In last week’s blog, we talked about prioritizing the “human element” when we use technology. The idea is to re-create as much of the nuance of face-to-face conversations as possible, whenever possible. Preserving the human element is also critical in online teaching, tutoring and mentoring sessions.

Putting emphasis on the human and not the technology ensures the student is able to engage with the lesson, allowing them to deepen their understanding of the topic. In order to do this, researchers recommend that educators keep a camera on them while teaching and come up with creative ways to get the student to interact with the lesson.

Let them see you

It may be tempting to focus purely on the diagrams, whiteboard, or lecture slides while teaching online, but human-to-human interaction is an important factor in engaging students with the material.

For example, Nanyang Technological University is a publicly funded university in Singapore where all students have a significant portion of classes online. The university admin felt strongly that to preserve the “human” element, online presentations should show both the lecture slide AND the professor. Thus, the platform they developed has a dedicated window for both the presentation and a video of the professor, ensuring students can see the professor’s facial expressions, gestures, etc.

If the platform you are using does not have this split-screen feature, ensure you are switching back to the video view frequently to re-engage with the students. Tutor Panel also recommends that you frequently check in on the video screen with the student (if the student is comfortable with having their camera on during the lesson). This will give you a good indication if the student is confused, frustrated or excited by the material.

If the platform you are using does not have a split-screen feature, ensure you are switching back to the video view frequently to re-engage with the students.

Get the student to teach it back to you

When tutoring virtually, it is very easy for the students to become passive in the lesson. Engagement has to be actively pursued, but sticking to asking follow-up questions like “did that make sense?” or “do you have any questions?” doesn’t do a great job of highlighting any gaps in understanding. A better way is to get the student to re-teach you the same topic, diagram it out, or devise their own possible test questions based on the information you have given them.

For example, at La Salle University School of Nursing, students in online courses are frequently asked to design visual guides to the procedures they are learning (ie. Drawing diagrams of the parts of the body, what the healing process looks, etc.). If you are using Nimbus’s online tutoring platform, this is a great application of the whiteboard feature – and bonus, the tutor can correct it right there in front of the student.

Engagement has to be actively pursued but sticking to asking follow-up questions like “did that make sense?” or “do you have any questions?” doesn’t do a great job of highlighting any gaps in understanding.

A good instructor will always be the most important aspect of education. Online tools can be a great way to add to the learning experience but will never be more valuable than the engagement and connection a teacher provides. When teaching, the focus should always be on how the technology can complement the teacher – not the other way around. With a little creativity, students will be able to benefit from top-level teaching from anywhere in the world.

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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