Teachers have come a long way since March 2020, when many were thrown unprepared into the remote learning world. But instructional technology consultant and author Lindy Hockenbary says there’s still a lot more teachers can learn about online learning success.
At this year’s in-person TCEA 2022 conference in Dallas, the A Teacher’s Guide to Online Learning author used her session, titled “The Recipe for K–12 Online Learning Success,” to share with teachers, instructional technologists and other educators how to cook up a satisfying online learning experience.
Remember That Virtual Learning Is Less Forgiving
Hockenbary said that teaching online requires a strong foundation because virtual learning is less forgiving. Teachers must overcome certain barriers raised by the lack of proximity to students.
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She pointed to a paper on remote learning by the University of Illinois Springfield’s Karen Swan, who wrote, “In face-to-face classrooms, instructors and students can negotiate meaning in real time. In asynchronous learning, this kind of negotiation of meaning is not possible.”
Hockenbary encouraged teachers to focus on equity, student data privacy, consistency and clarity, and creating self-directed learners.
She shared that while these goals are important for in-person learning, they become critical during online learning. “You must be more thoughtful and strategic with online learning,” she said.
Consider How Access Impacts Engagement
When teaching in an online learning environment, teachers must think about access. “Typically, when we talk about equity, we don’t often talk about the quality of a student’s device,” Hockenbary said. “But they could have low processing speeds, which becomes a problem when asking them to do multiple things on their devices.”
She noted that student access to broadband is its own access issue. She said if students are not participating in class, teachers must find out where the breakdown in engagement is occurring, as it could be due to a lack of access, not a lack of interest.
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Reduce Confusion with Consistency and Clarity
Using multiple digital tools can create another roadblock to student engagement online. Hockenbary encourages teachers to use no more than two digital home base tools or digital hubs for K–12 learning.
She added that the online learning environment makes it more important than ever for teachers to be clear and consistent. She said she encourages online teachers to create routines and to be consistent and organized in how they manage student materials.
She noted that this can also be helpful for caregivers eager to take on a an active role in their students’ education. “Setting K–12 students up for success includes setting their grown-ups up for success,” she said.
Build Social Connections for Online Students
Hockenbary noted that, since students aren’t running into one another in hallways or cafeterias, they have fewer opportunities to build community. This is where teachers can play a big role. When teachers take time to build relationships with online students, it helps them foster a sense of belonging. It can also give teachers a chance to see how students are doing emotionally.
Video can help accomplish this. Hockenbary pointed to research revealing that teachers can drive relationship-building in a virtual environment through making videos. She noted that for students, seeing their teachers’ faces and hearing their voices is more important that watching a high-quality video.
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Hockenbary also suggested that teachers set up one-to-one meetings outside of scheduled class times and carve out time during class for impromptu discussions about food, music, pets, or other topics that capture student interest.
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