1. Get Your At-Home Workspace Ready
Creating a designated space for work and online teaching is crucial for educators working from home. Doing so can help them stay productive and focused throughout the day and minimize distractions that may disrupt student learning.
Teachers don’t necessarily need to have a home office or retrofit an existing room into one. Some have invested in new equipment such as professional cameras, headsets and whiteboards to provide higher-quality synchronous and asynchronous instruction. However, making small adjustments — from moving to a well-lit, clutter-free room to live stream or record a lesson to using a stack of books to raise a webcam up to eye level when videoconferencing — can make a huge difference in how well they teach online.
— @TutorTime_MissJ (@TutortimeM) August 17, 2020
2. Test Your Tech Before the Start of Class
Educators should also be aware of common technical issues that they or their students may encounter during online learning, such as microphones not working properly or embedded videos not playing in presentations. This is especially important, as many IT departments are swamped with tackling more urgent requests and bigger challenges now that schools are largely distributed.
It’s a good idea for teachers to conduct a video and audio test on any devices or platforms they’ll be using. They should also consider doing a run-through of their lessons before livestreaming or recording them. Taking these steps can help minimize the amount of troubleshooting they have to do throughout the day and can make them feel more prepared and confident with online teaching.
3. Set Classroom Expectations, Goals and Routines
Even if students aren’t physically in a classroom, educators will still need to set clear expectations for their classes. Emily Kirsch, instructional technology coach at Educate, tells EdTech that establishing class norms and goals with students encourages them to take ownership of their learning and fosters productive learning environments.
Many schools have set expectations and guidelines for students when using school-issued devices, videoconferencing platforms and other digital tools. Teachers have also created posters and presentations to share on Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams or the learning management system of their choice to help students navigate their new classroom setting.
Seeing everyone in our meeting today had to be the highlight of my week! It was nice to hear what you have all been up to, thank you to everyone that joined and made sure to follow our Virtual Classroom Expectations! ☺️👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/uqdfiqL4No
— Ms. Medeiros (@msjmedeiros) May 29, 2020
4. Make Communication and Survey Tools Available
Open lines of communication are key to a virtual classroom, especially now that face-to-face conversations are limited. By providing accessible and consistent communication, teachers can keep parents and guardians informed on the latest school news or their student’s progress. This also lets educators check in on their students and ensure their social and emotional needs are met.
Besides the standard phone calls, emails and text messages, educators can post class updates and schedule one-on-one meetings using their LMS to streamline all communications and reduce the need for any additional IT support.
It’s also important to gather feedback from students and their families to identify areas of improvement. With online surveys such as Google Forms and apps like Seesaw, Kahoot and Microsoft’s Flipgrid, educators can ask questions about students’ online classroom experiences. They can also collect valuable data, such as what time students are doing their online schoolwork and how long it takes them to complete it, and use that data to adjust how they prepare and deliver their lessons.
Setting up a fully virtual classroom is no easy task, especially for educators who are unfamiliar with online tools. But being open to new ways of using technology for learning can bring teachers one step closer to making online learning more accessible, engaging and effective for all students.