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April 28, 2020

Tips for conducting an online class for the first time

What to think of and how it works​

As many educational institutions move to a remote learning environment, a lot of educators around the world are about to experience online teaching for the first time, and with very little notice. Setting up a virtual class usually takes some time, you need to think of the resources you may need, and ways to have your students engage in this new learning environment. We know that this concept comes with a lot of challenges, which is why we have gathered a few tips that you can follow to effectively prepare for a remote classroom environment. Planning ahead and organizing the course in a step by step manner is a good way to start preparing your online classroom. 

Prepare a suitable technology 

The first thing you need to consider when moving to a virtual classroom is the correct hardware and most suitable software to use. A good computer with a reliable internet connection is one of the more basic things to ensure is set-up, as you want to minimise the possibility of interruptions while you are teaching online. Also, be prepared to have a backup internet solution in case of an unexpected issue from your internet provider. 

Another key thing to consider is the Learning Management System (LMS) that you are going to use. It is important to get to know your LMS prior to the course, so you can become comfortable with navigating the interface and general features. 

Plan your online classes

Online classes are very different from traditional classrooms, so they need a very different approach. Since your students are not physically present, their needs are different and you need to support them by putting yourself in their shoes. Giving clear instructions, guidelines and boundaries, alongside clarifying how the course will be structured will help you create and maintain a good teaching environment. So, make sure you share your Syllabus and course material with your students prior to your course. The Chronicle of Higher Education provides a detailed guide on how to create a syllabus. 

Engage the passive students

As mentioned previously, planning your classes ahead of time helps you create structured ways of teaching. However, planning for the different ways that students can interact and engage in a virtual classroom, can also be very useful too. There are a few strategies to follow for engaging all students

Bear in mind that not all students are self-motivated, so engaging a range of students and ensuring that it’s not just the same voices that dominate the class is essential. This will enable students to understand that engagement is important and required. 

Polls and quizzes can be an effective tool to start a discussion and gather students’ ideas too. This way you involve students with the study material and make the class more interactive. You can find some examples of quiz templates here: https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-quiz-templates-usage

Keep your students active. A common challenge in online learning environments is that students can be distracted more easily. So, try to interact with them individually at least every fifteen minutes. 

You can find more about how to engage your students here.

Keep a consistent line of communication with your students

Try to communicate with individual students regularly, as a common challenge in online learning environments is that students can be distracted much more easily. So, try to interact with them at least every fifteen minutes and be active in keeping them engaged. Additionally, make sure to have a specific amount of time every week that you will be available and let your students know the times that they can contact you outside of the virtual classroom. 

Feedback from students 

Student feedback may turn out to be a valuable means of designing a course that will benefit students and deliver an effective online learning experience. Therefore, ask your students for feedback on how satisfied they are with the course design. Do they feel supported during the courses? Another topic to talk about is the course content. Do your students have clear expectations from you? Do they have all the information they need? Do they know where to look for help, in case they face technical difficulties when uploading assignments? Remember that student course evaluation can give you constructive feedback on what to improve or alter in your course. 

Online teaching definitely offers opportunities for student engagement and participation. Once you start setting up your online class, you will be laying the groundwork for effective online teaching and solid communication with your students.

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