Moving your teaching online: riding the rush to remote!

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No doubt about it! COVID-19 has revolutionised how educators all over the world teach their lessons. The familiarity of being in a classroom was replaced with Emergency Remote Teaching. But what can schools and teachers do to successfully incorporate online learning in the future, and how can they do it? Find out more in this tutorial!

Communication and Tools

Stay in contact with your students any way you can – email, phone, mail. During any time away from school, students (and teachers!) need structure, routine and confidence that their education will continue uninterrupted.

Look for two resources: a platform (or apps) and a teleconferencing tool. Contact your school board and government officials to find out about funding and programmes for students who need expensive resources like Internet connections, laptops or phones. The COVID-19 pandemic has also prompted some global organisations to provide support.

Find a way to communicate. Some schools and universities have proprietary Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Brightspace or Blackboard. If yours doesn’t have an LMS, look for open-access LMSs such as Canvas, ILIAS, Moodle, Google Classrooms or Schoology. All of these are free, simple to use and password-protected to maintain safe environments. If nothing else, communicate with students in group emails or chats. MyOpenMath and OpenStax also house complete online courses on open-access servers.

Teaching Online: the Four-Step Process

Many teachers panic, feeling overwhelmed, thinking they must design an entire online course with all the bells and whistles. This is completely false. It is not about the tool or the textbook; it is about the learning!

Crises such as pandemics bring change instantly, without a lot of time to prepare. You can build as you go each week, experimenting, and repeating what works, discarding what doesn’t.

Here is a four-step process for online lesson design:

  1. Start with measurable learning objectives/outcomes that your normal classroom lessons have.
  2. Find course materials to go with these learning objectives. Your students may have their books with them – if they don’t, go online and find YouTube clips, videos, e-books and websites to engage them with the objective.
  3. Develop a learning activity based on these materials to help master the learning objective. These include comprehension quizzes, summaries of chapters, short essays, drawing or visual arts exercises. Presentations by students are another good way of keeping them engaged. However, not everything has to be in “live” contact.
  4. Associate assessment methods, feedback and grading with the learning activity, so learners know a) what they are aiming for, b) how they are doing, and c) when they have met the learning objective. Making the format (learning diary, project portfolio, test) clear at the start will help.

Following these simple course design principles will help you develop successful online activities.

eTwinning Strategies for Online Teaching and Learning

Usually restricted to international projects, eTwinning now includes national projects (of schools within the same country), which are a terrific way for students to work together, especially for schools that don’t have such resources as an LMS or teleconferencing tool.

Najoua Slatnia, eTwinning Ambassador and Learning Event Expert from the Lycée de Grombalia in Tunisia, offers a number of fun, open-sourced tools for students to create projects together. Here is a short list: Book Creator, Padlet, Emaze, Kahoot!, Poster Maker, Pixiz, Befunky, Storyjumper, Mentimeter, PBWorks, Canva and Mindmaps. It took me one hour to design this fun e-book about course design. You can do it, too!

Inspire students working on eTwinning projects with video recording tools such as Screencast-o-Matic, Loom, Clipchamp or Kizoa. Use Animaker to create animated videos quickly.

Group projects using journals and diary entries are a great way to inspire creativity and have students assess the events as the pandemic goes on. Encourage your students to build bridges on eTwinning to occupy their time while at home.

Richard Powers

Richard Powers is an expert online teacher, teaching online since 1998 in America and Europe. Project Manager at the Professional School of Education - Stuttgart-Ludwigsburg, he develops online courses for diversity and digitalisation for Teachers in Training. Richard serves on two crisis task forces: at City Colleges of Chicago and Stuttgart University, moving 3,000 teachers and 25,000 students online.