Introduction To Becoming a Better Online Teacher

Teachers, you might have taught a few online classes or maybe a few-months-worth but, chances are you didn’t enjoy it as much as teaching in person. You’re not alone, a 2017 Educause survey, showed only 9 percent of teachers prefer “a completely online environment.” It would be a good bet that most of the other 91 percent would prefer almost any method to online classes.

Very few teachers today have the same depth and breadth of experience in the online classroom, as they do with in-person instruction. Most teachers were thrown into online education and weren’t taught how to teach online, how to get better at it, or where to find the time to learn.

Good News: Excellent Teaching is Excellent Teaching

It’s very clear that online classes aren’t going away — enrollments continue to grow, year after year, independent of any external influences like pandemics or social distancing.

Online education, with reduced cost and constraints, improves access for students with work and family schedules who would not have been able to go to a traditional college. The newest generations have different expectations and skills and the changing career landscape has forced them to prioritize different skills than their older siblings or parents.

To get started, we can start with explaining few commonly used terms in teaching online.

  • Learning management system: Commonly called an an LMS. Post-secondary classes are typically managed through your the school’s chosen software platform that include functions needed by teacher and students. Core to an LMS is communication, content delivery, and evaluation tools to help improve the teaching and learning process. Particular features of an LMS will vary from school to school, but usually you will find the following common elements and functions:
  • A grade book to record and report progress.
  • A website or app, for a device like a tablet or computer, will allow you to present text, videos, or links to other sources.
  • Assessment tools students can submit their assignments, or take a quiz or an exam.
  • Discussion forums, both persistent like threaded newsgroups or temporary like a chat channel, enable students to engage in conversations about class content with you and with one another.
  • Learning Module. The most common unit of organization for an online class is a module. In an LMS, a module is a little more structured than than a traditional ‘unit’ or ‘section’ of a traditional syllabus. Modules organize class materials into topics and are ordered sequentially to contain all course materials and learning activities for that particular topic.
  • Asynchronous or self-paced. Many online courses do take place in real time, but not all enrolled students are together in class at the same time. This is a core difference in online education that can be challenging for traditional teachers. Students can complete the tasks whenever their schedules permit, so deadlines and speed to completion are typically not part of scoring.

Differences When Teaching Online

Most online learning courses work the same way, but there could be a few differences. Specific courses might have a small number of students while other are a proverbial theater, which can make it more difficult to teach effectively. Teachers can elect to include a synchronous element, where all students are expected to attend at the same time.

Experienced teachers can offer a custom course, while others are highly coordinated across schools and industry and rely heavily on publisher content and activities.

Online education, as the name implies, requires a level of technical capability from all involved. Schools and teachers will need policies or responses when students are not well equipped with a good computer or tablet and fast, reliable internet access.

Depending on circumstances, students might complete their assignments in a computer lab on campus or public places with good Wi-Fi because they don’t have internet at home. This is one area where the greatest flexibility and accommodation will be required.

Despite the level of change in class formats and student participation, the need to teach and learn, however possible, is what makes this form of education even more valuable. Continue reading our related articles for specific tips on communication, presence, evaluation and individual support.

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