It is fair to say that the education landscape in Australia has changed dramatically in the last month. The impact that the Coronavirus is having on educators, students, school administrators and online learning systems is unlike anything we have experienced before.
Though online learning is not a new practice, it remains an unfamiliar delivery method for a lot of educators, particularly at the primary and secondary levels. At InSight Systems, we understand the anxiety and stress that this transition is causing so wanted to share some tips to make it a bit easier. We hope these help you achieve your goal of delivering quality education to all of your students and makes the transition online as enjoyable as possible.
Get to know your distance learning tech
It’s helpful to do a trial session before you deliver a live online class. Your organization may use a Learning Management System (LMS) or video conferencing platform to provide virtual classes. To get to know your system, rehearse a short session and record it. That way, you’ll be familiar with the tools you’ll need to deliver your class.
Test how to switch from the camera to sharing tools like screen sharing and interactive whiteboards. Here are some resources to get started with common platforms:
- Microsoft Teams for Education
- Webex Virtual Classrooms: Getting Started
- How to Zoom playlist
- Zoom EDU Share Content and Annotate
- Make sure to read: how to avoid Zoom bombing!
Get comfortable teaching classes online
If you’re new to teaching online classes, take time to get comfortable in front of the camera. Rehearse a short session and record it. Watching the recording can help you gauge the best distance to stand from the camera. Aim to get a “medium close-up” shot that shows you from the waist up.
You’ll also be able to tell if you have adequate lighting. You may need to move around the room, close shades, or bring an extra lamp into the space. Avoid standing in front of windows with bright light behind you, or you’ll show up in silhouette. If you’re at home, be mindful of what’s showing in the video behind you. Move any personal items such as family photos that you prefer not to share.
Consider that the camera represents your remote students. Make occasional eye contact with your students by looking at the camera while you’re speaking.
Keep remote students engaged with video
Keep remote students engaged by breaking up distance learning sessions by sharing video. If your organisation does not have enough video to use, check into free resources. In response to coronavirus, TEDEd has launched TEDx@home, a daily newsletter that offers lessons for all ages, including university-level lessons with video. TedEd also provides online videos grouped into themes, like this video package on visualising data.
Ensure online lessons are accessible
Students with impaired vision or hearing may have tools that make working online easier for them. You can also help by designing online class materials that are accessible to everyone.
- Verify that attendees can hear the sound in any videos that you play online. If closed captions are available, turn them on.
- If you’re using PowerPoint slides, use the accessibility checker under the Review menu on the ribbon.
- Provide handouts in formats that are compatible with screen readers. Microsoft Word files with text should not be a problem. Machines can read PDFs if they are created with accessibility in mind. Adobe offers a tool to create PDFs and verify accessibility.
Connect with students before, during, and after class
To help your students stay connected and prepared for class, send out session topics the week prior. Include information on how to log on to class sessions. Ensure students know where and how to get class materials like downloads and videos. Provide passwords to access materials if needed.
For live classes, remind students how to submit questions during the conference. Take time to answer your students to help keep them engaged with your online class. During the class, have an assistant or student volunteer keep an eye on chat and Q&A windows if possible. That way, you can focus on delivering the lecture without missing any questions.
After class, follow up with an email asking for feedback on the session. Ask if everyone was able to connect to the video conference and follow along. Since students can’t see you in person, hold virtual office hours too. Try a tool like Calendly to allow students to make their own appointments during available time slots.
The InSight Systems team is ready to help you
We hope you find these online learning tips effective. The InSight Systems team is here to help if you need assistance setting up your online learning technology. Contact us now on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 1300 369 451.