April 24, 2020 Emma

How To Teach Online Classes From Home

Months after the transition of schools online, the time is ripe for reflection on the best practices for online teaching adopted thus far. By now, the words ‘virtual learning’ may conjure images of skillful online collaboration or malfunctioning microphones and chaotic group calls; you are not alone in experiencing this. 

Fortunately, this period of online class has resulted in an outpouring of knowledge from teachers, as well as the provision of new educational resources by tech companies and media outlets. For anyone still wondering how to teach onlines classes from home or how to be an effective online instructor,  we have collected some of these tips shared by teachers around the world, to create a list of essential virtual classroom components. 

A Workstation You Can Make the Most Of

Class may be online, but your physical teaching space is still important. This applies both to conducting live online classes and pre-recorded classes to be sent out to students. Given that students are eager to see their teachers and preserve a sense of normal interaction, it’s worth adjusting to improve your video quality. Repositioning a lamp behind your computer to better illuminate your face is a simple strategy; ring lights also come recommended and can be cheaply purchased

It isn’t necessary to buy a slew of gadgets that might overwhelm you, but utilising the devices you do have can provide an organisational respite. If you happen to own a tablet, you can connect it to your laptop in order to draw diagrams on a virtual white board during your live class. This is a wonderful touch to remind your students that, while the world may have changed as a result of the pandemic, your semi-legible handwriting has not. Similarly, linking an old desktop monitor would permit you to access teaching resources on your main device while keeping an eye on your video conferences.  

A Hub For All Your Students’ Work

Although the platform you elect to use will likely depend on your school’s existing plan, a rule of thumb is to keep all of your resources, along with your class schedule, in one place. If what you’re using is working and you’re organised, you know what they say: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. If you’re still on the hunt though, one platform we’ve heard lots of teachers praise for its organisational capacity is Google Classroom. It allows a teacher to post all their assignments for the week under a single heading. Posting by week rather than relying on daily notifications helps students stay organised, in addition to enabling self-paced learning throughout the week. 

To up your organisational game even further, consider pinning a tip sheet at the top of your main classwork page. Links to tutorials for all the educational resources you use frequently, as well as a calendar for office hour times would be great things to include here. If you have no experience with Google Classroom, watch this 16-minute tutorial for beginners. It’s pretty thorough! 

Resources That Fit Your Curriculum

Use technology to your advantage; it’s all there a few clicks away! Many of us have been putting in extra hours communicating with students, parents and colleagues, as well as creating recordings. The last thing you need on top of this is the pressure to reinvent the wheel each time you adapt your material for digital delivery. Instead, take advantage of the wealth of available digital resources that can easily enhance your lesson.

Instead of constructing another worksheet or quiz to check for understanding, you could ask your students to make a short video in Seesaw explaining their response to a question. Seesaw has been a huge success for teachers all over the world. We’re always hearing praises from teachers, especially those teaching primary school children. 

Similarly, requiring that students annotate a PDF in Kami can help you verify that they are engaging with your material. This sort of monitoring is one of the greatest benefits of online tools, especially now that checking on students’ progress within the classroom is no longer an option. 

This next one is great for teachers worrying about whether students are participating or not. Edpuzzle allows you to assign videos—with a twist. You can see if a student has watched to the end and include questions at various points. Best of all, the student must keep the window open for the video to play, helping them focus. 

Resources Beyond Your Curriculum!

Regardless of how much teaching material you have at your disposal, everyone needs a break now and then. Back at school, you might have looked forward to the days you could quietly administer a test, or substitute sitting at a desk for strolling through the halls of a museum on a field trip. There is no need to abandon this possibility! 

The internet can be a wonderful place if you know where to go. Plenty of cultural institutions are offering virtual tours and workshops for students. Opting for one not only gives you a well-deserved break, but helps replace some of the cultural activities your students would ordinarily be enjoying outside the classroom. Here are some of the most interesting virtual experiences we found: 

  • Smithsonian Learning Lab: this site offers access to the digital collections of the Smithsonian’s nineteen museums and is easily customisable to the topics you are covering in class
  • Google Arts and Culture: collaborating with museums worldwide, Google has made available virtual reality exhibition tours. Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum are some highlights
  • Metropolitan Opera Streams: the New York institution is streaming its past performances for free, even offering a selection curated especially for students 
  • National Aquarium in Baltimore: this floor-by-floor walkthrough of the aquarium would be an ideal scavenger hunt opportunity 

Many of these options offer a brief escape from reality, but now is also an ideal time to bring current events into your classroom. Using readily available media such as interviews, podcasts, news articles or political addresses would perfectly suit classes like leadership, public speaking or even modern languages. Additionally, introducing these topics to the virtual classroom would provide a space for your students to discuss some of the current events that are undoubtedly weighing on them right now. 

While creating this post, we were inspired by the number of educators who are sharing their tips, tricks and trials as they adapt to teaching online. As a school, it’s important to document your own virtual learning strategies, reassuring your community that you are adjusting in the most proactive way possible. Perhaps your school will be next to share groundbreaking distance learning techniques with the world. 

Our team is here to support schools during this online teaching period and help you make good use of resources available on platforms you’re using. Our team can help schools and teachers in several ways. For example, we’re editing videos, designing school-wide templates, developing websites, and managing social media such as TikTok, IG, Youtube and more. We’re here to help schools during this unprecedented time! 

Feel free to reach out to our team with any questions or check out the services we’re offering to help schools operate smoothly online.

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