The COVID-19 crisis only opened up new avenues of digitising our everyday life and living habits and crucial niches like education. Thanks to the global spree of enforcing lockdown measures across all states, the biggest sufferers have been the traditional schools and educational institutions that had to shut their doors and turn to online classes to keep operational for the sake of students.
As the situation stands in most parts of the globe, the scenario is fast increasingly becoming grimmer with uncertain days ahead for the schools and institutions across various regions. Though the rapid transition from traditional in-person classes to an online learning environment is not easier for most learners, we have no other option but to get accustomed to this new mode of education and life habits.
Let us remember in that respect that not all students are equally adept to online class environments and there are many students who rather find it comfortable to attend classes in so-called classroom environments. At the same time, there are many students who happen to like online classes as more effective for their learning capability and temperament. So, it is better to decide that not a single measure suits everyone.
Considering both sides of the pros and cons, here we are going to provide some crucial tips for online classes.
Set Expectations Early and Quick
One of the effective ways to improve online learning experience for the students is to set expectations at the very beginning and as quickly as possible. You may be quite assured of the topics to be covered and the objectives of each class but it may not be the same for the students. Particularly when the classroom is big enough, many students actually can lose the flow and get confused about where the discussion is intending to go. This may lead to unnecessary distractions and lack of concentration on the part of students.
To prevent this from happening, teachers should provide a gross outline of the entire lesson to be focused upon in the class along with a study guide, topics and sub topics listed in bullet points. You can present these things visually on the screen or can just email in advance or share with Google Classroom.
Don’t Forget to Pause Where It is Absolutely Needed
Since online remote classes offer less scope of understanding the pulse of the learners from close quarters, you need to allow maximum ease to help students catch up with your pace. Instead of lecturing continuously, take pause where you need to ensure that the students are really following you.
Pauses are also necessary in classes to help students ask questions and explain their difficulties in understanding. Pauses also help students to pick the writing instruments in order, open the mentioned page and write notes that they consider important. Pauses actually open up more rooms of teacher and student interactions.
Don’t Forget To Repeat The Important Points
Another important way to engage students in online classes is to repeat the important points that you covered. It is advisable to speak out each main concept or point a second or even a third time. By repeating the main points and concepts in a little different words helps create a lasting impression on the mind of your students.
There is also a technical side of this suggestion. Since online classes often make students suffer from lack of concentration or since studying from home often suffers from technical difficulties such as internet problems or Wi-Fi issues or signal drop in video or audio output, repeating the points also allows more scopes to catch up.
Don’t Look at The Camera Throughout The Class Session
Often looking at someone straight on screen for the entire duration of a class is boring and it may result in the drop of concentration level for students. This is why teachers in online classes should change the activities every once in a while to break this monotony. Using a blackboard for some activities or pointing to content in a screen or just reading a book can be some activities that will bring variety to classroom activities.
Allow Student Interaction
When you ask questions to your students and make them explain something to other participants, you easily break the monotony and redirect the focus of the class to something else. Apart from making the class interesting it also helps evaluating the comprehension level of students just like traditional classrooms.
Make Sure The Classroom is as Professionally Equipped
This tip is both for students and the teachers. First of all, teachers should dress properly and appear in professional classroom-like attire to command respect from all students. Secondly, make sure that you set up the streaming video lecturing with the right background behind you. A white or completely black wall will help you appear with least distractions on the screen. Make sure, during the classes no movement of individuals, pets or anything occurs nearby to catch your attention or to appear behind you on the screen.
Moreover, for students make sure they use quality headphones and earbuds preferably equipped with noise cancellation. Make sure the surrounding noise of the students home environments don’t cause disturbances to the classroom audio output. Sensitise all students about these and tell everyone to use headphones.
Challenges Corresponding to Live and Pre-Recorded Lectures
In spite of the general consensus about best practices and tips to follow, many teachers and professors follow different practices. Based on the preferences of the teachers the online classes incorporate either live streaming of video classes and pre-recorded classes. While for live classes teachers and students need to attend the classes virtually in the scheduled time, the pre-recorded lectures can be watched flexibly at any time.
The live lectures for most online classes are generally carried out using virtual classroom software like Blackboard Collaborate. Thankfully there are several features with the Blackboard Collaborate that can recreate a true to reality learning environment. From allowing students to raise their hands by pressing a button for asking questions to live communication between the teachers and students, it enables a live class environment with a gamut of handy features.
The greatest challenge to the live classes is the background noise created during the classes as many students don’t mute themselves while they are not talking. To take care of this challenge, professors can mute automatically the students who are not talking. Some collaborative live class platforms allow auto-muting all participants.
As for pre-recorded classes, the main problem is the absence of interactive elements that ensures optimum engagement from all learners. It has been seen that only partial use of pré-recorded videos in online classes is the effective method.
Lack of computers equipped with specific software for online tests and exams is also a major challenge for the online classes. Some software like Respondus LockDown Browser locks the computer screen until the answers are submitted. While this prevents users from looking at other browser tabs for information. Such software is not full proof as you can always look into books and other materials for finding the answers.
The same software also comes with a live camera option to help teachers watch students live so that they cannot browse any book or other material. This works much like the traditional classroom tests where your movements and activities are watched. Obviously, such measures require to have inbuilt or additional webcam for giving the online exams.
To conclude, online classes are here to stay and prosper as the most trending and future-ready mode of education and professional training. In the years to come, online classes will only prosper and become the principal mode of education for many learners and learning.
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Atman Rathod is the Co-founder at CMARIX TechnoLabs Pvt. Ltd., a leading web and mobile app development company with 16+ years of experience. He loves to write about technology, startups, entrepreneurship and business. His creative abilities, academic track record and leadership skills made him one of the key industry influencers as well.