During the recent lockdown that resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic, classrooms from across the country quickly became virtual, and caused teachers to adjust their approach to getting students to engage, and learn the material that had always been presented in person.
Fortunately, while at the elementary and high school levels the idea of an online classroom is a new concept, but the method has been growing in higher education for some time. There has been a remarkable growth curve with respect to online education, and improvements and developments in technology will help to increase the trend. The 2014-2015 academic year saw a 3.9% increase in online course enrollment. Over a quarter of all students have enrolled in at least one online course, and of those, almost half were enrolled entirely online.
The ability to leverage technology to increase the reach of the educational process is where the success of the idea stems. In the past, mid-career Americans have been the driving force behind the demand for online courses, as the audience was in need of a low-cost, high-quality option to enhance their educational experience. But in today’s pandemic society, the use of this technology is being applied to all levels of teaching.
The good news is, that the level of performance of online students and traditional students has been found to be comparable, which can provide some level of confidence to parents and administrators that the concept can be successful.
The important part is knowing what tools to use, and more importantly, how to use it to keep your online sessions interesting, and productive. The key to any education method is to engage your students, so what steps can you take to do that in an online environment?
Create Short Courses with Your Syllabus
Organizing your course material is the first step to making an effective online course. Too often students will have the misconception that the nature of an online course will be easy due to the convenience of working online. A key to avoiding this problem is to present your course contents in an easily understood format that the students will feel is manageable. It’s important to keep in mind that they will be interpreting much of the material on their own without the normal cues and hints that they would receive from both you, and other students during a typical classroom session.
To be effective, students must be following instructions for the course work, as well as them being able to track their own progress through the materials.
Try and balance the course material, dividing and presenting your courses into smaller lessons. Be sure not to include too few items in the lesson, as the students may begin to question the value of the course.
As a rule, have at least ten separate lessons, but no more than fifty. For more complex topics that may require more than fifty lessons, group them into sub-sections that are shorter such that the students will be able to easily follow their progress.
Since the days of spooling the intake reel from the film reel on the projector, videos have been a staple in education, and online lessons are certainly no different. There are many educational benefits to presenting course material in video format, including:
- Higher marks
- increased student motivation
- Enhanced learning experience
- Development of learner autonomy
- Development potential for deeper learning of the subject development potential for deeper learning of the subject development potential for deeper learning of the subject
- Enhanced team working and communication skills
- Learning resources for future cohorts to use
- Another advantage of video usage is the ability to allow students to explore lectures on their own time, preserving class time for interactive discussion.
Technology has come along to aid in the use of video. No longer is there a need to have access to a video production team, as today it is easier to create a high-quality video with just a laptop or even a smartphone.
Keep Videos in Small Sections
To be effective, adding videos to a lesson needs to be done appropriately. Attention spans are short, and even more so the younger the student. Simply recording a lecture won’t keep a student engaged, so consider dividing your content into sections that will ease their consumption.
Research done by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology team of researchers found that videos no longer than six minutes in length were most engaging. Other suggestions include alternating between video of the instructor speaking and informational slides.
Periodically Include Short, Non-graded Quizzes
While presenting course materials to students is the initial task, you need to help them to internalize and absorb the information. Including frequent, short non-graded quizzes along the way is an extremely effective method of making sure the information is being transferred.
Some of the benefits of posing frequent quizzes include:
- Aiding in retention
- Identifying gaps in knowledge
- Encouraging study
- Promoting better organization of knowledge
- Allowing students to have immediate verification of correct or incorrect answers
- Providing feedback to instructors
Including the quizzes as a non-graded element of the course, students are not as intimidated by the pressure of getting a grade and can focus more on retaining the information.
Establish Discussion Forums and Require Participation
Interaction between students is essential to effectively teach online. Achieving this can be one by requiring their participation in online discussion forums.
Including these forums in our course creates the ability for communication to take place at any time. Students have the ability to continue conversations sparked during class or may bring a forum discussion into the classroom with them. By participating in these discussions students are able to become more familiar with topics by communicating with their peers.
Some considerations need to be addressed when incorporating a discussion forum to your online course:
Rules of Behavior: Rules for interaction online, or “Netiquette” needs to be established and enforced, just as behavior in the classroom.
Guidelines for Participation: Clear rules for participation and deadlines need to be set.
Discussion Topics: To promote interesting discussions be sure to prepare thought-provoking topics.
Monitor Discussions: Students who are not participating or need to be encouraged to “chime in” need to be watched for, just as you would in the classroom setting.
The use of an effectively managed discussion forum can be one of the best opportunities to interact with your students while conducting classes online and can help to create a sense of presence in your online classroom.
By using these tips to plan and implement your online sessions, you can keep your students engaged while working remotely, keeping them on track until a return to classroom learning begins again.
Jordan Fuller is a golf coach and mentor. His passion for golf continues as he also owns a golf publication site where he shares informational articles about how to play golf and tips on how to improve the game. Jordan is currently teaching some of his students through online sessions.
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- Tips To Keep Your Online Sessions Interesting And Remarkable - August 24, 2020