How teachers can maximize online learning

School's out! Well, physically speaking, that is. Learning continues, despite our need to socially distance ourselves from others in an attempt to curb the coronavirus pandemic. The school year is still on, and many students, parents, and teachers are tasked to do something many have never done before: continue the classroom on a virtual scale.

Parents and students are adjusting their mindset to learn from home. At the same time, teachers are scrambling to make sure students don't skip a beat with the curriculum. But as a teacher, you've probably already experienced some challenges that come with educating from afar.

Sure, teaching via a virtual portal is a demand that you may or may not be comfortable with. It certainly presents its challenges since you're unable to be face-to-face with your pupils. But that doesn't mean they can't get a good education without stepping foot in a brick-and-mortar classroom.

As a teacher, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure your kids are still learning while giving you the satisfaction of a job well done.

Take advantage of tech tools out there

Technology allows teachers to educate virtually, and there are plenty of tools and apps available that you can use to make teaching a lot simpler. Many of these platforms are free to use and easy to implement, both for you and your students.

Do a little research on what's out there and choose just a few that you think will make life easier and get your message across to your kids. Google Classroom, Groupboard, and Doceri are only a few that you may want to check out. Just make sure they're free to use and don't require any special applications or software that some students might not be able to access.

Use resources already available

Given the environment that you've been thrust into, it wouldn't be realistic to whip up months' worth of curriculum material and teaching resources in such a short time. Don't feel guilty about using educational videos that are already floating around on the web that can provide valuable lessons to your students.

YouTube is loaded with these resources. Check out Khan Academy for math lessons or SciShow for fun science lessons, for instance, to get you started.

Get students to participate in interactive activities

People tend to learn better when they are more actively involved in their learning. Kids can learn quite a bit from listening to video lessons or reading text, but their brain juices might flow a little better if they're more involved in their learning, and interactive activities can help. Involve things like quizzes and games that will not only help students retain more information, but also pique their interests, too.

Set aside some time for one-on-one support

Group lessons are the meat and potatoes of your online teaching endeavour, but you'll also want to offer students a chance to interact with you directly on a one-to-one basis to allow them to ask questions that they may be apprehensive about asking in a group setting.

Some kids need a little more instruction or time to "get" certain concepts. Just like you would have been available after class or on lunch breaks to answer student questions, you should also make yourself available in a virtual setting.

Post recorded videos instead of live lessons

Once in a while, it might be great to conduct a live stream so you can say hello to your students, but the bulk of your lessons should probably be pre-recorded videos that they can access whenever possible. Most students likely have siblings who need to share whatever technology is available at home. In this case, overlaps and conflicts in schedules could cause a problem.

Instead, record your video lessons and make them available to your students so they can access them when it's most convenient. And don't forget to keep your videos short and sweet to keep their attention up - no more than 15 to 20 minutes should be something to shoot for.

Encourage independent work

Much like you probably do in class, try to incorporate some independent tasks for your students to engage in on their own time after they've closed their laptops. But make sure that the work you provide is something that the kids are equipped to tackle on their own without any help from their parents.

Many parents may still be working outside of the home. And even those working from home may not have time to tutor all their kids on their schoolwork. There may also be some cases where English is not the first language of some parents, which can be a problem if the work provided is way over the kids' heads.

Independent learning should be part of the process, but make sure the students have all the resources and information they need to complete tasks on their own.

Maintain a consistent structure

Try to keep your structure consistent and avoid making significant changes along the way. Especially during this time of uncertainty, maintaining a uniform teaching and learning structure will help both you and your students.

Lisa Rennie has been working as a freelance writer for over a decade, crafting unique content aimed to educate Canadian consumers. Her constant state of curiosity and incessant need to get the answers to her never-ending questions serve her well as a content writer. In her spare time, Lisa enjoys trying her hand at exciting new recipes, snuggling with her pup, and reveling in the presence of her kids.

Lisa Rennie is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.
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