With the increased need for online course offerings this fall, many instructors, tutors and mentors will teach an online for the first time in their lives. Developing this new essential skill is a fantastic way to progress in your chosen career, however, it can be daunting to try it out in front of a group of students who are relying on you to get it right the first time.

As you plan how you will conduct your own virtual sessions, we have a few recommendations to get started: train on the platforms you will be using, get extra creative when it comes to engaging the students in the material, and amp up the detail, structure, and communication.

Get training on the platform

Contrary to popular belief, online chat platforms aren’t always as straight forwards as they seem. Dedicated professor training on these programs is necessary to not only ensure a smooth roll out, but also so you know what to do if things go wrong.

At Nanyang Technological University, a publicly funded university in Singapore, the majority of the courses have an online presence. In the initial roll-out of their extensive online learning modules, the University began to focus on creating effective “high Tech – high Touch” delivery methods for their courses. While implementing the system, the university spent considerable time training the faculty on the online presentation system. This process ensures that professors know how to work all parts of the online teaching platform and how to troubleshoot if things go wrong. (Ever been in an online lecture where the teacher doesn’t know how to unmute one of the students? Training ahead of time can help avoid that)

Dedicated professor training on [online course] programs is necessary to not only ensure a smooth roll out, but also so you know what to do if things go wrong

Put extra emphasis on student engagement

We’ve previously talked about how to increase student engagement in online classes. The importance of devising methods of increasing engagement cannot be understated – it is linked to both student enjoyment of the class, as well as course success. In online classes, where it is all too easy to become an anonymous bubble during lecture, engagement has to be actively pursued.

For example, at La Salle University School of Nursing, online courses are often complemented by something they refer to as a “jigsaw” activity. Each student in the class is assigned to be the ‘expert’ on a different homework question, then is expected to drive the conversation around that homework question in class. By asking each student to prep for a conversation at some point during the lecture, the professors ensure that the students engage with each other each class.

By asking each student to prep for a conversation at some point during the lecture, the professors [at La Salle University School of Nursing] ensure that the students engage with each other each class.

Amp up the detail, structure, and communication

The benefit of online classes is how flexible they are – they can easily fit into almost anyone’s schedule. However, this can be a nightmare for students who are just getting used to the demands of higher education or need a little help with routine.

Leighsa Sharoff at the City University of New York recommends that instructors amp up the detail and use multiple different method of communication to explain course information (ie. syllabus, emails, announcements in class). Being precise down to the exact minute assignments are due at the start of the course helps create structure that may be missing during online courses if, for example, classes doen’t have a set time.

 

Courses this year are going to be different and both students and instructors will have a learning curve to deal with. By practicing with the technology and prepping course expectations ahead of time, instructors can ensure they will have time to be responsive if and when things don’t go as planned.

Nimbus Learning now offers an online tutoring platform which allows students virtual access to academic support and mentorship. Click here to find out more.

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