Being an educator in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of challenging. Schools have had to adapt to the pandemic by transitioning to online classrooms — and they’ve had to do it almost overnight.
Remote instruction comes with a unique set of challenges for both the teacher and the student. Many instructors are not digitally savvy, unlike young students who grew up with technology at their fingertips. Furthermore, teachers have different teaching styles, while students have different learning styles. Adapting personal preferences to a virtual setting is another hurdle they have to navigate.
But with online learning looking to be the future of education, at least for the time being, determining teaching strategies that work is imperative. Read on for a list of key considerations for educators.
Dozens of educational tools and platforms surfaced during the pandemic. Chief among them are video conferencing software that play a pivotal role in online learning. Based on a survey, Zoom is the leading program used for synchronous classes because the plans are affordable and the platform is easy to use. For document writing and collaboration, instructors also use Google Docs, which tracks and automatically saves changes made by each user.
Zoom and Google Docs are only two of the tech tools used in remote learning — there are various other options. Educators are tasked with choosing which of them their students are already familiar with. If it’s completely new, the technology needs to be easy to roll out and accessible to all. Remember that not all students might have the capacity to run complicated apps or software and no child should be left behind in education.
The online learning environment is a lot harder to control. This is why Katherine Louthan, dean of Maryville University’s adult and online degrees, recommends limiting the number of students in each class. Maryville University is native to the virtual space and educators have found that maintaining engagement is a challenge and thus, a major priority. Louthan wrote in a University Business article about engagement that, from her school's experience, personal interactions — or high-touch environments — are effective in keeping engagement high in an online setting. Smaller classes make it easier to promote social interactions between students and teachers, which have been found to improve student satisfaction and learning.
But if it’s not possible to reduce the number of students in each class, Louthan suggests creating smaller groups for discussions and activities. Zoom has an option to create Breakout Rooms that allow teachers to go around and facilitate discussions or simply observe. However you choose to do it, providing opportunities to collaborate is crucial for enhancing learning. Students and teachers can share ideas, widen perspectives, and develop valuable social skills.
Online instruction can get monotonous pretty fast because of the physical constraints. In a traditional classroom, you have more room to facilitate more activities and different modes of teaching.
The challenge for teachers in virtual classrooms is to mix up content every now and then. One example is to use games, which curriculum developer Carol Rawlings Miller describes as effective tools for engagement. Gamifying the educational experience can help win over children who are easily bored or distracted, and build a sense of community for all levels and ages. Mixed content can also mean making use of Anki flashcards, which help with learning various subjects, including language, history, and geography. The flashcards are customizable and can make virtual classrooms more interactive and engaging.
Want to learn more about new technologies for learning? Read more of our blog posts here at Polar.
Written by: Laura Fritz