Before stepping foot into the virtual classroom, it’s important for an instructor to understand the needs and challenges of an online learner. In a face-to-face environment, a teacher can rely on body language, voice, and back-and-forth banter to establish a rapport with students. The same cannot be said in an online situation. Instead, an educator must recognize the characteristics of online learners. This allows him or her to tailor instruction accordingly.
The research to date hasn’t yet identified a specific profile of online students. However, some characteristics tend to ring true for many of these learners. People who take online classes are often:
- Fluent in the use of online learning technologies
- Well-prepared to engage in online activities
- Strong in interpersonal and communication skills
- Diverse in their cultural and educational background
- Appreciative of the social and collaborative aspects of online learning
Now, let’s take a dive into the mind of an online learner.
What Does an Online Learner Want?
Imagine the first day of class when you were a student. With a fair dose of tension and excitement, you would have looked around with several questions in mind. Would this teacher be friendly? Does he know what he’s doing? Would she like me? Would I become friends with any of the other students around me?
Everyone who enters your virtual classroom experiences a similar reaction. While their reasons for joining your class may vary, students share some commonalities. They want to learn. They want to enjoy the course. They want to like the teacher. And they want to leave the class feeling that their time and money was well spent.
So, How Can You Create That?
Ideas for Teaching in a Virtual Classroom
Blending content, pedagogy, and technology can be a tremendous struggle for many online educators. As with face-to-face instruction, the more quality time students spend immersed in content, the more they learn. It’s important, then, for online teachers to take advantage of all the tools available and create an immersive online learning experience for students.
Here’s a step-by-step process of how to set up a virtual classroom for better learning delivery.
Before Starting the Session
- Ensure all key content is available to learners before the live class, so there is time for discussions and activities in the live class.
- Provide clear instructions on how and when to log-in to the course. This helps avoid any confusion among learners.
- Develop emergency protocols. What if your internet stops working suddenly? What if your system crashes down? Talk to your technology provider to think of solutions for such situations beforehand.
- Be sure to upload the eLearning content—presentations, media files, and documents in the content library. You won’t want to have a last minute panic situation!
- Document all the links and media you’re going to use while delivering the session. Save it in a folder where you can easily access it. It may come in handy during or after the session.
- Practice ways of giving feedback. Everyone loves feedback that helps them improve. If you have to share negative feedback with a learner, make sure to do it privately. It will be taken more constructively.
During the Session
- Familiarize learners with the tools available in the classroom. A special session can be conducted for learners to introduce them to the look and feel of the virtual classroom. Allow them to try out the tools themselves.
- Create an environment much as you would in a face-to-face classroom. Help learners feel they’re important and valuable participants in the class despite the separation of distance. Set aside time for a round of introductions.
- Conclude the session with a brief assessment – through a poll or quiz – to gauge your learners’ level of understanding about the topic you delivered.Give opportunities for peer-to-peer collaboration and communication. Make use of text chat, breakout rooms, and group activities.
- Make your online presence known by commenting on student work, joining discussions, asking questions and sharing information. Though full of benefits, eLearning can feel like an abyss for students who don’t build a connection with instructors.
- Keep extra time for addressing doubts and questions at the end of every session.
TIP! Addressing learners with their first name makes them feel you made an effort to know about them!
After the Session
- Prepare a summary of the key points discussed in the session and send it to learners. This will help them retain important information shared in the session.
- Create a document with relevant links related to the information given in the session and share it with learners.
- Send a brief outline for the next session to learners. Doing so will give them a clear idea of what they are going to learn next and make them look forward to it.
- Request student feedback. It helps in making improvements wherever necessary.
Teaching online presents its own unique set of challenges as an online instructor constantly has to edit his or her teaching style to meets the needs of learners. A comprehensive eLearning software like WizIQ Virtual Classroom is useful in making online learning delivery seamless.
- British Columbia Institute of Technology, ‘The Online Learning Environment’
- University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire, Hanover Research Council, ‘Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies’
About the Author
Amanjot Kaur is an online marketer at WizIQ, a leading online learning delivery platform for universities, K12, educational service providers, corporate and individual instructors. She believes collaboration technologies are going to be the torchbearer of the advancement of education.
Feature image courtesy of Unsplash, timothy muza.