A Beginner’s Guide on How to Teach Online Classes

Teaching online classes requires a different skill set than the in-person experiences we all grew up with. Whether it be behind a screen or face-to-face, the goal of a teacher remains the same: to create an environment that fosters learning and growth. While there are definite challenges to doing this online, a simple guide can help teachers effectively make this transition.

How to Get Started?

  • Combat Common Challenges
  • Set Up For Success
  • Keep Clear Goals Along the Way

Combat Common Challenges — There is a learning curve with online tools and platforms, so students might have a hard time navigating these things in the beginning. To keep challenges to a minimum, classes should have short learning activities, clear purposes, and planned shifts designed for students’ needs, engagement, freedom and teamwork.

Set Up for Success — The best online teaching spaces provide room for you to stand, move, and dance. Make sure that your workspace has strong lighting, clear sound, catchy music, and anything else that grabs and keeps attention. Your workspace should be suited for every action you may need to take.
Keep Clear Goals Along the Way — Goals should be set with your students from the very beginning to help keep them motivated. This can be done individually or together as a class. These goals should be simple and rewarding to guarantee success. Communicate these goals with students and their families throughout your class sessions to make sure everyone is on the same page.

In addition to these measures, we’ve also outlined 12 best practices to help students learn more effectively online:

  • Prioritize the Students
  • Take a Break
  • Use Different ‘Rooms’
  • Keep it Simple
  • Curate Curiosity
  • Stay Interactive
  • Introduce New Topics with Ease
  • Balance Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning
  • Recorded Practice Sessions
  • Incorporate Icebreakers
  • Provide Ongoing Feedback
  • Prioritize the Students
Prioritize the Students — Get your online students into the habit of joining in. The initial task may include taking into account their lives, their day, their happiness, etc. Make sure they’re comfortable, entertained, and learning easily along the way. They are who the class is made for, after all.
Take a Break — Use videos, games, and music to keep students engaged in distance learning during portions of the lesson or activity that may be waning. You can find a lot of engaging content offered online today.
Use Different ‘Rooms’ — Study rooms, break rooms, group rooms, etc., are key in building relationships with your students and improves the online learning experience all around. Help students understand that it’s not all about the lessons, but the connections made around them, as well. This tactic also provides a basis for grouping, collaboration, small-group instruction, and more.
Keep it Simple — Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Simplifying what you teach will help your students absorb sessions better.
Curate Curiosity — Be your students’ leading learner as much as you are the teacher. If you show them what it means to be curious and active in this new learning environment, you can expect that same excitement and enthusiasm in return.
Stay Interactive — Find a different way to present information. A video or game are great options. For example, try recording yourself reading a story and asking questions. Then, ask the students to pause the video to respond to the questions periodically. When they’re wrong, either provide them with the correct answer or guide them to figure it out.
Introduce New Topics with Ease — Prioritizing skills and ideas is more necessary now than ever. Know that distance learning is an excellent tool for review. Remember to focus on reinforcing what your students already learned, just in case they’ve forgotten.
Take Things Slow — Student engagement might drop when too much information is presented in a short period of time. Break up information and provide it in brief doses to promote student engagement and retention.
Balance Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning — The strategies here are student voice and choice in what and how they learn. A synchronous learning environment is where all students learn together, whereas asynchronous learning is self-directed by the student. Synchronous learning is harder to form and can’t be practiced, but promotes student connection and teamwork. Asynchronous learning allows students to learn by themselves but can be ineffective if not given close attention. Learning to use both is key to a better experience.
Recorded Practice Sessions — Professional athletes that push themselves to high levels record their practices. The recordings are then used to analyze the areas they can improve. As an online teacher, you can do the same. With the help of screen-recording software, you can record your online classes and analyze your performance after a session is over. When watching the replay, notice the level of interaction and engagement. Consider what worked and what didn’t. Fix the mistakes for next time and watch the difference in how your students behave. You may be surprised by the impact of one small shift.
Incorporate Icebreakers — Icebreakers are more robust online than in person. Their purpose is to warm up a session or close a session on a high note. Putting them to use can get students talking and interacting not only with you, but with their fellow classmates, as well.
Provide Ongoing Feedback — Feedback is a powerful tool when teaching online. It’s another way to establish a personal connection with your students and is often ignored in an online teaching environment. Check in with your students as much as possible to ensure everyone is doing well and understanding the information they receive.

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