The pivot from face-to-face interaction to online interaction is happening across many industries, and nowhere is it more evident and universal than in education. As teaching continues to move online, how can you ensure that you’re providing effective learning experiences through this different medium? How do we educate with resilience?
When it comes to the technologies available, you must make sure that you’re resilient to the changes they bring and accept them.
There are ways that technology can enhance your online teaching, but it can be difficult to know where to start if you’re not sure how to adapt your in-person strategies to on-screen learning. In this post, education and technology professional, Crystal DeJaegher, shares advice for developing a virtual teaching practice that works for you.
You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
How to smoothly transition to an online learning environment
When making any major changes to a learning environment, it’s important to communicate with educators and learners exactly what changes will be implemented and how online teaching will work on a practical level.
Crystal pointed out that these technological changes can overwhelm some users. To those users, the technology might seem like a blockade to learning, rather than an aid.
The key to achieving learning success is teaching everyone how to utilize necessary technologies effectively. Whether it’s learners or educators, you should empower everyone with the knowledge of how to use and access the digital tools properly.
“Once you can get past seeing technology as simply a hurdle, you realize that technology is a way that you can help facilitate some of these interactions and things that you didn’t even know were possible.”
How to introduce new technologies to your learning experience
Always think like a beginner whenever you’re working with a new technology or introducing someone to it. Think critically about what digital tools will be useful for you and beneficial for your learners. Then work out what parts of it you need to learn to make it work for you.
Just because there are many tools available, it doesn’t mean you have to use all of them or even use every part of the tool you have. Crystal’s advice throughout our discussion was clear – keep it simple.
Crystal suggests that a good way to find the technologies that will best suit you is to think about what you want to accomplish first. Then you can seek out the specific tools and applications that will help you achieve your goal.
Focus on learning how to use just one or two new tools to improve the learning experience without creating an overwhelming change.
How to design an effective online learning experience
Designing a useful learning experience is the most vital part of the learning process. While the question of which type of learning is best, online or face to face, will continue to be prevalent, Crystal says that the medium doesn’t affect it…
“There’s actually a really large body of research with media studies or media comparisons, showing that there is no significant difference in learning outcomes between online and face to face instruction.”
Start designing the learning experience based on the goals and objectives that you want to achieve. These can be set by curriculums, state-based, or you can set your own. Then consider how you’ll measure if the goal has been reached.
It’s important to approach each part of what you’re doing critically. Why are you doing what you’re doing? For example, if you want to use breakout rooms, how will you structure and execute this activity, and what do you hope to achieve from it?
Use this critical thinking to enhance how you adapt your face-to-face learning for the new environment:
“Online learning is not intended to be necessarily the transplantation of the exact same thing that you’re doing face to face to a digital environment.”
How to help your learners adapt to an online learning environment
Crystal stresses the importance of over-communication in an online environment, especially when you’re teaching beginner learners.
By being more prescriptive and explicit with your instructions than you would in a face-to-face environment, you can ensure that you stay on track to attaining expected outcomes.
But designing an effective learning experience doesn’t have to be all about hitting targets. Ultimately, it is about successfully communicating a message to teach your learners.
Consider how you can use technology to enrich the learning experience and keep your learners motivated. Is it possible to have external guests visit your learning environment? Could you introduce activities that are not available in a face-to-face environment? You’ve already had to innovate the classroom experience so much, why not take it a step further?
This will potentially be a new experience for your learners. Crystal advocates strongly for checking in with them and giving allowances for the change:
“Video conference fatigue is a real thing. It’s actually been studied. It requires more cognitive load resources from you to process all of the things than maybe in-person learning does. It’s okay to take a break from the screen.”
The recommended tools for creating an online learning experience
It’s important to keep what your students are seeing as consistent as possible. For this reason, you should avoid overcomplicating the user experience by switching software unnecessarily. For example, if you’re using Zoom as your primary video conferencing software, don’t decide to host a class on Google Meet one day. Stick with one software to keep it simple.
There is an overwhelming number of digital education solutions available. Crystal recommends to first discover the potentials of your own learning management system, and then decide what other software you might need to bring your teaching ideas to life.
Crystal’s top recommendations are:
- Google Docs, Sheets and Slides: best for interactive collaboration
- Camtasia: best for creating video walkthroughs and tutorials
- Kahoot!: best for educational games
- Poll Everywhere: best for polling
These tools may have costs and limitations. If you’re facing internet issues, you need to consider which tools will be suitable for your learning environment.
Technology can be a really effective tool in education, but it is never the driver. So, remember Crystal’s advice to keep it simple, figure out what will work for you, and use only what will enhance the learner’s experience.
How to be resilient in the face of change – or disaster
Part of being an educator is being able to adapt to fluctuating conditions. However, don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re finding the changes difficult. Crystal praises the educational community for their willingness to provide additional support. She suggests finding resources that are available either within your district or online that could help:
“There are plenty of forums and communities for K-12 and higher ed. EDUCAUSE is a good group. LinkedIn has several groups for instructional design, and for teaching and learning in higher ed. There are so many resources online.”
But it’s also important to accept that mistakes will happen, and sometimes there will be errors that are out of your control. With technology, it’s not a case of what to do if things go wrong, but when they go wrong.
Crystal strongly recommends having a contingency plan and communicating that plan with all users in this situation. However, it’s not something you should worry too much about. Setbacks will happen. It’s up to you to be resilient when they do and make conscious decisions about what to do next.
Online learning has so much potential both as a solution to a problem, and to enrich the learning experience. Don’t let the fear of change hold you back from realizing it.
To learn how you can master the basics of video communication, check out the free courses and videos at the TechSmith Academy.