“If the classroom is limited to a screen, then that screen better be the most interesting thing in the room.”
The one thing that I found impressive during the pandemic is people’s acceptance and readiness for this transition from offline to online. Be it for education, work, or anything. People across the world have accepted the “intervention” of technology in their lives gracefully. Coming to education, while most of us were living comfortably with conventional ways of teaching, the swift transition to online culture is pleasing to look at. Despite many challenges, educators who are pro as well as new to the integration of technology have made sure that learning doesn’t stop for children because of the coronavirus. The ones who are trained and well equipped certainly came out with flying colors while those with limited resources and knowledge, came out of comfort levels, tried, experimented, and imparted learning to the best of their capabilities. As we continue to work online, this blog post will help you with dedicated tips on the smooth transition from offline to online classes and a few tools you can incorporate into your practices.
The first point had to be for the ones in need. Educators who aren’t familiar with tech integration or aren't very tech-savvy to be aware of how it can flourish your teaching practices; don’t panic. Begin with small things, one at a time. Meanwhile, you can share reading assignments with your class. PowerPoint is the classic way of sharing information and you’d know about it pretty well too. The next thing to consider while structuring online classes in the background is sharing YouTube videos related to the subject topic or the better alternative is to record your clips explaining all that you want to put across and sending that across to your students.
The research that you have to do in the background while you practice ways mentioned in the point above if done in the following order would be of great help.
- A platform where you come together
- Sharing of learning resources
- Communication needs
- Assessment needs
Once you have completed your search for the perfect fit for all the categories above it's time to lay ground rules and has a one-on-one talk about the new ways of teaching and learning. As much as it is new to you, the situation is alike on the other end for students. Whether we like it or not, this is the need of the hour and we must abide by it. The need for structure is to make students feel secure. You’re the teacher so you have to set up a clear context for students. Make sure you give your students a clear understanding of the new set up. Students may struggle at first but creating clear and predictable routines will help them more quickly become comfortable with the online environment. You will also need to follow through with your commitments to students, honoring the guidelines you laid out for communication and getting graded work and feedback to students as outlined. They are looking to you to understand what teaching and learning look like in this new structure.
The following aspects of your online setup should be clear and crisp:
How can students get in touch with you- is it going to be through email, any particular app, or a message board?
- Where to submit assignments
- How to use online tools that would be used for the teaching-learning needs- for this you can always screen record a demo or find relevant videos on YouTube or the tool site. Try making a document with step by step explanation and screen captures from your account.
- Your schedule - When can they expect to receive a response or graded assignment from you? When you will be able to meet with them through video or text chat?
At last, flexibility and empathy is what you need to keep in the center. Just like you, students are also facing challenges with their new approach to learning. Also, many people are facing trouble on the personal front as well. It would be better if you could get a little flexible with assignment submissions and other project activities. Also, the switch to online from offline may bring challenges, you must make your students feel safe to reach out and ask for help. As a teacher, you are aware of your students learning pace in the classroom.
However, things can change as the learning environment has changed. Manage your expectations from students. Those who used to be active in class may find the online environment more challenging. Similarly, those who struggled in the classroom may flourish out of your expectations. Home is not the safest place for all. Students come from all sorts of environments.
As teachers, you can never know what goes into one’s home. I came across a blog on VHS Learning that sums up the personal struggles of students affecting their education even more during these tough times. It reads, “For some students, two or more weeks of learning from home feels like a luxury with plenty of technology, space, and parental support to help them along the way. For other students, the home may not be such a safe space. The house may be overcrowded, access to technology and the internet may be minimal or non-existent, parents may be neglectful or absent, and food may be scarce. Students in the latter situation may have seen their brick-and-mortar school as a respite from the instability that has suddenly been taken away without a clear end in sight. Of course, any of your students may be dealing with an illness (either themselves or a loved one) which will impact their physical and emotional wellbeing.” You may be aware of such personal stories of your students or you MAY NOT have any clue about it. Since you have switched to an online environment it would be challenging to observe the difference in behavior of students usually caused by such difficult situations at personal front. The only possible way to get a little insight may be through a short one to one conversation or the other possible way to seek clarity is by asking direct questions. Of course, the latter way can make it awkward and more difficult for the student in this unpleasant situation. To make it easier for children with distressing situations, it would be kind to set aside assumptions and support students in their challenges as they deal with these hard times.
