1 – Design courses specific to online teaching
The exhortation to “bring your class online” sounds simple enough, but of course, it makes no sense. How could you suddenly convert the myriad of complex cognitive, emotional and behavioural interactions that face-to-face teaching and learning offers into an online course? This is impossible.
What you can do, however, is design your course specific to this new online medium, so that learners can continue their training under these extraordinary circumstances. Some activities will not be possible, and others will develop more quickly in an online medium (for example, students often think more online and are more inclined to communicate). By taking a week or two to plan your new online course, you will have fewer revisions to make throughout the training.
Much like you do in “offline” teaching, design learning outcomes and communicate them clearly to your online learners. Define precisely the educational activities and assessment exercises that will help learners achieve these results. When possible, design “one-size-fits-all” activities that can be done online or offline, alone or with someone else, and that require low bandwidth.
Create activities that integrate content that is learner-centred as much as possible that is achievable, and that have clearly defined directions and deadlines. Determine what students will learn from you, the content, the activities, and other participants.
2 – Prepare the instructors
It is not easier to teach online than in person. In many ways, it takes a lot longer and is a lot more complicated. Online instructors should become familiar with the technology and foster communication, collaboration and interaction between learners at a distance. To implement the teaching and assessment methods, they need to acquire skills in facilitating online courses and learning how to use telecommunication tools.
3 – Prepare the learners
Our students need preparation and guidance for successful e-learning because most of them don’t know how to do it. If you have not yet started online teaching (or even if it has already started), be sure to provide learners with a general orientation on online learning, on the particular course and their roles in it, as an online learner.
Explain to them how to navigate the Learning Management System (LMS) or online conferencing system, how to upload assignments, how to manage files, how to participate in a discussion board, and how to get help. Above all, online learners, especially those new to this technology, will need structured support to acquire self-regulatory strategies, time management skills and to understand the rules of online communication.
4 – Focus on the quality of teaching
Online learning raises many questions that impact teaching: is the course delivered in real-time or not, what technology is used – for example, teaching by videoconference only is very different from teaching by LMS – and what are the educational outcomes of the e-learning program.
However, remember that the quality of education is paramount. Your role is the same as in a face-to-face class: to guide, inform, lead, facilitate, mentor, advise and show empathy. The challenge now is to do it using technology and with minimal planning.
In the online courses, just like in the classroom, you will focus on the following:
- Management/organization: Define expectations and ground rules; develop specific and achievable learning outcomes for each unit of online study; manage the process and pace of learning; offer differentiated instruction – allow the most advanced learners to progress while providing more support to those who are behind.
- Communication: Regular exchanges guarantee a rewarding practice of online teaching. Keeping in mind the workload of the training, frequently communicate with the whole class, with the online working groups and with each participant individually and design the activities so that the learners should also communicate between them. Maintain work schedules and online chats on different days and times of the week; promote in-depth online discussions where students interact with each other about their ideas and perspectives; and identify a substitute communication channel independent of the course.
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