Teachers tips

Virtual Classroom Etiquette

Each class should have its own “virtual classroom ground rules” that establishes a respectful and engaging learning environment. Teachers can set online classroom rules such as, “how to let me know when you would like to speak,” “what types of words and phrases may or may not be used in class,” etc. This also presents an opportunity to engage the class in setting virtual classroom norms. You can solicit feedback from the whole class or put them into breakout rooms to create their own list of rules on how they would best learn in the class. Virtual classroom etiquette creates an opportunity for teachers to create and nurture a supportive online community where all students can thrive.

Ask For Help And Feedback

Your students can provide you with valuable feedback that can help move your class forward. With education moving online more and more, your students have probably already experienced an online classroom. This experience may help them to inform you on the positives and negatives of your overall online classroom. Besides your students, also seek out and connect with other online educators. Education is a ‘sharing’ field and so these connections could prove invaluable to your online educator development.

Motivate Your Students

Everyone learns differently - and motivation plays a big part in the learning process. While some students are self-motivated in that learning something new is all the motivation they may need, some students may not be. Assignments that are not required may be skipped by the latter students. Think of ways to motivate all of your students to get the most out of your class. This may include giving extra points for online discussions or optional assignments. Deadlines may also help push forward your more unmotivated students. Your goal is to find ways to help your students get the most out of your class without the benefit that a physical presence brings.

Use the right platform for the right teaching

This one’s simple but don’t use Google Drive to share video and don’t use Zoom to carry out ongoing conversations with students and don’t use YouTube to host all student portfolios, etc. Use the right tool for the right purpose.

Communicate Regularly

Maintain a consistent online presence. Communication is essential in the online classroom environment. Introduce yourself and give your students to also introduce themselves - help bring humanity and warmth into your classroom that online classes can easily lack. Make sure your students know the best methods and times to contact you. Not having a professor physically in front of them can make some students nervous. Try to ease this by answering questions in a timely manner and providing plenty of instruction and feedback.

Set Up An Adequate Working Environment

Working remotely (in general) is the next challenge. Without the perfect environment and a good amount of self-discipline, stay-at-home-job can become a nightmare. With a little planning, this can be avoided. Firstly, set up a workspace. If possible, this space should be intended for work only. You want this space to be friendly and inviting, but also encourage productive work behavior. Keep your work environment free of distractions like television, other family members, or household chores. Natural lighting and an ergonomic chair can go a long way in setting up your ideal work environment.

Prepare And Master Technology

Teaching online requires a certain technical finesse, if you will. No, tech support is not right down the hall, but you’ve got this! First and foremost, invest in the right hardware and software. You need a reliable computer, a strong internet connection, and the best platform to meet your needs. There are many options out there. Moodle, for example, is an online platform that leans toward the social and adaptable side of education. Do your research and really play around with your final choice - knowing your online classroom platform will help you make your classroom the best it can be.

Plan Your Classes

Your students are not physically in front of you. In fact, they probably will never all be online at the same time, and they’re probably in completely different time zone. Gone are the days where "just winging it" will cut it. Planning is essential for an online classroom environment. Virtual students are different - their needs are different from their physical counterparts. Be sure to have your syllabus and materials laid out clearly before class starts. This will give students an opportunity to see if your classroom (the deadlines, materials, and other requirements) can fit into their lives. The biggest thing, avoid surprises at all costs. Saying, “Surprise! Pop quiz” in a physical classroom is entirely different from posting “Surprise! Pop quiz! Due by midnight.” in an online classroom.

Consider digital grouping strategies

I’ll write more about this soon. To get you started, consider the grouping strategies you’ve used successfully in your classroom and re-imagine them–and experiment with them–to see how they translate to remote teaching and learning.

Use a timer

See above. You might be surprised. And don’t make this complicated–use an app on your phone to time individual activities or the running time on Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.