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With Covid 19 taking newer turns every day, more and more institutions are embracing the new mode of learning and imparting education – Online Learning. Having said so, educationalists, teachers, academicians, knowledge providers, etc may find it difficult to keep up with the same level of effectiveness as they had in a face-to-face learning environment.
While one important key to a qualitative program is the instructor’s ability to manage the classroom and that holds true even for an online program. An online classroom may have participants from varied remote locations, geographically and culturally diverse too. Hence, the instructor need to adopt many strategies to bring cohesiveness and inclusive learning environment. One cannot discard or neglect the immense benefits and guidance that a brick-and-mortar method of learning provides to the tutors. And with plethora of challenges that a teacher may face in conducting an online learning classroom, adopting some of these best practices and traditional education methods bring even today can make your digital classroom a best experience to their students.
Digital learning can get impaired by simply emphasizing on submissions and tests if they are only being used to ‘fill the air’. Again one must not be complacent of the varied distractions that students could have around them in terms of social media access, gaming consoles, phone calls and messaging apps, losing interest quickly and being distanced from their regular noisy class interactions. To augment their the levels of their understanding and recall, one must imbibe robust and classic facilitative techniques. Let us take a quick look at how one should manage the online classroom and make it engaging and equally stimulating for your learners:
Physical classrooms give an advantage to plan your lesson plans and setting of your learning environment. They create a natural habitat to ensure utmost level of immersion and acceptance. For example, a class activity could have a discussion followed by an elicitation of finer points of learning or a role play to bring team cohesiveness. Many icebreakers also set the learning context and get the students in the groove.
Virtual classroom too can be planned well in advance and create a virtual habitat with blended learning methods. A tutor can use breakout rooms for enabling conversations and topic discussions. Visual tools and engaging Power points could be used to convey content. Interesting icebreakers could also be planned as conversation starters. The students could also be informed well in advance of any materials required to be ready at their end to avoid ‘disconnect’. Have a ‘parking lot’ set for questions that can be answered at the end of the sessions. The Whiteboard tool in Zoom App can help you take a step further for noting important pointers during the session and save for later reference.
If work from home hasn’t been easy for the mighty corporates, learn from home has not been easy even for many students. They come from diverse backgrounds, traditional households and limited connectivity. Their scope of learning in such restricted environment could reflect in his abilities to appreciate the online learning experience. In addition, each student is remotely connected with other students and have very limited scope of connecting and knowing each other. By building your course plan in ways to encourage class interactions and group work could build cohesiveness. It brings proactive classroom environment as well as small groups create interpersonal simulation.
One could easily have rude interactions or finger pointing situations if the students feels more undervalued and isolated. Balanced emphasis on deadlines can humanize the learning experience on such digital platforms. Find ways and activities to encourage participants to know each other and the tutor could aid the classroom culture of collaboration.
The classroom exercises and fill-in activities could easily be replaced with more interesting and engaging activities that reinforce learning. Quizzes, polls, brainstorming ideas, contests could increase the students’ interests and the positive vibe in the classroom. Do not make learning as a clinical and practical process – make it user-friendly, interactive and curious. Allocate time for the students to curate questions and elicit responses. Let power struggles be nipped at the bud itself. Application driven resources and teach back sessions will bring the best out of the student’s abilities.
Remember that the physical classrooms provided an opportunity to a student to be more focused and be present in the learning habitat. By allocating more independent reflection hours will only increase the isolation. As a tutor, one should try to be present passively in online discussion activities. In case of discussion dying down and lose steam, inject your thoughts and ideas than catering to an important call! Assign roles and rewards to exhibit spontaneity as well as be the required scaffolding in times of deviations from the learning objective.
Considering the balance tipping towards the casual environment, it is important to set certain norms to avoid unpleasant situations and disturbing class culture. Right from sitting posture to asking questions without stepping onto each other’s’ toes, I try to set norms and expectations at the start of my programs. If your classroom is full of Professionals, setting a context and an expectation to defer and / or avoid business calls during their sessions is really important. I also teach my middle school students to dress and carry himself appropriately. A quick induction on how to respond, sit through the sessions, actively participate , etc. will keep you in full control of the class. For example, I ask my students to not disable their video cameras to avoid any level of easy distraction or hold up their palm (instead of index finger) while coming up with questions or responses. Teach your students to avoid plagiarism or duplicate the content or engage themselves in screenshots – one of the most important digital classroom etiquettes. Time and tide waits for no one; hence, the importance of joining the meeting room on time needs to be communicated to the students.
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