also unique opportunities to expand and improve upon the experience for learners.
Whether you are an elementary school teacher or an employee trainer, there are several ways that you can improve efficiency and make 2021 your best year yet. The following tips will help you start strong this year.
Explore the Platform or Tech You Plan to Use
You know how flight attendants tell passengers on airplanes to “put your oxygen mask on first” before assisting those around you? That same principle applies to eLearning.
Get acquainted with the platform and technology you will use in your classroom sessions. You will likely be the first person that your learners turn to when they have trouble finding a feature or file. Knowing the technology will also help ensure that your sessions run as smoothly as possible. No teacher wants to waste time searching for a function or button that they need at the beginning of every class.
Make Sure Your Class Knows the Platform
Once you are familiar with the technology, you will need to guide your students. They may have had an opportunity to learn the system, but that doesn’t mean all of them have mastered it. Plan a short session that will cover the basics. This usually includes things like how to interact in chat, how to submit files or assignments, where to find documents and resources, and other common tasks.
Some LMS platforms include extra features, like a “raise hand” button. Go over these as well so that you and your students can get maximum benefit from the technology.
Plan Your Classes and Avoid Surprises
Planning is important no matter where or how you are teaching, but it especially applies to online learning. Surprises during class can have a different impact on those learning remotely compared to those who are in the room with you.
For example, if you give a pop quiz in a physical classroom, everyone takes it right then and there then moves on with their day. However, eLearning tends to have a more open schedule. An online pop quiz will likely include a deadline, which means that learners must work around their schedule to complete it in time.
They may have other classes, work, or personal commitments to deal with first. That could leave little time for them to complete a quiz in time that wasn’t on the schedule. And that doesn’t account for possible technical problems that could happen and further slow them down.
Keep surprises to a minimum to avoid creating situations that could cause missed deadlines and increased stress among learners.
Establish Your Remote Workspace
You need to have a dedicated workspace for your remote classes. This should be an organized place where you can go to plan, record videos, or host live sessions. It should contain all the things you need so you can conduct an interruption-free online class.
Having a workspace ready will help you stay productive and on task. There should be no distractions like people, televisions, appliances, or other noises that could pull your attention away from what you’re doing.
Make sure your space has adequate lighting and ergonomic seating for your comfort and health. It’s much harder to be successful if you can’t see well or if your back aches while you work.
Experience eLearning for Yourself
Experience is the most effective teacher of them all. Consider enrolling in an online learning class before teaching others remotely. This will give you a firsthand look at what the experience is like as well as its strengths and shortcomings.
Take note of any problems you have and make sure you do what you can to avoid them in your classes. Knowing what it’s like on the learner’s end will help you understand how to support your pupils. It can also inspire you to come up with new, innovative ways to use technology to teach.
Make Class Discussions Feel More Human
One of the biggest complaints about online learning is how cold and mechanical it can feel. Make sure your classes include a human element. Discussions are a good place to do this. Participate in the discussion and find ways to encourage interaction with you and fellow learners. Make sure your audience never feels isolated or alone while they learn.
Keep Lines of Communication Open and Moving
Communication is especially important when teaching or training remotely. Make sure your learners have ways to get in touch with you. They should know how to reach you and when you are available as well as how long a response can take. Make sure you respond quickly and concisely to requests or questions. Clear, direct language should be used to avoid misunderstandings.
Ask for Feedback and Advice
Feedback and advice are necessary when it comes to improvement. Consult fellow online educators and find out how they overcome obstacles and engage their class. Their advice will help you learn better methods quicker.
You should also turn to your class for feedback. Find out how learners felt about your sessions and the various tools and materials used. Make sure you respond to their feedback to encourage communication and make them feel comfortable and acknowledged.
Get Rid of Distractions and Stressors
As you work, pay attention to anything that’s a distraction or a stressor in your workspace. Noises and people are mentioned above, but this goes beyond the room around you.
Do you have excessive glare from the sun on your monitor? Try moving positions or adding a curtain or blind to the window. Do you have extra tabs open on your browser that make it harder to find what you need during class time? Close those tabs and only keep what you need open until the session has ended.
Distractions can come from the digital and physical worlds. You may not notice that they are a distraction until you start trying to work, so be ready to make changes as needed as you go. When you are feeling confident and relaxed, your learners will notice.
Record All Classroom Sessions
If you plan to host live classes, make sure you record these sessions. Some learners may not be present for every class. You can help them catch up by sending a link to the recorded session. This content can also be saved as a resource to use in the future should you miss a class or want to offer self-paced learning.
Harness the Power of Online Media
Virtual classes come with the benefit of easy access to multiple types of media. Create an engaging, well-rounded experience by working this into your sessions. Incorporate images, slides, virtual reality, and more. There may be websites with a wealth of information that you can recommend as a supplemental study source.
Set Clear Expectations and Due Dates
Learners should know what is expected of them and when assignments are due from the start of class. This will help them plan the semester or course accordingly. When learners know what they need to do, they will be better able to adapt in case of an unexpected absence or upcoming commitment around a due date.
Use Your Face When Teaching
Did you know that your face is a powerful teaching tool? Two large-scale studies have shown that viewing the educator’s face in videos has a positive impact on learners. Seeing the trainer or teacher allows the class to pick up on social cues.
If you plan to record videos for your class, make sure you include clips of yourself throughout the content. The video doesn’t have to be a full session showing you talking to the class. You can cut away to other clips, graphics, and imagery. Just make sure your face is a part of the content.
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Existing Material
Creating a video or slideshow for an online class takes time, especially if you only recently learned the technology. You shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by content creation. Instead, try supplementing what you have with pre-made material. Many LMS platforms include access to course catalogs that let you choose specific topics or courses.
You can quickly and easily add content from your LMS’s course library or a third-party marketplace that the platform supports. You can also find additional third-party content on platforms like YouTube.
Test Slides and Videos on Your Smartphone
Make sure you test your materials on smartphones and smaller devices. This will let you identify any display problems before they have an impact on learning. Correct them as needed to avoid delays during class. Make sure the material is as accessible as possible so that everyone can find and view it.
Being proactive about your online classes will help you adapt and become a better educator. A good LMS is one of the most important things you can add to your curriculum. Learn more about learning management platforms by visiting LMS.org.