Teaching online for the first time
7 Tips for those about to sail into uncharted waters
Whether you regarded learning technology a blessing or anathema makes little or no difference now. Your students are at home and your mission is to help them keep learning at a turning point of the academic year. The following tips come from my experience using electronic platforms to train trainers and for webinars for EFL teachers who can be a demanding audience. I'd say as demanding as your class. Here are some tips that you may find helpful:
1. Explore, well in advance, the potential of the platform.
Find out how you can upload material, have camera and mic on and off, how you can switch slides and mute participants. These may sound easy or trivial but it can be quite hard to find out how to do it when you are on line and teaching.
Rehearse with peers or the school I.T. team. If something is to go wrong, it’d better go when rehearsing. It will also give you more confidence when you teach with real students.
3. Keep the audience involved
During the session, most students are likely to be in their pyjamas on the couch or chatting with their friends on the social media. Ask questions, incorporate polls and keep your Teacher Talking Time to the minimum. You may ask them from time to time to share emojis on the chat box to indicate reactions e.g. smiles or sad faces. I know it sounds challenging but you don’t want to end up lecturing to a virtual audience that simply is... not listening.
4. Keep an eye on the chat box
Some students may be tempted to use it like they do on the social media. Assign a task and while students are doing it, have a look at the long exchanges. If the platform accommodates chat rooms between learners, check them as well.
5. Compatibility of material
Check the compatibility of your device with the platform. I have often found that my powerpoint slide can look distorted to such an extent that learners can not read them. If you are planning to show a video, make sure that you can upload it or that switching to a website to watch it can be seamless without glitches.
6. Give yourself space and avoid being “glued” in front of the camera.
Make sure that your chair is comfortable and that you have enough space to move naturally and gesture when you talk. It is also advisable to find a quiet room without distractions such as pets or members of the family walking behind you. Cats love walking on keyboards and mine once decided to be actively involved in a webinar...
7. Have a plan B
Technology can help you do wonderful activities with your learners but anything can go wrong. Have a back-up plan or activity in case something does not work.
Keep calm and confident. At the end of the session, you may discover that you actually enjoyed it.