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To help support all teachers who now have to teach from home due to the Coronavirus outbreak, we have created a series of blog posts with expert advice on how to move your classes online.
To begin, here’s a message from Eric Baber, Director of Professional Learning and Development, introducing the blog series.
Moving your classes online: getting started
It can be a daunting experience when you’re suddenly required to move all your face-to-face classes online with little or no advance notice, as has been happening to a number of teachers in various places around the world over the last month and more. In this blog post we’ll look at some basic steps to take that will hopefully smooth the transition.
Opening online channels of communication
The first thing you need to do is think about what might be the most efficient way to contact your students. Successful online teaching depends on clear and effective communication. You need to know that your messages are getting to your students, and your students need to know they can get in touch with you. Teacher presence is just as important online as it in the physical classroom, maybe even more so. You need to be able to communicate with the students in each of your classes as a group, but also as individuals.
What is the best way to communicate with students?
It’s important to emphasise that there is no one right answer to this question. It will depend on you, your context and your students. You will need to choose the channels that are best suited to your needs. Here are some questions to guide your decision:
1. What are your current channels of communication with students?
(Email? Digital platform e.g. Google Classroom? Instant messaging e.g. WhatsApp?)
It’s good to start with what you’ve already got and build on that. You will need to be able to communicate schedules and tasks to your students, and check that they are completing their work. They will need to be able to share their work with you and get answers to any questions or doubts. You will need to be able to check up on students and make sure they’re sticking to their tasks.
2. What other options do you have?
If you’re going to open up new (or additional) channels of communication it’s good to think about what both you and your students are familiar with already. As mentioned before, it’s always easier to start with some degree of familiarity and also makes things easier to use a channel that students may already be using amongst themselves. And in the case of students under 18, we need to be particularly careful with privacy issues. Closed platforms and school emails are often the best options where possible.
Do you need to be available 24/7?
No, you don’t! It’s a good idea to establish a protocol or etiquette for communication outside your scheduled classes. You don’t want to be available 24/7. That isn’t fair on you. Establish “office hours”, when you will be able to reply more or less immediately to any messages (a few hours every day if you can) and a maximum response time for messages sent outside those times e.g. within 24 hours Monday – Friday, within 48 hours (or more) over the weekend. Your students will understand and appreciate these guidelines. In fact, they will probably appreciate keeping some degree of normality as well, so keeping to a regular school schedule is likely to work best for both you and your students.
Take look at part two of Ceri’s post on moving classes online.
If you are already teaching online, or preparing to start teaching online soon, please use the comments to ask for more information or to share your experiences.
To see more from our Supporting Every Teacher blog series, visit the homepage of the World of Better Learning for daily updates. Also, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get these updates direct.