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How To Teach Online Effectively

Drexel University School of Education

Teaching online is a relatively new concept for educators used to seeing their students in a traditional classroom setting. Instead of monitoring students face-to-face, online teachers scan their screens and chat windows to ensure students are engaged and grasping the concepts they are presenting. Teaching online is a new challenge, but the following online teaching classroom ideas can help educators better reach their remote students. We also encourage you to visit our virtual classroom page to learn more about what factors to keep in mind when setting up a class.

How to Manage Online Classes

Managing online classes differs from traditional classroom settings in many ways, but some of the important concepts of classroom management apply whether the class is taught in person or face-to-face. Online teachers need to be present and available to their students just as they would in a traditional school environment. The key difference is how teachers makes themselves available. This can be via video chat, email, message boards, etc. Online teachers should clearly communicate to their students when and how they can reach them. One way to do this is for a teacher to provide a scheduled time each day/week when students can contact them for assistance. This will allow students to plan for when they can contact their teacher and saves teachers from having to respond to emails throughout the day and evening.

Teachers should also keep the following in mind:

1) Virtual Classroom Etiquette

Each class should have its own “virtual classroom ground rules” that establishes a respectful and engaging learning environment. Teachers can set online classroom rules such as, “how to let me know when you would like to speak,” “what types of words and phrases may or may not be used in class,” etc. This also presents an opportunity to engage the class in setting virtual classroom norms. You can solicit feedback from the whole class or put them into breakout rooms to create their own list of rules on how they would best learn in the class. Virtual classroom etiquette creates an opportunity for teachers to create and nurture a supportive online community where all students can thrive.

2) Online Learning Expectations for Students

Teachers should be very clear in setting expectations for their online course. This includes letting students know what they can expect from their teacher as well as what the teacher expects from them as online learners. Teachers should be clear in explaining when assignments are due, how much participation is expected, how grading and exams will work, conduct and class rules that should be followed, etc.

3) How to Prepare for Online Teaching

Preparing for online teaching is a critical component for a successful class. Teachers should start by testing the technology they will be using for the class to ensure it is working properly and the components, i.e. breakout rooms, chat functions, etc. all function to their expectations. Next, the teacher should consider how they appear to students online. Is there sufficient lighting? Teachers can also spruce up their background to include posters, messages, or other items to represent the class, or use an engaging virtual background.

Once the technology is squared away, teachers can focus on how to deliver the curriculum. In an online environment, engagement is critical. Students are spending their entire day in front of a screen. Students may tune out, or worse, stop showing up if the class is not engaging. Teachers can increase engagement by developing short lessons followed by hands-on activities. Group and individual projects, problem-solving activities, and break-out room discussions, are just a few ways to make online courses engaging. Teachers can also consider brief, physical activities to keep their students fresh. Have students take a minute or two to get out of their chairs and stretch or use a mindfulness activity to help students focus before the start of a lesson.

At the K-3 level, teachers can consider planning short lessons (20-30 minutes) followed by assignments where students can work off screen. This will help cut down on the amount of time young children are spending in front of a screen.

Effective Online Teaching Tools

There are many online teaching tools available to help teachers effectively teach their students online. It is important for teachers to find the tools that work best for them and their students. Teachers should test tools before adopting them. Below are a few popular online teaching tools for teachers to consider. You can also check out a video we created with more online tools for teaching and learning.

1) ClassDojo

ClassDojo allows teachers to connect directly with students and provide instant feedback. It also gives students a voice where they can showcase their work in their own portfolios. Teachers can also share what’s going on in class with parents who can be granted access.

2) Kahoot!

Kahoot! is a game-based platform that allows teachers to create interactive lessons for their classes. Teachers can write questions and create games using Kahoot!’s platform and have their students log on with a game pin or link. The platform is a good example of how to create engaging lessons for their classes.

3) Edmodo

Edmodo is a classroom management tool that allows teachers to send messages, share class materials, measure student performance, and more. Parents can also have access to their child’s classes and receive notification of when their child’s assignments are due.

Online Teaching Tips and Tricks

In addition to what is shared above, here are a few simple tips and tricks to help teachers teach effectively online. We also encourage you to view our video on effective teaching strategies.

  1. Be on screen so students can see you
  2. Test the technology before using it!
  3. If using videos, keep them short (less than 15 minutes). Children have short attention spans.
  4. Make sure the tools you use are open access so all students can use them.
  5. Clearly communicate instructions to your students
  6. Create engaging activities for students
  7. Set expectations that are reasonable for students learning in a virtual environment
  8. Ask for and accept feedback from students
  9. Remember, online learning is new for students. If needed, slow down so students do not fall behind
  10. Create closing activities that summarize what was learned that day.