Uncover the secret to being a great online teacher and maximize online learning in your schools

As schools are increasingly moving towards adopting and using online teaching mode, educators in schools need to get the best out of it and maximize students’ learning, we should put emphasis on education of the head, heart and the hand to promote the holistic growth of our learners.

In my recent blog post titled “Still hanging on to your traditional classroom teaching style? Here is what you are missing”. I recommended that “It would be incredible for schools that have opted for online learning to maintain and make it an integral part of their school system even after the pandemic”. In this article, I uncover the secret to being a great online teacher and how to maximize online learning to promote the holistic growth of our learners in schools.

As schools are increasingly moving towards adopting and using online teaching mode, educators in schools need to get the best out of it and maximize students’ learning. Education institutions need not to do online learning for the sake of doing it; educators should ensure that online learning holistically transforms learner’s head, heart and the hand.

What is online learning all about?

ICT Teachers’ online workshop during the lock down

We can view online learning as that type of education or learning which takes place over the internet.This education involves the use of internet-based learning platforms not restricted to just Google meet, Zoom, Jitsi Meet, Google Classroom to connect learners and teachers. It is from these online platforms that teachers are able to share knowledge and skills with their learners through various categories of electronic media and technologies such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, television channels, presentation software, YouTube videos, social media etc.

While opting for online learning, it is imperative to note that this type of education holds an immense potential for pedagogy which teachers need to embrace. Just like it is always done in a four wall classroom, curriculum implementers need to provide high quality learning experience while having their instruction on these internet-based learning environment. Emphasis should be put on educating the head, heart and the hand but not plainly sending slide contents to the learners. In fact, teachers who send or share contents with the learners are not as effective as those who engage with their learners in real-time learning.

The secret to being a great online teacher

Online teaching comes with its challenges and limitations that need the attention of the teachers. Dealing with such challenges could make us great online teachers and could make our learners satisfied and encouraged to attend our online lessons! Below are a few questions we should ask ourselves if we are to become great online teachers;

Do you take time to set expectations for your online class?

Setting clear expectations for my students before every lesson has always been of great help to managing my class. These expectations could also be inform of lesson objectives, learning outcomes, what my learners expect of me and what will be required from them, when to participate, how to discuss and how assessment will be done. By doing this, you the teachers, have a clear class direction, control and your learners will also be aware of what to do.

Do you do co-teaching during your online lesson?

With co-teaching, one of the teachers does the presenting while the other teacher in the background moderating the lesson, providing feedback to learners’ questions raised from the chat. This enables a systematic flow during teaching and learning. The co-teacher can even come in after the presentation and provide feedback to the whole classroom basing on questions raised from the chats. This helps you maximize online learning for your learners. With co-teaching, you are also in position to assess each other and make improvement!

What is your assessment strategy? And when do you do assessment?

It is quite difficult to know the progress of learners when doing online lessons, but with continuous assessment done after every learning session, the teacher can easily track the progress of his/her learners.  I would recommend the use of multiple assessment strategies by online teachers to assess our students’ learning. These include using google forms, google classrooms, hands on activities, individual projects, session questions by the teachers, and breakout group sessions for discussions amongst others.

Do you have a communication channel for learners’ interaction?

Having a communication channel for learner interaction is also crucial for a practicing online teacher. However, as a teacher, communication platforms need to be strictly for academic purposes! The restriction and guidelines should be enforced by the teacher and rules should be made clear to the learners. With platforms like WhatsApp groups which are most popular these days, teachers can continue engaging their learners and this also keeps your learners connected to one another. We can also utilize websites, emails and google classrooms to post announcements etc as our communication tools. Educational resources can as well be shared through these channels!

Are you aware of that isolated learner in your online class?

Like I said, online classes have their challenges and one being that of the isolated child or group; these could be student(s) struggling with adopting to the internet-based learning platforms and to technology use in learning. They are not yet equipped with the digital skills! Do we remember them during our online lessons? How do we cater for them? Do we have one on one interactions with them? or do we also bother to establish their progress? We therefore need to think about such learners and include them in our online classes. If we cater for them, we shall be great online teachers providing equitable learning experiences for all learners and surely maximize online learning for them!

Any existing professional relationship with each of your learners?

Sometimes we need to create an atmosphere for the learners to feel cared for by the teacher. Some of the learners may not be able (tend to shy away) to ask or make inquiries during your online lesson. With this professional relationship, you can help out such a learner by creating a rapport to enable you (teacher) understand the individual differences that exist among your learners. Therefore online learning shouldn’t just focus on the whole class group!

Are your instructional materials readily available to enhance students’ learning?

Online learning doesn’t entirely stop at sharing your screen slides with the learners and telling them to copy the notes neither does it stop at sending files to the learners. You will be a great online teacher provided you digitize your instructional materials! A great online teacher uses multimedia rich contents which are relevant and easy to access by learners. These may include recorded videos, audio aids, online videos, visual aids, well designed and interactive presentations. We don’t need to restrict ourselves to PowerPoint slides, let’s be creative and innovative! It is also a good practice to record your online sessions and share with your learners who may be challenged with internet connections. Click here to subscribe to my YouTube channel with a lot of free resources

How good are your online lesson management skills?

If you are for instance using Google Meet or Zoom for instruction, you need to know a few features to help you properly manage your online classes. For instance how to start and end a meeting, mute and unmute the participants, how to let people join the meeting, assigning co-hosts, stopping learners from drawing annotations during lessons, how to raise and lower hands, using the chat, sharing your screen amongst others. These are some of the features that help us to effectively manage our online classes. Watch this video on how to use Google Meet.

There are several tips we need to know that are not shared here, I recommend that as great online teachers, we should be open to learning, face and find practical remedies to the challenges involved in online instructions. Let’s not do online learning blindly and for the sake of doing it, we should put emphasis on education of the head, heart and the hand to promote the holistic growth of our learners.

About Ogwal Isaac.

Ogwal Isaac is a Teacher of ICT at Ndejje Senior Secondary School, ICT Consultant in the Diocese of Luweero, ICT Trainer, Specialist in Educational Planning and Curriculum Studies. He is also a Web Manager ICTug.com and also content creator. He holds Masters in Education Planning and Curriculum studies. Ogwal is passionate about using educational technology in teaching and learning.