As teachers, most of us thrive in the classroom environment. We can engage – and monitor the engagement of our students – and keep a track of progress. One potential solution for that is online teaching and online classroom. This provides a flexible solution that works for tutors as well as students.
Of course, the vast majority of us learned the art of classroom teaching in the classroom, so it’s only natural that we find face-to-face tuition the most natural form of delivery.
Faced with unforeseen situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, many teachers are discovering the joy, the convenience, and the practicalities of teaching online.
And after being thrust into the virtual classroom, there are many teachers who are finding that digital is a beneficial platform for teaching and learning.
The principal challenge for all teaching staff is the speed with which things have changed. Just a month ago, we were delivering learning content in classrooms; now we’re having to adapt our learning materials to suit the virtual space.
It’s not just a case of transferring the same material virtually – not all learning content can be transferred. However, if you’re ever struggled in a classroom of many student voices clamouring for attention all at the same time, you know that delivery in the classroom can be tough – and not actually that effective.
How online can overcome physical obstacles
Of course, every teacher is struggling to translate their classroom content into digital content. And the kinaesthetic stuff is difficult for virtual groups.
But – for group teaching – online offers a huge boost in peer learning, as well as the teacher’s ability to control the group.
Controlling your students
There is a range of video conferencing packages designed to facilitate online learning: Zoom is one of the most widely used.
If you’re using a platform like Zoom, you’ll be able to control the general noise of the group by muting disruptive students (if only you could do that in the real world!), make use of chat rooms to address the questions of the quieter students, and split large groups into “breakout rooms” for smaller group discussions and peer learning.
You can share and control student screens and they can access your live content from smartphones and tablets. And – let’s face it – it’s a losing battle to stop students using their phones in class; now we benefit from that compulsion to stare at screens.
You can also gauge engagement by monitoring individual engagement with the platform (you can see who’s looking at Snapchat while you’re trying to teach).
Other engagement tools include the ability to run polls and quizzes within the platform, and students can virtually raise their hands or use a range of emojis that discreetly indicate for you speed up/slow down.
The Benefits of Online Learning
So, the online environment offers a whole range of benefits over the physical classroom. But, of course, there’s also:
- The lack of travel – no more sitting in rush hour traffic
- Convenience – students can log into class on time – no longer relying on public transport/parent’s timeliness.
- Students are tech savvy – for most students, this technology is native; they’ve grown up with it.
Although research is currently limited, there is some academic evidence to suggest that the online learning environment improves student attainment. Time will tell, of course, but our students are likely to thrive in an environment that they’re already familiar with.