Class in session: Teachers maximising the virtual learning experience

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic brought forth a slew of new norms, one of which is distance learning.

As a result, educational technologies have become a salient tool in our arsenal of adjustment strategies. While students get accustomed to this new way of learning, teachers are navigating e-learning platforms to impart their lessons in the most effective way.

Helping to steer them in the right direction is e-learning provider One On One Educational Services through their Teacher Success Programme. The pilot initiative will run for two months to include 100 office hours per week as well as webinars to equip teachers with knowledge and skills training.

Ricardo Allen, President & CEO of One On One Educational Services said that the programme was specifically geared at making educators nimble while carrying out their responsibility in ensuring student education.

“Distance learning is our new normal and so we have to get acquainted with the available tools that will help teachers to carry out their lessons in the most effective way. Through our programme, we will introduce teachers to different software and give them the appropriate training so they can create virtual classrooms and maximize the online learning experience,” he explained.

One On One Educational Services’ President & CEO, Ricardo Allen (Photo contributed)

Under the tutelage of experts in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), teachers will receive training in digital tools such as Zoom, Google and Microsoft Office Suites, as well as teaching preparation to create lesson plans, content curation and feedback forms suitable for online learning.

Growth mindset training is also a key component of the programme that will better help teachers to achieve success while practicing these new teaching methods.

To teachers who are still adjusting to the virtual learning experience, Allen offers a few pedagogical advice: 

Simplicity is key

Because distance learning does not bring the class together in a physical space, it is more difficult to tackle misconceptions for the benefit of the entire class. This is why it is important to deliver the content in a clear and concise manner. Unambiguous instructions are also crucial to ensuring students successfully complete assignments. Additionally, resources are best shared in a PowerPoint presentation, PDF or Microsoft Word document as these are easily accessible.

Establish a digital home base

The Internet is a platform of opportunities for new educational technologies. So, it is best to explore each website to determine which one will work best for students as well as the style of teaching. However, it is best for this to be done before engaging with students. A single digital platform is sufficient for creating a virtual classroom where the teacher is easily accessible and information can be conveniently shared. Simplicity and familiarity are invaluable assets and so students need to feel comfortable going to the same platform and using the same tools.

Allen noted, “With online learning, it is important that students feel empowered. Teachers can encourage students to take control of their learning through simple steps such as ensuring assignments are uploaded to the platform and can be accessed at any time, and making the teaching session available so students can review at their own pace. Centralizing this information will boost the learning experience as teachers and students become more familiar with navigating the virtual space.”

Prioritise student-driven assignments

Planning is the foundation of any successful online teaching method and so a higher level of attention to detail is required. Teachers do not have the opportunity to quickly correct errors or pivot to a new subject when students are disengaged. As such, it is important to ensure students actively engage with the course material.

Allen advises, “Focus on building long-term projects where students have a clear set of checkpoints and deadlines that need to be met. Getting their family involved is also a good opportunity to make learning more inclusive and engaging. Teachers can create avenues for students to discuss what they are learning with their families and encourage them to welcome their feedback.”

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Physical and social interactions will take on a new look in the virtual classroom in the form of emails, phone calls, shared documents and instant messages via the learning platforms. These are valuable tools to be equipped with in ensuring the line of communication is kept open. It is important that teachers engage with students so they have the confidence that they are being guided. It is best for teachers to create a communication structure and stick to it. The students will see that the teachers are invested in their education and development and will be more likely to achieve success.