Structure first, interaction second

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When asked what teachers in the Netherlands experienced as a negative aspect of remote teaching, a majority mentioned (the lack of) online interaction. We invited one of the researchers of this study to respond, particularly for the benefit of beginning teachers.

In practice, this has often been noticed: students turn off their cameras; don’t respond to questions; and the teacher ends up talking to a blank screen for hours at length.

The very core of education, if you ask me, is interaction. Connecting with people, knowing how they are doing and what they need in order to learn, is essential for a good lesson.

However, this is easier said than done. Especially when you have just started teaching, dividing your attention over a large group of students can be quite challenging.

Key to addressing this problem is to structure your lesson clearly, based on the learning objectives you want your students to reach. Think about what students should be able to do at the end of the class, and what they need from you to reach that goal.

Once you have your lesson structure in place, pay extra attention to the start of your lesson to facilitate interaction. Before you start, be sure that all students have access to the chat or raise-your-hand feature and know how to communicate with you, then share how you will structure the lesson. I recommend having students work in break-out rooms in groups of max. 6 people. By facilitating interaction in smaller groups, you create the opportunity to get to know your students better.

To both structure and plan interaction in their lessons, beginning teachers can use this deck of eight cards with easy tips on how to approach the start of an online lesson, online collaborative learning, or any online interaction.


Irene van der Spoel

Irene van der Spoel is lecturer, researcher, and educational innovator at the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. She publishes open source material about technology-enhanced learning on her website, Today’s Teaching Tools.