One social media post that caught my attention right away very recently was that teachers in a certain part of the country were refusing to teach online classes during the lockdown, one of the reasons being they were finding it difficult to hold a captive audience during the time they taught their lessons.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges as an instructor is to transfer oneself from an in-person instructor to an online instructor. An online instructor, like the in-person instructor, must understand not only how learners learn but in addition, must also learn how to leverage technology to help students engage, absorb and retain information. An online environment requires the new skillset of speaking into a camera, implying projecting a confident and personable self. Unfortunately, most instructors are subject matter experts and they aren’t familiar with this mode of dissemination and continue with teacher-fronted techniques. The one mantra that needs to be mastered in this case is to convert the isolating experience of the virtual space into shared ones.
Here are some simple ways you can make your sessions interesting. Give your learners ownership. So give them opportunities to make small choices, by asking learners for a simple Yes/No or multiple choice responses using an app like Kahoot! or Quizlet, for instance. Learners are attentive when asked for their views. You could also give students some choice in tasks or in modes of presentation so that they may pursue not only what interests them, but also choose to use graphic, audio or video response from them. You could also intersperse your lesson with an occasional self-assessment which will not only give you an idea of how far they have understood, but also help them reflect on what they have just learned. Remember to build in little stories, anecdotes or attention-grabbing data that connect with your theme, or insert interesting pictures, motifs and metaphors in your slides; they will make your learners sit up and listen/watch. Seize every opportunity to take responses. You could, for instance get your learners to brainstorm together using some collaborative tools like Google Docs, Padlet, Popplet, Miro, Lucidchart and Trello. They would then be able to write, paste and draw on a common whiteboard, visible to all. Another great way to make your learners work together is to put them in Buzz Sessions or Breakaway Rooms where you can bring them together in separate groups virtually, give them a discussion point, visit these groups virtually, and get them to share what they discussed in their groups back in the general forum. Pretty much in the same way we do in the classrooms, and the learners are likely to be totally engaged. Check with the platform you are using whether it has this feature.
Sitting in the quiet of your home and teaching into a webcam can be a lonely experience, especially when you don’t have a staff-room to visit between classes! However, the saving grace lies in being able to make the experience personal by connecting in some way with learners so that they’ll stay engaged and be willing to attend your next session.
Author: Sonali Bhattacharyya
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