LIST OF TOOLS
For Your Video Conferencing Needs
1. Zoom: It is a video conferencing and web conferencing, group conferencing tool that offers complete security, user management and online support facility to users.
2. Skype: It is one of the first tools to provide video conferencing. They have a paid version with which you can accommodate up to 10 users. It also allows screen sharing that boosts its collaboration factor.
3. MicrosoftTeam: the features include an expanded audience view of up to 49 participants, custom backgrounds, class insights, and virtual breakout rooms, among many other useful features.
4. Google meet: You can host meetings with up to 250 participants, record for later viewing, or live stream to up to 100,000 people. The tool comes integrated with G Suite, so you can join meetings directly from a Calendar event or email invite. Supports real-time captioning, scheduling, and screen sharing.
5. StarLeafcreates quick and easy video meetings or point-to-point video calls. Maximum 20 participants can video-chat at one time in StarLeaf. It is currently offering its basic video and messaging product free of charge.
6. ZohoMeeting- the tool helps in conducting unlimited meetings for a prolonged duration. It comes with benefits such as desktop sharing, multi-platform support, instant meeting schedules and instant messaging facilities. You can get started with online meetings, share their desktop to anyone, anywhere and at any time without any inconvenience.
7. Join.me- the freemium version of join.me allows one to hold an unlimited number of meetings with up to participants per meeting by using up to five video streams. One can chat with participants, transfer files and join the audio part of any meeting through internet (VoIP).
8. Adobe Connect Now- A great tool to share ideas, discuss details and complete work with the others online. It basically operates inside a web browser and users do not need to install anything to operate to start using this tool.
9. NextcloudTalk, a self-hosted open-source audio/video and chat communication service. It features web and mobile apps and is designed to offer the highest degree of security while being easy to use. It is suitable for remote learning enabling teachers to give online classes.
For File Storage And Sharing
1. Google Drive
The one tool everyone familiar with internet would know of is Google and all its extended solutions. G-drive saves all your videos, documents, presentations and photos on the cloud. You can store, access, edit and share your files. It comes with a free capacity of 15 Gb which can be expanded with a monthly subscription.
2. Microsoft OneDrive
User can easily store all photos and docs online. Access them from any PC, Mac or phone. Create and work together on Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents. A perfect fit for educators that come power packed with various tools to fulfil all education needs.
Dropbox is a creative collaboration space designed to reduce busywork, bring your files together in one central place, and safely sync them across all your devices—so you can access them anytime, anywhere. And sending large files is easy, even to people who don’t have a Dropbox account. Features like the doc scanner, shared folders, offline access, and more make collaborating with others simple.’
User can securely store, manage and share all files, photos and documents with 10GB of free cloud storage from Box. This is one of the most common storage tool used by teachers. Not just for storage but the tool enables educators, administrators and students to easily share their work, collaborate on group projects and streamline research and innovation. User can set access rules for the way content is shared in the cloud.
Other Tools That You’d Find Useful
Handy Teacher Tools to Create Quizzes or Polls Quick & Flawless
Learnclick: A Versatile Tool for Teachers to Create Gap-filling Exercises, Multiple-Choice Quizzes and Others
myON – More Than Just a Digital Library for Schools
To get inspired, I highly recommend you to read Medium’s article on "Embracing change: My transition from offline to online teaching.” – Personal experience of Paul Chatham, an ESL teacher for 9 years who has been teaching online for the last two years now. This piece will give you direct insight and the much-needed inspiration & hope right from the horse’s mouth. Share your experience of transitioning from offline to online classes in the comments section below!