COVID-19 has changed the way we do everything, from grocery shopping to working, to school. Teachers across the country are working to help their students finish the school year online. Luckily, technology has changed the way we teach and learn, and it’s important to take advantage of the many tools available to enhance online learning. Whatever grade you teach, from kindergarten to college, online education can be extremely effective and impactful for students when done right.
If you’re a teacher who is feeling overwhelmed with a new role as an online educator, you’re not alone. Thousands of teachers may be feeling just like you. And there are many resources here to help. These 4 tips will help you improve your techniques and strategies to become an even better online teacher.
1. Create an atmosphere that is fun and exciting for students.
Whatever age your students are, it’s important to create an engaging classroom for them. That can be difficult when the classroom is on a computer screen, but it’s still possible. Create a fun, connected, and engaging classroom to help students thrive even when they are far away from each other and from you. Some great ways to create connections between students and educators include:
- Videos. A video or movie can help students see the things that you’re trying to talk to them about. It will break up the school day and help students learn in a different way. You can record videos of yourself demonstrating things, show other videos and movies that help get your point across and teach students, etc.
- Live class sessions. Students can feel connected to each other and to their teacher when they are given the opportunity to have live class sessions. They can discuss, ask questions, and enjoy time together with their classmates and teacher. You can also utilize live classroom sessions to demonstrate assignments or concepts to students, and more.
- One-on-one conversations. Students can greatly benefit from having one-on-one interactions with their teachers. This gives them an opportunity to connect, ask questions, express concerns, and let their teacher know how everything is going for them. It’s important to develop that relationship so teachers can continue connections with their students even online.
- Visual aids. Utilize pictures, props, and object lessons to make your class sessions more interesting for your students. Depending on the age of your students, the type of visual aids you use will vary. For younger students, reading stories or using puppets and crafts can be a fun addition to class time. Older students may benefit from seeing a science experiment performed by their teacher or other classmates.
2. Set personal and professional boundaries.
As an online educator, it can be difficult to know to set boundaries with your students because the classroom is always accessible, always on. It’s vital to set boundaries for your personal life and for your students to help them succeed. Establish a time each day when your school day and when it will end. Try very hard not to answer emails or do work outside of those times. Set the schedule for when you’ll be doing your lesson planning for the next day or week, do your grading, and connect with students. Having this scheduled time is key in helping you set boundaries. Students will know when they can expect to hear back from you, when they should also be working at school and can ask questions, etc.
When you set up these boundaries, it benefits you and your students. Students may delay working on an assignment because they think they can connect with you at any time. If they know that there are certain times when you’ll be available, they will work on assignments beforehand so they can ask questions and get any help they need during the specified time.
3. Utilize resources to help you.
You’re not alone in this! There are thousands of other educators in the country going through the same thing as you, and many teachers and institutions who excel in online education. They can be a wealth of information in helping you understand how to best utilize your online platform and connect with students. Online education is becoming increasingly more common, and more institutions and teachers are ready to help teachers that are new to online learning. Utilize resources like blogs, podcasts, articles, and research to help you learn more about online education and how to improve your strategy.
You can connect with other teachers to find out what resources they use to help find lesson plans or tips, do a simple Google search for ideas, or ask your school administrators what resources they recommend for your school and students.
This unique time could be the preparation you need to take on other unique roles as an educator. You can try new assignments, projects, and learning methods with this new platform. When you’re pushed into something new and unfamiliar, it can be scary. But it can also be a great opportunity for you to get out of your comfort zone and try new things for your students. You may find some things that you really love and want to utilize in the future.
4. Connect with parents.
It’s almost important to connect with parents as it is to connect with students. Parents need to understand what is expected of their children, they need to know how to help them continue to learn, and need to understand what kinds of assignments they may need help with. Teachers can give encouragement to parents as well as students when it comes to online learning. They need support as well as they try to navigate how to teach their kids at home.
Send regular emails to parents outlining the schedule, commonly asked questions that their students may have, the best way to teach a certain concept, and to answer questions. It’s important to be accessible to parents regularly to make sure they feel supported and helped. Give them resources to make them feel confident, and also make sure they know you are there to support and help them.
As you make the move to online learning, it’s important to make sure you know the best way to connect and engage with your students so they can find success. Students need teachers like you that care about their students and want them to be successful, wherever the classroom is.
Author bio: Madeleine Low is a content web publisher at Western Governors University. Her experience at WGU has helped her learn about higher education and the college experience for students around the United States. She has been a content writer and SEO analyst for five years for a variety of industries, including higher education, health, software, and automotive. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism.