Whether you’re preparing to teach online or are a veteran, you aim to be efficient and effective. Software for teaching online comes with its own advantages, especially when compared to hosting on-site training. You can connect with learners regardless of their geographical location. Also, this is suitable for those with busy schedules, allowing them to complete the lessons they need from the convenience of their devices at their own time. Still, teaching online also comes with some inherently unique challenges. Without the face-to-face interaction provided via physical classrooms, online instructors may have difficulty catering to unique learning styles. Fortunately, by incorporating some the best online teaching techniques you can provide a better learning experience to all.
Here are 5 teaching techniques that smart online instructors swear by. You too may want to use these and become more effective in delivering instruction online:
1. Classroom Flipping
In a “traditional” classroom, a lesson is presented during class time and learners may be given a “homework” assignment to ensure that they’re comprehending the subject matter. In a flipped classroom, on the other hand, they are actually encouraged to prepare for lessons prior to class. This may involve taking the time to read course material or even complete relevant assignments. From there, class time is used to further discuss the lesson, share ideas and allow students to interact in a dynamic learning environment.
In your online classroom, flipping can work in a number of ways. Consider, for example, assigning students to complete a particular reading or lesson. From there, begin an online discussion (either in real-time or via back-and-forth commenting), where learners are encouraged to delve deeper into the lesson, pose questions, and share their own unique interpretations. This method allows you to create a more diversified learning environment and foster a deeper understanding of the subject matter being discussed.
2. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is probably one of the best online teaching techniques to implement for the visual learners within your group. A mind map is a diagram of related ideas and concepts that can be used as an aid for studying, a way of organizing information or even a springboard for a writing assignment. This helps instructors in structuring classroom discussions, classifying ideas and gradually bringing learners to the central idea. The aim is to uncomplicate complex concepts or issues.
The benefits for learners is that it’s quick, easy and allows them to “dive right in” the ideas around a central concept and connecting the dots to reach the central idea. In an online course, you can have students create their own mind maps (either on paper or using online mapping software) and share them with the rest of the class, allowing for easier sharing of ideas and interpretations. Mind mapping is ideal for:
- making connections between ideas/concepts
- planning out projects or written assignments
- better understanding the learning material
Yet another concept to implement in your online courses is that of promoting self-learning in a controlled environment. Keep in mind, however, that self-learning is not the same as self-paced learning (wherein students all learn the same subject matter but do so at their own pace). This doesn’t work in most online learning settings, where there are specific time limits in place. Instead, with self-learning, you encourage students to explore certain subject matter and decide what aspects are most important or relevant to their own interests. From there, have them explore their own areas of interest while still controlling the overall setting for learning. Your students will enjoy the extra autonomy.
Self-learning is a great way to get learners truly invested in the subject matter in ways that apply to real-life situations. In an online setting, consider having students explore different facets of one centralized concept. From there, have them report back to the class on their own findings, thus helping them achieve a more well-rounded understanding of the concept as a whole. All the while, each student is able to study the subject in a way that genuinely interests them rather than being compelled to learn in a certain way.
4. Instructional Design
The concept of instructional design is becoming more and more prominent—especially in today’s online classroom. Specifically, instructional design is a teaching technique that refers to designing your classroom around your learners’ unique backgrounds and your ultimate goals (or what you want your students to take away from the course). The technique is not restricted for the use in on-site setting, rather it’s equally important in an online learning setting, where learners have very unique backgrounds and bring a different set of experiences to the table (especially when compared with “traditional” face-to-face classrooms).
As such, instructional design means taking the time to get a better understanding of your learners. What is their current understanding of the subject matter? What are their different learning styles? You might consider sending out a survey prior to the start of the course to get a better idea of their background. From there, you must design and implement a course that is tailored with this information in mind and that ultimately works towards achieving your desired goals and outcomes. In simplest terms, instructional design recognizes that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to teaching.
5. Adaptive Learning
Last but not least, consider exploring adaptive learning for your online classroom. This method involves utilizing computers and other technologies as viable teaching devices. As an online instructor, adaptive learning will inherently come into play, but it’s up to you to make the most of the technology available to you (and your learners).
For some of your students, learning a particular subject by watching a video may be most effective. Others may learn better through participating in online discussion forums. Ultimately, it’s up to you to transform each student from a passive receptor of information into a willing and active participant in your online classroom. This may mean providing different mediums (video, text, visuals, etc.) for introducing each new lesson or concept.
With so many different online teaching techniques being used today, it can be difficult to know which are best for your online classroom. By taking the time to learn more about each and experiment with them in your own classrooms, you can gradually get a better feel for what works with your learners.