Kristi Reyes: Hi, everyone. I'm really excited to share with you 10 important tips to keep in mind when delivering instruction online. These are the objectives. By the end of our time together, you will have discovered the attributes of high quality online teaching, which include active learning and participation, interaction, communication, collaboration, instructor presence, timely and regular feedback, and appropriate use of technology tools for delivery of content, student practice, and assessment.
But, first, I want to make sure that we can all agree on what is not good online teaching. In 2015, I had the opportunity for teaching online during a sabbatical. During that time, I completed two online teaching certificates, and this video that I'm going to show was included in one of the courses to show from a student's perspective what poor online instruction looks like, by comparing poor classroom instruction with poor online instruction. I have no doubt that you're going to agree.
So this video hasn't minimal audio, so I will probably just narrate it for you. He said, I'm a student. This is my routine. Every morning, I get up. I make my way to school.
I come here for an education. Seeking knowledge. This is what I find. Day after day.
So I'm pretty sure none of us teach this way when we are in our school, in the classrooms. This is not how we teach. He said this, is what I find. Day after day, this is what I find.
If you wouldn't neglect me in the classroom with chalk and a board, why would you do this to me in a classroom that has a keyboard and a computer? Education and teaching is more than a few reading assignments. It's time for a change.
So as you saw there, there was a lack of engagement in the student's online course. And engagement is the key to effective online learning. Online teaching is not just putting your textbook online.
So before we go over these 10 tips, let's review some big picture issues. First, to be effective online instructors, we need to maintain our practice of the research-based classroom best practices for adult education, to the best of our ability within the online environment. These best practices include student-centeredness, student choice and autonomy, value and relevance of instruction to students' lives, goals, and needs, and opportunities for students to reflect on their learning.
One great aspect of online teaching is that we can provide differentiation and supplemental instruction or practice fairly easily to better meet the needs of all learners, which is not always easy to do in a classroom with four walls because students have other demands on their time as we do too. Next, we need to plan our instruction using backward design, starting with lesson objectives or student learning outcomes. What we want students to be able to do with what we teach them and follow the steps of effective lesson design, often referred to as WIPPEA-- Warm-up/review, Introduction, Presentation, Practice, Evaluation, and Application.
Another of the big picture issues, which is also very achievable in online instruction, is to make efforts to meet the guidelines of Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, which include the following-- ensuring multiple means of engagement. As you know, people are engaged and motivated in different ways. So by providing a variety of ways to engage our students online, we can be better assured to engage all students. We do this by giving students choices and autonomy, finding ways to spark their interest in the course content, and including assignments that challenge students.
Providing multiple means of representation, which means that we present our content in more than one mode, such as audio, video, multimedia, animation, graphics, text, visuals. We also provide support for students to access course content by activating background knowledge, scaffolding the instruction, and providing direct instruction for new vocabulary students will need. And providing multiple means of action and expression, which means that we allow more than one way for students to demonstrate their learning. And along the way, we provide models and feedback.
This is how we evaluate students' learning, and we allow students to choose when possible a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning. For example, giving students the choice to submit a traditional paragraph or essay, a piece of artwork, a song, or a video. In edtech, this is practice through the use of choice boards, also called menus, for what students will create at the end of a learning unit. Of course, what we see here might be too many options for students, so you want to limit to what technology you have already used with students, and you can give them choices here.
Finally, a last big picture issue is, along with engagement, one of the most important. A primary focus on strong pedagogy, andragogy, in our case as adult educators, with technology being a secondary focus. So with these big ideas in view, let's narrow in on 10 details we can include on our checklist to establish the high quality online instruction that our learners deserve.
Number one, have early contact with students. You can start off by emailing students a welcome message or video before the class starts, along with links to tutorials on how to log in and navigate the LMS, a Learning Management System that you use-- perhaps Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, et cetera-- if you are using one.
Let students know that you are ready and willing to support them in this new learning environment, how and when they can reply to you and what they will learn in your class by sending a syllabus or a brief outline of course content. Consider sending tips for success in your class or even a former student's testimonial.
Number two, make sure that you are always visible in the online environment. Pin your photo with a bio and/or a short video-- welcome or introduction video. If students see you each time they enter the online environment for your class, they will feel more attended to and connected with you. Make your contact information easy to find when students log in.
Number three, ensure and support consistent and continuous contact with students. Inform students of explicit policies and procedures, such as a communication policy, that addresses and supports regular and effective contact. Such as how to contact you-- by phone, email, text-- and how soon students can expect a response. Send frequent check-in and reminder emails, texts, announcements, due dates, events, homework, important school news, and so on. Set and share with students online office hours when they can meet with you individually by chatting online, by phone, or in a video conference.
Number four, set and communicate a clear policy about netiquette, which is the correct, appropriate, and polite way of communicating online. Be direct in stating expectations for appropriate online behavior in your syllabus, in any first synchronous class meetings, and in a visible area in your online course. Even adults need to be reminded not to write, say, or share anything online that is highly private or that could be offensive to their classmates.
