Online learning has taken education beyond the boundaries of a traditional classroom overcoming geographical limitations. However, teaching online is not like teaching in the classroom, it takes a different approach and efficient strategies to boost online learning.
In a digital educational space, you often have limited time to ensure that your online education is effective. Regardless of your audience base, you need to offer maximum value to your learners. Online teaching requires a unique style of interaction with students to help set your virtual classroom and prepare your students up for success.
Some of the important strategies to become an online teacher
Set your goals
Before you start your online teaching, initiate your planning by setting your goals. What drives you to take up online teaching seriously? Do you want to cater to a larger global learner base or teach local students? Setting your goals will help you to craft a smart business plan like resource and time management.
It also helps in planning and preparing your online teaching materials and list out any channels that might hinder you from delivering the online classes as expected.
Decide your target customers
Once you have clarity about your goals, the next step is to find your target customers. One of the major benefits of teaching online is to reach out to a wide and diverse global audience which otherwise is not possible.
When choosing your target audience, it is important to consider factors like demographics, the nature of your products, your competitors, etc. Understanding your customer requirements needs in-depth market research.
Additionally, a deep understanding of your competitors will allow tailoring your products and services to offer your customers what other providers are not offering. Having clarity on who you are catering to, who gets access to your resources, who should be enrolled in your classes etc. will assure effective knowledge transfer.
Focus on active learning
Online educators often rely on long lectures to fill the time for a class. However, when the class set up moves online, focusing on active learning is the only way to engage your students through dynamic lectures. To engage learners, use discussions, forums, collaborative assignments, video and audios, hands-on exercises, etc. Instead of focusing on a lecture classroom, try building an online active learning classroom. While this type of teaching tool is new to many educators, it is worth integrating into your teaching strategy.
Understand the technology
Before integrating technology into your virtual classroom, make sure you familiarize yourself with the technology. Most online educational platforms offer additional training for educators to be proficient in technology. Just like you, your students might also be new to this technology, so make it a practice to troubleshoot and let your students know about it. Make it clear to students who they should approach for technical support.
Engage with your students online
As a virtual classroom doesn’t have your real presence, it is important to establish a virtual presence at the beginning of your eLearning courses. Online educators need to support learners right from the beginning to the entire duration of the courses to maintain an effective learning community.
By establishing your online presence, you must show your students that you are available online. You must also welcome your users to your online courses to introduce them to the community just like in any traditional classroom.
Let your students know what time you will be available online and how they can contact you out of these hours. Engage with your students’ community though forums, online posts, and social media.
When your students see you putting time and effort into engagement, they will be encouraged to participate themselves. Through this active engagement, you will be able to develop a personal relationship with your students and make their eLearning experience more memorable.
Keep your class size small
In a traditional classroom, most students don’t participate in discussions or ask questions to teachers. However, the online classroom gives you a lot of opportunities to engage your students.
So, it is recommended to keep your class size small so that it is not only easy for educators to give individual attention to students, it makes engaging with other students easy as well. Your normal class strength can be 20 to 30 students and you can limit the number of students to 10 or less for the purpose of interactions, discussions, and group activities.
Cut short lengthy lessons
Long lectures are not the best way to engage your students. The students must be engaged through your eLearning courses and lengthy lectures are not an effective approach for the same. Design short lessons in the right format with proper white space, and images so that your students clearly understand the concept explained in the lessons. It is easy for educators to coordinate their time when the class strength is relatively small.
Be present in the class
No matter what types of courses you are teaching, the importance of being present in the virtual classroom not just physically but mentally as well is the most important thing you must do. It doesn’t mean that you have to be present in your class physically, but you have to actively take part in the class by learning your courses. Educators must also establish a strong social presence in the classroom and encourage students to do the same.
Build a supportive learning environment
As an online educator, you get the opportunity to create a supportive online community for your learner community. The best way to create a supportive eLearning environment for students is by facilitating both educator-to-learner engagement and learner-learner interaction. Begin your online courses with a personal introduction and encourage your students to add their own short introduction to the learning community.
Set small study groups for supportive interactions with fellow learners. Additionally, create a discussion board where students can request help from each other developing a peer-peer supportive environment. These techniques will encourage your students to collaborate together as a community which is beneficial for all the students involved.
Differentiated instruction style
Differentiated instruction is the central tenet of a virtual classroom. In simple words, differential education refers to the distribution of the same study materials to all students with a different variety of instructional strategies. It also helps educators to deliver lessons at different levels of difficulty based on the ability of each learner. Every learner has a unique learning style and their own skills and preferences. This is when differential education becomes relevant.
Offering the same type of training to all your students reduces the effectiveness of your online teaching. Ensure that the core of your online training remains the same for all differentiated groups. This allows you to differentiate your learning and allows each student to learn at their own pace.
Make your content available in smart devices
The importance of mobile learning for online educators cannot be stressed enough as most users are accustomed to using their digital devices for eLearning. Mobile learning holds benefits for students by allowing them to access online courses and relevant educational content at their convenience. Make sure your online courses can be accessed via smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other commonly used digital devices.
Use group communication wisely
Group communication is not to be utilized for direct teaching. Instead, use group communication opportunities to connect with your students and focus on offering social support to them and taking the time to address their questions. You can use group communications wisely to collect student’s feedback on your online courses. Your students will be happy to know that you are offering the option of communicating with your learner community.
Invest in teaching tools
Apart from online education platforms, educators have a plethora of options to utilize different online teaching tools. While some platforms are equipped with interactive educational tools, not all platforms come with all essential features. In that case, you might have to invest in interactive online tutoring software that allows interacting with your learners.
Not every online classroom needs all of these strategies, it is recommended to start with one or two and see how they perform. Maybe you will find that your learners respond to a particular type of eLearning strategy, then adapt to that. The most important thing is to choose an eLearning platform that supports these strategies to become an efficient online teacher.
See if more collaborative eLearning brings in better engagement and advantages. Try different eLearning tools and experiment with different methods of engagement and strategies to become an online teacher. Once you test different approaches, you will find the best combination of online teaching strategies that work for your target audience.