We also need to remind students to honor academic honesty by not plagiarizing, copying, or having other people do their classwork. That's why it's important to get a sample of student work very early in the class. You may even have a contract, such as an online form, that you have students digitally sign to make them hyper-aware of the expectations for communication and academic honesty in your online class.
Number five, just as you do in your face-to-face class, establish predictable routines and patterns. For example, send class announcements on the same day each week or at the same time each day. Use a modular organization for your online course and have a consistent order in the sequence of your assigned online activities.
For instance, create modules for each week or for each unit or content area of your subject that follow a similar order. There could be a list of the week's objectives, followed by a survey or poll to find out what students do and don't know, an image prompt, a reading or video, external links to explore, a discussion post, a quiz, an assignment, and a reflection survey. Release just one module or one week's worth of classwork at a time to not overwhelm students.
It's a good idea to deliver a course materials at the start of each clear due date. These patterns will help students adapt easier to online learning and establish a rhythm to their learning, which in turn will help them understand how they will need to manage their time for their participation in your class. This also requires that you be ahead of the game, creating a production plan for the entire term or semester before your class starts is a good idea. But if you can't, be at least one or two weeks ahead of students.
Number six, create community and encourage collaboration among students as much as possible in order to replicate their interactions online as they would conduct them on ground. As we do in our adult ed classrooms, in our online courses, we need to provide opportunities for active learning and cooperative and collaborative activities. When we create a strong, supportive online community, students will feel more comfortable to actively participate in this new environment. And in turn, we can honor our adult learners' vast life experiences when students have opened up and we learn more about them.
There are tools within most learning management systems, as well as free apps, that can be used to accomplish community building and engagement. These are some things you can do-- have an icebreaker activity at the start of the class, such as an introduction discussion post, a video introduction, or a selfie with a short written introduction. As you may know, a staple of online courses is asynchronous discussion boards.
Post open-ended questions that will stimulate students' thoughts about the topic and will give rise to deeper deliberation. To make expectations clear, provide a rubric that includes explicit details about the type of response you expect, what kinds of and how many interactions between students you expect, deadlines for posts and replies, and how it will all be graded. Create a question and answer discussion forum for students to ask questions of each other and you about both the class and topics not necessarily directly related to the class.
Synchronous discussions also go far in creating community and class connections. We can do this by setting up web video conferences to provide explanations on new course content and assignments for students to interact in the main session or in breakout rooms and to provide online office hours. Synchronous tools we can use are Zoom-- and if your agency is part of a community college, you can sign up at ConferZoom. Skype, Google Hangouts, or Meet, Microsoft Teams, Webex, or FaceTime, if you and your students have Apple products.
Hosting online class meetings through synchronous tools is the next best thing to being together face-to-face and can eliminate the feeling of isolation that some students complain of in online learning. Last, you can also use a variety of tools to have students create and collaborate on assignments and projects and to communicate with each other, such as texting apps, social media groups, and shared documents and slideshows.
Number seven, going back to instructor presence. Teachers should participate in online asynchronous discussions by posting model responses and asking follow-up questions to help students delve deeper into the course content, especially at first. It's helpful for students when the teacher posts a model response in the beginning and is active in the discussions by replying to students' posts because that helps make expectations clear to students. If your class enrollment is big, you can assign students as weekly moderators to help you out. But still be present in discussions.
Number eight, provide timely and useful feedback on assignments. The great thing about using an LMS is that quiz tools allow for instant feedback for many types of questions. You can even customize the feedback by pointing out course lessons, providing textbook page numbers, or entering external links for questions that students struggle with. Even if you don't give official grades in your course, use the LMS grade book if there is one. Students want to know if they are progressing. They have the right to know if the huge sacrifice of their time is paying off.
Number nine, use the flipped classroom concept. Use online synchronous meetings to ask and answer questions and for teacher-to-student and student-to-student interactions. Activities the students can do individually can be delivered through the LMS.
Curate and create learning artifacts, such as podcasts or video tutorials, that students can return to it any time and can use to learn at their own pace. While there are countless videos others have created on just about every topic, the connection with your students will be stronger if the person they see and hear teaching them is you.
You could create a regularly scheduled podcast, a screen cast, or video of yourself introducing or explaining course content or a narrated slide show. To promote active learning and maximize student focus and retention of course content, create a note taking guide for class lectures. Remember to keep lectures or videos short-- definitely under 10 minutes.
Number 10, last but by far not least, learn about accessibility. It's the law. And how you can make all your online course content accessible to everyone.
If you show a video, make sure there's a transcript or there are captions. Same for audio. Text files should be able to be accessed by a screen reader, and images need alternative text.
For ease of reading online, use a simple font, such as Arial, Courier, or Verdana. Do not use red or green for text. Students who have colorblindness will struggle.
If your students will be learning using their phones, use at least a 20 point font size, which will be easier on the eyes. Check your online materials on a phone, since a large majority of our students may be studying on a cell phone. Lucky for us, OTAN offers an accessibility workshop on creating accessible documents. Put it on your to do list if you need to learn about accessibility in online instruction.
Teaching online for the first time is definitely a lot of work. But in the end, keep in mind the reasons why we love this profession-- our students. They are worth every minute.